Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category
By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
We hear of all different kinds of ingredients in food that we should avoid for our health. Salt is high on the list. Today, salt is used as a flavor enhancer, but in biblical times, it had a more important purpose, it preserved meats. It was the most available way to keep meat from going bad.
And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Your body is a living sacrifice to God when you are employed in His service. This is why Paul follows this with not being conformed to the world; if we are conformed to the world, we no longer have salt in our sacrifice.
We can’t tell someone about Jesus without having salt. Especially if that person already has another way he is following. People need light, and they need salt even though salt can sting on an open wound. The Word of God is described as a two-edge sword, a hammer, and WE are described as salt.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:13-14; emphasis added)
Of course we need to keep in mind that to minister to someone means we need to listen, sometimes more than we speak. There is a right time to answer. Firing answers at a person after each thing you disagree with can extinguish what you want to accomplish. There is a time to be a little salt and a time to be a lot.
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)
Also, salt is a seasoning with grace; it is not the main element.
On the other hand, salt left in a salt shaker on the shelf is useless. Are you salt that is being used? Or are you trampled underfoot by your enemies and just sitting on a shelf useless?
We may not be able to preserve the culture from is decline, but we can preserve individuals lives by our being salt.
And yet, how many pastors and leaders are there who have lost their saltiness? There are pastors in the pulpit who avoid mentioning or pointing out what is sin—that is what I call salt-free Christianity. When you have pastors who refuse to repent for teaching wrong doctrine or for their wrongdoing to other people (and they have been confronted and do nothing in response), they have become saltless.
Salt can be removed within the church, no longer preserving biblical doctrine. Losing salt does not come overnight, it takes time. This happens when opportunities to speak out and present the truth are neglected which begins the process. It is when worldly “tolerance” is exercised instead of biblical judgment.
It is the church of Laodicea that does not notice it has become lukewarm and saltless. Members of the Laodicean church show tolerance for any doctrinal aberration, seeking to unite with all under the name of love, peace, and unity. This backslidden church has stood for nothing for so long that it has little effect on society while at the same time, it has allowed many things contrary to Christ’s teachings to come in. Jesus is outside, knocking on the door.
Eventually God removes His lampstand from churches that do not repent.
We are being taught to be tolerant, to discern nothing, to judge nothing- that is salt-free Christianity.
Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 14: 34-35)
For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. (Mark 9:49-50)
As believers in Christ, let us not be part of a salt-free Christianity. We are here to preserve—what we need to be is leaven free, not salt free.
By Maria Kneas
Numerous attempts have been made to blend Christianity with other religions on a world-wide scale. You can read about them in Carl Teichrib’s article “Unveiling the Global Interfaith Agenda.”1
There are also other attempts to merge Christianity with different religions. For example, Chrislam tries to combine Christianity with Islam.2 There are people who call themselves Christian witches (i.e., combining Christianity with Wicca). There are attempts to mix Christianity with Hinduism, and with Buddhism, and with Shamanism. (A shaman is a Native American medicine man.) Some people claim to be Christian witch doctors or Christian sorcerers. You can even buy a book about Christian Voodoo.3
Nominal Christians are people who are Christians in name only. They call themselves Christians, but they really aren’t. They don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, they ignore or deny foundational Christian doctrines, and they don’t try to live the way God has instructed us as described in the Bible. Such people can fit in with other religions. However, born-again Christians aren’t able to do that because they have God’s Spirit living inside them Who convicts them of sin and enables them to trust and obey the Lord. And because God is living inside them, He gives them the grace and strength to abide in Him. Simply put, biblical Christianity cannot mix with other religions.
To compare it to something physical in everyday life, you cannot mix oil and water. Because of their very nature, they just don’t mix. You can put them in a glass jar and shake them until they seem to be blended, but then they will separate and the oil will rise to the top of the jar.
To carry that analogy further, if you add an emulsifier, then they can mix. It goes against their nature, but the emulsifier bridges that gap. In real life, Christians who are under severe pressure (such as the threat of prison or torture or death) may go against their nature and try to blend in with whatever is politically correct. That happened in Nazi Germany. I’ve seen pictures of church altars with swastikas on them. However, Jesus warned us not to make such compromises:
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)
These days, it is not politically correct to be “exclusive” by claiming that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. However, we need to be biblically correct rather than politically correct. The antidote to the fear of men is the fear of the Lord. Jesus warned us:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)
Jesus made it clear He is the only way to be right with God the Father. There is no other source of salvation. He said:
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:7-11)
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
(by Edward Mote, 1797-1874)
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
1. Carl Teichrib, “Unveiling the Global Interfaith Agenda” (Kjos Ministries, October 2, 2011, www.crossroad.to/articles2/forcing change/11/interfaith.htm).
2. To read more about Chrislam, read Mike Oppenheimer’s article/booklet titled, Chrislam: The Blending of Islam & Christianity: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=13109.
3. I found all of these attempts to mix Christianity with other religions by doing a quick search on the Internet. You can easily find them for yourself. Just search for “Christian” plus any other religion or spiritual practice that you can think of.
Maria Kneas is the author of two Lighthouse Trails books and several booklets.
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10,11)
This fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians is the apostle Paul’s statement of power for ministry. He shows us in these stirring verses that God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world.
God is looking for broken men, for men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to an end of themselves, and whose trust and confidence is not in themselves but in God.
There were those who were calling in to question the apostleship of Paul himself, for he did not seem to them to be what an apostle, according to their estimation of the office, ought to be. There was not the pomp nor the dignity they would expect; he did not come to them with great swelling words, there was no making anything of what he was after the flesh, no drawing attention to his natural ability or education; and in this the method of the apostle Paul was in very vivid contrast to the method pursued by many today who pose as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man went through the world a broken man, a lowly man, a man seeking only the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of souls, a man who might have occupied a very high place among the great and distinguished of earth. But he was a man who for Jesus’ sake had turned his back upon all that, and could say:
God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)
That Cross spoke of the deepest shame and ignominy, and Paul gloried in it because through the work that took place upon it, his soul had been saved, and he had learned that the preaching of the Cross, while it is “to them that perish foolishness,” is “unto us which are saved . . . the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And so he went forth, content to be broken in order that the light of the grace of God might shine out.
You will notice in verse 6 that . . .
God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:6,7)
It is easy to see what he has in mind. He is thinking undoubtedly of that very striking incident of which we read in Judges, when Gideon and his three hundred men took their lives in their hands, were delivered unto death, as it were, and went forth against the vast armies of the Midianites. Surely, no other army was accoutered [equipped] as this one. They carried in one hand a trumpet and in the other a pitcher, and in this pitcher was a lamp. The light of the lamp was not seen though it was already lit. It was not seen as long as it was in the earthen jar. They surrounded the army of the Midianites in the middle of the night, and suddenly at the command of their leader, the jars were crashed to earth, and the light shone out, and the Midianites sprang up startled. They heard the crash and saw the light, and thought that they were surrounded by a tremendous army, and they turned their swords upon one another. It was God through Gideon that led the army to victory. A broken pitcher in order that light might shine out! The apostle says, as it were, “That is it! If you want to be a light for God in a world like this, be content to be broken, to have your hopes, your ambitions, all dashed to pieces, and then God can take you up and use you in order to carry the light of Christ to darkened hearts.”
How are we broken? By affliction, by trouble, by the discipline of the Lord, sometimes by sickness, by pain and anguish. All these are the divine methods for breaking God’s pitchers in order that the light may shine out to His praise and glory. Men may misjudge us, misrepresent us, persecute us bitterly; we may not have enough food to eat or water to drink; we may be cast down; we may suffer all kinds of sorrows; but it is all right if it breaks us in order that God may be able the better to use us. And so he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9); for in all these experiences, we are simply “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.” He “came from Godhead’s fullest glory down to Calvary’s depth of woe.” We sometimes sing a little hymn that always stirs the heart. I remember hearing Dr. Torrey say he believed of all the hymns that were used in his meetings around the world, it was the one that seemed to be most blessed of God to the people. It is:
“I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”
But that hymn never had the appeal it ought to have for my own heart until one day I found myself changing that chorus. I was thinking of Him who though He was . . .
in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
He surrendered all,
He surrendered all,
All for me, my blessed Savior,
He surrendered all.
And then my heart said, “O Lord, it will be easy to sing it the other way now, for what have I to give up, to surrender, in comparison with what Thou didst give up in order to redeem my guilty soul from going down to the pit?” It is as you and I realize from day to day what it all meant to Him that we can bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Dying day by day to our own hopes and ambitions, dying to the good opinion of people, dying to human praise and adulation, to everything that the natural heart grasps, dying in the death of Jesus to it all, because He died for us in order that “the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.”
You will notice that verses 10 and 11 are very much alike, and yet the great difference is this: verse 10 suggests something that we do deliberately, consciously, whereas verse 11 is something that God does for us. What is it we are called upon to do? “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”—reminding ourselves every day that Jesus died for us, “bearing about in the body” and because He died for us, we are gladly to put ourselves in the place of death for Him.
Looking back to the Cross, the apostle Paul could say:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
But this has to be put into practice daily by putting my tastes and ambitions in the place of death. That is my part. But here is God’s part:
We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)
You tell God that you are willing to take the place of death with Christ, and He will see that it is made good; you tell God you are going to trust Him, and He will test your faith and show you what it means to trust Him; you tell Him that you are ready to surrender everything to Him, and He will put you in the place where you will begin to find out what full surrender really means. I do not know of anything that it seems should have such an appeal to the Christian heart along this line as the frequent remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in His death, and I think it is because He realized it is so easy for us to forget, that He said to His disciples when He gave them this memorial feast,
This do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
And the Holy Spirit said:
As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Every time we are called upon thus to remember the Lord, it is a new challenge to ask ourselves, “Am I simply remembering Him in a cold, formal, intellectual way because it is customary, or am I truly in my heart remembering the One who went down beneath the dark waters of death for me, and am I truly ready now to always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus?”
What a poor thing it is to come together in assemblies to participate in the communion of the Lord’s Supper and then go out from the building and forget what it all really means, forget that our Savior died, that we are linked up with the One who died, and that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps—that is, we should always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. This seems to me to be linked very intimately with several Old Testament references to which our attention is drawn in Hebrews 11. We read:
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
Did you ever stop and ask why the Holy Spirit selected that particular incident to dwell upon? He has instanced something that you and I would probably have passed over altogether. What did Joseph do? “Gave commandment concerning his bones.” In Genesis 50:25, we read where Joseph, talking to the children of Israel, says:
God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
That is the close of Genesis. What an odd way to close the book! But God wants us to think about the bones of Joseph. They are there in a coffin in Egypt, but they are to be carried to Canaan.
In Exodus 13, we find that the children of Israel who have been sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb are starting out for Canaan, and we read:
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. (Exodus 13:19)
Who was Joseph? He was the savior of Israel. If it had not been for him, they had all been destroyed in the famine, but he was their savior, and now he says, “When you leave Egypt to go to Canaan, you carry my bones with you.” When they left, they were very careful to do as they were told, and all the way across the sands of the desert wherever that great caravan went, they were always bearing about in the body the dying of Joseph.
I think I see that great procession winding its way up over the hills; and the Amalekites and the Midianites looking at them in wonder say, “What is that strange dark casket?” Presently, they call an Israelite and ask him, and he says, “We were once in greatest distress; if God had not had mercy upon us we would have been left to die, but He raised up a savior for us, one of our own people; his name was Joseph and he delivered us; Joseph saved us. But our savior died, and we are marching on to the land that our God has given us, and until we get there, we carry with us the memorial of death, the bones of Joseph. We can never forget him; he died, but we have the memorials still.” And by-and-by when they reached the land, when they arrived at the place that God Himself had selected for them, we are told that after everything else was properly attended to,
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. (Joshua 24:32)
There was no need to carry the bones of Joseph through the wilderness any more, for they were at home now. And, beloved, you and I are passing on through the wilderness of this world, we will soon be at Home, but until we reach there we are called upon to bear about in the body the dying of Jesus, and as we remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup, we should challenge our own hearts: Are we simply looking objectively toward that Cross and saying, “There our Savior died,” or are we seeking day by day to practically make it manifest that His death means more to us than all that this world glories in?
By Harry Ironside
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1·3)
I. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
IN VIEW of the exhortation of our text above, we naturally raise the question, What is the vocation wherewith we are called? And that leads us to turn to various portions of the New Testament to consider what the Spirit of God has been pleased to reveal concerning that marvelous society to which every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has been joined by the Holy Spirit.
What is the church? How do we become members of the church? What are our responsibilities as belonging to the church? What is the destiny of the church of God?
I want to be very elementary and shall begin at the beginning by turning to the first place in the New Testament, where we read of the church—Matthew 16. Here, immediately after Peter’s remarkable confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” we read:
[A]nd Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven, and I say also unto thee that thou art Peter [thou art a piece of rock] and upon this rock [I take it this rock refers to the blessed truth that Christ is the Son of God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:17-18)
Notice, “I will build My church.” Observe, our Lord Jesus Christ did not here speak of something that was in the process of building. He did not say, “I am building My church,” or “I have been building My church,” as though it had been in course of construction either throughout the centuries before Christ came into the world or during the time He was on earth as man, but He spoke of the building of the church as something still in the future.
The gates of hell [that is, the gates of the unseen world] shall not prevail against it.
I get great encouragement from that statement of my Lord, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church that Jesus builds. Sometimes people are very pessimistic regarding the future of the church. They see atheism and unbelief rolling in like a flood and the cults and isms appearing like mushrooms, and they are afraid that the true faith of the church of God will be overthrown by all these things, but we have the assurance of the Lord Jesus Christ that so long as the church of God shall remain in this scene, it will remain undefeated.
An army does not take the gates of the city out to war with it, and the church does not sit on a hill and the gates of hell surround her, but the church of God is a conquering spiritual army carrying on a battle against the powers of hell, and they shall not prevail against her. A right-thinking man does not shut his eyes to the signs of the times and will not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, but he knows that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, and the church of Jesus Christ will not retire from the scene a defeated company.
Here Christ called it “My church” for the first time. He was not speaking of any separate company. He was not speaking of any particular sect or denomination. He was speaking of the aggregate of the redeemed in this time of grace and called them “My church.”
Now let us look further: there were saints of God in the world from the beginning, right down to the time Jesus uttered these words. In a sense, these saints constituted churches. Stephen spoke of the people in the wilderness as a church, an assembly, but we must distinguish between any such companies and that unique company that Christ called “My church.” This church of which He spoke could not come into being until He had died on the Cross, had been raised from the dead, was received up into glory, and sent the Spirit down into the earth, which He did at Pentecost.
Matthew 18 records the next place Christ spoke of the church, and this time it is about discipline in the church, and it would apply just as well to the congregation of Israel. He used the word “church” here in a narrower sense than He did in chapter 16. He spoke of trespass:
[I]f thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone-if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more . . . if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church. (Matthew 18:15, 17)
This is not very often done now. The command is to tell it to the called out company, not to the whole world. The church here is not the aggregate of all the redeemed but a local company in any given place. We are not able to tell it to the whole church of Jesus, but, meeting with a company of believers in a given place, which company of Christian people is an assembly of saints, we should go to them and bring the matter before them, and they will act on behalf of their glorified Lord.
There is not one other word regarding the church in Matthew.
II. THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST
The apostle Paul was the one chosen of God to unfold the teaching of the church as the body of Christ in the largest way. He was not the only one to whom this truth was revealed, but he received the largest revelation (see Ephesians 3:1-6). Paul did not write by consultation with other believers, not even with the original twelve, but he received his message as a direct revelation from Christ. The word rendered “mystery” here means, not something peculiarly difficult and mystical, but a sacred secret. The mystery Paul speaks of is something not found in the Old Testament, not proclaimed by the former prophets; it is something new. It was revealed to a body of holy apostles and prophets. In God’s due time, it was opened up to the other members of the apostolic band and those associated with, them. It is the special truth of what God is doing in this age, taking people from among the Jews and Gentiles and uniting them by the Spirit’s baptism into one body. Into what body? The body that had been formed on the Day of Pentecost.
There was no other body into which the Gentiles could be brought.
“That the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs.” Fellow heirs with whom? Those Jews who were already converted. They entered into partnership with the Jews. Paul said, “whereof I was made a minister [of this].” It was to tell the Gentiles who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ that they are no longer strangers and foreigners to the covenant promises of God but are made fellow citizens with the Jews of the household of God.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)
I like the humility of Paul. What a lowly place this mighty man of God was willing to take!
The implication is clear: the Gospel had already been preached among the Jews and many had believed, and now in a special sense it was given to him to go out and proclaim it among the Gentiles that they might enter into the same testimony and have the same blessing.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.(Ephesians 3:10)
This is unto angelic hosts, unfallen beings, who look on redeemed men and women and learn the riches of Christ.
Here are saints on earth, since the Cross and Pentecost—many Jews, others Gentiles, come to the same common ground, God meeting them all as sinners approaching Him through the redeeming blood of Christ, which are cleansed from every stain, given a new life and nature, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit Himself, and then everyone is linked up by the Spirit with their risen, glorified Head in Heaven; and so intimate is that union that they are as close to Him as the members of my body are to each other.
The principalities and powers looking down on the world and seeing the work of God here, that is, grace picking up sinful Jews and Gentiles and making them one in Christ, are the angels who glorify God for the work He is doing, and they learn the wisdom of God. This is what God is doing now. This body relationship is spoken of in Ephesians 4:
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
There you have this corporate union with Christ. He is the Head, and every believer is occupying some place in that body.
I do not know what part of the body I am. The members of my physical body do not know what part they are. The consciousness is in the head; so with the spiritual body, the consciousness is in the Head up yonder, and He knows what each one is placed there for. My brethren, what a wonderful thing it is for each member to be in good working order! If one member of our body is not functioning right, the whole body suffers, and so Scripture says of Christ’s body, if one member suffers all the members suffer with it, and if one be honored, all the members rejoice together. If you are not going on with God and living for Him, if your life is not a godly life, you are like some member of the body out of order and failing to function. If you are living for God and walking with God, you may not be conscious of it, but you are a help and blessing to all the other members.
III. THE CHURCH AS A BUILDING
We are not only pictured in this wonderful epistle as members of the body of Christ, but in Ephesians 2, we are pictured as each one part of a building. Here we have our heavenly citizenship. Here is a new household:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Believers constitute that spiritual house.
Notice how he used the word “fitly.” In chapter 4, “fitly joined together,” and in chapter 2, “fitly framed together.”
A master builder is very careful that every stone fits properly, that every board is properly fitted together; otherwise the beauty and perhaps the safety is marred. It is the work of the Spirit of God to fitly frame the building together. Peter speaks of us as lively stones come to the Living Stone and thus are builded together into an house of God.
IV. THE CHURCH AS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST
Ephesians 5:22-27, 30, 32:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish . . . For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones . . . This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Here, he has changed the figure. You do not sanctify and cleanse your body to present it to yourself; it is part of you. He has changed the figure from the body to the bride, and I dare say as he penned these words, he thought of Hosea when he was commanded by God to do something that was most repugnant, to illustrate God’s dealings with Israel, and typically the Lord’s dealing with the church. He had to go to the slave market to buy his wife, and the Spirit pointed her out. She was vile, filthy, contaminated, and a slave, but he took her and cleansed and clothed her, and presented her to himself, and yet she was not faithful to him, and he had to buy her back again. This is a picture of Israel. She is called the bride of God, and later on the wife. These are just symbols. Christ has to cleanse the church in order to present her to Himself a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle. It is a figure of a wife presented to her husband.
[W]e are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
This reminds us that when Adam received Eve, he said, “she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Paul is now quoting (in verse 31) from Genesis. Paul is here telling us that the mystery of marriage illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church.
We have seen the church then as a redeemed company, as the body of Christ, as a glorious building in which the Spirit of God dwells, and as the bride soon to be presented to the Lamb, Who died to redeem her. That in itself speaks of her destiny.
V. THE CALLING OF THE CHURCH
What, then, is the calling of the church of God?
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4- 7)
Sitting in heavenly places does not mean we are now sitting together “with” Christ Jesus.
Now we are sitting “in” Christ, not “with.” “With” Christ will be our happy portion by and by when Christ comes and takes us home, that in the ages to come He may show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Show means that He might exhibit. The church, then, called out of sin and darkness, redeemed to God with the precious Blood of Christ, and linked to the Head with the Spirit, will be one with Christ throughout all the ages to come, and so whatever experiences our Lord may be called upon to go through we shall go through with Him. We shall reign with Him and be with Him when He is all and in all. Our portion will be with Him through all eternity.
Let us, therefore, walk worthy of the calling wherewith we are called.
(You may read more by Harry Ironside at www.harryironside.com.)
Around the Oval Table by Corrie ten Boom
Can a piece of furniture be important? The oval table in our dining room was the gathering place for hopes and dreams, the listening place for prayers and petitions, and the loving place for joy and laughter.
But Sunday, it was something more—it was the special place for family and friends.
Sunday was an important day for us; it was a day when everything—from the clothes we wore to the spoons we used—was distinctive. My Sunday dress was the new one I received for Christmas, so I seldom had a choice about what I would wear to church. Tante Anna could work magic with that dress, adding a colored sash or a ribbon in a way that improved my rather careless appearance. It was another of her small gifts of service which said, “I care.”
When we were ready for church, Father would lead the way to St. Bavo’s while we trailed along, trying not to scuff our shoes or soil our Sunday outfits.
After church it was good to go home, especially when the weather was chilly, for St. Bavo’s was unheated, and there were days when my teeth would chatter through the entire service.
At home, I would help with the Sunday dinner, first by smoothing a beautiful white cloth over the oval table. I tried to do this carefully, because I knew that Betsie wanted it to hang evenly, and it was a great desire of mine to meet her standards. Everything about Betsie was neat and I was . . . oh, well—just Corrie.
“Good work, Corrie,” she would say, and that was all I needed to encourage me for the rest of the day.
The delicate china, which had been brought from Indonesia by father’s older sister, Tante Toos, and Tante Jans’ ornate silver service—a gift from wealthy members of her husband’s church—were placed on the table. Then Tante Anna would emerge from the kitchen, wiping her hands on the generous apron she used to cover her black silk dress, and ring a little bell.
“Come to dinner, everyone.”
When we were seated, Father would remove his fresh Sunday napkin from its holder, place it carefully on his lap, and bow his head.
“Lord, we thank You for this beautiful Lord’s Day and for this family. Bless this food, bless our Queen, and let soon come the day that Jesus, Your beloved Son, comes on the clouds of heaven. Amen.”
Our table talk on Sunday sometimes centered around the sermon we had heard, but usually Father was cautious not to say too much. He attended the cathedral near our home because he felt that God had called him to that place, but he didn’t hold any position in the church. His views were not accepted by the liberal thinkers who were in positions of leadership.
Conversations around the dinner table were lively because we all had stories or experiences we wanted to share. I believe that the great enjoyment of a family eating together is having this time when each person can be heard.
Father had a special talent in directing our talks so that no one would feel left out. We loved to tell personal stories, but were taught to laugh at ourselves and not to make fun of others.
I remember one time when Nollie was telling about a painting she had done in school.
“I thought the drawing was rather good,” Nollie said, “but when Mr. van Arkel walked over to my desk, he held up my picture and looked at it one way and then another, scowling all the time.”
“Maybe he just wanted to get a better view,” Betsie offered.
“I’m afraid that wasn’t his reason,” Nollie answered.
(Studies were important in our family, so each one of us received special attention when we talked about school.)
“What did Mr. van Arkel say, Nollie?” Mother asked.
“He said, “Do you know of which Proverb your drawing reminds me, Nollie ten Boom?”
“I told him, ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense.’ [Disgraced is he who thinks wrong of it]. It’s from a motto on a badge of knighthood. Boy, did Mr. van Arkel laugh!”
Nollie’s eyes twinkled when she told the story. Father really enjoyed a good joke, as long as the girls didn’t giggle. Laughter he loved, but giggling was verboden.
On Sunday afternoons, we frequently had visitors who would stop for a cup of tea and conversation. Sometimes we would go for a walk, but we didn’t study, sew, or work on the Lord’s Day. The only work allowed was winding the watches, which were in the shop for repair.
Father said, “Even on Sunday, I must milk my cows.”
Fellowship around the oval table was more than just a family affair. Throughout the years, there were many people, young and old, rich and poor, who contributed so much to the richness of my childhood. I loved to have some of Father’s friends visit our home, because they laughed a lot and always told wonderful stories.
When Father was a young man in Amsterdam, he worked in a mission called Heil des Volks, which was in a very poor part of the city. There were three other men who gave their time and energy to this particular outreach, and they all became fast friends.
The four men would meet often, sharing their burdens and triumphs, studying the Bible together, and discussing many topics of interest. As a child, I was always happy when they came to our house; it was a time when I loved to listen to the conversations of these great friends and learn from their experiences. The children were welcome to stay during their discussions and encouraged to participate if we had something we wanted to ask. I can still recall the fragrant mixture of cologne and good Dutch cigars which lingered in the room.
Frits Vermeer was a rather round Dutchman who loved to joke. He was “Uncle Frits” to us, just as the other good friends were called Uncle Dirk and Uncle Hendrik.
One of the first things Father would do when his friends arrived was to bring out the box of cigars from its place in the desk where the bulky ledger of the shop was kept. From his pocket, he would take the special cigar clipper, which had keys for winding the clocks on the other side. It was a very important tool, and many children over a span of half a century sat on his lap and played with it.
Uncle Hendrik was considered the theologian of the group, and was constantly being challenged for a Bible verse to meet some situation or problem. He was seldom at a loss when asked to quote something appropriate for the occasion.
Uncle Dirk, the fourth member of the group, was the only one who wasn’t married. However, he loved children very much and was able to express that love in a special way.
On one occasion, when Father’s friends were discussing their concerns, Uncle Dirk was anxious to tell about an orphanage where he was on the board of directors. I sat up and listened carefully, because children without parents bothered me so much. I thought how terrible it would be not to have the love of a mother and father.
“I decided to become the father of the orphanage,” Uncle Dirk announced. “I have been on the board of directors, arguing for better conditions for those poor children, but I have not seen any positive results. I must get in there and work myself.”
Father was delighted. “Dirk, this is certainly the leading of the Lord for you. He has not given you a wife, but He is going to bless you with many, many children. We will pray about it.”
Father would begin to pray with his friends in an attitude which was so easy and natural that the conversation never seemed to stop; it would flow easily from friend to friend to the Lord.
Many times through the years I remember the wonderful moments I had listened to the stories and experiences of Father’s friends. There is a Proverb which says, “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not” (Proverbs 27:10). I have often thought how wise that is.
Bible Study Was a Game
With the dishes cleared off and kitchen duties accomplished, the oval table could be turned into a place for games. We didn’t play cards (for that was considered a form of gambling), but we had a lasting enjoyment in the type of games which taught us something.
Different languages were introduced as a game, not as a forced study. When I was in the fourth grade, we began to learn French. As I remember, I loved the melodious sounds of this beautiful language, but it was and remained a difficult language for me. The next year I started English, which was easier, but I wondered as I struggled with all the different English meanings for words if I would ever go to England or America and have an opportunity to use the language.
Father wanted me to learn English well, and he gave me a little Sunday-school booklet in English, which was called “There’s No Place Like Home.” I read it over and over again.
The greatest fun in language-learning came during our Bible study. The entire family would take part, each one of us having a Bible in a different language. Willem usually had the original in Hebrew and Greek; I would have the English; Mother the Dutch; Nollie the French; and Betsie or Father, German. It was a special and joyous time for us.
Father would begin by asking what John 3:16 was in English. I would answer from my English Bible, Mother from her Dutch Bible, and Betsie would reply in German.
When I was so young, it didn’t seem possible that Betsie would ever have a chance to use a Bible verse in German. We didn’t know any Germans then! However, God uses such seemingly insignificant ways to prepare us for the plan He has for our lives. Over forty years later, in a concentration camp in Germany, Betsie was able to use that verse—and many more—to speak to the prisoners and the guards about God’s love.
When Father Prayed . . .
Every room in our house heard our prayers, but the oval table probably experienced more conversations with the Lord than other places. Praying was never an embarrassment for us, whether it was with the family together or when a stranger came in. Father prayed because he had a good Friend to talk over the problems of the day; he prayed because he had a direct connection with his Maker when he had a concern; he prayed because there was so much for which he wanted to thank God.
When Father talked with the Lord, it was serious, but unpretentious. He talked to Someone he knew. Once we had a minister in our house, and when his visit was over, Father prayed, “Thank You Lord, for a good day. We hope everyone goes together in the same way.”
The minister left with a puzzled expression on his face. Could this be the Casper ten Boom so many of his parishioners told him had such a deep understanding of God’s Word?
Father always prayed before and after each meal. He included two things in his prayer: the Queen and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The knowledge and anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ was given to me by Father during one of the quiet, thoughtful times before I went to sleep as a small child.
(From Corrie’s book, In My Father’s House)
(Corrie ten Boom and her family hid Jews in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Eventually, they were captured and put into concentration camps where most of her family perished. You can read about the ten Boom’s courage in her book The Hiding Place. In My Father’s House is about the ten Boom years prior to The Hiding Place time period. Lighthouse Trails sought the publishing rights to In My Father’s House in 2011 when learning that the book was no longer in print in North America and seeing how precious this book is.)
NEW BOOKLET: The Expectation of His Return by Dr. Harry A. Ironside is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of The Expectation of His Return, click here.
The Expectation of His Return
In the Epistle of the Romans, we have the words:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23)
Then if you will also turn to Philippians:
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)
The Christian has a wonderful expectation. Our Lord Jesus Christ while He was here on earth had a great deal to say about His second coming. I have never been able to understand why some persons who profess to be Christians (and I would not dare doubt in some instances but they are really such) seem to have no interest whatsoever in the truth of the return of our blessed Savior. I have often heard people say, “I am not interested in the second coming of Christ. The only thing that concerns me is to be ready when He comes.”
Of course it is very important that we should be ready when He comes, but to say, “The only thing that concerns me is to be ready for that event,” seems to me to be the quintessence of selfishness. Am I only concerned about my personal readiness? Do I not have a deep, warm expectation in my soul, looking forward to that glorious day when the Savior shall return? Am I not longing to see Him?
He has said that He is coming back, and He told us to watch and to wait for His coming, to be like men that wait for their Lord when He will return from the wedding. And surely if we have learned to love Him, if we know Him as the One who died for us and washed away our sins in His precious blood, we certainly ought to be looking eagerly for His return.
EXPECTATION IS NOT FEAR
Some people think of the second coming of the Lord as though it were a dreadful event, an event from which we might well shrink, because they confound the second coming of Christ for His people with the day of judgment for a godless world; but these are two very distinct events.
When He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” He was not referring to the final day of judgment. He was speaking of the time when He will come back and raise the dead and change the living, those of His own redeemed people, and take them up to be with Him in the Father’s house. Surely there is nothing to dread about that. It is no fearful portent, the thought of the Lord’s coming.
On one occasion I was asked in a certain Canadian city to give an address to the ministerial union on the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and so I went down with a heart and mind full of the subject, and found nearly seventy of the city’s preachers gathered together. It was my privilege to talk to them for about forty minutes on what I believe the Word of God teaches concerning this great expectation of the Church. When I had finished, the moderator of the meeting, who was a Presbyterian minister, rose and said, “My friends, I want to give my personal testimony concerning this subject. I was a minister for a great many years before I ever took the time to study what the Bible has to say about the second coming of the Lord, but some years back I became deeply interested and I searched the Scriptures for all references to the subject. You know, as that truth opened up to me, I got a new Bible. It just seemed as though my Bible was entirely different. So many things were plain that had been dark before.” Then he said, “Now I would like to have you tell us how this subject appeals to you.”
There happened to be present a very venerable old gentleman, an Anglican clergyman, who had received a great many honors because of his scholarship and ability. He had written a great many books, and I had read all of them, so I was quite interested when he was pointed out to me. The moderator knew he was in the audience that day and because he seemed in a certain sense to be a dean of them all, he turned to him and said, “Doctor, wouldn’t you like to speak to us on the subject?”
The dear old gentleman stood up and in that fine, cultured way that is so characteristic of Anglican clergyman, said something like this: “Well, my dear brother, I am really sorry that you referred to me at all, because I never like to take issue was a visiting speaker. I would far rather have just said to our brother at the close, ‘Thank you,’ and left it at that; but since you put me on the spot, it is necessary for me to express myself, and I regret to have to say that I do not find myself at all in agreement with the speaker who has addressed us today. Of course, I think there is something in the Bible about the second coming of the Lord, but just what it is I do not know, and I do not think anyone else does. I have listened carefully to what he has presented, and I have been thinking that if his presentation of the subject is the correct one, it must be an awful thing to believe, as he says he believes, that Christ may come back at any moment. Why, if one believed that, it would unnerve him completely. Suppose I were out making pastoral calls and the awful thought came to me that Christ might come today! I would not be able to continue my work, but would want to get back to my study and read the prayer book and try to get ready for that awful event.”
Well, you know it was a little difficult for me. I was much younger than he and I did not want to be discourteous, but I said to him, “Doctor, I hope that you do not mean us to infer that one could have been a member of the great church to which you belong and have taken all the ecclesiastical and academical honors that you have and yet never have been washed from his sins in the precious blood of Christ! For Doctor, if you have been saved through what the Lord Jesus did when He was here the first time, whether you realize it or not, you will be ready when He comes the second time.” Because it is not our understanding of the doctrines of the Lord’s return that makes us ready to meet Him, or our growth in holiness, but the fact that Another has, in the blessed will of God, shed His blood and died for us, cleansing us from all sin.
THE FOCUS OF OUR EXPECTATION
To me, the expectation of the Lord’s imminent return is one of the most precious hopes that I have, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope.” He was looking for the coming of the Savior, and he said, “I do not want to be ashamed. I want to be found, while I am watching for him, laboring always for His glory, endeavoring to bring others to Him, and seeking to manifest Christ in my daily life so that I can always say, ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’”
This poor world needs the coming Savior. Suppose our Lord had come ten years ago.* Then the world would never have known the dire conflict that is prevailing at the present time. Why do we see the nations engaged in bloody conflict one with the other? It is because when the Prince of Peace came here to dwell amongst men in lowly grace He was not recognized. He was rejected. He came to bring peace, but men said, “We will not have this man to reign over us”; and so, according to Hosea He said, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” He has gone back to the Father’s right hand and is there preparing a place for His redeemed. [** This booklet by Dr. Ironside was written in about 1940, during WW II.]
This is one aspect of it, but the other aspect is this: He is coming back to this poor world, and He is going to reign in righteousness for a thousand wonderful years, and then will be fulfilled the prophecy, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3). Oh, how the world needs Christ, who is that “blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15)!
THE EXPECTATION OF CREATION
That is what the apostle is referring to, especially in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, when he says that “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” And we know by the context of this passage that this expectation is shared by the entire creation, for creation’s blessing will come with that manifestation. And when will the sons of God be manifested? The sons of God are already in the world at this time, but their manifestation has not come yet. They are in the world, but the world knows them not, even as it knew Him not; but we read that when He is manifested, then shall we be manifested. When He reigns, then we will appear with Him in glory! That will be the time when earth’s blessing will come, when creation will be liberated from the bondage of the curse.
Look at John’s Gospel, chapter 14, the passage we all love and the portion which I think fits in so well at every Christian funeral. I do not know that I have ever been called upon to say a few words at the burial of a saint of God but that I have felt I must read these words: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me .” That is, Christ is saying in effect, “I am going away from you, so you won’t be able to see Me; but you believe in God the Father, though you cannot see Him. Now I want you to believe in Me, God the Son, when you cannot see Me.” And so He has gone back to the Father. We cannot see Him, but we love Him, and we love to serve Him, and we wait for His return.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions,” many resting places, many abodes. It is the same word as the one translated “abode” a little farther down in the chapter: “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (verse 23). So He says, “In my Father’s house are many abodes, many places of rest.” Many of God’s dear children know very little of rest here, but they will rest there in the presence of God and His Son when they put on their resurrection bodies.
“If it were not so, I would have told you.” There are so many things that the saint of God longs for that perhaps are not based upon positive Scripture, but He says, “If this were not a fact, if this hope, this expectation were not based on truth, I would have told you. I would not want you to be deluded; I would not want you to be deceived.” When we look forward to resting in His presence, when we think of Heaven as the Father’s house, it is not just a lovely dream, it is not mere imagination. It is a blessed, precious truth vouched for by our Lord Jesus Himself. He came from the Father and went to the Cross for our redemption. He has gone back to the Father to prepare a place for us.
THE EXPECTATION OF GOING HOME
I love to think of Heaven as a home. Some of us have not known very much of a home here on earth. It is said of the one who wrote that most beautiful of all songs about home that he was a wanderer all his life. I refer, of course, to John Howard Payne who wrote, “Home, Sweet Home.” Some of us have not enjoyed much of the comforts of home down here on earth, but oh, what a home He is preparing for us up yonder!
At death, the believer goes home, but that is not the final thing, that is not the fullness of our expectation, for the Lord Jesus says, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Dear Christian, do get hold of this truth in the early days of your Christian life. The Lord Jesus says, “I will come again.” How can anybody say he doesn’t believe in the second coming of Christ in view of a promise like that? It is amazing how people twist those words to try to make them say anything but what they really say.
FALSE VIEWS OF OUR EXPECTATION
Some people tell us that He simply meant that He was coming to individual souls when they were converted, to dwell in their hearts. That is not what He is talking about. He says, I am going “to receive [them] unto myself, that where I am there [they] may be also.” There are other folk who think that when the Lord said those words He was referring to the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit, being Jesus’ other self, came down to make good this promise. But I think that when people talk like that, they forget that the great bulk of the promises of the second coming in the New Testament were given after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. It was after the Holy Spirit fulfilled the Lord’s words and came as the Comforter that He moved the hearts of saints to cry, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” and to look on with eager, glad expectation to His personal return.
Then some people say, “Well, it just means that He is coming in the hour of death. When the believer comes down to death, the Lord will be there to take him home to Heaven.” And yet, if it is just as true now as it was before the Cross that angels transport ransomed souls to Heaven, it is a very different thing from the personal coming of Christ. The beggar Lazarus died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, and I suppose that angels take the saints now into the presence of the Lord. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). But Jesus speaks of a personal coming. That is not death; it is the destruction of death for the believer.
There are some people who confound the Lord’s return with the judgment day of all of the unsaved. There is nothing about that judgment here. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” There is no hint of a judgment of the lost there. It is the returning bridegroom coming for His bride and taking her with Him into the Father’s house to share the rest and the glory of the blessed place. The manner of it is described for us in the fourth chapter of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, a passage with which we are all familiar, unless it be those to whom these things are new and strange. Beginning with verse 13 we read:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [or precede them] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself [Notice how distinctly personal that is!] shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. (vss. 13-16)
See the contrast between the Lord’s coming and death. Death is not the Savior’s return, but when the Savior returns, death is destroyed for the believer.
[T]he dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. (v. 16-17)
THE TWO GROUPS OF BELIEVERS
You see, there will be the two classes of believers who will have part in the glorious event of the Lord’s return. There will be those who are asleep, that is the saints who have died. The bodies of many of them have gone back to the dust from which they came, but they will be raised and those bodies tenanted again by the glorified soul and spirit of the believers. But then there is another group—the believers actually living in this world when Christ returns.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (v. 17)
Would it not be a wonderful thing if we Christians who are living today should be among that number! If, before death claims our bodies, the Savior should return and we would be caught up together with the resurrected saints in clouds to meet the Lord in the air! Of course, these bodies of ours will have to undergo a great change in order that that may be, but in Philippians 3 we read of that change:
For our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body. (3:20-21)
or literally, “transform the body of our humiliation.” This body, you see, is called the body of our humiliation. You know how often you are humiliated in your body, don’t you? It is such a drag on the spirit at times. Well, when the Savior comes, He will change the body of our humiliation.
“. . . that it my be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (vv. 20-21).
We read of this more particularly in Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. There the apostle says:
Behold, I shew you a mystery (I tell you a secret, something nobody knew anything of until is was revealed); We shall not all sleep (that is, we shall not all die), but we shall all be changed (whether living or dead, we shall all be changed), In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (the trump that ends this dispensation of grace): for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption (that is, the dead, the corrupted bodies of the dead will be raised in incorruption), and this mortal (that is, the living) must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15: 51-53)
Those who are now living in mortal bodies will suddenly be given immortal bodies when Jesus comes back again, and in those bodies will live forever.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (vs. 54)
No wonder the apostle can exult in triumph:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (vs. 55)
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (vss. 56-57)
THIS IS OUR HOPE!
This, then, is our expectation; this is our hope! And the Lord would have us living day by day in view of the possible fulfillment of the promise of His coming again. When you get up in the morning, cultivate the attitude of soul that leads you to say, “Christ may come today; and if He were to come today, I want Him to find me walking in obedience to His holy Word.” And when you go to sleep at night say, “Christ Jesus may come tonight, and I can rest in perfect peace, knowing that when He comes I shall be caught up to meet Him.”
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By Maria Kneas
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
The parable of the sower in Scripture reveals a condition (the third kind of soil) that can be especially problematic for the Christian who is trying to serve the Lord and be fruitful for the Kingdom—namely that of seed sown among thorns (weeds) that would choke out one’s effectiveness. In explaining this part of the parable, Jesus said:
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19, emphasis added)
It is obvious that things like lust for money and power, and sexual immorality would prevent Christians from bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. But Jesus also included “the cares of this world” in the list of “weeds” that are deadly enough to prevent the plant from bearing fruit. Therefore, we cannot afford to be overcome by “cares” (fear, anxiety, worry, etc.). Jesus expects us to bear fruit for His Kingdom. And we want to be fruitful for Him.
Peter implies that if we fail to cast our cares on God, then we open ourselves up to spiritual warfare. I’ll repeat the opening Scripture of this chapter, and add the two verses that come immediately after it. Peter says:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:6-9)
What happens when we become anxious, worried, and full of cares? Our emotions take over. We act impulsively. We lose sleep, and lose our tempers, and so on. We get so focused on our worries we fail to notice, or take care of, important things in our lives. Well, that is the exact opposite of being “sober” and “alert.” And therefore, we are not in good shape to resist the attacks of the devil.
James said something that relates to part of what Peter said in the quote above:
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:6-7)
How do we submit to God? One important way is by taking His Word seriously and trying to live the way the Bible tells us to live. And that includes not being anxious. Paul said:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6)
In the King James, the word “careful” means “full of care.” In other words, “anxious.” So Paul’s point is that we should be praying instead of worrying. We need to give our cares to God. That includes fears for ourselves and for those we love. For example, parents whose children are soldiers fighting overseas have valid reasons to fear for the safety of their children.
We all become afraid at times. The problem occurs when we allow that fear to take over. Going back to the parable of the sower and the four kinds of soil, when weeds first begin to grow, if you pull them up by the roots, they won’t cause any significant harm to the plant. However, if you let them keep growing, then the weeds can choke the plant and prevent it from bearing fruit. In some cases, weeds can even kill the plant. I had some beautiful azaleas that were killed by ivy.
The principle is similar to avoiding long-term anger. God understands that at times, we will become angry, but the point is we cannot afford to remain angry. Otherwise, we may give the devil a beachhead (“place”) in which to attack us as we discussed in chapter 8.
Similarly, we can’t help getting anxious at times. However, we cannot afford to remain anxious. We need to remind ourselves that God is faithful, and He loves us, and He will take good care of us. His grace is sufficient for us. And He will make everything work out for our long-term, eternal good if we love Him. No exceptions (Romans 8:28).
Praise and worship are a good way to remind ourselves that God is good, that He loves us, and that we can trust Him. David said:
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:3)
The term “magnify” can’t mean making God any bigger than He already is, because that is impossible since God is already infinite. Therefore, it must mean making ourselves become more aware of how great God really is. In other words, as we focus on God and on His greatness, His goodness, His mercy, and His lovingkindness, then He appears greater in our eyes. And because of that, our problems seem so much smaller.
So what we are really doing is seeing things in proper proportion. In reality, any problem we could face is so small compared to God and His great love for us. For God, even death is small by comparison (1 Corinthians 15:53-55). He raised Jesus from the dead; and some day He will raise all believers from the dead.
We need to get our focus off our problems and on to God. On a practical note, we need to be aware of the problems and do whatever we can in practical terms to deal with them. However, when it comes to our emotions and our thoughts, our primary focus needs to be on the Lord God Almighty. The apostle Paul told us:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
True, honest, just, pure, lovely (beautiful), good, virtuous, and worthy of praise are all attributes of God. So although we need to be aware of the bad stuff in our lives and do whatever we can to deal with it, our primary focus should be on God Himself. The Bible says it is the life of Christ in us that gives us the power and strength we need. When we are born again, He lives in us (abides in us), and it is His life that changes and transforms us.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. (Galatians 2:20)
. . . to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27, emphasis added)
When you drive your car, you look at the road ahead of you. You quickly check the mirrors, and you see sideways with your peripheral vision, but your primary focus has to be on the road that is directly ahead of you. Likewise, we can focus on God and look at the bad stuff with our peripheral vision. That will make it easier to cast our cares (concerns about the bad stuff) on God and leave them in His hands, trusting that He will take care of things in the right way—and in the right timing.
Casting our cares on God is a skill we can learn and a habit we can develop. We can ask God to teach us how to do it. We can ask Him to make us willing and able to do it. And we can ask Him to teach us not to grab those cares and take them back again after we have given them to Him.
God told us to do it. He wants us to do it. And His grace is sufficient for us. Therefore, He is willing and able to teach us how to do it. God can enable us to make casting our cares on Him become a way of life for us.
It’s a process. It can take time. When we succeed in casting a care on Him, then we should thank Him for it. When we fail, then we should repent and ask Him to help us do it.
Human parents teach their children how to do what they expect of them. Would our Heavenly Father do any less for us? Of course not.
The more we cast our cares on God, the more we will learn to trust Him at a deeper level. In addition, we will experience a new degree of peace and joy. That will be a blessing for us and for those who are close to us.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
by Fanny Crosby
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…
(Maria Kneas is author of Strength for Tough Times and How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution.)