The Apple Of God's Eye

June 6, 2010

What Is True Humbleness?

Humility Can't Be Flaunted - exchristian.net

Christians speak of humbleness, but do they know what it really means? Most people understand that humility is the opposite of pride, but they might have difficulty further defining what humility is.

Isaiah 66:2 specifically says God looks to the humble man, so it obviously is a quality we need it to please God! Humility is one of the three great qualities God looks for in those who worship Him:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Mic. 6:8).

God is supreme. He owns everything. All wealth and power and glory belong to Him. He alone has life to give. He possesses perfect righteousness, perfect character. No other creature even approaches His magnificence. And yet who is it this great Being wants to dwell with?

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite’ ” (Isa. 57:15, Revised Standard Version).

Throughout the Bible God puts much emphasis on humility and dwelling with those who posses this trait. (more…)

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November 28, 2009

Hallowing God’s Name

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God tells us in Exod. 20:4 that He wants to be worshipped without obstacles or aids – “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…”

And in verse seven, we are told not to take the Lord’s name in vain, which is a serious admonition. We have to worship God and reverence Him, working to uphold His name, office and position in the family as preeminent above all, in all the universe. We cannot take that name in vain.

The word “vain” means evil, wickedness, falsehood, lie or anything without substance.

Malachi knew we had to honour our Father. God is looking for honour and fear, yet many despise the name of God – they argue back (Mal. 1:6):

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts…”

The problem with modern churchianity is that they are enthralled with the presence of God, but forget that they must also honour the name of God. This is done by keeping the commandments of God, which are all about honouring the Father. Without these, our worship is nothing more than vain and repetitious and there is no real relationship or connect with the Father.

Notice in Luke 11:2 the importance of addressing the Father and hallowing His name:

“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.”

God’s name has to be held with the deepest reverence and fear and should carry supreme authority in our life. He is holy and righteous, so that he understands that we understand. We have to express a proper level of reverence.

Conduct of Christians shows honour to God

If we say one thing and live another, we are hypocrites and blaspheme the name of God. We need to clean our minds and thoughts and commit to live what we hear.

In II Sam. 12: 9 – a curse is announced  because of David’s sin, to restore honour and dignity to the God family name:

“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.”

David had falsely represented the God of Israel so God had to deal with it publicly, as David did not deal with it in his own life (II Sam. 12:14).

“Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”

In the same way, true Christians who are representatives of God on earth, can also give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme God’s name. Mark 7:6-7 says such Christians worship in vain, with their lips. Profess God with words, but worship is in vain. A good example already mentioned is the law of God, which so many want to throw away despite clear scriptural proof that we are still to keep it today. Sabbath keeping and tithing are other examples. Such Christians call on God but refuse instructions:

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  (Luke 6:46).

Prayer without obedience is a subtle form of blasphemy. We have to submit to God after our prayer, as it is respect and honour to Him. This thought is furthered in Matt. 7:21, which shows that not every one that says Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only those who fulfill the will of our Father receive blessings.

We can also blaspheme God’s name when we show partiality to certain people. We have to walk worthy of the name God called us by. It is our name – now and the future (James 2: 2-3, 7-8). Respecting people is a sin, or an offense against the law.

Meaning of God’s name

God officially announced the meaning of His name to Moses at Mt. Sinai and elaborated on what He said at the bush in the wilderness (Exod. 34:5). He also showed Moses what His name represents and that every human being would at one time have the opportunity to worship God as Moses did. In truth, this was a synopsis of the plan of God.

Psalm 111 shows us that we have to reverence God’s name because it is Holy. If we call ourselves by the name of God, then we are changing the way we live and depart from sin. We are different from this world – we live our spiritual life all day long (II Tim. 2:19).

If we do it right – according to biblical instructions – we will have the name of God as our name (Rev. 3:12).

September 19, 2009

Did Jesus Hide The Truth About Salvation?

1When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, it was not to set up His Kingdom (John 18:36). Christ did not, at that time, come to restrain Satan from deceiving the world.

Contrary to what many have been taught, neither did Christ come to earth to call everyone to salvation. Rather, He came to deliver His Father’s message – the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That message included salvation through Christ. But Jesus did not try to get everyone to believe this wonderful message.

Notice the New Testament proof: Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables to make hide the meaning of what He was saying, so the public would not understand.

” And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand”  (Matt. 13:10-15, Mark 4:11-12).

Christ was plainly speaking ONLY to His disciples, not to everyone else. This point is made clear. In case there is any confusion about the point, the scripture says Christ spoke to the general public ONLY in parables (Matt. 13:34). It was NOT to clarify, but to confuse the issue to the masses. Why? Because it was not the time for most to be forgiven their sins and converted.

” And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?’  (Mark 4:10-13).

Even His disciples had problems with some of the parables and needed explaining. Those “without” means those not called at the present time – the masses. Christ preached the Father’s gospel to the masses as a witness. But He worked with only a few purposely called and chosen disciples, or students. They were the ones Whom He really wanted to understand the truth about salvation and His coming government on earth. And as it was then, it is so now – the message was only to His chosen people – His one true Church. It was not to a mass of confusing religions, of contradictory doctrines and squabbling denominations.

In fact, Jesus often tried to avoid the crowds that followed Him daily (Matt. 5:1, 8:18, 13:36, Mark 3:13, John 5:13, 7:10). He often told those whom He had healed not to tell anyone who healed them (Matt. 8:4, 9:30, 12:16, Mark 5:35, 36, 41-43, 7:35-36.  He did not want everyone to know who He really was (Matt. 16:20, Mark 3:1-12).

This is a point most of mainstream Christianity does not understand. For most of His ministry, Jesus actually avoided publicity. It was not God’s will for everyone to understand who Jesus was. Spiritual understanding will not be granted to the world until Christ removes Satan from earth’s throne.

It may freely be accentuated that Jesus Christ was successful in avoiding publicity, as after 3 1/2 years of preaching, and after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, only 120 disciples remained with Him (Acts 1:2-4, 15). The New Testament Church of God was started with these few disciples who would be trained so that they could teach and train others. Christ at first needed only a few teachers, so God called only a few at that time.

Remember, one can only come to Christ if God the Father purposely selects and calls him (John 6:44, 65). Now I know that some will ask, “What about one who really wants salvation – wants to believe in Christ – is willing to truly repent and come out of this world and be led by god’s spirit in a true commandment keeping Christian life. Do you mean this individual cannot come to Christ unless God calls him?”

Answer: That’s exactly what the scriptures say. Such a person is being called by God, otherwise he or she would have no such desire. However, most who think they are in that category have followed a false gospel, a false teaching and are deceived. They have a false idea of what salvation is, a false concept of repentance and a false idea of what God’s way is.

God foretold that He would indeed only call a few into His Church, and that His Church would continue to be small, and even persecuted (Luke 12:32, Matt. 10:16-17, 7:13-14, John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12).

So it is that from Christ’s human ministry until His return to earth, God has called only a small minority of people. God’s Church through the centuries has continued to be small – an “embryo” of God’s  new civilization yet to come. That Church is in training to teach the world with and under Christ in the World Tomorrow.

August 31, 2009

Was Jesus Striving To “Save Souls” While On Earth The First Time?

Was Jesus striving to “save souls” while on Earth the first time?  Let’s notice just a few verses that show Christ was not trying to save every soul He could find. Matthew 5:1: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.” Christ had a tremendous opportunity to preach His message before the multitudes. But notice, instead of speaking before them, He went up into the mountains so He could teach just His disciples.

Despite this, Christ did attract great crowds, mainly due to the miracles He performed. But even when He did attract great crowds, He spoke in parables. Not so the multitudes could understand—but that they would not understand! “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:10-11).

Can you imagine Christ intentionally allowing Himself to be misunderstood if He was only concerned about saving as many people as possible? Not once in the teachings of Jesus do we ever find Him pleading with or begging individuals to be saved! Why not? Because Jesus knew, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …” (John 6:44). If Christ had been coming to save the world, that is precisely what He would have done.

So why exactly did He come? Jesus came with a message to proclaim—that of the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14).

August 22, 2009

What Is God's Name?

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God’s name is important! We must not use it lightly or irreverently — but with a genuine sense of reverence and awe (Exodus 20:7). But what is the name of the heavenly Father? What is the name of His Son, our Savior, the Messiah? It is important that we know. For there is only one “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Must we, as some claim, use only Hebrew names when speaking of the Father and the Son? Is salvation based on the pronunciation of God’s name in a certain language, or on a certain set of sounds? Are we unwittingly transgressing the Third Commandment when we say “Jesus Christ,” “God” and “Lord” — because these are not Hebrew names? There is no need for confusion. Read on and understand!

Sacred names?

The notion that we must use only God’s Hebrew names is of no ancient origin. Actually, the Hebrew-names teaching had its beginnings less than 50 years ago, in the late 1930s. At that time, proponents of the idea began to claim that it is gross sin to say the name Jesus Christ, which is an anglicized spelling of the Greek words lesous and Christos. Likewise, they declared it a sin to utter the phrase God the Father, for the English word God was said to be linked etymologically with pagan worship.

The Deity’s name, they alleged, must be spoken only in Hebrew. This is an important prerequisite for entering God’s Kingdom, they claimed. These same few teach that the sacred personal name of our heavenly Father is Yahweh (or, in its contracted form, Yah) and that the name of His Son is Yahshua the Messiah. The word Elohim, too, must be used instead of our equivalent English word God. They declare that when we pray or speak about the Father and the Son, we must use only these Hebrew names. It is wrong, they say, to translate the names of the Deity into English or any other language. In other words, we may freely read and discuss the Bible as translated into the English language in all terms except the names of God or Jesus Christ. Then we must speak Hebrew. Using substitutes for the names Yahweh and Yahshua, we are told, could deny us salvation.

Are Hebrew names the only ones acceptable to God? Is He insulted by anything else?

The tetragrammaton

First, let’s examine the name Yahweh, said to be the personal name of the Heavenly Father. In Exodus 3:15, the Creator introduced His name — YHWH — to Moses. (In many English versions of the Bible, YHWH is translated as LORD, usually printed in capital letters.)

Unrealized by many, the text of the Old Testament consists of consonants, no vowels. The original Hebrew of the Creator’s name as written in the consonantal text of this verse is spelled simply YHWH, not Yahweh. YHWH is often referred to as the “tetragrammaton,” meaning the “four letters.”

The name YHWH is derived from a form of the Hebrew verb to be. It has the same meaning as the name I AM, mentioned in the previous verse (Exodus 3:14). Hebrew scholars say YHWH could mean “he exists” or “he causes to be.” The English equivalents of this word would be “the Ever-living” or “the Eternal.”

Though we cannot be absolutely certain what the missing vowels in YHWH should be, many scholars believe that YHWH was probably vocalized originally as Yahweh.

The Jews, thinking the name YHWH too sacred to be uttered, ceased to even pronounce it after the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Indeed, it was considered unlawful and blasphemous to utter it. When a Jew reciting orally came to YHWH in a scripture, he substituted the word Adonai (a Hebrew word meaning “Lord” or “Master”) instead. The name of God, in other words, was written YHWH, but pronounced Adonai.

But one thing is certain. The pronunciation of the Hebrew word YHWH was not “Jehovah.” This familiar but erroneous name is a comparatively recent invention, devised by Peter Galatin (the confessor of Pope Leo X) in 1520. Galatin interjected the vowels of the word Adonai (a-o-a) between the four sacred consonants YHWH, producing the hybrid monstrosity YaHoWaH, which later became “Jehovah” in some English Bibles. It is a totally artificial name, formed by adding alien vowels to the Tetragrammaton. It has no claim to legitimacy.

Yahshua is Yahweh!

The first point that must be made in answer to those well-intentioned but misguided advocates of “sacred names” concerns their labeling the Father Yahweh as distinct from His Son Yahshua (which means “Yahweh is salvation”). They claim YHWH is the Father, and that the Son later had to be revealed.

The truth is that the YHWH of the Old Testament is the very One who became Jesus or, in Hebrew, Yahshua! Yahshua, or Jesus, IS Yahweh!

Jesus was the Word (Greek, Logos, “spokesman”) who was with God the Father from the beginning (John 1:1). The Logos was the Creator — “All things were made through Him” (verse 3). That Logos — the Creator — later became flesh and dwelt among us (verse 14). He then declared the Father (verse 18), whom no man had heard or seen before (John 5:37).

Notice further: In Deuteronomy 32:3-4, we read that YHWH (translated “Lord” in many Bibles in verse 3) is “the Rock.” In I Corinthians 10:1-4, we discover that the Rock was none other than Christ. In John 8:58, Jesus reveals that He is the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. In Hosea 13:4, YHWH says there is no savior but Him. YHWH, then, clearly is Jesus (Acts 4:12)!

Jesus (or Yahshua) was the God of the Old Testament. He was YHWH. With this understanding, one of the major tenets of the sacred names doctrine falls flat! Now look, at another major error in this false teaching.

Evidence from Old Testament

Though the vast majority of the Old Testament was inspired in the Hebrew language, Daniel and Ezra wrote portions of their books in Aramaic or Syriac, the prevalent language spoken throughout the Persian Empire and elsewhere during their time. It had replaced Hebrew as the language of common speech of the Jews.

When these men of God referred to the Creator in those passages, did they use the old Hebrew names, or did they translate them into Aramaic?

Nowhere in the Aramaic passages do we find the names YHWH or Elohim. An examination of the manuscripts reveals that in dozens of places the writers rendered the Hebrew names for God into the Aramaic word Elah. And it is just as proper that the Hebrew El and Elohim should be translated into the English word God.

Moreover, it should be noted that the name El was in use among the pagan Canaanites long before Moses penned the Pentateuch. In the cuneiform religious tablets excavated at Ras Shamra (the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit in northern Syria), for example, El (El the Bull) is described as the head of the Canaanite pantheon, husband of Asherah and father of all the other gods. If it is a sin for us to use the English word God because pagan Druids used it to refer to their idols, then, by the same reasoning, it is also a sin to use the Hebrew words Elohim and El.

Also notice that the Hebrew word Elohim is used 240 times throughout the inspired Old Testament to refer to pagan, heathen idols (see Exodus 12:12, Deuteronomy 6:14 and Judges 11:24, for example). This usage shows that it is just as permissible to use the English word God today for both the Creator and for pagan idols.

Apostolic example

But what about the New Testament books? The original inspired language of the New Testament was Greek. Greek was virtually a universal language in the first century, widely understood by both Jews and gentiles.

Much of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul, the apostle sent to the Greek-speaking gentiles who did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. When Paul wrote in Greek to Greek converts, did he pause in mid-sentence and switch from Greek to Hebrew to write Yahweh or Yahshua when faced with a sacred name? Never!

Paul invariably used the Greek words for “God” (theos) and “Lord” (kurios). And he used the Greek name Iesous (Jesus). And so did the other writers of New Testament books, as inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. In 665 places in the New Testament, the apostles translated the Hebrew word YHWH into the Greek word kurios.

There is not one New Testament Greek manuscript with the names of the Deity written in Hebrew!

In the face of these clear facts, “sacred names” proponents have no choice but to deny the New Testament was originally written in Greek. They assert — wrongly — that the whole of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic (some even say Hebrew), and only later translated into Greek. At the time of this alleged translation, they claim, the sacred Hebrew names were wrongly removed and pagan Greek names substituted. The burden of proof is on them. The evidence? There is none — for it is a totally false notion, devised out of necessity to justify a false premise!

The Aramaic version of the New Testament available today is clearly a later translation from the original inspired Greek. The only copies of the original New Testament writings that have been preserved are in Greek — none in Aramaic or Hebrew.

More proof

Jesus said He came to reveal and declare the name of the Father to men (John 17:6, 26). Yet where do we find any discussion of its pronunciation? Where did Jesus say that Hebrew is the only name we must use? If pronunciation is so all-important, why did Jesus never say so?

Another point: Jesus prophesied that “many [deceivers] will come in My name” (Matthew 24:5). If the only proper form of his name is Yahshua, then Jesus’ prophecy has utterly failed — and He is a false prophet! Have many come in the Hebrew name of Yahshua? No — hardly any. But many deceivers have come in the name of Jesus Christ, which Jesus in this verse clearly calls His name.

In other words, Jesus was saying that false churches would use the true name. Jesus obviously is not concerned with the language in which His name is spoken; it remains His name. There is power and authority in Jesus’ name — the only name by which we may be saved.

Consider further: In John 17:11, Jesus asked the Father to “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” As we trace the history of the true Church through the ages; what name do we find it using? “The Church of God,” or the equivalent name in the native language spoken by members of the Church at any particular time! We do not find through history the name “Church of Yahweh” or some other Hebrew form. Either it is acceptable to use the non-Hebrew word God — or the Father failed to answer Jesus’ request!

What’s in a name?

What does the word name really mean, anyway? In Bible usage, a “name” signifies much more than merely a set of vocal sounds. Names convey meaning. They are given for a purpose. “Abraham,” for example, means “father of many nations.” “Israel” means “prevailer with God.” And Yahweh means “the Eternal.”

One’s name summarizes one’s authority, power, reputation and character. It is not merely a certain set of sounds or vocal vibrations that is important, but the meaning and power behind the name.

God’s name has profound significance. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament contains many divine names (some in Hebrew), each descriptive of some aspect of God’s character. Among them is El Shaddai, “almighty God,” as in Genesis 17:1, and Eloheseba’ot, “God of hosts,” as in Amos 5:27. The meaning of each of them is infinitely more important than its mere sound in Hebrew. God’s character remains the same — whatever the language may be.

Moreover, you need to understand that Elohim (God) is a family name (Ephesians 3:14-15)! It has a plural ending — allowing for more than one member in the one divine Family. We may also bear that name — the very name of God! We may enter the God Family by a resurrection.

Performance, not pronunciation

Salvation is not based on pronunciation! Those who would worship the sound of a name — treating it with superstitious and mystical reverence — make an idol out of that sound. Thinking they have some gift of greater knowledge, they actually miss the whole point and intent of the Scriptures, and engender needless strife and division.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Performance, not pronunciation, is of paramount importance to God. We honor His name by obeying Him, not by mouthing a certain sound. Do not be misled by the naive and misguided “scholarship” of those who would make a “show of wisdom.” Their teachings are not substantiated by the Word of God, but are based on a multitude of woefully misapplied scriptures. Speaking the names of God in Hebrew is not a prerequisite for salvation.

Take reassurance from the statement of the apostle Peter, who declared, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ [Christos in the original Greek], blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Peter 4:14).

Source: The Good News, January 1986

July 29, 2009

What Is A Real Christian?

Jesus clearly explained what a real Christian is like. He left no doubt. As we consider what he said, we need to ask ourselves why the qualities he described seem to be so difficult to find even in the Christian-professing nations of the world.

Take, for instance, one of Jesus’ teachings in what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Luke 6. Surely nothing is more central to Christianity than this portion of the Scriptures. But how often do you see Jesus’ statement in verse 27 put into practice? It says: “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.”

Some of the most bloody battles in history have been waged by “Christian” nations. “No nations are more warlike than those which profess Christianity,” observed Pierre Bayle, a 17th-century French philosopher.

Professing Christians have even risen up in war against each other. They have impaled each other, burnt each other, blown each other to pieces on the battlefield, all the while praying to the same God for victory.

The English poet Shelley commented: “The same means that have supported every other popular belief have supported Christianity. War, imprisonment, assassination and falsehood; deeds of unexampled and incomparable atrocity have made it what it is.”

How can this be? The one who is supposed to be the Founder of the “Christian” religion — the One whom professing Christians call “Lord” — taught his followers, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).

This instruction of Jesus certainly is not followed in times of war. But then it is hardly followed in times of peace either. Where is it put into practice in neighborhoods, in social circles, among the people you know on a day-to-day basis?

Jesus also said: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (verse 31). That has been called the Golden Rule. It is thought of as a good slogan to hang on the wall, or to dangle from a charm bracelet, or to teach little children.

But live by it? That’s something else! Jesus, however, did not mean it as a suggestion. He didn’t give it as a thought for the day. For Jesus it was a living law that he commanded his followers — Christians — to apply in their daily lives.

But Will It Work?

“Be ye therefore merciful,” continued Jesus, “as your Father [God] also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (verses 36-37).

Look around you. How often does merciful kindness govern what is said and done? Think of the competition and greed in business — the cheating, the gouging. A primary emphasis in today’s world is to get the advantage over others, even if it is necessary to hurt them a little to do it.

The political sphere resounds with name calling, propaganda and condemnation.

Gossip, judging and backbiting are ever popular themes in private conversation. Movies, novels and television programs — including children’s shows — dwell on the idea of getting even or seeking revenge.

Where is forgiveness stressed? Instances of genuine mercy from one human being toward another are remarkable and memorable because they are so uncommon.

Jesus’ teaching even applies to simple lacks of consideration such as a blaring radio, a loud motorcycle, littering the landscape with rubbish, damaging public facilities, spraying graffiti on walls — factors that make life unpleasant for others. Yet so commonplace are infringements of the principles Jesus gave, it makes one wonder: Where are the Christians?

Is This a Christian World?

The Bible describes what a society is like when its religion is a mere form, not having the power to change people’s lives. It reads like the front page of a newspaper.

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it (II Tim. 3:2-5, RSV).

It all sounds so familiar! As Jesus was speaking, he knew there were some listening to him who would call him their “Lord,” who would profess to belong to him, but who would not put his teachings into practice.

These are the words of Jesus to them: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.) A “lord” is a ruler, a master, one who is to be obeyed. In plain words, Jesus said: “If you don’t obey me, don’t call me ‘Lord‘!”

Too often people talk about “the Lord,” or “the Lord Jesus,” when they don’t have the faintest idea what Jesus said his followers are to do. Jesus exclaimed: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

That, in simple terms, is what makes a person a Christian. He or she does what Jesus said to do. He or she follows Christ. The ones who are allowed to become members of his spiritual family are “these which hear the word of God, and do it (Luke 8:21).

“Ye are my friends,” Jesus stated, “if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).

Again, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Clearly, only a person who does what Jesus said to do has the right to call him “Lord.” That is the biblical definition of a real Christian.

A Way of Life

True Christianity is not merely a set of beliefs. It is not joining a church. It is not something to be practiced one day a week or at odd intervals.

It is a way of life. Early Christians referred to original Christianity as “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25) and “the way of God” (verse 26). “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Christ declared (John 14:6).

True Christianity is the Christian way of life. No one can follow what Jesus taught without experiencing a marked change in life and life-style.

Notice how this fact is illustrated in the following example: A rich young man once came to Jesus and asked: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16.)

This man knew following Christ involves doing something. He asked: “What good thing shall I do?

Many today would have answered: “Why, there is nothing to do. Just accept Christ and it’s all done for you. There are no works involved in salvation.”

How different was Jesus’ answer! “And he [Jesus] said unto him … if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17).

There was no doubt that Jesus was talking about the Ten Commandments. When the young man asked, “Which ones?” Jesus named specifically the commandments having to do with showing love toward one’s neighbor. To this, the rich man responded that he had been keeping those commandments since childhood (verse 20). The young man, of course, had been reared a Jew. But he wanted to become a follower of Christ.

Which church today would not welcome with open arms such a wealthy and moral individual into its ranks?

But Jesus did not do so. He required in his followers true depth of conversion. He knew the young man had a problem — keeping in their true intent those commandments regarding love toward, giving to, one’s neighbor. So Jesus bluntly told him that his wealth was an obstacle to him, that he needed to get rid of it. Only after that could he become a follower of Jesus — a Christian.

Sadly, the young man departed, unwilling to change his attitude toward life.

Most people, it is true, do not have excess wealth as their major problem. The fact remains, though, that literally keeping the Ten Commandments is essential if you are to inherit God’s free gift of eternal life. So said Jesus!

Maybe you think you have been keeping the Ten Commandments fairly well — like the rich young man. Have you really? Try something. Read them off one by one (they are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and see if there is not room for improvement in your life. In this materialistic, industrial age, you may be especially surprised at what the fourth and tenth commandments have to say.

True Conversion

Being a real Christian involves every moment of every day.

Every activity, every social situation, every endeavor, every goal and plan — Christ has revealed laws that bear on every facet of life. We are even to let our thoughts be ruled by the Lord Jesus, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” as the apostle Paul expressed it (II Cor. 10:5).

To some that sounds extreme. But it’s in the Christian Bible. The apostle Paul was only repeating what the Bible says time and again: To do God’s will is to follow his way of life totally. There is a price to pay, however, and for some that price may be too high. That price is surrender of the SELF.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts … ,” God says through the prophet Isaiah. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:7-9).

A real Christian is one who seeks God’s way of life, his thoughts, his will. What Isaiah was describing was genuine repentance — the kind of repentance necessary to begin the Christian way of life. When multitudes asked the apostle Peter how to become Christians, Peter responded with the same thoughts (Acts 2:38).

But these inspired instructions are seldom followed today. Why? Why in the mass evangelistic campaigns of the world are people encouraged to make a spur-of-the-moment “decision for Christ” and to come forward in an “altar call,” and to be pronounced “saved” or “born again”? — when that is not how Peter said to receive the Holy Spirit, which is God’s free gift that leads to eternal life. No wonder such “conversions” often last only a matter of days or weeks!

Why Do So Few Know?

Here is where many people stumble. They begin to grasp what real Christianity is all about, then they look around them at the people they know. Or they think of individuals they have known in the past — friends, relatives, perhaps. And they use them as standards of comparison.

They say to themselves: “Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and my friend John did not literally obey Jesus’ instructions. But they weren’t ‘bad’ people either. They lived the way they thought was right. I’ll take my chances along with them and with the millions and millions of other professing Christians who are just average people. Surely God won’t deny eternal life or salvation to them! God is merciful.”

God is merciful. That’s true. But then what did Jesus mean when he said keeping the commandments and other lesser requirements are necessary to inherit God’s free gift of eternal life? He meant exactly what he said. Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and friend John and all the millions who have professed Christianity without ever understanding what it really is to become a Christian — a follower of Jesus Christ — will eventually have their opportunity to understand. They too will learn that it is necessary to keep the commandments. If it doesn’t happen during this life, then it will happen in a future period of judgment when God’s government rules the earth and all the dead who have not had an opportunity for salvation will be resurrected and given the opportunity to choose the way of life that is based on obedience to God’s laws — the only way to true happiness. That period of time is described in Revelation 20:11-13.

Every human who ever lived will have an opportunity to receive salvation. For most people that time comes after they have lived their entire lives and died. God is just not trying to save the entire world now. That’s why the Scripture says that in general, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this [in a future resurrection!] the judgment [not a sentencing, but a period of testing and judging — their first and only genuine opportunity for salvation]” (Heb. 9:27).

Jesus told his disciples: “Enter ye in at the strait [restricted] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many [the millions, the hundreds and thousands of millions] there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW [during this present age] there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). You probably have not understood this before.

Don’t make the mistake of judging what the Bible describes as true Christianity by the lives of people you have known who may not even have understood what real Christianity is.

To be a real Christian is simply to do what Jesus said to do. He showed the way to truly abundant living. His words are recorded in the Scriptures. But they will only profit someone who reads them there and follows them. “If ye know these things,” Jesus exclaimed, “happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17).

Source: The Plain Truth, January 1983

May 18, 2009

What Does It Mean To Cast Your Pearls Before Swine?

Matthew 7:6 is an analogy Jesus used to show how people who have not had their minds opened by God to receive spiritual understanding will often react when they hear the true Gospel.

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Put another way, Jesus was teaching His disciples not to try to convert those who are not yet being called (John 6:44). Such people are likely to respond by treating God’s truth like dirt.

Just as a pig would trample fine pearls into the mud because it doesn’t know any better and cannot appreciate such worth, the person whose mind is not yet receptive cannot grasp the awesome value of the truth. To them, the truth would be meaningless and would be discarded. They would just trample it underfoot, so to speak.

God’s truth should never be forced upon anyone, but true Christians should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [us], with meekness and fear [gentleness and respect]” (I Pet. 3:15).

In other words, it is right to explain what he believes when someone sincerely asks. Such interest may indicate that God is opening the person’s mind.

Notice how, at another time, Jesus used pearls to express the value of the truth and of God’s Kingdom. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46). God wants us to treat His truth like a priceless gem.

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