The Final Exam 2/20/00

Revelation 20:11-15

Jesus Christ is spoken of as the One who will judge the world: “because He [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

This verse attests to the fact every person will someday be involved in a great time of judgement. It reveals:

* A DATE IS DETERMINED

* A STANDARD IS DECIDED

* A SCOPE IS STATED

* A PROOF IS PROCLAIMED

A Date Is Determined when God will judge the world. That means each of us will be involved. There are no exemptions. None!

Does it ever seem the wicked prosper and seem to get away with it? Centuries ago the prophet Jeremiah was puzzled by this and wrote:

“Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1).

They will not in the day of the ultimate judgement. They will face a final judgement. The date is already determined.

A Standard Is Decided and it is the person Jesus Christ. The criterion will not be to find someone you are better than and gain a passing grade by comparison. The standard is Jesus Christ.

There will be no oversight or error in His judgement. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

The prophet Daniel describes the judge as “the Ancient of Days,” before whom “a river of fire was flowing.” Then Daniel adds: “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9, 10).

Christ sets the standard and is the standard.

“The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son …. And has given Him the authority to judge because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:23, 27).

Before British law required warning signals along railways bridge keepers were required to flag down approaching trains and warn them the bridge was out.

One passenger train plunged into the river because of it not being properly warned. At the trial the bridge keeper was asked by the judge if he waved his warning lantern. He responded that he had.

Later the bridge keeper confided to a friend he was glad the judge didn’t ask if his lantern was lit.

The whole truth wasn’t known when the judgement was made. Our Lord will know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

A Scope Is Stated and it is the whole world. All persons of all ages will be involved in a final judgement.

“For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, said, “What men fear, is not that death is annihilation, but that it is not.”

At the end of World War II Richard Niebuhr reminded readers that the fear of death was chiefly the fear of judgement.

Daniel Webster declared the most significant thought to cross his mind was that of his personal accountability. You too are personally accountable.

A Proof is Presented and it is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. In light of this the Easter celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ might well be the most dreaded holiday of the year.

Having achieved the unachievable, the resurrection, God the Father has demonstrated His ability to fulfill His promises. He has promised there will be a final judgement.

It is wishful thinking to say there was and will be no resurrection. In modern excavations a sealed vase was found in an Egyptian tomb. In it were seed known to be more than three thousand years old. They were hard as stone and shriveled. They were carefully planted and within thirty days sprang to life after having lain dormant in a dusty tomb for centuries.

This is a faint illustration of the fact the mortal body shall put on immortality.

Acts 17 notes the three predictable responses:

* Some mock: “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked…” (Acts 17:32).

* Some delayed: “We will hear you again on this matter” (Acts 17: 32c). The Bible wisely warns: “Boast not yourself of tomorrow” (Proverbs 27:1). This is not an encouragement to take wise forethought. Much progress has been enjoyed as a result of people who wisely planned for tomorrow. Much of the fruit picked today is a result of persons who yesterday planned for it.

The warning is against counting on tomorrow as a given.

Planning for tomorrow is practical. Depending upon it is impractical. The way to plan for tomorrow is to do today what equips you for tomorrow.

Spiritually, the way to plan for tomorrow is to prepare today by aligning your life with Christ. In that way you have prepared for tomorrow and have no cause for anxiety about it.

* Some believed: “However, some men joined him and believed” (Acts 17: 34).

In which category do you belong?

In the Book of the Revelation reference is made to two future resurrections. The first will occur at the next coming of our Lord. It is a resurrection to life. It will happen at a time called the Rapture when Christ shall come in the air for His saints.

However, there is another resurrection spoken of.

It is the resurrection unto judgement and occurs at the end of the period known as the Millennium. After Christ shall have ruled on earth for 1000 years Satan will be released for a short period on earth. Only believers will be on earth at the beginning of the Millennium. All who are born during the Millennium will live in a perfect environment and have believing parents. Even with Christ physically present and ruling on earth the evil hearts of some of those born during the Millennium will covertly be in rebellion against Christ. To expose these Satan is allowed to be released and they overtly follow him. This proves it is an evil heart not heredity of the environment that is responsible for evil acts.

After Satan shall have been released for a short time on earth he is finally cast out into the lake of fire and brimstone, hell. Beginning with Revelation 20: 11 the final exam is noted.

This is called “the great white throne” judgement. The throne of judgement is “great” because of its POWER. It is “white” because of its PURITY.

Those who stand before the great white throne will have rejected “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2;3).

They are those who were not involved in the first resurrection, believers.

This judgement is not to determine the destiny of those involved. That has already been determined by their rejection of Christ while alive. This passage teaches there will be degrees of punishment. This judgement is to determine the severity of persons punishment. This is an often overlooked or actually unknown Bible fact.

Believers have been judged.

^ They were judged at the cross as SINNERS. “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

^ They are presently being judged as SIBLINGS of the Father. As His children He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name sake. His reputation in part rest on our faithfulness.

^ They will be judged as STEWARDS. Grow not weary in well doing for one “Well done” from Him will make it all worth while. In the first part of verse 12 reference is made to “books,” plural. In the last part of verse 12 reference is made to “the book,” singular. The book is further identified in verses 12 and 15 as “the Book of Life.”

Found revealed in this passage is insight regarding salvation. There are only two schools of thought on how to be saved. One is that you must work for your salvation. A person must earn, merit, or deserve God’s good favor. This is done according to this school of thought by good works.

The other concept of salvation is that it is only by grace, that is, God’s favor. Ephesians 2: 8, 9 make this clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Those who are depending upon their good works to save them need to give careful attention to the basis of their judgement revealed in verse 12: “The dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books.”

The very works depended upon for salvation become the basis of condemnation. This is true because these person have relied upon their own good works rather than the good work of Christ on the cross.

Works are an unmistakable evidence of the loyalty of the heart. Works will reveal a persons loyalty is not to Christ.

This passage reveals God to be a good bookkeeper. He has a record of our deeds. Whoever you are your biography is kept by God.

Those whose names are not in the Book of Life join the devil in the lake of fire.

Earlier reference was made to the varied response to the news an inevitable judgement awaits every one.

A historical event illustrates types of responses. Years ago the Robert E. Lee was the most palatial boat that plied up and down the Mississippi River between Vicksburg and New Orleans. There were other beautiful boats but this was the favorite of the people of Vicksburg. Every Wednesday afternoon hundreds would gather along the river to watch as the Robert E. Lee cast off and turned her prow down river and headed to New Orleans.

One beautiful Wednesday thousands gathered on the wharf to wave goodby and shout “bon voyage” to friends and family. Passengers hung over the gunwales and shouted such things as, “We will write when we get to our destination.”

The Robert E. Lee backed out, rang its bells as its whistles blew and smoke rolled out its funnels. The river hands sang those wild weird river songs that make the blood tingle and tears roll down cheeks. About a mile down river the Lee turned a bend in the river and disappeared from view.

It was about 2:00 AM when the first telegrams began to arrive in Vicksburg. The vaunted paddle wheeler had caught fire and rapidly burned on the river. About midnight the captain had discovered the boat was on fire. He summonsed the clerk and said, “This boat is on fire and I want you to run down in the saloon and down every corridor and rap on each state-room door and cry, ‘Get up; the boat is on fire!’ He ran around knocking at the doors and screaming, ‘The boats on fire!”

He had no time for an explanation if he was to warn everyone; there was no time to argue. Those few who heard the warning and responded saving their lives tell of the various responses of others who perished.

Upon hearing the knocking some swore and cursed and vowed to respond to a person who would be so alarming. Others laughed at such an idea as this great vessel being on fire saying, “There is no fire.” Some thought it was a joke and rolled over to an eternal sleep. A few were frightened and hid under their beds. Some heard the warning and responded. Those same responses are offered to the idea of a great day of judgement coming. Some curse the messenger. Some laugh at the very idea. Some think it is a prank. Some are frightened and withdraw.

Others believe and respond thereby getting prepared for that inevitable event. What is your response?

The Book of the Revelation contains this urgent warning: “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come” (Revelation 14:6, 7). The Lord God does not desire for persons to be in the Great White Throne Judgement.

* God is not a ghoulish God looking for an opportunity to punish us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:19).

* Christ has gone to extremes to help persons avoid judgement. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

A Model Mother

I Samuel 1:27, 28

JESUS CHRIST honored His earthly mother and appealed by example and exhortation for you to do the same. The need abides for mothers to be honored as well as for them to be honorable.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt framed the role with this beautiful depiction.

“When all is said, it is the mother, and the mother only, who is a better citizen than the soldier who fights for his country. The successful mother, the mother who does her part in rearing and training aright the boys and girls who are to be the men and women of the next generation, is of greater use to her community, and occupies, if she only would realize it, a more honorable as well as a more important position than any man in it. The mother is the one supreme asset of national life; she is more important far than the successful statesman, or business man, or artist, or scientist.”

Mothering is an all-consuming, exhausting process that requires energy, concentration, perseverance, patience, time, and a lot of other elusive attributes. Moms deserve praise and accolades. Additionally, I would like to throw in some helpful hints on being a mom.

1. Keep your marriage a priority. Don’t use your child as an escape from the reality of your marriage and what it needs.

2. Don’t neglect your personal spiritual life even for your child. There will be times you will need divine wisdom and supernatural strength to be an effective mom. Hannah, the mother we are going to consider momentarily could never have survived her emotional stress and disgrace if she had not had a viable personal faith.

3. Be glad, right now, that your children want to be with you. Those moments will fade fast and there is no way to return to the thrill of being needed that those early years afford. Enjoy the fact you are your child’s best music and art critic. The music often comes from clanging pots and pans serving as symbols. Kazoos, toy xylophones, drums, and wind-up record players often provide the music in the early years. All too soon they give way to boom-boxes.

Moms are often called upon to appraise artwork scrawled on bedroom walls, the best table cloth, and sidewalks.

Young moms are expected to be authorities on the care and feeding of snails, butterflies, worms, dogs, parakeets, grasshoppers, guppies, and gerbils.

4. Buy stock in companies that manufacture diapers and bandages. You will feel personally responsible for our nation’s sound economy while providing for your future.

5. For girls, this is important, never buy a dress without considering the “twirl” factor.

6. For boys, don’t worry if the only word he knows by age six is “vroom.”

7. Keep your sense of humor. What may tend to upset you today will be cause for laughter in the future.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will make mistakes. Forgive yourself and move on.

Moms and dads as well, here is a part of childhood I didn’t know until I learned it by experience. One day the door will open, and in will walk a young adult, your child, your best friend. It happens all too rapidly and is worth any effort to achieve it.

Children here is a verse to memorize: “Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her who bore you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:25).

We can learn much from Bible moms. Can you imagine comments coming from these little Bible sons:

“Abraham, stop wandering around the countryside and get home in time for dinner.”

“Cain, get up off your brother. You are going to kill him if you keep that up.”

“David, I told you not to play with that sling in the house. Now put it down and practice your harp. We pay good money for those lessons.”

“Samson, get your hand out of that lion’s mouth. You don’t know where it has been.”

“Noah, no you can’t keep them. I told you I don’t want you to bring home any more stray animals.”

“James and John, stop that burping contest at the table. If you keep that up people will call you the sons of thunder.”

“Judas, have you been in my purse again?”

The Old Testament contains the story of a young wife and her ambition to serve the Lord as a mother. She is the model of a good mother. Women, let me ask you a vital question. If you had lived in the Bible era, would you have been a good example for inclusion in Scripture of a good and Godly mother? If not, I appeal that you start molding your life today after such an example — Hannah.

The story develops in a time of great national trouble for Israel. They were in need of a Godly leader. At that same time a young woman entered the story. Her name was Hannah.

I. HANNAH WAS COMMITTED TO GOD

Before she was a wife, she was a true believer and an ardent worshiper. Before she was a mother, she was a Godly woman. She regularly engaged in worship and prayer (1:10). She sought God’s will: “If thou will” (1:11). To show the sincerity of her prayer, she linked herself to God by a difficult vow. Hannah called herself “the handmade of the Lord.” When a child sees its mother’s commitment to the Lord and observes her consistency in Christ the child is drawn to her and Christ. When the parent is seen to be willing to be under the authority of the Lord the child is more willing to be under the authority of the parent.

Even when the Priest, Levi, misunderstood her, she remained calm and gracious. He saw her praying and thought she was drunk (1:14). The old priest’s ill-founded conclusion added gall to the sorrow of her heart. She was courteous but persistent. Seeing her sincerity, Levi said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition” (1:17). She went home content because she believed.

From Hannah we can all learn how to calmly and graciously defend our rights.

II. HANNAH WAS COMMITTED TO HER HUSBAND

Hannah made the right choice of a husband. That for some persons is their biggest mistake. “David Frost’s Book of World’s Worst Decisions” lists some major mistakes. One big one is thought to be Coca- Cola changing its formula. For ninety-five years after Dr. John Pemberton cooked up the first batch in his back yard in 1886, the formula was good enough. Then in 1985 it changed. That, however, wasn’t Coke’s biggest mistake. Earlier in this century Coke passed up the opportunity to buy out a young, twice-bankrupted competitor called Pepsi-Cola.

All of us, like Coke, make mistakes; but Hannah made few.

She had the right husband. Being unable to have children made her the object of derision by Peninnah. Hannah’s husband Elkanah offered her encouragement at every opportunity. The Scripture says he was better to her than ten sons.

What we are not told is Hannah was beautiful. Her sweet spirit must have shown itself on a sensitive face in which her moods were reflected like sunshine and shadows on a quiet lake.

Before she was a mother, she was a loving and loyal wife. She lived in a day when it wasn’t uncommon to have more than one wife.

For a man not to have children was considered a disgrace. To insure against this men often had more than one wife. Though this principle was common in the Old Testament era, God never sanctioned it. It has never had God’s approval. It should be remembered this happened at a time when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Elkanah had another wife, Peninnah. She was Hannah’s “thorn in the flesh.” Difficulty arose in that her husband’s other wife had children and she didn’t. This was a time in history when childbearing was thought of as a blessing of God. Not to have children implied sin in the life resulting in the punishment of God. (1:2).

Her husband’s other wife criticized and teased her to the point she became very sad. Hannah is a beautiful example of how the most unpleasant of circumstances can produce a character that is a blessing to all. The other wife, Peninnah, tantalized her for not having children. Jealousy, the green-eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds on, had taken possession of Peninnah. Peninnah is spoken of as “her adversary who provoked her severely, to make her miserable” (1:6).

She refused to cause trouble even when her husband asked why she was sad. She did not tell of the derision caused by her competitor, her husband’s other wife. (1:8). Instead she devoted herself to unselfish love for her husband and a forgiving spirit toward the other wife. When her child was born she devoted herself to his welfare. Every child wants and needs parents who want him or her. A child has a built in radar that can detect whether or not it is wanted. Every child needs a mother whose commitment level is far above her comfort level.

I have been serving on the Georgia Child Protective Services Task Force. Hours of study have been devoted to the welfare of children in our state. One grief that has become increasingly apparent to me is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children a year are born unwanted. Hannah loved her child, Samuel. She not only told him of her love for him but professed it to others. Parents say it and show it. Let your children know they are wanted and loved.

Instead of pouring out her bitterness on others, she poured out her grief before God. That is always best. Her serenity of spirit was a veritable lily among thorns.

III. HANNAH WAS COMMITTED TO HER CHILDREN.

Hannah, though barren, yet believed. She was childless but not prayer less. In her pain she found consolation in prayer. Her faith was a ripe flower in an almost sterile field. Her first child was born in answer to prayer.

He came late in life. Because of this she might well have been expected to cling to him. She promised him to God before his birth. She was resolute in keeping that commitment.

Samuel, meaning “offering of God,” was the name given him. Samuel was the first of the prophets after Moses and the last of the judges in Israel.

By his very name she acknowledged she had asked the Lord for him.

The Japanese have developed a centuries old art of growing dwarfed trees. They take a small seedling that might well grow into a ninety foot tree and sever the taproot with scissors. The tree is forced to live off the shallow surface roots. Thus, it grows only a few inches tall. Without the taproot to go deep into the earth, the tree, even though fifty years of age, remains a dwarf. Some parents have mastered the art of growing spiritually dwarfed children by cutting off their spiritual taproot.

Hannah resolved to train Samuel until formal weaning. In their culture this was until about the age of seven. Weaning was not just physical but emotional.

She made a special, spiritual sacrifice by bringing him to the house of the Lord while he was very young (1:24).

Joyfully she relinquished him to the Lord and sang a beautiful prayer of praise expressive of her faith (2: 1 – 10). Her prayer/song was very similar to that of Mary when she rejoiced over the miraculous conception of Jesus.

God honored and blessed her with five more children.

Though she gave Samuel to the Lord and left him in the temple to be trained by the priest, she continued to keep in touch and love him. Each year she carried him a new garment as assurance of her love and commitment.

In addition to this physical show of love, she prayed regularly for him.

Samuel grew to become a great prayer intercessor for Israel. Thus, he mirrored his Godly mother.

Gideon: How to and Not to Find God’s Will 5/21/00

Judges 6:36-40

JESUS CHRIST wants to give you divine guidance more than you want to receive it.

Have you ever said something like: “I would be glad to do God’s will if He would just give it to me in writing.” Yet, the Scripture says, “We walk by faith not by sight.”

Finding God’s will is one of the major faith-walks of the Christian experience. It is both simple and complex. Certain parts of His will are clear in Scripture. Others require application of Biblical principles as guidelines to knowing it. Knowing God’s will is critically important for all believers.

Years ago a young man was seen alongside the road with his car hood up looking under it with consternation. A chauffeur-driven limo pulled up and a man got out, watched a moment, and told the young driver what to do. He was desperate and ready to try anything. The car started instantly. The young man asked, “How did you know what to do?” “Well,” said the stranger, “I am Henry Ford and I built the car, so I know all about how it works.”

For precisely that reason we need to know God’s way of doing things. He made us and wants to give us instructions.

The Scripture says “So then do not be foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Gideon was a person who wanted it in black and white. He was a “show me God” type person. He wanted to know God’s will regarding an upcoming confrontation. So he put out a fleece and told God to let him know His will by allowing the fleece only to have dew on it and for the ground to be dry in the morning. The next morning the fleece was covered with moisture and the ground dry. Gideon still had doubts. He thought it might have been coincidence so he reversed the process and asked the Lord to let the fleece be dry and the ground be wet be next night.

Is that technique to be considered standard operating procedure for Christians? NO! How do we know it isn’t. There are several reasons, but one is that if it were we would not be asked to walk by faith and not by fleece. Notice:

GIDEON ALREADY KNEW GOD’S WILL. It wasn’t faith that stimulated Gideon to use the fleece. It was doubt. Notice that twice in verses 36 and 37 Gideon said, “as Thou hast spoken…”

Gideon’s problem wasn’t knowledge it was faith and resulting obedience. That is most often our case. Gideon was skeptical about trusting God’s Word. Obedience to the known is the first essential to finding the unknown.

There is no need to come to God asking for more of His will to be revealed if you are not doing what you already know to do. He is not going to reveal more to you not to do. Once He sees your obedience in doing what you know to do, it pleases Him to reveal more to you to do.

It is like a child coming to a parent with one hand behind its back and asking for more cookies. When the child is persuaded to reveal the hidden hand, it is full of cookies. The parent then says, “Eat those you have and then I will give you more.”

In Judges 6:11 Gideon is seen beating out wheat when the Lord Jesus, as the Angel of the Lord appears to him. In verses 12, 14, 16 Gideon is clearly told three times what the will of the Lord was.

Through the miracle of verse 21 Gideon had no cause for further doubt as to the will of God. Gideon knew God’s will.

FLEECE SETTING SUPERSEDES GOD’S WORD IN IMPORTANCE. Gideon’s problem was doubt. Do you believe?: Psalm 32:8; 37:23, 24; 48:14 and Isaiah 58:11?

FLEECE SETTING IMPLIES AN OBLIGATION ON GOD’S BEHALF. We are instructed not to tempt the Lord. Gideon’s conduct revealed He was trying to dictate to God the standard by which he should oblige him. I respect Gideon’s confusion. He was in isolation among his peers as a believer. However, I should not let his confusion become my standard.

FLEECE SETTING SELDOM SOLVES THE PROBLEM. Gideon was enrolled in God’s slow learners class. He wanted God to do it twice.

GUIDELINES FOR FINDING GOD’S WILL

1. We have been given a Guide. The word guidance doesn’t appear in Scripture. We often spend more time looking for guidance than we do looking to the Guide. Step number one in seeking divine guidance is keep your eyes on Jesus. Guidance comes from Him. If you are out of His will, you can’t find His will until you return through the point of your exit.

His will is never mechanical. It is always personal.

2. Godly counsel is often used to find God’s will. This is called the fourth-and-one principle. In football when there is a critical situation in which a first down is needed, the quarterback often calls time out and goes to the sideline to talk with the coach. Notice that St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner goes over to talk with coach Dick Vermeil in these situations. He doesn’t go to the sideline and phone my fifteen year old grandson and ask his advice. If you are going to seek Spiritual counsel, seek it from an established, proven source.

3. A desire for God’s will results in it being revealed. “Delight thyself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37: 3,4).

4. Guidance is confirmed by the peace of God. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). The word translated “rule” literally means “umpire.” Let the peace of God call safe to out things in your life. This is only possible for the person who knows and abides in the Word; one whose conscience is controlled by the Word of God.

5. Guidance is based on the written Word of God. God never contradicts His Word. If you feel you are being led to do a certain thing you know to be contrary to His Word, be assured the leadership isn’t coming from Him.

Start with the known to find the unknown. He has said that it isn’t His will for any to perish (II Peter 3:9). That leaves no doubt about it. He desires for you to be saved.

“This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (I Thess. 4:3).

Before looking for any further revelation of His will, you must be certain of these two.

Foundations for the Storms of Life 10/8/00

JESUS CHRIST offers stability. Life has its storms, but Christ gives the believer a stable foundation amid the storm.

After a major hurricane had swept the Gulf of Mexico, I visited with a friend on an off-shore oil rig. I noticed it was supported by three massive shafts which were anchored on the floor of the Gulf. Those three columns represented three support factors in our Christian experience.

Consider Abraham as Exhibit “A” of the three factors supporting every believer.

I. CALLING

When Abraham was called he obeyed. To understand the N.T. better, get to know Abraham better. He was the Father of the Jewish and Arab nations. As God called him, so He has called us.

A. He has called us to salvation. I Peter 5:10, “He has called us to His excellent glory.”

The Greek word translated “called” is KALEO, meaning “SUMMONSED.” A summons means cease and desist whatever you are doing and comply with the instruction of this summons. God has summonsed us to Heaven. If anyone doesn’t go they have refused to comply with His desire.

B. He has called us to sanctification.

I Thess. 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” The Greek root is HAGIOS. It is the word for HOLY. It sound almost spooky to say the word.

If you were to use a crayon to color holiness, what color would you choose? Some would select dull gray or dark black because “holiness” evokes drabness or dullness to many people. Some might choose white. Perhaps it them it means absolute purity – no strains or glitches. Perhaps there are those who would choose a combination of camouflage colors so as to disguise it. I would choose the colors of the rainbow because true holiness and sanctification convey the image of beauty and joy.

Actually, sanctification and holiness simply mean “set aside for God’s use.” II Timothy 2:20, 21 speaks of household vessels as an illustration. For example, a trumpet is sanctified, set aside, to be sued as a musical instrument. A cheerleader might try to use it as a megaphone, but it wouldn’t work. A person hard of hearing might try to use it as an aid for hearing, but it wouldn’t work. A home maker might try to use to as a vase, but it would leak. It fulfills is function as a musical instrument. That is what it is set aside for.

In Olympic competition athletes are sanctified. That is, each is set aside to do a certain thing. America thrilled to see Laura Wilkinson perform off the 10-meter diving platform. In winning the gold medal her radian was contagious. This 22 year old mastered her event and rejoiced to quote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” She was a successful sanctified, set aside, for the 10-meter diving competition.

In yet another venue the young behemoth from Wyoming, Rulon Gardner, was winning his gold medal as the Super-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestler by defeating the Russian Alexander Karelin. The 300 pound Rulon was set aside to wrestle.

Now, switch the two roles. Let Laura represent us in the Super-Heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling. She would be a smash hit. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, on the 10-meter diving platform Rulon Gardner doing his specialty “the cannon ball.”

Each excelled in the role in which they were set aside to perform. However, in reversed roles they neither would have been successful.

No one is as beautiful as one in their role, the one for which they were set aside. As a Christian you are set aside to serve the Lord. In that role life is fulfilling. Apart from it you can never achieve what He has in mind for you.

C. He has set us aside for service.

Abraham could have used a variety of excuses that are used today. Excuses such as …

1. I am unworthy — that is not an excuse it is a confession.

At the time of the Lord calling him he wasn’t worthy. He has in a pagan country worshiping idols. Why did God call him?

Modern American mentality implies God calls persons because He just can’t do without them. He conceives of them as being so talented and possession such charisma, He just can’t do without them. Nothing could be further from the truth. He stated in Deut. 7: 7,8 – God called Abraham because “…the Lord loved you…” that is the only reason He calls anyone.

2. I don’t have enough faith. Abraham had no faith when called. His faith was not the cause of his calling, his calling was the occasion for his faith. God called him and Abraham believed God.

Faith is merely confidence in God’s character.

Faith is belief in facts.

You exercise faith every time you get on a plain or drive in the rain; make an appointment or keep a commitment; go on a date or get married; purchase or sell on credit. You have faith!

“If we received the witness of men, the witness of God is greater” (I John 5:9).

3. I can’t…I will falter. Of course you might. To refuse to try because you might fail is to fail. Abraham faltered. He was called from Ur to go to Canaan. He stopped in Haran and camped for seven years. God called again and Abraham responded faithfully.

Abraham was called to possess a territory for God.

II. CHARACTER

In Genesis 15:1 God promised Abraham He would be his “shield…and reward.” This shows God’s power to perform.

Four kings had conquered the land. The spoils of battle went to them. They ignored Abraham. He was too insignificant. God commanded Abraham to attack. With God as his shield he defeated the four kings and recovered to spoils of battle. God performed.

In Robert Falconer, the author, George MacDonald, notes: “This is a sane, wholesome, practical, working faith: first, that it is a man’s business to do the will of God; second, that God takes on Himself the special care of that man; and third, that therefore, that man ought never to be afraid of anything.”

God will shield you against:

1. The Devil, “Resist…flee… (John 4:7).

2. Temptation, “NO temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (I Cor. 10:13).

3. Bitterness. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12).

God has the capacity to shield His own.

Approaching His crucifixion, Jesus said He could have called twelve legions, that’s 72,000 angels. In one O.T. incident, one angel killed 185,110 persons. That means at the moment Jesus had at His command the kill power of 1,332,000,000 (1 billion, 332 million).

God has the power to perform as your shield.

III. CAPACITY

God promised to be Abraham’s reward. After garnering the spoils of war, Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, King of Salem. He then gave the other nine-tenths to the Kings of Sodom. He had no reward for his effort. God was to be his reward. When this is true, you share all that is His.

To understand this, consider the names by which Abraham knew God.

JEHOVAH = “I Am,” This title spoke of His eternality.

JEHOVAH-JIREH = “The God who provides.”

EL ELYON = “The most High God.”

Abraham knew Him as the Eternal God, the most High God, who rewards.

Romans 8:17 says, “We are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

Suppose you and three individuals inherit acres. As heirs you would own an acre and each of them would own one. If you were joint heirs, you would co-equally own all four acres and they each would co-equally own all four. Joint heirs mutually possess all together.

Are you willing to give Him your all in salvation?

Are you willing to give Him your all in sanctification?

Are you willing to give Him your all in service?

Remember Your First Love 8/27/00

Revelation 2:1-5

JESUS CHRIST loves you. Do you love Him more today than at any time in your life? If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, today is a matchless time to turn in trust and thrust yourself dependently upon Him with reliance for His grace in time and for eternity.

If you are a Christian and you cannot honestly say you are closer to Him than ever in your life, you have backslided. Today is a marvelous time to return and renew your devotion.

Remember when the very citizenship of your soul changed kingdoms? Remember the pure, almost sacred, feelings you had when you came to Christ? The paradise of first love is a germ that needs to be cultured and allowed to grow. The emotion may fade but the relationship can and must grow in intimacy.

Our emotions, that is our feelings, change, as they must, but the confident relationship must grow. As we grow spiritually, feelings may change but facts don’t.

Sentiment must be stabilized by study.

Ecstasy must be embraced by experience.

Passion must be by predicated on principles.

Persons don’t take giant steps away from Christ. Their devotion most often deteriorates imperceptibly. A flower dies so slowly that from moment to moment the decaying process is not noticeable. However, after a few days the difference is distinct.

Forgetfulness of our first love usually begins with a few slight indulgences that you formerly would not have tolerated. A casual brief venture into enemy territory may result in alienation from your first love.

Let’s each make this a day of personal spiritual inventory. Be honest to God in answering whether you are closer to Him today than at any time in your life. Are you?

Christ addressed seven churches in the Book of the Revelation. To each He gave an ANALYSIS, AN APPRAISAL, AND AN APPEAL.

Before observing these aspects consider Christ Himself.

“He holds the seven stars in his right hand…” (2:2). What do these stars symbolize? For the answer note Revelation 1:16: “The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches…”

The word “stars” translates the Greek ASTER and the “star” is a symbol for the “angels of the seven churches.” ANGELOS in the Greek is translated “angel.” MALAKA in the Old Testament is Hebrew for ANGELOS in the New Testament Greek. Both words meant “messenger.”

For example, in Haggai 1:13 we see it used: “Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger [MALAKA]…” When we hear the word “angel” we think of winged heavenly beings. In Scripture angels don’t have wings. That is ancient medieval imagery. An angel was simply a messenger. Sometimes a supernatural one but most often a human messenger.

Here in the Book of the Revelation “the angel” is a reference to God’s messenger to the church, the pastor, the under-shepherd of Jesus Christ, the overseer of the church. Christ is depicted as holding His messenger in His loving hand. He is controlling and protecting him.

The minister is the messenger of God to the church. He is the courier of God’s message to God’s people. The messenger is to take the Word of God and deliver it on behalf of the Lord to His people.

In Revelation 2:2 Christ is seen as the one “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” The “lampstands” are identified in Revelation 1:20 as the churches. A lampstand is a fitting depiction of the church. The lampstand doesn’t give light. It merely provided a base for the light itself. Christ is the light of the world. The church is the equivalent of the pedestal from which He is to shine. Christ is depicted as being right in the midst of the churches. He is walking in the midst of the churches. He is fellowshipping with the church.

The first church addressed was the church at Ephesus. To understand the process of spiritual atrophy let’s look at an x-ray of this church. In doing so we will see traits that should serve as an appeal to us.

I. R E M E M B E R (Vs. 7)

An appeal to “remember” implies something has been forgotten. That something was their “first love” for Jesus. This refers to Him as being the one loved INITIALLY in order to be saved and to come into the church.

It is also a reference to the fact their love for Him had previously been the SUPREME love of their life.

What caused this drift in their love? In answering that question perhaps we can discover what might have caused our own spiritual erosion. Perhaps you once had admirable qualities like the members of this church in Ephesus. Note their qualities as recorded in verses 2 and 3. They had the admirable qualities of patience, perseverance, and laborious service without growing weary.

Even a virtue can be a spiritual liability if misapplied or misused. They had the quality of being good people who did good “works” and engaged in diligent “labor.”

These praiseworthy qualities have often caused well-intended people to lose their “first love.” They enter the church and diligently accept any assignment given. They are so in love with Jesus they do a good job regardless of how menial the task. This good work is noted and rewarded with an expanded opportunity of service. Again their faithfulness consequences in additional opportunities to serve. Soon they are so absorbed in service that they suddenly realize they have lost the joy of their salvation and are overburdened by their many roles.

They have served and served well, but their focus has drifted from the Savior to service. Service has become their first love. Though this is a commendable trait it is no substitute for intimacy with Christ — your first love.

Some dear Christians get so enamored with doctrine, their devotion is detached from Christ and attached to orthodoxy. We must ever be vigilant in our defense of the tenets of the faith, but when our absorption is with teachings and not the Teacher, Jesus Christ, we have drifted from our first love. They were so doctrinally right that they “tested” those who made false claims. They were so concerned that they could not “bear those who are evil.”

One group of these is identified. The Nicolatians were followers of a man named Nicholas. He was a fellow who thought he must be missing out on something. Some of the non-Christians seemed to be having a better time in their false religion than he. In the name of religion, pagan cults were engaging in drunken brawls and sexual debauchery. He didn’t jump right in. He rationalized his way in with the help of the equivalent of liberal theologians. Plato taught the spirit of man was good but the flesh was evil. A group known as the gnostics, that name really means a bunch of know-it- alls, taught the spirit, therefore, needed to be liberated from the body and the only way to do that was through sexual fornication and drunkenness.

Nicholas knew his eternal destiny was secure, so with nothing to lose, he sought this spiritual experience. He convinced some believers this was all right, so they joined him.

There are persons who lose their first love for Jesus because of sexual or other immoral activities. This still happens to persons today. Has it happened to you?

For whatever reason, Christians often get out of fellowship with the Lord. One of two courses of action are available. One is to take a course in “shorter hypocrisy.” The other is to repent and be

enewed.

SYMPTOMS OF LOST FIRST LOVE ARE OBVIOUS.

1. Symptoms of the loss of first love usually begin at the closet. Scripture urges us to enter into our closet and pray. The closet is simply a reference to getting alone with the Lord, and prayer is talking with Him. A first symptom is that the person comes out of this closet and enters another. The other closet is a reference to secret conduct unbecoming of a believer.

2. Persons stop giving to the cause of Christ. Where a person’s heart is, there is his treasure also.

3. They attend church and hear Biblical messages that address spiritual needs in their lives and are insensitive to them. A message, which if they were spiritually sensitive would call them to repentance, leaves them nodding. Externally, many may be deceived by appearances. However, departure from our first love is like what happens when the roots of a tree die. The leaves keep green for a while, but soon they also wither and fall. Love for Christ is the root of all devotion – once it begins to wither, it is only a matter of time until the life is left spiritually barren.

4. Their prayer life and Bible study time declines or stops.

5. They become irregular in attendance or stop all together.

6. They become negative and critical. Persons who have left their first love become defensive by becoming critics of the church and fellow believers. When you observe a brother or sister who has become critical, rather than listen to the criticism, be observant of the spiritual decay in the life of the critic who is talking. When a person leaves their first love, Jesus, they themselves become less loving and lovable.

When such wanderlust occurs in our lives, what we need to hear is a compassionate appeal, a sharp prophetic command, to repent. Often a person in such a state is offended by such an appeal. That is all the more indication repentance is needed.

Perhaps you, like the people at Ephesus, have let Jesus Christ become one line of the menu of life, whereas He must be the total menu. Actually, our daily bread.

Perhaps you, as they, are having a THEOLOGICAL problem. They left their “first love” and He is central to all theology. If you get your opinion of Him wrong, all other doctrine is jeopardized. If He loses first place in our lives everything else is out of order.

Perhaps you, as they, are having a PSYCHOLOGICAL problem. If you manifest a misunderstanding of who Christ is, you lose the proper perspective of who you are. You can only have a healthy understanding of yourself in connection with who Jesus is to you. You can only celebrate the wonder of who you are in connection with who you are to Christ.

Perhaps you, as they, are having an ETHICAL problem. Christian ethics are Christ-centered. Our ethical outlook begins with Christ and His view of life, and controls our ethical outlook.

It is not based on the fact we are commanded to love, but on a love that commands. When we hold Christ as our first love, that love commands, that is controls, our world view.

The “Ephesus syndrome” results gradually and subtly.

“Remember” is an appeal to give their heads over to Christ.

“Repent” is an appeal to give their hearts over to Him.

II. R E P E N T

The word “repent” used here in the Greek is in the aorist tense meaning to have a complete change of mental attitude and has no emotional reference at all. The statements Christ made in the Book of the Revelation to the seven churches are His last words to His church. One’s last words are considered to be important. One who is leaving wants to leave a farewell message of importance. Those who love the one leaving want to hear and comply with any request of the departing one.

Christ’s last words were “REPENT.” The Biblical appeal to repent is as often applied to saints out of fellowship as to sinners out of grace.

The Greek word translated “first” is PROTOS. It is a word that suggests they still love, but with a quality and intensity unlike that of their initial love. Is that you? Then now is the expedient time to repent and return to your first love. These imperatives are all part of a single command based on an appeal to remember their first love and how much their enthusiasm for Christ has waned; how much their devotion has diminished.

Might your spiritual life be pictured as ashes on a rusty altar? Such indicates there once was warmth, light, and flame, but which reveals it has been a long time since there was an act of devotion performed there.

When the Holy Spirit is allowed to grip us with a true spirit of repentance we are willing to admit having let other lords besides Him have command over us. We will admit to having left our first love and appeal to Christ to recover us.

III. R E T U R N

Once we repent then we will “do the first works” (Vs. 5). In verse 7 reference is made “to him who overcomes.” This is a summary expression for those who repent.

In 1632, the favorite wife of Shah Jahan of India died. Her title was Mumtaz-i-mahal, which means “pride of the palace.” He loved her so much he set 20,000 workmen to work building a tomb for her in the northern city of Agra. They labored for 21 years on the palace tomb. As work was begun on the Taj Mahal, the coffin containing the body of his beloved was placed on the spot where the temple tomb was to be constructed. Time after time it had to be moved to allow construction. Soon it got shoved aside and ignored. Shortly thereafter, building materials were scattered around it. Lost in the clutter and pushed aside, it was at some time removed with other items considered trash. When the temple tomb was completed, the body of the one in whose name it was constructed could not be found.

Spiritually, the same thing happens in the lives of some Christians. Gradually Christ gets moved aside until at last he is lost. Then we who are the temple of the Spirit are as devoid of Him as the Taj Mahal was of the pride of the palace. When it happens we must repent and return to our first love, Jesus.

Occasionally this happens collectively in a church. Christ gets pushed aside and is lost in the life of the fellowship.

The first step away is the great sin of which to repent. However cold or carnal you might have become, it could never have happened without the first small step leading away from your first love. It may have been a small beginning which you can’t even recall that has led to a great departure. That departure may be so great you aren’t even sensitive to it. That makes it all the greater. That departure may even be hard for others to detect because you still wear the uniform, you still have the external performance, the right vocabulary with the right people, but inside you know and you know Jesus knows.

Therefore, begin at the beginning again.

Go back to the fountainhead of your love — Jesus.

Go back to the fountain of thought about your Savior’s love for you as a condemned hell bound sinner and fill your cup so full it runs over into your saucer.

Today, remember and return to the embers of your first love and reignite the torch of your zealous love for Jesus. Warm your heart by the light of that flame and learn to love again as you did when you first came to Jesus.

Christ’s appeal is found in verse 5: “DO the first works.” Now is the time to begin again at the beginning. As your new life began with repentance, so your renewed life must begin with repentance. The call is to DO the first works.

Some church members need the cold water of a gospel message thrown in their face calling them to repent and return to their first love.

As you quibble and waiver in renewing your allegiance to our Lord, may you become as resolute in expressing your devotion as Samuel Rutherford, the Scotch Covenanter who was imprisoned in Aberdeen for his faithfulness to his Lord. He expressed his devotion in this manner: “O my Lord, if there were a broad hell betwixt me and Thee, if I could not get at Thee except by wading through it, I would not think twice, but I would plunge through it all, if I might embrace Thee and call Thee mine.”

That is love such as He deserves.