Lucia's Blog: October 2019
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, October 31, 2019

IS OBEDIENCE LEGALISM?

"But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, 
and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, 
this man shall be blessed in his doing."
James 1:25


Jesus came to His own people and His own people did not receive Him. They used a legal argument about the Sabbath law to close their eyes and not see God’s heaven-sent Messenger. God in heaven commanded, but they would not obey. They called the good works of Jesus evil. In modern times, the God-fearing servant is insulted with accusations such as “trusting in your own works” or “self-righteous” or “legalist!”  Let us give careful consideration to the Bible Truth concerning these matters.

A truly clever person can nearly always find justification to exempt himself from doing what he ought to do, especially with the help of the Prince of Darkness. The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.  When it comes to strict and reverent obedience, many, even some of our brethren, have the wrong attitude.  Why do I say that?  Because they think that strict obedience to God and His commands, His laws, is not really essential or vital for salvation, eternal life.  They claim that as long as one is doing what's “right,” it does not matter how strictly he adheres to all of Jesus' teachings of the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25).  As a consequence of this, they give the label of "legalists" to those of us who suggest that kind of adherence to Jesus and His Lordship.  But guess what?  God has always demanded strict obedience (100% obedience) to all His commands!  No matter which law God had placed over man, he was expected to diligently learn and know the law, and do it because that was the will of God.  For instance, Noah and the ark that saved his family from the Flood.
“Thus Noah did: according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).

Noah explicitly followed God's instructions about how to build the ark to save his familyCain disobeyed God's law when he offered a sacrifice that was not pleasing to God.  He did not obey God's instructions or commands when making his offering.  And though Cain believed in God and offered what he thought was best, he still did not do what God commanded him to do.  His works are called evil (1 John 3:12).  Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he failed to honor God before the people.  They all failed to comply with God's instructions, His laws (Heb. 11:4).  God, under no circumstances, will accept any worship from any man that is not acceptable and pleasing to Him.  Take heed!  Those who claim that God’s “plan of salvation” is “legalism” must acknowledge that they are actually accusing Jesus Christ of being “Legalist.”  And even though salvation is a gift of God, such a gift has its own conditions appointed by the Savior Himself.  Faith itself is a condition!

True and faithful obedience is doing what God commands us to do, and we must acknowledge it!  We must obey God exactly in the way He commands and precisely for the purpose He specifies.  Obedience to God is not just something that we do for the pleasure of doing it when we agree with God that we need to do it or see the need for it.  Protestants (especially the evangelicals) emphasize substantially that we are not under Law but Grace.  For them, this implies that we are under no Law at all!  They have a hard time differentiating between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.  For them, law is law, and there is no law for the Christian!  And when one reminds them of the commandments (laws, rules) that must be obeyed, they shout "legalist!"


I.   LEGALISM?  AM I A LEGALIST?

Although the religious world widely uses the word “ legalist,” it is not a Bible word.  Our friends do not use the word “legalist” in a complimentary way. They use it to label anyone who says we must obey all of God’s commands. And when one confronts them with the Word of God to stress that they must do the will of God, they willfully ignore or dismiss God’s commands by calling obedience “legalism,”  and those of us who insist on obedience “legalists.”  In their mind, a “ legalist ” cannot be spiritual-minded or righteous, for  “legalism” keeps one from being godly, righteous before God.  Amazing!

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm from the Book of Psalms in the Bible.  It has 176 verses. Those who minimize obedience must take a careful look at this amazing psalmIt is one of my all-time favorites. In this psalm, the Psalmist praises and stresses the importance of the Law of God nearly 200 times. He did not look at the Bible, the Law of God, as a book merely filled with suggestions from God.
  1. The Psalmist speaks of the Word of God (38 times).
  2. The Law of God (25 times).
  3. The Statutes of God (22 times).
  4. The Testimonies of God (22 times).
  5. The Precepts of God (21 times).
  6. The Commandments of God (23 times).
  7. The Judgments of God (22 times). 

Those who use the term “ legalism” have failed to view the Bible in the Light of God’s Truth as commands, precepts, and statutes.  What do you suppose they have to say about Psalm 119?  What does this say about the heart of those who call this attitude “ legalism? ”  They must first take a hard and deeper look at Psalm 119 and change their attitude toward God’s commands that they might honor and respect them (verse 6).  Why do you think the Psalmist prayed that he would not wander from God’s commandments (verse 10) and that He would not hide His commands from him either (verse 19)?  The answer is that he saw God as One who rebuked proud men who stray from His commands (verse 32). God’s commandments must be diligently obeyed, for this will enlarge our heart as we keep them with all of our heart (verses 32-34).
  1. The Psalmist also delighted in God’s commandments, for he loved them (verses 35, 47). 
  2. He likewise meditated on them as he lifted up holy hands (48).  
  3. He hastened and did not delay in keeping God’s commandments (60). 
  4. Because he believed in God’s commandments, he was able to see them as God’s Way to teach him goodness, righteousness, sound judgment, and knowledge (66). 
  5. He diligently sought to learn them (73). 
  6. He was wiser because he trusted in God’s commands as being trustworthy and faithful (86, 98).
  7. So he obeyed them (115), for he longed for them (131). 
  8. They were Truth (151) and righteousness (176) and 
  9. In the keeping of God’s commands, he knew it would bring him the hope of salvation (166).­­­­­­  
Isn’t it amazing how our God helps His faithful to be “legalists” like this Psalmist!!

So often when one embarks on a discussion of subjects such as:
  1. Modesty (1 Tim. 4:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).
  2. Social drinking (1 Peter 4:3).
  3. Baptism as being vital for salvation (Mark 16:15-16).
  4. Instrumental music in New Testament worship (Eph. 5:19; Prov. 30:6).
  5. Divorce (Matt. 19:9).
  6. Withdrawing of fellowship (1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:14-15) and 
  7. Denominationalism (1 Cor. 1:10-13; John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).
He is labeled as a “legalist.” 

The dictionary’s definition of “legalism” is “strict adherence to the law.”  In other words, obeying the law.  Now we know where the word “legalism” gets its legal root word from!  Is it so terrible to obey and adhere to the law?  Outside the scope of religion, why is it that when it comes to the law of the land, no one seems to have any problem with being a legalist?  

Let me explain myself. 
  1. When we are driving, do we stop our car at every red light?  Yes!  Why?  Because the law says so.  Guess what?  You’re a legalist!  
  2. Do you make it a point to pay your taxes?  Why?  Because if we don’t pay them, we’re breaking the law.  That simple!  Guess what?  You’re a legalist!  
  3. When we work, do we make an effort to do everything that we’re told to do to please our boss?  Hmph, you’re legalist!  

Why are you so legalist?!  I can go on and add more to my list, but I want us to get the point about legalism being a good thing, for it keeps us out of trouble.  Without a legalistic mindset (wanting to strictly follow the rules), none of us would ever receive our rewardSo why is legalism such a dirty word in the religious world?  Should not strict adherence to God’s laws be a noble goal for every Christian to strive for?  Surely, when one asks any professed Christian if they want to follow Jesus, they’ll say, “sure!”  When one asks them if they want to obey God, their answer is, “yes” without hesitation.  But when one asks if they think they’re legalist, most of them will recoil in disgust.

Sadly, we have allowed our religious friends to turn a term that literally means “obedience” into a dirty word that’s practically used to insult us along with any vulgarity.  And why?  Simply because they refuse to understand the concept of complete obedience in God’s plan of salvation.  And though we’re saved by God’s Grace (Eph. 2:8a), that same Grace “instructs” us to do what pleases God (Tit. 2:11-12).  Grace teaches us obedience to God’s instructions or commands.  What happens if we purposefully disobey what God’s Grace instructs us to do?  The Bible says we insult (despise, outrage) the spirit of grace (Heb. 10:26-31).  So as Paul said,  “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!” (Rom. 6:1-2).  Although we have been saved through faith, “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8b-9).  Jesus did say, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10… but the Bible also says that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-26).  In other words, genuine and sincere faith is OBEDIENT trust and faithfulness to God’s commands or will.  To live faithfully demands one to be a legalist, for we must obey God’s Word or Law.  Why not then define “religious legalism” the same way we define  “secular legalism”?  Religious legalism simply means “strict adherence to God’s Law.”

Every time I read and study the Bible, I’m amazed at the many examples of legalists I find within its pages.
  1. God told Isaac, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”  (Genesis 26:4).
  2. Abraham obeyed God’s voice and kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws  (Gen. 26:5).  It sounds as if Abraham was a legalist!  
  3. Moses, whom God commanded to say to Israel, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you…So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left…Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deut. 4:2; 5:32; 12:32)It sounds like Moses was a legalist!  
  4. How about the apostle Paul?  He asked, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16).  He likewise told the Corinthians to “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).  One more time, it sounds as if Paul was a legalist!  
Do you suppose they were wrong?  Would you support disobedience to God’s commandments?  The apostle John wrote,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).  
Wow, it sounds like John was a legalist!  Now, Christian, do you love God?  Your answer, of course, will be a big YES.  But the real question is, does God really think so?  Do you not know that the Word of God says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…”?  Do you know Jesus’ words?  Consider a few of them made by Him.
  1. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  
  2. "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me…" (John 14:21
  3. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).  
Wow, that sounds like Jesus was a legalist!  Let’s go a little further and ask.
  1. Christian, is Jesus your Lord and Master?  You would say, Of course!  
  2. Jesus also asks you, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”  (Luke 6:46).  
Evidently, God wants us to avoid His wrath, the eternal punishment that awaits those who refuse to obey Him (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  When we do all that He commands us to, we can rest assured we are saved (Eph. 2:9).  Guess what?  True legalism for Christians is “strict adherence to God’s Law.”  When we look at it that way, we are able to obey His commandments.
  1. So why is it that when we try to speak the Truth in love to help others grow in Grace and knowledge, we’re ridiculed as being shallow, narrow-minded, and yes, a legalist (Eph. 4:15)?  
  2. Why is it that we want to associate legalism with the Pharisaism 
  3. Do you know the meaning of being a "Pharisee" 
You see, Jesus never condemned the Pharisee for keeping the Law, God's laws in the Old Testament.  As a matter of fact, Jesus urged His Jewish listeners to do what the Pharisees told them to do, for they “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2-3a), that is, when they were teaching God’s commandments found in the Old Testament. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (“For they preach, but do not practice” Matt. 23:3b) and for adding to God’s Word! (Matt. 15:1-9), something that the Old Testament explicitly forbade! (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).  Did Jesus commend the Pharisee for teaching and practicing legalism (“strict adherence to God’s laws”) while condemning them for not actually being legalistic (“strictly adhering to God’s laws”) themselves?  Yes, He did!  So, those who insult us calling us “a legalistic Pharisee” simply because we’re doing what God commands us to do through His written Word have it all backwards!  Don’t you think so?  The only truth is that when they call us “legalist Pharisee,” they’re actually justifying their departure from sound doctrine and are violating Scriptural authorityMen and women who stand up for God’s Word and diligently want to obey God’s commands have always been persecuted in many unkind and unfair ways, with accusations such as that they are “legalist.”   It is just a few of Satan’s many arrows that he slings at God’s faithful ones to wound us and bring us down!!  Have we forgotten that God does not want us to be lukewarm in our service and devotion to Him (Rev. 3:15-16)?  He demands our complete obedience to ALL of His commands! The Lord’s church today is in great need of more legalists like Abraham, Moses, John, Paul, and Jesus. We need more devout and faithful Christians who will strive to strictly adhere to ALL of God’s commands, not just some of them.  We desperately need Christian men and women who are “obedient from the heart” (Rom. 6:17).

Jesus condemned the Pharisees and demanded that they keep all of God’s commands, including the command to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). They lacked a heart of humility and godly sorrow (Luke 18:9-14).   And since we have received God’s mercy and forgiveness, our strong desire must be to serve Him and obey Him from a sincere heart (1 John 1:7-9).  Jesus said that we must love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37).  He defined that love as obedience to Him (John 14:15).  When we obey from the heart, we will hear our Lord and Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Today the Lord’s church seems to be divided into two irreconcilable groups just like the churches of Galatia:
  1. Those who strive to be faithful to Christ's teachings and 
  2. Those who go beyond the authority of God’s Word (Gal. 2:16).  
There seems to be too much talk about legalism.  The term “legalism” is used in various ways.  The saddest part is that few seem to know the real meaning of the word.  Many despise laws, or rules, claiming that obedience to God’s commands is “legalistic.”  Today, the community church movement uses  “Grace” as a catchphrase to dismiss obedience as trusting in law for salvation, or trusting in one's works of obedience for salvation, speaking of that as pure legalism.  The word “legalism” is not even a New Testament word.  In Galatians, what the apostle Paul opposed was a Jewish attitude toward salvation.  He was not opposed to law in general, for without law, there can be no sin because sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  The idea that Paul opposed was that by obeying the Law of Moses, one might earn his salvation. Paul said, “a man is not justified by works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). Of course, these were works of the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5). Christ, by His death, has removed this Law (Gal. 3:24-26).  We must understand the legalism that God condemns.  
  1. They may say it is legalism, but God does not condemn being conservative or concerned about obedience. Paul was concerned about obedience (Gal. 3:1). 
  2. They may call it legalism, but God does not condemn attention to doctrinal correctness. Paul cared about such correctness (Gal. 1:6-9). 
  3. They call it legalism, but God does not reject commandment-keeping (1 Jn. 5:3). It is not idolatry to revere the word of God. We know no other way to walk with God except by studying His Words (1 Corinthians 2). 
  4. They call it legalism, but God does not minimize the importance of "soundness." 
  5. They call it legalism, but God wants us to aspire to complete faithfulness in every detail.  
  6.  The legalism that pleases God has its own responsibilities. 

Isn’t it something that so much of the legalism debate centers on baptism!  Why is it that we’re labeled legalist when we insist on the New Testament teaching about baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)?  They say that we are saved only by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) as if grace and faith exclude Peter's demand for repentance and baptism. There is nothing that man can do because we are saved by the blood of Jesus that was shed to redeem us from our sins.  But the Grace that God offers us is conditioned upon our acceptance of His free gift through Jesus Christ by obedience to the terms of His Gospel. Our sanctification requires  “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).  God in His mercy saves us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).  Baptism is essential to one’s salvation, for Jesus' command offers salvation only to those who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  Again, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).  So what must we do with those who insist that “baptism is sacred, but not essential to one’s salvation”? Are they not in error?  Yes, for they have singled out for doctrinal execution the New Testament teaching about immersion! They offer a form of selective obedience. And though they choose faith, they still leave off baptism, for baptism to them is too restrictive, too "legalistic!"  Sadly, selective obedience is the strongest form of malignant legalism threatening the church today. Therefore, those who decry us vehemently for being legalist or for legalism are themselves the strongest example of what they condemn!  How about that!


II.   KEEPING COMMANDS AND LEGALISM?

In John 14:15, Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

The words “legalist” and “legalism” are usually used to describe someone who is narrow-minded, judgmental, and always points out wrong. Worst of all, “legalist” is used to refer to a modern-day PhariseeBoth terms are used to advocate freedom from obeying the Truth.  Jesus wants us to obey Him. The Word of God, from cover to cover, stresses the need to keep God’s commandments to abide in Him (1 John 3:24; 2 Jn. 9). The writer of Hebrews stresses the need for obedience to Jesus, for He is the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Heb 5:9). The apostles also exhort us to observe all that Jesus has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20).  God wants us to obey Him!  There is no middle ground and no getting around that!  To ignore that is to reject the Word of God. To obey what God commands is not legalism. It is Scriptural!  Wanting to obey God’s will is not legalism. Obedience is not legalism. Those that label us “legalist” for wanting to obey God completely do not understand the will of God, and worse, they’re misusing and mishandling the Word of God! In fact, they are law-less. Why?  Because they’re ignoring and disobeying the authority of God.  They forget who is in charge and make up their own rules which they impose on everyone else.  Since Jesus is the one who made the rules, and He has all the authority to do so, we must obey Him, for He is the one to whom we expressed our faith. We profess to love Him!  And since He is the only source of true Light, for He is the Light, we must obey Him to have fellowship with Him.  We must walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  We must never apologize for obeying Him, doing what God has commanded us to do! 

Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for obeying God; instead, He rebuked them for being hypocrites, putting their traditions above the Law. Their traditions were just man-made and not of God. They were not from heaven. They made up their own set of rules, laws, and ways.  In doing this, they willfully disobeyed God.  They judged others wrong and became stumbling blocks to them. Isn’t it amazing that the Pharisees criticized Jesus for breaking their Sabbath traditions, complaining to Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath day!  They were hypocrites, expecting others to do what they were neglecting to do themselves.  You see, hypocrisy and man’s traditions can make us stumble, for they get in the way of obeying God.  Traditions come and go. They can change, but the Word of God remains forever unchanged. Thus, there exists a significant difference between keeping traditions and obeying JesusObeying Jesus completely does not make me a legalist!  The opposite of perceived legalism is bending the rules to fit our needs.

Let me give you a few examples.
  1. Lying might be okay for many if that involves breaking the laws of traffic to avoid getting a speeding ticket.  
  2. Lying might be okay if that avoids getting in trouble with your wife or boss.  
So who decides this? Yet, if one says that you should never lie, he is called a legalist!  Who gives the rules about not lying, isn’t that God?  God said we must not lie. So, does obeying God make one a legalist?  What do you think?  Why is it then that when one insists that the Bible does not say anything about using the church treasury for camps or other social events not authorized by Christ, we are told that we shouldn’t be so strict about everything? (as long as the results are good according to them!But guess what?  That’s the answer to obeying God.  And when we ask them, where does the Bible authorize or say that the church can use its treasury, to send kids to camp, social events, and so on, they immediately shout, “legalists.”  Since when does adhering to God and His Word become legalism?!  Sticking to God and His Word is not legalism!   The correct term would be “obedience” because that is a Bible word!

When we compromise our obedience for fear of being labeled a legalist, we are leaving the barn door wide open. The cows and horses wander out, and the wild animals come in.  Thus whoever is in charge will make the rules and do what they want!  Let me give you just a few examples of this:
  1. Women preach.
  2. No one needs to be baptized to be saved.
  3. The church runs car washes, garage sales, many other forms of money-making enterprises. 
The churches of the Lord are looking and acting more and more like the modern churches of today.  So they smile and say, “we’re doing it because we are not legalists”!  What they mean is that they think that law, even the law of Jesus Christ, does not matter. So, why is it that wanting to obey Christ and do all that He has commanded us to do to be saved and have the hope of eternal life makes us “legalists”?  We want to obey Him, for He has left us an example of obedience.  He was obedient to His Father in all things to please Him!  I refuse to be lawless and be called a legalist by those who want to be lawless!  I would rather be called narrow-minded and strict. Yet, wasn’t the Lord Jesus the one who said the Way that leads to life is narrow? You see, Truth tends to be narrow. Don’t you think that “one and one is two”? Is that not narrow?  So if I’m not narrow, then what am I? The answer is open to anything and everything that leads to my destruction!   If I’m not narrow, I will be happy to do anything my flesh desires, things that God does not approve, and never commanded me to do.  The broad path leads to destruction!  Why is it so easy to point the finger at those who want to obey God, calling them “legalist”? Does that help to soothe your conscience?  Our faith, our relationship, and our fellowship with God is defined by our obedience to His Word. It is impossible to claim to be right with God and at the same time be wrong about the Bible!   Can we honestly say that we love God and at the same time disobey His commands?  We obey Him when we follow Him and imitate Him (His love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, etc.)  The Bible from cover to cover never calls obedience legalism!  It is called obedience to His rule and Lordship. It is just following His rules!

Reliance and devotion to God’s Word is not legalism.  Loyalty and faithfulness to His Word is not legalism.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said,
"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 
Again in Matthew 5:17-18 He said,
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
In John 5:46 Jesus said,
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”  
All these Scriptures stress faithfulness, loyalty to God’s Word or Law.  Full commitment to obey God’s Word is not legalism!  Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it… “  (Mathew 7:13-14).  
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27). 
 All that these Scriptures reveal is the honest heart.  We cannot read the Law of Christ and disregard parts of it as irrelevant or insignificant.  You see, the Pharisees were never condemned for keeping any part of the Law, but rather they were condemned for neglecting parts of the Law, choosing to keep just those parts of the Law that were convenient for them or fit their fleshly desires (Matthew 23:23).  We must never turn away from obeying the Word of God so that we may walk a so-called "spirit-filled walk" without the Truth of God (John 4:23). If we indeed love God, we will keep His commandments even when others are walking the broad path, following the traditions and false doctrines of men to feel good, rejecting at all cost adherence to the inspired Word of God.  Connecting salvation with obedience to the Gospel Message of Jesus is not legalism.  Here is the Truth concerning salvation and obedience, according to the New Testament Gospel of Christ:
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’”  (John 8:31-32).  
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death”  (John 8:51).  
“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day”  (John 12:48).  
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son”  (2 John 9).  
If we do not obey all the Word of God as demonstrated in the commands, examples, and necessary implications of the prophets, the Lord, and the apostles, we will never make it to heaven.  In the parable of the wise builder, Jesus said that everyone must hear and act on His Words. Likewise, He also stated in the preceding verses of this parable that only a few will hear and obey His Word.  Making detailed arguments or giving a defense of the Scriptures is not legalism.
"And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living'" (Matthew 22:31-32).  
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"  (Romans 11:34).  
Faith is attained through the hearing of the Word of Christ,  "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).  So to follow the details of the Word of God strictly is not legalism.  Will these same false teachers presume to tell the Lord what the Lord is or should be thinking? Will they, on the day of judgment, kneel before their Creator and tell Him which details were important enough to obey?

Believing that each written word in the Scriptures is essential is not legalism. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).  
"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4).  

Matthew 4:4 says it all regarding legalism.  Sadly, there exist many false teachers that distort the Word of God for their own gain and destruction, claiming that obedience to God’s Word is not possible because man is not able.  What blasphemy against the Spirit of God (Lk. 12:10)!  They shout obedience is a problem.  They say right is wrong, and it’s okay and acceptable to change the Word of God.  They call us legalists for stressing the need for obedience, the need to obey all the details given in the Scriptures, and for believing every single word written in the Scriptures to be saved.  If that’s being a legalist, then what else would they want to be?  A Christian (Acts 11:26) and a legalist (according to the listed arguments herein) are one, for they are the same. I must stress that the above Scriptures prove their value based on the example and teaching given by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I would also add that those that today are striving to do God’s will with complete obedience are not legalists.  Thus there is no need to accuse us of being legalists, for in doing this, they are accursing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, of being a Legalist Himself. So if Christ was a Legalist, then I will be a legalist with all my heart, soul, and strength (1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Peter 4:12-13)!!


CONCLUSION:

The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.  God in His revealed Word has given us His laws and instructions, as well as His authority to do what He wants us to do. Therefore, it must be done!  If God has not granted authority for an action, we must not do it at all.  Many prefer to play games with God. They make up their own rules as if they were wiser than our Lord.  In the end, they fall short of completely obeying what He has commanded and find themselves condemned by their own foolishness and disobedience.

Nowadays, when one says that God requires absolute (i.e., strict) obedience to God's Truth and all of His commands to be saved, many disagree, denying that strict obedience is essential to eternal life. Many of our friends in the religious world claim that baptism is not essential to salvation.  They conclude that obedience is not essential for salvation.  What they don't want to admit is that obedience to God's commands is vital to salvation, that is, eternal life.   To demand obedience to God’s commands is not being a “legalist” but a doer of God’s LawSo why accuse those of us who stress the need to adhere to God’s Law and keep His commands as "legalists"?

It is true that no man is sinless. So, of course, no man will be saved by living a perfectly sinless life (Rom. 3:23). Though no man's obedience deserves eternal life (no man is saved without grace and faith), it is also true that because of sin, there are things man must do (besides grace and faith) to obtain forgiveness of sins.  The blood of Jesus is the power to forgive sins.  Once man sins, there is nothing that he can do to compensate for his sins except the blood of Jesus.  However, the Word of God instructs us that obedience is essential to benefit from the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. Jesus' doctrines are essential to salvation.  Obedience to Jesus' Lordship is vital to receive eternal life.  He is the only Lord, Master, Ruler, and the One who exercises all authority in heaven and earth.  So to accept Him as Lord demands that we obey His rules, laws, and commands. We must submit completely to Him and to His authority with complete and reverent obedience. There are only two pathways:  to obey all that God has commanded us to do and receive eternal life, or obey Satan and his kingdom of darkness and be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Did Jesus oppose the Pharisees for strict obedience to God's Law?  Many believe and teach that Jesus opposed and rebuked the Pharisees for teaching the importance of obedience to God's Law and rebuking sin.  But really, is this what the Bible says Jesus taught? What was it really what characterized the Pharisees? What characterized the Pharisees was following human laws and traditions, self-righteous pride, and hypocrisy.  They lived by their emotions and showed a bad attitude toward God’s Word.  God was displeased with their failure to live in harmony with His will, for they preferred the praises of men rather than God’s approval.  But isn’t that the same problem we see today among various churches and denominations who claim to be followers of Christ?  Did you know there were many sects among the Jews in Jesus' day?  The Pharisees were a prominent sect. They correctly believed in spirits and in the resurrection of the dead, whereas the Sadducees did not (Acts 23:8).  Their errors went hand in hand with their zeal and influence, leaving them in conflict with Jesus and His disciples.  Today is no different!  Many today accuse us of being legalists” for believing in strict obedience to God's Word (Law and commands).  They likewise call us "a bunch of Pharisees."  But the Gospel of Jesus (the Law of Christ) over and over teaches the importance of obedience (Matthew 7:21-27; John 14:15; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9).  Today many oppose any teaching that emphasizes strict obedience to God's Word.  But do you suppose the Scriptures I just mentioned above condemn us for teaching the need for complete obedience?  You see, the problem with the Pharisees is that they discouraged teaching strict obedience to God's Word (John 14:21-24; 1 John 5:3; 2:3-6; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22,23; Romans 2:6-10; 6:17,18).

Jesus often rebuked His people for disobeying God’s Law.  In Revelation 3:19, Jesus clearly reproved and chastened those whom He loved, for He commanded them to repent.  In James 5:19, 20, we are commanded to turn one who is in sin from his error to save his soul from death.   In 2 Timothy 4:2-4, we’re warned that some will turn away from the Truth, wanting to hear preaching that satisfies their own desires.  But Jesus commands that we teach and preach the Word and rebuke error.  Sadly, many get angry when they are rebuked for disobeying God's Word.  Did Jesus ever refuse to tell people they were wrong for disobeying God? Jesus' doctrines contain many examples in which He told people they were wrong, including the Pharisees!  So why is it then that when we rebuke others and ask them to repent or change, we are immediately told we are un-Christlike?  Is telling others when they’re wrong and offending them such a bad thing?  Did you know Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not being strict enough and for freeing others from their God-given obligation to care for their elderly parents (Matt. 15:1-9)?  Guess what?  Jesus was stricter about keeping God’s commands than the Pharisees!  For the Pharisees, it was okay to divorce for any reason.  But Jesus commanded them to return to God’s original Law that would allow divorce only for the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:3-9).  Jesus was stricter about baptism than the Pharisees!  And though Jesus was stricter about baptism, He allowed John to baptize him.  The Pharisees refused, for they rejected the counsel of God (Lk. 7:30).  Guess what?  Jesus was stricter about strict obedience to God’s Law!  Thus He was the biggest Legalist ever to live!

When we stress that baptism is vital to salvation, those who teach salvation by "faith only" accuse us of being "Pharisees" and “legalists” for stressing strict obedience. Did you know the Pharisees were the first-century false teachers who claimed that baptism was not necessary?  Of course, this was another reason why Jesus didn’t agree with them.  What about today?  Many today don’t accept that baptism is essential, just like the Pharisees, and they think that they agree with Jesus.  Those who deny the necessity of baptism are the Pharisees!  You see, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, not for strict obedience of God’s Law or for being too strict, but to the contrary, He accused them of not being strict enough!  They tithed the little spices but neglected the weightier matters of the Law!  They neglected the most important and essential commands.  Jesus rebuked them for abandoning and not doing God's commands!  (Matt. 23:23-24).  Some rebuke us, calling us Pharisees because we stress the need for everyone to obey God’s Law or commands.  Guess what?  Nowhere in the New Testament does it condemn us for believing in strict obedience to God's revealed will.

In fact, when it comes to teaching people to obey God's Law, Jesus was stricter than the Pharisees! So, those who belittle obedience to God’s Word or Law are in fact the Pharisees!  And we must respond in love to show them their error if we want to be like Jesus.

Today we are surrounded by many like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  They serve God according to human tradition and commands rather than God’s divine commands.  Some churches bind religious requirements based on "tradition." They’re just like the Pharisees who did not base their rituals and rules on the Word of God (His Law).  Like the Pharisees, they justify what they do on tradition rather than the Law of God.  The denominations follow other forms of human laws (decrees of councils, pronouncements of human church officers, or official creeds written by their religious leaders). Their human laws are their authority for doctrine and practice. These human authorities, like the Pharisees' commands, often bind what God has not bound and many times release people from things God has bound.  Amazing!

And though others in the religious world don’t follow official creeds, they still practice and determine what they believe because that’s the way they’ve always done it.  So those who rebuke us for stressing the need for strict obedience to God’s Word are mistaken when they call us "Pharisees" or “legalists.”  The doctrine that obedience to God's Law is not essential to salvation is a man-made doctrine. So those who teach that false doctrine are following human commands, rules, and are just like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked for doing that very thing!  Once more, Jesus never condemned the Pharisees or anyone else for teaching and stressing the need to carefully and respectfully obey God’s Law or commands.   But He did rebuke them for binding human and man-made traditions, doctrines, and commands that were foreign to God’s Law.

Some abuse Ephesians 2:8,9 to teach that obedience is not necessary to salvation. Good works are essential for God to give us eternal life.  As Christians, we must learn that obedience to God is essential to salvation, and we must not justify ourselves or other people for their disobedience to God.  We must heed the danger of human laws and traditions in religion.  We must obey God out of sincere devotion to Him.  We must acknowledge that we can be saved only if we obey God and His commands and humbly seek God's Grace and Mercy to forgive our sins by the blood of Jesus.  Are we living faithful, obedient lives?  Are we honoring and respecting God's commands?  Are we obeying His commands diligently and keeping them with all of our heart?  

May we be more devout and faithful Christians who will strive to strictly adhere to all of God’s commands, not just some of them.  May we obey God's commands with all of our heart.  May we honor and respect God's commands and never wander from them. May we never despise God's laws, or rules, claiming that obedience to God’s commands is “legalistic.”  May we obey Christ and do all that He has commanded us to do to be saved and have the hope of eternal life.  And finally, may we never fall short of completely obeying what Jesus has commanded us to do and find ourselves condemned by our own foolishness and disobedience.

Luci


Friday, October 18, 2019

THE LORD'S LAMPSTAND

“As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”  
Revelation 1:20



Ignorance, chaos, disorder, confusion, lies, and distortions. It is all darkness. Jesus came to a world full of darkness, and only He can overcome it with the Light of His Message, the teachings of His Gospel.

Jesus, our Lord, is the Light of the world, and God’s Word is a lamp and a light that shines in the darkness, directing us to godliness and righteousness.  The light must shine so that we may see what direction to walk amid so much darkness ( John 1:4-9). The Light, our Lord Jesus, shows us the way and illuminates our path, for it provides the Way.  Thus, we’re obliged to show others (those who live in darkness) the Way to illuminate their path and give them direction.  And though many dwell in darkness, they can still see the Light when it crosses their path. Jesus is the Light, and we must shine as lights in this world of darkness. Jesus warned that salt is useless when it loses its saltiness. Our salt is our influence. If we lose our saving influence, we become useless. So it is with light. If it is not shining and is covered up, it is useless. It is sad when we willfully choose to hide our light! 

The letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation are the instructions given to the seven messengers of the seven churches.  We’re not told much about who these messengers were.  Perhaps, they were representatives from each local congregation appointed to minister to John in Patmos to carry messages from John to the saints (Rev. 2:1).  The Lord is aware of what is happening in each of these churches and of the destiny of each one.  The letters describe the performance of each church, what they’re lacking, and God’s warning about what’s going to happen. Christ is telling John to write down all the things that he is to see in visions, things that were happening at that very moment with immediate impact.  Things also that were soon to take place and that the time was near (1:1,3).  The first three chapters of the Book of Revelation shows Jesus standing amid seven lampstands (candlesticks). Those lampstands, in John's vision, were characterized as the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:20). The following two chapters examine the condition of those churches.  Five of these churches didn’t measure up to God’s standards, for they were judged as troubled churches.

If the Lord were to determine or appraise today the performance of the church where you worship, do you think the church would pass the Lord’s test?  Would it measure up to God’s righteous standard?  What do you think?  Would the church where you worship be comparable to the church in Smyrna or Laodicea?  These questions are worthy of our examination.  Why?  Because many of these seven churches displeased the Lord and provoked Him enough that He threatened to remove their lampstand from its place unless they sincerely repented (Revelation 2:5). This message cautions us to examine everything we do or say, making sure we are doing the will of the Lord and measuring up to His principles of righteousness, His standard.  You see, the frightening part is that a local church can reach the point without even realizing it, of losing its first love, refusing to carry out God’s purpose for her. This leads me to another question. What is the church’s primary purpose or function? Indeed, this is a vital question or issue.  Why?  Because most people don’t seem to care! It seems that they have little respect for the real task or function of the Lord's church. Sadly, many see it only as an organization to serve them.  In the Word of God, the church is described with many figures of speech to tell us something about its nature and function.  Consider them.

  1. The church is described as a "temple," focusing primarily on its role in worship.
  2. The church is spoken of as a "vineyard," stressing the need to bear good fruit.
  3. It is called The "house of God," describing the place where God dwells among His people.
  4. The church is also portrayed as the "kingdom," thus establishing its form of government.


I.  THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD:

The lampstand as the only source of light points directly to Christ, for He is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). Jesus is the “true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) and the only way for anyone to come to the Father (John 14:6).  Jesus also calls His church the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), because He abides in the church (John 1:4–5).  Christians must shine their light to live godly (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible overflows with examples that contrast light and darkness, believer, and unbeliever through the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:20, Christ says the “seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The churches of Christ must walk in the light of God (1 John 1:7) and must spread the light of the Gospel so that all people may glorify God (Matthew 5:16).  It is interesting that the lampstand in the Old Testament was made of one piece as Christ is One with His church (Colossians 1:8).  The six branches (the number for man) plus the main shaft equals seven lights (7 being the number of completion).  Man is only complete in Christ (John 15:5).  The most important aspect of the lampstand is that it points to Christ as did all the elements of the Tabernacle.  The Bible from cover to cover testifies about Christ and God’s merciful plan of redemption to take mankind out of darkness into His marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9)!

When Jesus described the seven churches in Asia as candlesticks or lampstands, what do you suppose He was trying to communicate?  Did He not expect the church to be His instrument to give light to a world steeped in darkness?  Did God not describe Himself as Light in 1 John 1:5?  Jesus spoke of Himself while He was still alive on earth as “the light of the world” (John 1:1-5; 8:12).  When Jesus ascended to heaven, the Gospel continued to reveal that same Light.  In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Paul declared,
"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded; who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 

Since we Christians have this light planted in our hearts, we must be light-bearers, because we are children of light, not darkness. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).  Thus the church is the light of the world, because Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:16).  The church, therefore, must shine the light of the Gospel, the light of God, everywhere to both individuals and communities. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded this of every individual and every local church.  In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said,
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven."

We know that not every physical light shines as brightly as others, no do all churches shine as brightly as others.  Take, for instance, the church at Smyrna and Philadelphia, who appeared to be bright and shining lights amid a first-century world filled with darkness. However, the other five churches clearly showed lesser degrees of light.

  1. The church at Ephesus had left her first love and was in danger of losing her lampstand.
  2. The church at Pergamos fellowshipped false teachers; thus, her light was dim.
  3. The church at Thyatira shined brightly in love, service, faith, and patience, but tolerated evil among themselves.
  4. The church at Sardis was almost dead, but despite this, there were a few who kept the light burning, howbeit dimly.
  5. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, provoking the Lord to be nauseous, for her light was almost gone. 


The Word of God is the Truth that sanctifies us (John 17:17). The Word of God draws us and points us to Christ, for He is the "light of the world" (John 3:19-21; 8:12).   A church must reflect the Light of God to be the lampstand that God intends it to be. To substitute the Light of God, the teachings or doctrine of Christ for the traditions, creeds, and doctrines of men will only bring darkness (2 John 9). Thus to be the Light of the world, we must preach and teach the Word rightly and faithfully in season and out of season.  The world desperately needs the Light to be guided into the paths of righteousnessThe church holds the Light, for it is the pillar and support of the Truth of God (1 Tim. 3:15).


II.   THE LAMPSTAND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT:

In Exodus 25:31, we see the word lampstand for the first time in the Bible as God gives detailed instructions about the golden lampstand to be placed in the tabernacle that the Israelites were building.  God was very precise and gave detailed instructions about how He wanted the lampstand to look.  In the Bible, when God gives detailed instructions, it is because it is very important to Him.  The lampstand had to be made of pure gold, according to God’s decree (Exodus 25:31). Gold was the most valuable of all metals (Psalm 119:127; 19:10). In the Bible, gold is often spoken as being “tested by fire.”  The Bible compares the testing of gold with the testing of the church in 1 Peter 1:7.  The true people of God come out refined when tested (Zechariah 13:7–9; Job 23:10). Those who withstand the “fire” are purified (Numbers 31:23).  The lampstand was to be made and shaped like a tree with the base and center shaft representing the trunk with three “branches” on each side. The top of the shaft and each branch were to be made like an open almond flower, each flower holding an oil lamp (Exodus 25:32, 37).  In the Bible, many passages speak of the almond tree as being always the first tree to blossom and bear fruit in the spring.  The apostle Paul calls Christ the “firstfruits” since Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to eternal life.  Because of His resurrection, all those who have obeyed the Gospel will also be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Romans 8:23).

God used Aaron’s rod as a sign to the Israelites of his unique priesthood. When Aaron’s priesthood was challenged, God caused Aaron’s rod to bud and grow ripe almonds overnight to confirm the privilege of being chosen by God as High Priest (Numbers 16:3;17:10).  This was a “shadow of things to come” that pointed to Jesus, our God-ordained, life-giving High Priest forever (Hebrews 7:21)!

In the tabernacle, the lampstand was to be placed in the Holy Place, the first section (Hebrews 9:2). Aaron and his sons were to take care of the lamp so that its light never went out. The lampstand was to provide light day and night (Exodus 27:20–21).


CONCLUSION:

Jesus is the eternal Word, the Message of God.  Jesus is the life, and that life is the Light for all people.  He came as a witness to the Light. The world could not see; thus, John was appointed by God to be a witness to the Light.  And though John was not the Light, he was a witness so that all could believe in Jesus through John’s testimony.  Jesus is the true Light that enlightens everyone. The Light shined illuminating the whole world, for it was not limited.   In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Indeed, Jesus’ true disciples must be the light of the world.  In verses 14-15, Jesus gives us two illustrations.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Christ’s faithful followers must be lamps that give light to all.  We cannot hide our lamps under a basket. We must put them on a lampstand! The light must give light to all in the house. A true disciple must be a city set on a hill, for they cannot be hidden. Light must shine. In John 8:12, Jesus said,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

To have light is to have life.  God is the Light,  His Word is the Light that provides direction and guidance for our lives in the darkness.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Is the light of our lampstand burning brightly?  Is our light shining amid so much darkness,  Matthew 5:16?  Are others seeing our good works as we shine our light brightly?  Are we living a righteous life that is distinct from the world, shining as light?  In Philippians 2:14-16, our light is hindered when we grumble or complain.  We cannot be innocent and blameless amid this crooked and twisted generation when we hide our light and fail to exhibit the fruits of Light.  We’re a holy nation, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9-12).  Thus we must abstain from the passions of the flesh and keep our conduct honorable amid this crooked and twisted generation.  To shine our light, we must live pure lives before God.  We must refuse to be friends with the world to shine our light brightly.  We must not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them, for we are the light of this world! (Ephesians 5:6-16).  Thus, we must walk as children of light, exhibiting the fruit of lightWe cannot be lights and behave, talk, dress, and party like the world.  There’s enough darkness in our culture already!  We must shine as lights and be distinct! In doing this, we can rest assured that we will influence this world of darkness with graciousness in our words and actions (salt) and shine with our good works, pointing them to the Way to Jesus (the Light).

Our good works make our light shine brightly amid darkness.  We must shine so that others can see and glorify our Father in heaven.  We shine our light to point others to Jesus. Do people look at our marriage and see a God-glorifying marriage? Do people look at our family and see a God-glorifying family? Do people look at us at work and see a God-glorifying employee? Do people look at you on vacation and see a God-glorifying life? Do people look at everything we do, big and small, and see God glorified? That is what it means to be the light of the world!  The Light makes us live radical lives that move people to want to know God, for He is the Light (1 John 1:5-13).  God stands in contrast to darkness, evil, error, and imperfection. Light determines what is right and what is sin. The Light unveils our spiritual identity (John 12:46).  It does not count if one merely claims to be in fellowship with God. What really matters is how we’re living our life, reflecting His light.  There is no such thing as a Christian who lives in habitual sin. The Light must change our way of living, causing us to imitate Christ, for He is the Life that must govern our lives!  We’re walking in darkness when we refuse to follow God’s commands, not walking in the Light. Walking in darkness means that we are not seeking God’s will and striving to obey God’s Law.  We have fellowship with God and one another when we walk in the Light (1 John 1:7).  Walking in the Light is following God’s rules, seeking after Him to do His will. When we walk in the Light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.  God’s Grace works with our obedience.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

When we stop striving to live righteously as lights, Jesus’ sacrifice for sins no longer remains. Then the blood of Jesus does not cleanse us from our sins. So it is a great and precious promise given to those who are faithfully living for the Lord, walking in the Light.  We cannot claim to walk in the Light ignoring the reality of sin and sinfulness. If we refuse to repent of our sins, we are avoiding the Light, for we’re breaking fellowship with God because He is Light, not darkness. Walking in the Light means admitting our sins and asking for forgiveness. God is faithful and will forgive us if we repent and bear fruits of repentance. When we walk in the Light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins (1 John 1: 9). 

So, the question at stake again is, What is the condition of your heart? Are you light or darkness?  What is the condition of the church where you worship? What can you do to make the church either a light bearer or useless and good for nothing? Do you not know that a congregation's Light must be as strong as its members' cumulative efforts to carry out Jesus’ commands or directions given in Matthew 5?  And though it is hard to know at what point Jesus no longer recognizes a church as faithful, doing His will, we can still do some assessing, examining our hearts. We can ask ourselves how the local church is viewed in the community where we worship. Is it seen as powerful with strong moral convictions or principles of righteousness? Is each Christian walking in the Light, reflecting that same Light to this world of darkness?  Or, are the members viewed as whiners, unable to get along with one another, tolerant of sin?  Are they viewed as lazy and not hard workers?  Are they seen as a blessing, not a curse?  What do you think?  Sadly, many who are in the church and outside the church isolate themselves, saying, "we're just minding our own business." But, don’t you know, the church is our business, and thus it must be our business to shine our light brightly both in word and deed, for this is the Gospel Light!  Why not start shining the light of God’s Word brightly into the hearts of others? Why not make an effort to teach your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and relatives?  You will not regret it, for you must be working heartily as unto the Lord!  What is the church where you worship doing to shine the Gospel Light? What is each member of the local church doing to enlighten the dark world?  Think about it!

Let us not forget that the Lord, according to Revelation 2-3, is making His own assessment and that our lampstand's status is being weighed in the balances.  Let us not forget that the souls of men are at stake!  And finally, let us not forget that as Jesus was preparing to leave this earth, He commissioned His disciples, and that includes us, to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16) Are you carrying out His commission?  Are you walking in the Light and shining your light brightly?  Are your good works making your light shine brightly amid so much darkness?  Are you hindering the Gospel Message because you are walking in darkness?  Are you pointing others to Christ, the Light, by your godly example?  Is our life distinct from the world, shining as light?  What do you think?

May the light of our lampstand shine brightly amid so much darkness.  May the church hold the Light, for it is the pillar and support of the Truth of God (1 Tim. 3:15).  May others see our good works as we shine our light brightly.  May we point others to Christ, the Light, by our godly example.  May we never extinguish the Gospel Light by walking in darkness.

Luci