Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Jerusalem Has Fallen

Jeremiah is overcome with emotion as he writes the book of Lamentations. He is basically describing the funeral of a city that was once filled with great beauty and promise. Jerusalem was a proud city, rich in history and service to God. But now it is a city that has been reduced to rubble by the army of Babylon. Jeremiah was sent by God to prophecy to the children of Israel concerning the impending doom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. But why? Why did this terrible thing have to happen to a beautiful city, a city that Solomon spent a fortune on to build, that housed the great temple that the Jews could go to and worship the God of heaven? The answer is because the children of God turned their backs on their creator, and were carried off into the adulterous idol worship of pagan gods. They became a self-centered people that had lost their trust and faith in the almighty God! Jeremiah was a faithful servant of God and knew of the rich history of Jerusalem. He had the tough task of warning the people of God and then to actually see the city be totally devastated by a foreign army, all because the people turned their back on God, the God that loved them so dearly and wanted so much to give them nothing but blessings. But instead, God was forced to keep the second part of His promise, to punish His children for their lack of obedience!

In the book of Deuteronomy, long before Jeremiah was called upon to prophesy, God gave His Word to a great leader by the name of Moses. In the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy we can read where God stipulated what would happen to His chosen people if they would obey His Word and what would happen if they chose not to obey His Word.

The Curses on Disobedience
In the first fourteen verses of the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, God announced all the blessings that would take place if the children of Israel would obey His Words. But then in verses 15-68 the curses were announced to Moses on what would happen to these children if they did not obey. The all-knowing God truly knew what was going to take place in their history. He spent a lot of time letting Moses know exactly what was going to happen to these chosen ones. God has always kept His promises, whether good or bad, in dealing with all man-kind. All of the promises that God told to Moses in this 28th chapter came true. Jeremiah was there serving as the mouth piece for God when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians because of disobedience. God’s people did not harken to the Words of God and as a result paid an awful price. Many were killed by their enemies and most of the others were carried off into captivity, and would not return for 70 years.

Will Our “Jerusalem” Stand or Fall?
When I speak of our “Jerusalem” I’m talking about our soul. Have we listened to the Word of God and prepared ourselves to fully obey Him? We better make sure we have because Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, 21: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. 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.” The things of old were written for our learning (Romans 15:4), so we can know how God has dealt with man. We have the written Word to see that God most assuredly kept His promises in dealing with His own chosen people of long ago. In the same way, we can KNOW that God WILL keep His promises in dealing with His people today. The only ones that will get to heaven are going to be those that love, trust, believe, and obey God. The Hebrew writer said: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). We know that those that did not obey Him long ago received His curses and those that do not obey God today will also receive His curses. Paul wrote: “and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Knowing then that God will bless us when we obey by providing us a home with Him in heaven (Ephesians 1:3), and also knowing that we will be punished with everlasting destruction if we do not obey, what is the condition of our “Jerusalem?” Will it stand in eternity with God? Or will it fall, even though we have been warned and warned by God’s Word what will happen if we do not obey? The outcome of our “Jerusalem”(our soul) is totally up to us!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Pearl of Great Price

In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus is trying to emphasize to us how precious the kingdom of heaven is. He says "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." That is how precious heaven should be to every one of God's creation! We need to realize that Jesus came and died for us and in so doing left us that great pearl. When we find it (His word and love for Him), then we should want to have our minds set on selling everything we have to be able to possess this great pearl - the opportunity to live with Him forever! We should have the attitude that we want to "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). 

What Makes This Pearl of Great Price So Valuable?
This pearl is so valuable because when we can possess it we realize that it gives us wealth. The apostle Paul said "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus gave all He had for you and me so that we can become rich with all "spiritual blessings" (Ephesians 1:3) which includes HEAVEN! This pearl also gives us great happiness. Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3, 10). When we possess this pearl we should be happy. As a result we certainly would not mind being "persecuted for righteousness' sake" because we realize the great treasure that we hold. A Christian with this understanding would never give up this kind of happiness and wealth! This pearl also gives us honor (John 12:26). In addition, it gives us freedom. Because when we know the truth of God's holy word, it is through that truth that we gain our freedom - freedom to live for Christ and die believing on His name (John 8:32). When we find this pearl of great price it makes us now feel useful when at one time we may not have. In 2 Timothy 3:17, Paul says: "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." When we possess the treasure of God's words to us we now can feel good about ourselves because we have the guidance that we need that will now lead us into eternal LIFE with Jesus! The pearl of great price also gives us light (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9), peace (Romans 5:1), immortality (2 Timothy 1:10), hope (Hebrews 6:9), and rest with our Lord (Matthew 11:28). We can certainly understand the importance of possessing this pearl of great price - the kingdom of heaven!

How Can I Obtain Such A Valuable Pearl For Myself?
To obtain this valuable pearl you must first have faith in Jesus Christ. Paul said in Romans 10:10 "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." You must truly believe that Jesus is the son of God, fully understanding that you are now set on serving Him the rest of your days here on earth. When you make this commitment then you will be ready to repent of your old ways and be determined to follow Christ (Matthew 3:2). Then in front of witnesses you will proudly say as the Eunuch did "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37). And then to fulfill all righteousness and the commandments of our Lord and Savior you will want to be buried with Him in baptism in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection as we read in Romans 6:3-4. Jesus Himself was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). Therefore, you must also be prepared and willing to do what Jesus commanded and left an example for you to do. Peter said on Pentecost "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Once you have done this you then need to live a faithful life for Jesus until death (Revelation 2:10). Are you willing to give all for "The Pearl of Great Price?"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Preparing for Eternity with the Lord

There are many people who only live for today and never make any plans for their future. Spiritually, every one of us should be concerned about our future and as a result should be busy preparing ourselves for the eternity that awaits us after our earthly life comes to an end. In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson about looking ahead – making sure that we are focused on what really matters. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, Lord, I will follow You wherever You go. And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. Then He said to another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house. But Jesus said to him, No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” We should be making a commitment to follow the Lord and being obedient to His teaching so that we can gain an entrance into the eternal kingdom of God.

This Earth Will Be Dissolved
One of two things will happen during our lifetime. We will die a physical death, or the Lord will return before we do. The scriptures teach us that this earth will be dissolved when the Lord returns (2 Peter 3:9-10). Since these things will be dissolved, Peter goes on to ask a very important question, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11)? Once we die, or if Jesus returns before, we do not have a chance of changing our life’s thoughts and actions. The Christian has made preparations for death or the second coming of Christ and is looking forward to God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). The child of God does not want to fall short of the grace of God, therefore the Christian looks carefully into God’s word to ensure that they are living a life that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Motivated to Look Ahead
God’s dedicated saints stay motivated in our daily walk because we understand that we must be ready at all times for the coming of the Lord. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40). It is a true blessing to live a Christian life because we know that heaven awaits us. Therefore we continue to stay “fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62) understanding that when one “looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Our motivation is easy if we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). May we all strive to run the race assuming that each day may be the last day we live upon this earth. The Hebrew writer said, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must stay focused on the great crown of righteousness that awaits every Christian who doesn’t look back, but rather remains faithful (Revelation 2:10), and prepares daily for the eternity that awaits us with the Lord!