Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The scriptures are a light unto our paths

John testifies of Jesus that, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1:4-5) As Jesus was the light to every man so is his recorded word a light unto our lives. David praises God saying, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Some have said that the scriptures are God's instruction manual for our lives and, while I understand the allegorical reference, an instruction manual is something that allows us to operate a device without having to know or depend on its creator. When we read the operators manual for a car, we learn how to operate it, completely without ever having to talk with its creators or designers. The scriptures are not such. While the scriptures illuminate our path, they do not supplant our need for a relationship with our creator. 

David describes the scriptures, not as a searchlight illuminating his entire life or a map showing every twist and turn his life would take, but a simple light; one that illuminates immediately around his feet, that he might walk without slipping and stumbling. James recognizes that "we all stumble in many ways." (James 3:2) and he characterizes such stumbling as moral failure. The light of the scripture is a moral light guarding our steps lest we should morally stumble and fall. This is why David said, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Psalms 119:11 NKJV) David knew that God's word would guard him and illuminate his path, showing the dangers and pit falls that lay around him and counseling him to avoid them that he might not stumble or fall in any way.

Most of us have prayed many times the words of Jesus when he taught us to say, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:13) One of the primary tools the Lord uses to "lead us not into temptation" is His scriptures. The scriptures, in many different forms and methods, are set to lead us away from temptation and towards righteousness. For example, by its commands, "Do not lie to one another." (Colossians 3:9), by its exhortations, "flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness." (2 Tim 2:22), and by its wisdom, "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27) By these and may other ways the scriptures protect us from stumbling and enable us to stand upon a firm footing that is Christ and His teachings.

How many of us have prayed that prayer, asking God to lead us away from temptation, yet have never availed ourselves to the light that is His scriptures; a light that is clear and precise, a light that can expose our hidden heart, and a light that can bring life and healing to us and to our way. The writer of Hebrews describes the word of God as, "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:12-13) If we are to live as moral being then we must learn to live according to His word.

David Robison

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The scriptures reveal Jesus

"And He said to them, 'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:25-27)
Of all the things we can aspire to learn, know, and understand, the knowledge of Jesus is the greatest and most beneficial of all. The central point of all of history is the appearing of Jesus along with His ministry, death, and resurrection. All of history past leads up to, and look forward to, this point and all of history beyond looks back at to His coming and the immutable changes that he brought to the history of mankind. With the coming of Jesus everything changed; man would never be the same and the world and its history would forever be changed. Nothing has effected human history more than the life of Jesus.

The scriptures present a history of God's redemptive work among mankind and, as such, its central set piece is Jesus. Just as all of history either looks forward or backwards to Jesus, so the scripture both prophesies of His coming, records His time here among us, and looks back to who He was, what He said, and what He did. Jesus is the central theme and aim of all the scriptures. To know the scriptures and yet fail to know Jesus is to know nothing and to be completely ignorant of the fundamental teachings and import of the scriptures themselves. This is why Jesus rebuked those who searched the scriptures for their own ends but refused the knowledge of Jesus. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39-40)

There are many people today who claim to know what Jesus would do or what Christianity is all about but who have never actually meet and come to know the real Jesus, the Jesus of history. There are those who oppose capital punishment, preserving the traditional definition of marriage, deporting illegal aliens, and prosecuting wars oversees because the believe it is not what Jesus would do, yet how do they know this? How can they know what Jesus would do and approve of if they have never come to actually know Him? Some people seem to have a fairy-tail view of Jesus who's motto is "hakuna matata" and who's favorite song is "que sera sera". They feign an understanding of Jesus but have never meet Him in the historical accounts of His life and teachings, and this ignorance extends even into the church. How many believers would say "God would never do that" yet who have never actually read and learned what God actually did and said?

In truth, as believers, we have the work of the Holy Spirit within us to teach us the things pertaining to Christ. Jesus said that, in part, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to us. "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:12-15) John further testified that, as believers filled with the Holy Spirit, we no longer need someone to teach us about God. "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) Yet this was also the same John who felt it necessary to write his memoirs and letters to the churches so that they might know what he saw, heard, and experienced as he lived and walked with Jesus. "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life... what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." (1 John 1:1-4)

No matter how deep our spiritual knowledge of Jesus might be it will never replace the necessity of us knowing the Jesus of the scriptures and from reading the first hand accounts of those who lived with Him and heard His message. Our spiritual knowledge of Jesus is incomplete if we lack the historical context of God's salvation as presented and recorded in the scriptures. We need to understand the scriptures that we might properly understand Jesus, His words, and His deeds in a proper context in the larger redemptive work of God. Only with this greater knowledge of the truth will we come to know and understand the answer to the question, "what would Jesus do?" Jerome said, "I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." (Jerome, Prologue to his Commentary on Isaiah) It is time for us to move from ignorance to a full knowledge of Christ.

David Robison

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The scriptures give us identity

The scriptures don't often speak of themselves. Partly because those who wrote them did not know they were writing scripture and partly because the goal of their writings was to reveal God not the writings themselves or those who wrote them. However, there are still a few references and clues within the scriptures themselves that teach us of their value to our lives. In the following few posts we will look at some of the benefits of the scriptures.

Our identity

"See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy" 4:5-8)
Moses was about to die and leave the people in the very capable hands of his apprentice Joshua, but before he passed on he wanted to remind them of the covenant God had made with them and to encourage and exhort them to keep true to the covenant all the days of their lives. This covenant was written in books describing the laws and regulations of God that covered almost every aspect of their lives. These laws and regulations were the very covenant God had made with them and it was these laws and regulations that separated them from the rest of the nations around them. While the nations around them lived after their passions and lusts, the laws they had received from God enjoined them to live godly and holy lives. They were to live after the precepts of God not after the lusts and desires of the flesh. The nations around them also sought to appease their gods who at any time might bring calamity upon them; gods who were distant and in some cases even unknown. However, the covenant that God made with the Israelites was that God would be near them. Their laws were designed, not to appease God, but to allow God to be near them and to dwell in their midst. God already loved them, now He wanted to be with them. This is evidenced by a very curious verse in the scriptures.
"You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:12-14)
It seems odd that God would have to instruct them on how to go to the bathroom, but the purpose of this regulation was not the despotic control of the people but rather that everything would be done decently and in order as to not offend the presence of God in their midst. These things were enjoined upon them that the presence of God might remain. This covenant, written in books, became the identity, glory, and joy of the nation of Israel and caused them to be "the joy of the whole earth... The city of the great King." (Psalms 48:2

As great as that covenant was, as full of glory its laws were, how much more is our new covenant and the fullness of the scriptures we have received. Paul wrote.
"But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory." (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
If the law was to the nation of Israel their identity, their glory, and that which separated them from the rest of the nations of the world, how much more should the scriptures be to us today? They are our identity as it details God's working though history, leading to the coming of His Son and our salvation as children of God, leading further in prophetic utterance towards our adoption into eternity with God. The scriptures are our glory as they tell us of God's love for us, our uniqueness and purpose among His creation, calls us to to a holy walk in keeping with our holy calling, and declares to us the many promises God has given us in both this life and the next. They are also what distinguishes us from all the other religions of the world. What other religion speaks of the love of God for all people, the desire of God that all should be reconciled back to God, the universal nature of mankind and the value of each human life, the free offer of forgiveness of sins for all who trust on God's on work on the cross, and the promise of eternal joy and felicity in heaven with God for all who become His children. No other religion is founded on such great promises, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.  No other religion motivates its adherents to holiness, not out of fear, but as a response to the love and kindness of God. No other religion promotes such beneficial love for the whole of mankind; causing its members to identify themselves with all of mankind, not just their fellow believers. No other religion preaches such patience, peace, and love in the face of oppression, opposition, and confrontation. Yes, the words of these scriptures are full of glory. To us they are, or should be, our glory, our life, and our joy.

David Robison

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Scriptures - Preface

A few months back I was asked to prepare a teaching for our church on "The Word." Now that my time is drawing near, I need to get down to the business of deciding on what I going to say. When it comes to the scriptures, I an very adept at teaching what they say but have never taught them as their own subject. It is one thing to teach The Word it is another to teach about The Word. This has proven to be quite a challenging proposition; one which, by the grace of God, I hope to accomplish in a way that will stir up in God's people a renewed love and desire for His scriptures. However, before launching forward into such an endeavor, especially one which for me is an uncharted endeavor, it is important to clarify the object of our search and to define the limits of our investigation. Otherwise an eternity may be spent in its investigation and I simply don't have that much time (at least not now).

Scriptures and The Word

We often use the terms "Scriptures" and "The Word" or "The Word of God" interchangeably and, in most cases and for most practicalities, they are. However, there are subtle differences which, without grasping their importance, we may run amiss in our investigation.

In the Old Testament, the term "the Word of God" was almost exclusively used to refer to prophesy or to prophetic insights, dreams, and revelations. For example, when Samuel came to anoint Saul as King over Israel, he said, "Say to the servant that he might go ahead of us and pass on, but you remain standing now, that I may proclaim the word of God to you." (1 Samuel 9:27) Samuel then proceeded to prophesy to Saul the Word of God for him. Similarly, Abram received the Word of God in a vision regarding his future offspring. "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.'" (Genesis 15:1) The word "scripture" never appears in our English translations of the Old Testament. They were most often simply referenced to as "this book". "Then the king [Josiah] stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book." (2 Chronicles 34:31)

Similarly, in the New Testament many references are made to the prophesies and, in most cases, when referring to "scriptures" they most often were referring directly to the recorded prophesies of the Old Testament. Peter refers to the Old Testament prophesies as "the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) and confirmed their divine origin as being the Word of God. "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21) It would be hundreds of years before any of the New Testament writings would be called "scripture".

However, in the New Testament we learn that the Word of God is also God and proceeds from the Father and is wholly personified in the Person of Jesus Christ. John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-2, 14) Old Testament prophesy had been replaced by the present and living revealing of the Word in human flesh. The Word of God, once hidden in dark sayings and night visions, had now been publicly revealed as the only begotten Son of the Father. However, this should not surprise us for, as John further testifies, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10) Jesus was then revealed through prophesy but now He has been revealed in the flesh. This was God's plan all along, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)

The study of the Word of God is the study of Jesus, and the study of Jesus is the study of the Father, and the study of the Father is the study of God. All of this aided by the gracious work of the Spirit in our lives and upon our minds. Such as study is far more extensive and expansive for us to take up here. It would take a life time, actually an eternity, to properly understand and apprehend God; a vocation that is most noble and praise worth for all who take it up. However, for our purposes, we will focus, not so much on The Word of God, but on the scriptures themselves and our need for them and their benefit in our lives.

Scriptures are those collection of inspired writings. These writings serve to give definition, context, history, and revelation regarding our faith. They also help us to answer the most pressing of life's questions. Irenaeus speaks elegantly of our basic need to know God. "For the Lord who formed the visual powers is He who made the whole man, carrying out the will of the Father. And inasmuch as man, with respect to that formation which, was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the laver of regeneration, [the Lord] said to him [upon whom He had conferred sight], after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, 'Go to Siloam, and wash;' thus restoring to him both [his perfect] confirmation, and that regeneration which takes place by means of the laver. And for this reason when he was washed he came seeing, that he might both know Him who had fashioned him, and
that man might learn [to know] Him who has conferred upon him life." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5 Chapter 15) All our questions of who we are, why we were created, what our purpose in this life is, and how we can know happiness, truth, and joy find their answers when we come to know Him who fashioned us and Him who redeemed us. This is the one that the scriptures speak about and these are the questions whose answers they reveal. This is why the scriptures are precious and important to us, for they tell us about God and about ourselves and show us the way to life abundant. I hope you enjoy the following series on The Scriptures.

David Robison

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shaming - 2nd Thessalonians 3:14-18

"If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." (2nd Thessalonians 3:14-18)
Paul is closing his letter, but first he addresses those who refuse to discipline their lives and to live according to the instruction and example Paul left for them. Paul understood that in any large house, even in the church, there are many different types of vessels. "Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:20-21) While many are called, not all embrace the process of sanctification with the same sense of duty and industry as others do. It is this sanctification that cleanses us and makes us fit for the Master's use. They delight in being saved, but bristle at the thought of being changed. They are vessels in the house, but as yet fit only for ignoble use.

Paul's prescription for such people was to "not associate" with them that they may be ashamed of where they are in their walk with the Lord. The Greek word used here for "shame" means to "turn around" or "turn over". The goal of shaming is to turn the person upon themselves that they may see the contrast between their lives and the upward calling of Christ and that they may appreciate their need for sanctification that they too may be a vessel fir for honorable use. Shaming is not condemnation nor is it judgment, but rather is is designed to remove all false sense of security that one may have when joined with others in Christian union. If one lives an unruly life yet is fully accepted and embraced by all, then they may be deceived of their true condition in Christ. However, if they are removed from association and are allowed to see the contrast of their life when compared to others, then maybe they will make the qualitative decision to change and to embrace "the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14)

This is why Paul says to not treat them as an enemy but as a brother; as an unruly brother who needs "tough love." We love our families even when they don't behave as they should, but we also don't enable them in their misbehavior. We show them the contrast and let the Holy Spirit work in their heart that they may embrace the process of change; that by the grace of God they might be changed. Shaming does not mean we have to make people feel bad, but it does mean that we have to give them space to let God have His way in their life and to work in their life; that one day they may return in the true life God has for them and for all of us.

David Robison

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Working and eating - 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good." (2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13)
Work is part of the redemptive plan of God. From the very beginning man was created to tend the Garden of Eden, but when they sinned, they were turned out. As part of God's redemptive plan for them, and the whole human race, He gave them work. "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field;  By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19) The ground was cursed, not because God despised work or the benefits of work, but rather to force man to work for what he needs. Previously the ground produced its harvest by itself, but now it would require the work of human hands. Though this command to work was the result of the fall of man, it wasn't punitive but rather redemptive, as all God's works are. Paul further speaks of the redemptive nature of work when exhorting those who who steal. "He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good." (Ephesians 4:28) Their work working together with their repentance to produce redemption in their lives.

However, some found work beneath them, and this was a common sentiment among the elite and wealthy of the Greek and Roman world, yet Paul's command to them was to work with their own hands, providing for their needs themselves rather than relying on other to do it for them. Even Paul, in his own ministry, although he had the right to earn his living from his ministry, worked with his own hands to provide for his needs and the needs of his team that he might not be a burden and that he might be an example of how we all ought to work and lead a quiet life.

It seems to me, at least in the circles I travel, that among many young believers there is a great desire for ministry and a little desire for work. They want to do ministry full time, fully supported by the church, without having to lower themselves to the level of having to work for a living. However, it seems to me that most people God called in the scriptures were successful people in their own right; people who succeeded in their own work and profession. God doesn't often call people who are sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called. Worse than that, they learn to be idle, undisciplined, and meddlers in other people's business. God's call for them is to work, provide for their needs, grow in spiritual graces, and serve the Lord where ever He should call them. One day, they too might see a burning bush and hear God's call, and depart to the work the Lord is calling them to, but until then, work!

David Robison

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pray for us - 2nd Thessalonians 3:1-5

"Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ." (2nd Thessalonians 3:1-5)
Paul began his letter by telling the Thessalonians that he always prayed and gave thanks for them, for their love for one another and their perseverance in the faith. Now he asks them to pray for him and for those traveling with him, not that they might themselves be blessed, but rather that their work might prosper and that they might have success in their endeavors in the Lord. There is a time in a person's life where you mature and grow to the point where you have no specific wants but rather have come to a place of contentment in your life. Your life may not be perfect and you may still experience ups and downs, but on the whole, you are content with the life you have been given.

Paul was such a man. "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13) Paul was not asking for prayer for his life, for he was content in life, but he was asking for the grace and power of God to accompany their work so that the Kingdom of God might advance and fill the whole world with its glory. In their work, Paul and his company faced many obstacles and even persecution by those who opposed the truth. Our work in God is not always without contest and opposition, but our success does not lie in ourselves, rather in the one who strengthens and sustains us; our hope is in the one through whom we "can do all things."

Paul, in turn, also reminds the Thessalonians that the same God who strengthens and protects him in his work will also strengthen and protect them in their work. You don't have to be an apostle to do the work of God. Everyone has a purpose and a job to do in the Kingdom. Everyone has work that God has set before them that they too might participate in the economy of the Kingdom. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) Paul reminds them of the work they have been called to, what he often refers to as "good works", and expresses his confidence in their steadfast participation with him in the work. Just as Paul was working, he was confident that they were too.

In doing so, they were progressing, not only in their work, but in their relationship with Christ. Their works were a direct result of their drawing closer to God and their hearts growing ever more in the love of God. The more the loved God the more they demonstrated it in their good works; their love producing in them steadfast continuance in doing good. What more could a spiritual father ask for his children?

David Robison

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Calling and patience - 2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17

"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word." (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-17)
God has chosen us for salvation, and not only us, but the whole world. He has called and invited all people to salvation, for this is the very reason for which He came and died. "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." (Romans 5:18) However, though all are called, not all are chosen for salvation. Jesus Himself said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) The truth is that. while we are all called, we are called to a process of salvation, not a state of salvation. We are not saved merely because of our calling but rather because of the process of salvation that is at work in our lives. Many there are who want salvation, yet many there are who refuse the work of salvation in their lives. It is like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking salvation yet left disappointed. "But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, 'Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 19:22-23)

Paul teaches us that the work of salvation involves two things: sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Sanctification means to be cleansed and set aside as sacred. It is the process by which the Holy Spirit washes away the residue of the world and purifies us for our bridegroom Jesus. Those who are sacred have separated themselves from the world and dedicated themselves to God and His Kingdom. However, this process of sanctification is something that we must yield to and partner with God in. There is the part that God does, "that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," (Ephesians 5:26) yet there is also the part we must do, "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:21) This participation with God requires not only our obedience but also our faith in the truth. We yield to sanctification because we believe the truth that we have been told, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Romans 6:22) We believe that the outcome of our sanctification is eternal life and it is because of this faith that we willingly and joyfully submit to God and to His working in our life; we submit because we believe in the reward.

In yielding to sanctification, we require one more thing: patience. The early church, often troubled by persecution and martyrdom, eagerly looked for the immediate return of Christ to deliver them from their troubles. The Thessalonian church had been troubled in their anticipation by those who said the second coming had already happened. Paul reminds them to quiet their hearts and to strengthen themselves with patience knowing their acceptance by God and that His return would come in an undeniable way not to be missed. Instead of anxiously waiting, he calls them to remain steadfast and to continue in the instructions he had previously given them. It is easy to be disturbed when you are always waiting and hoping for something yet to come, but peace is often found in being diligent in what you already know to do. Instead of looking to the future, Paul calls us to be daily engaged in good works and gracious words. Those who employ themselves in such pursuits will not quickly find themselves troubled by circumstances and fear.

David Robison

Monday, September 15, 2014

Worthy judgment - 2nd Thessalonians 2:8-12

"Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (2nd Thessalonians 2:8-12)
The disciples asked Jesus if many or few would be saved. Jesus answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able... In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:24, 28-29) Later on, He again speaks of those would would be saved and those who would be lost, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) In that day there will be a separation of the people; those who are marked for salvation and eternity in heaven with the Father, and those marked for eternal banishment to hell, far away from the Father's prescience.

Such judgment, the abandonment to eternal darkness and the fires of punishment, can be hard for us to fathom and may even seem to us to be contrary to the loving nature of God. However, such judgment is the righteous reward for those who obstinately oppose God and reject His love and His truth. God has provided a way for all to be reconciled back to Him and to once again be reunited with His love and to enjoy the eternal felicities of heaven in the presence of our Savior, yet for those who reject His truth and His sacrifice for them, only eternal darkness and judgement await them.

For the present, God has allowed both the wicked and the just, the believing and the unbelievers, to live and grow side by side undisturbed, but this won't always be the case. Jesus told us this parable. "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30) Jesus told us that the wheat are the children of the Kingdom, the tares are the children of perdition, and the reapers are the angles sent at the end of the age to gather all people to their rewards. 

Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians is expressing this same truth, telling us that, at the end of the age, God will send the "lawless one" to separate the wheat from the tares, those who believe and those who refuse, that the rewards of each might be made evident and that the righteousness of His rewards and punishments may be made clear and seen by all. In that day none will question God;s justice, for the rightness of His judgments will appear as the difference of heart between the saved and the lost are revealed. For those who have refused the truth that they might be saved will sink further and further into deception and delusion, carried away by the deluding influence of wickedness and pleasures offered by the lawless one. Being offered life, they rather chose licentiousness. Their judgment is just. "You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. for it is their just due." (Revelation 16:5-6 NKJV)

David Robison

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Has the end already happened? 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-7

"Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-7)
The peace of the church in Thessalonika had been disturbed by those who taught that the resurrection had already occurred, that Jesus had already returned, and that the millennial reign had already started. For some, these rumors had shaken their faith and left them wondering what to do. Paul wrote to reassure them that such had not happened and to quiet their spirits by reminding them of what he had previously taught them.

Teachings regarding the end of the age are common to many religions and cultures around the world, however, Jesus and His apostles made it clear that such events would not happen without our notice. Jesus taught us that, "just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day." (Luke 17:24) The coming of the Son of Man will be an event not to be missed. It will not be some secret returning for His chosen but rather a returning that will be noticed by all who live at that time. "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him." (Revelation 1:7) To this end, Jesus warned us to not be shaken by false claims or to run after false christs. "Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:25-27) When Jesus comes again, everyone will know and see it.

As to the timing of His return, Paul tells us a couple of important indicators that must happen first. First, there will be a great apostasy, a falling away from faith and devotion to God. It is unclear if Paul was speaking specifically of the church or of nations and the world in general. Certainly, in our age, we are seeing an apostasy among many formerly Christian nations. It began in Europe, a continent steep in Christian history and tradition, and has spread to America and many other western nations. Previously, many would at least acknowledge God even if they themselves were not believers, but now there is a tidal wave of cultural revolution that is seeking to secularize every aspect of our lives. Even in Paul's day, most unbelievers were still religious and believed in gods, but today unbelief in even the existence of a god is spreading through out more and more of our society and culture. Truly we are living in a time of great apostasy.

Secondly, Paul tells us that, before that great day and the coming of our savior from heaven, the man of sin must first be revealed. Paul's description of the man of sin reminds me of the Roman emperor Titus who destroyed Jerusalem, set it on fire, and stood in the very temple of God; displaying himself as superior to the Jews and the God they worshiped. While he might not have called himself a god, he displayed himself as superior to the one true God who was worshiped by the Jews. To be God is to be supreme and to be above all others who claim themselves to be gods. Today we see the rise of personal cults and those who portray themselves as gods. We see this among some of the religious elites who draw followers after themselves. We also see this in charismatic world leaders who try and elevate themselves above the others; as the one truly wise and worthy ruler of the people. However, more than this, will be the character of this false christ. This man of sin will oppose all that is holy and righteous and true; leading people astray into unrighteousness and falsehood. Jesus said, "for the tree is known by its fruit." (Matthew 12:33) In that day, many will try to deceive us by their power and their signs and wonders, but it is by their fruit that we will know them. Those who come bearing the fruit of the Spirit are of the Spirit and those who come bearing the fruit of sin are of the devil.

David Robison

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The source of our Goal - 2nd Thessalonians 1:11-12

"To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2nd Thessalonians 1:11-12)
Sometimes the industry we put forward in our lives is determined and limited by the goals we have for ourselves. For example, if our goal is to drink and party every weekend then we will only work as hard as needed to afford the beer for our next party. However, if our goal is to become financially independent in retirement then we might find ourselves working harder and longer that we might save up to enjoy our retired years. The same is true for our religious life. If our goal is escape the fires of hell and simply make it into heaven, then "holy obligation" may be sufficient for us, but is this all there is for our christian life? To merely escape death? 

Paul points us towards the ultimate goal for every believer, and that is that we might bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus. The Christian life is not always easy and sometimes it requires discipline and moderation to live a holy and pious life. If our goal is simply to escape guilt and to secure acceptance before God then the difficulties and straights of a Christian life can leave us resentful and envious for the life we left behind. These were the same feelings the Israelites felt when, after leaving Egypt, they faced trouble and difficulties. "Then they said to Moses, 'Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, "Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians"? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.'" (Exodus 14:11-12) Small goals lead to small lives, but when we purpose our lives to bring glory and honor to our Lord, then we have something to really live for. Such a goal can motivate us and sustain us through the hard and difficult times of life.

While Paul mentions many things in his prayer for the Thessalonians, in the end, he is really asking for only one thing from the Father and that is "grace". Paul understood that the answer for all we need in our life is grace. Everything we need to face every circumstance of life comes to us from the grace of God. Grace is God's favor towards us. It does not depend on us or our worthiness but rather flows freely from God and His unmerited love towards us. To have the grace of God is to have everything we need, or as Paul put it, "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31) Grace saves us, grace teaches us, and grace will lead us home.

To this end, Paul prays for three specific things. First that we might be counted worth of our calling. "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) In this parable that Jesus told, the one who was called but not chosen was the one who was not properly dressed for the wedding feast. Later Jesus reveals that "the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." (Revelation 19:8) Paul prays that the grace of God would strengthen us towards righteousness. Secondly, Paul prays that God would "fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness." (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NKJV) Jesus told us that "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32 NKJV) Paul prays that God's grace would bring to us the fullness of God's kingdom in our lives. Finally, Paul prays for the work of faith with power. Faith is what we offer to God and power is what His grace offers in return. When God adds power to our faith it produces change in our lives. Peter said that we are currently "obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:9) Our faith and His grace is producing salvation in every area of our life.

David Robison

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Righteousness judgment - 2nd Thessalonians 1:1-10

"Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed — for our testimony to you was believed." (2nd Thessalonians 1:1-10)
The early church was not universally loved but suffered persecution from many groups, including the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans. As they rejoiced in their knowledge of God and in His presence in their lives, they were also afflicted by those they lived among. It has been said that the expected end for most believers was not old age but martyrdom, yet even in their daily lives suffered persecution and tribulations in many ways.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians to cheer them in their struggle and to remind them of the judgment of God to come at the end of the age. In the end, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead; to sentence those who did not believe nor obeyed God to eternal torment and separation from the glory of God. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the justness, or rightness, of God's coming judgment; the very tribulation they were experiencing testifying of God's righteousness judgment to come. That in that day they should receive comfort for their tribulation, and their opponents the penalty of the persecution they inflicted on the just. The believers suffered for the Kingdom's sake and from the Kingdom would reap rest, while the unbelievers waged war against the Kingdom and from the Kingdom would one day reap their just rewards: eternal punishment and separation from all that is good. Looking at what the righteous has suffered from the wicked down through out the ages, who can deny the righteousness of the judgment that awaits them at the end of the age!

Finally, it is instructive to note how the Thessalonians succeeded in not only enduring such persecution and tribulation but also growing through it to the glory of God. They grew through tribulation because they grew in faith and love; faith towards God and love towards one another. When we face difficult times,we often retreat, hide, or run away, but these are the very times we ought to draw close; close to God and close to each other. These are the times we need to remind ourselves, not only of the words of God, but also of their truth and reality in our lives. The promises of God are not only true when times are easy but even more so in times of difficulty. Similarly, times of our distress are the very times we need each other all the more. We need to love those who are suffering and to be loved in our sufferings. We need those who will encourage us, strengthen us, and at times tell us what we need to hear even more than what we want to hear. These relationships will serve to strengthen us in our times of need. When we let suffering strengthen our faith and love then we show ourselves worthy of the judgement to come; worthy of being judged fitting for the Kingdom of God.

David Robison

Friday, September 05, 2014

Life at large - 1st Thessalonians 5:14-28

"We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (1st Thessalonians 5:14-28)
The people we interact with everyday are at various stages in their walk with the Lord. Some have yet to come to know Him, some are just infants, others are learning how to overcome sins in their life by His grace, and some are pressing on towards the mark of maturity. With that being said, then we must not presume that the needs of people are all the same but rather dependent on where they are presently in their journey of faith. Some need to hear about the love of God, some need admonishing, some need comforting, and some just need help. When we look at people we must look at them through the eyes of wisdom that we might know how we can best aid them in their walk of faith. Otherwise we might end up admonishing the oppressed and encouraging the unruly. People are different and we must treat them differently. Fortunately, no matter what state someone is in, God has exactly what they need and, in many cases, he wants to use us to minister it one to another.

In regards to our walk with the Lord we should be fully engaged. Paul uses terms like "always", "without ceasing", and "in everything". There is no live, real life, apart form Christ and we should live our days in the reality of this truth; being fully persuaded and involved in our relationship with Him. Christianity is not something we do once a week while we attend a church "service". Christianity is our very life and should consume all we do. Our lives should not be segmented: our religious life, our family life, and our professional life. Rather all aspects of our lives should be integrated under the Lordship of God. That being said, we should never cease from pursuing our relationship with Him and our abiding in His presence.

We must also allow for the invasion of God in our lives and in our churches. God does not want to be a silent spectator, watching our religious performances, but He wants to be an active part of all we do. When we gather together in His name we should expect the moving of the Spirit and we should expect and believe for prophesy and other manifestations of the Spirit. We should not offend God by trying to constrain or restrain His Spirit; asking Him to simply watch and listen but in no way to attempt to interfere with our plans. If we make it our aim to hold fast to what is good, then we know we will retain God for He alone is truly good. However, let us be sure we are judging with the mind of the Spirit and not with our carnal preferences or judgments.

Finally, let the sum of our faith and hope rest solely in God, for He alone is able to bring it all to pass.

David Robison

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Love those who lead - 1st Thessalonians 5:12-13

"But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another." (1st Thessalonians 5:12-13)
Darby gives a slightly different translation of this passage which I believe is more consistent with the literal Greek text. "But we beg you, brethren, to know those who labour among you, and take the lead among you in [the] Lord, and admonish you, and to regard them exceedingly in love on account of their work. Be in peace among yourselves." (1st Thessalonians 5:12-13 Darby)

What is interesting is that Paul writes directly to the church and not to these men. Paul did not recognize some hierarchical, top-down, control structure within the church. When Paul had something to say to the church he said it to the church. While leadership was present, they did not form a kind of filter between Paul and the church proper. They were there to serve the church, not to represent it or to lord themselves over it.

Jesus' teaching forever changed how we perceive (or should perceive) leadership. "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors'. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:25-26) Jesus moved leadership from the top to the bottom, the head to the tail, and from the prince among men to the servant of all. Those who are called leaders are to be servants to the church; laboring for the church and admonishing, with gentleness rather than harshness, all to live a godly life. Leaders should see themselves as the servants of the church; sent to serve them, not to be served by them. For even Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve." (Mark 10:45)

To the degree to which they serve, and serve well, we ought to esteem them and to love them well in return. Those who serve well are worthy to be loved, not just for who they are, but also for their work they do. Paul repeatedly calls their calling a labor and a work. "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do." (1 Timothy 3:1) Leadership, when done right, is a work and we ought not to forget the sacrifice and toil that our leaders expend for our sake. They labor out of love for us and we ought in return to love them for their work and sacrifice. They work for us that we might be free to experience the blessings and protections of christian fellowship as the church of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Paul exhorts us to live in unity and harmony with each other. The write of Hebrews describes the perils of strife and division, especially between the church and their leaders. "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you." (Hebrews 13:17) Sometimes we forget that God has assigned them a job within the body of Christ. We need to be as serving towards them in their role and function as they are towards us in our role and function. While we are needed in the Body of Christ, so are they. However, they are not another class of people, there should be no class warfare within the church, rather they are just like us and have been given a calling and a function within the church, just one that differs from ours. As we would like people to honor and respect who we are in Christ, so let us do also to them and let us learn to live together in unity and harmony to the glory of the Lord.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Be prepared - 1st Thessalonians 5:7-11

"For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." (1st Thessalonians 5:7-11)
How does one prepare for the end of all things? Some prepare by denying or ignoring its reality, others by fatefully accepting its inevitability, "Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine: 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.'" (Isaiah 22:13) However, God wants us to approach the end of all time with our eyes wide open and a heart that has been prepared and made ready for that day. So how does one prepare for that day? Here are some thoughts.

Jesus gave us this command regarding the end of the age, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." (Matthew 25:13 NKJV) The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but rather being awake and watching. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, speaks of us either being awake or asleep. The Greek word used here for "awake" is the same word Jesus used for "watching". It is not enough for us to wake from our slumber, but we must also become vigilant and watch for His coming.

Watching is almost always associated with prayer. When Jesus returned to check on the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, He found them sleeping and said, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?" (Matthew 26:40) Jesus' watch was consumed in prayer. Similarly, Jesus commanded us to, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41 NKJV) Watching is what we do during and after we pray; it is an active listening to the Holy Spirit so that we might receive His wisdom, guidance, warnings, and instruction. God wants to communicate with us, to show us what is approaching, so that we might not be caught off guard and prepared for whatever comes our way. However, this takes watching on our part; listening to God and watching for His revelation.

We also prepare for His coming by preparing our lives. John writes to instruct us that we might not be ashamed of ourselves at His coming. "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him." (1 John 2:28-29) Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of faith and love, which he also calls "the breastplate of righteousness." (Ephesians 6:14) God has delivered us us from the wrath to come and has called us to eternal life. Now is the time for us to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1) and to learn to live lives of holiness and righteousness that in that day we might stand before Him without "spot or wrinkle or any such thing." (Ephesians 5:27)

lastly, we must garrison our hearts with hope, and not just our hearts, but also to encourage one another in the hope of our calling. Life is not always easy, but we have been promised that "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." (Matthew 24:13) We all need encouragement from time to time and we must learn to encourage ourselves and others in the hope that is ours in Christ. We may not know what tomorrow may bring, but we do know the end of all things, that one day Jesus will return to take us all away to live with Him for ever; to inherit a "new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13) These are great promises indeed and ones that can sustain and strengthen us in our daily walks as we watch for His coming again.

David Robison

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A thief in the night - 1st Thessalonians 5:1-6

"Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1st Thessalonians 5:1-6)
There is a day fastly approaching where this world and this creation will be dissolved and a new one takes it place. King David prophesied of this time when he said, "Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed." (Psalm 102:25-26) And John the Apostle likewise saw the end of all things in the revelation given to him. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.'" (Revelation 21:1-3) However, Jesus also made it clear that no man know the time of His return and of the end of the age. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." (Matthew 24:36) And, prior to His ascension, He said to His disciples, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority." (Acts 1:7

Jesus is returning again at a time and hour we do not know and with Him is also coming the end of the age; the destruction of this present creation and the ushering in of a new creation "in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13) Knowing these things are to happen, and the manor in which they are to come to pass, Paul's advice to us is to remain ready. Paul uses the metaphors of light and darkness, awake and asleep. There are those who live in spiritual darkness; unable, or unwilling, to see the light of the gospel. In their lives they are asleep to the truth of what is around then; the truth pertaining to their lives, the truth pertaining to what God has purchased for them, and the truth pertaining to the ultimate end of all things. The world plunges deeper and deeper into darkness and they willingly and joyfully follow along towards destruction. "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:26-27) Jesus came to wake us up from our slumber and to deliver us from darkness unto the light so that that day might not overtake us "as a thief in the night" but rather that we might be found worthy to inherit the new creation that God is about to bring forth.

However, some still prefer the darkness. Jesus said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." (John 3:19-21) It is true that there can be no coming into the light without our deeds becoming exposed However, without exposure there can be no release or forgiveness for our deeds done in darkness. God is calling us to be people of light; to brave the darkness, to let our sins to be seen for what they are, especially by us, and to allow the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God to wash over our lives and our sins and to cleanse us and make us truly children of light. In the end, darkness will be banished and only light will remain. Let us now learn how to walk in that light today that we might not be shamed when it does appear; that for us it will not come as that thief in the night,

David Robison