Lucia's Blog: 2020-05-31
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Saturday, June 6, 2020

GOD AMID CHAOS

For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places.  
Habakkuk 3:17-19



Our message from the prophet Habakkuk reminds us of how important it is that we rest our confidence in God to fix all the evil forces of this earth through His world government.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He reigns forever!  

Habakkuk is one of those prophecies that give panoramic insight into the way our God governs the kingdoms of men.  His words are medicine for our troubled souls. Let us see if we can make a practical application of the message to our times.

The Enemy is at work with unbridled rage, putting many stumbling blocks in the path of evangelism, the furthering of the glorious Gospel of Christ.  But despite this, we, Christians, must proclaim the Gospel of the Grace of our Lord Jesus to this dying world of darkness more than ever.  We must pray for our leaders as well as their political adversaries that they might humbly seek and make wise decisions in the days to come to promote justice and peace rather than revenge.

As I look at our nation and our world, I feel a heavyweight in my heart.  It afflicts me!  Every long-standing foundation seems to be collapsing.   Everyone is turning away from their faith, questioning the efficacy of the Scriptures more than ever.  There is lawlessness everywhere.  Many are expressing doubts, even unbelief.  Many just simply say there is no God and won't bother seeking the Truth. They think chance put the world together. They don’t bother to know God, who made us and governs our universe.  They are blind to the working of God in the affairs of men!  You see, that was exactly what afflicted the prophet Habakkuk.  He was puzzled by God's silence.  And in his ignorance, the prophet cried out to God for an answer as to why He was apparently unaware and not concerned about the unrighteousness, lawlessness of men.   What he did not know and found out later is that in God's time, the unrighteous (the wicked, the lawless) will be judged, and the righteous (the faithful) will be vindicated (Hab. 2:4).


I.  THE THEME OF THE BOOK:

The book of Habakkuk begins by addressing the subject of God's righteousness in the face of man's unrighteousness.  This prophet struggled to understand God's lack of immediate judgment over sin. His affliction blinded him to God's longsuffering.  Habakkuk thought it was a sign of injustice that contradicted God's goodness, holiness, and righteousness.  He believed that God's silence was encouraging continued sin and weakening all law and justice (Habakkuk 1:3-4;13). 

As we read this short book, we cannot help but notice how Habakkuk moves from burden to blessing. From worry to worship.  From restlessness to rest.  From wrongly focusing on God being the problem to a focus on the Person of God.  And finally from a complaint to a consolation.  In the end, the prophet acknowledged that God can turn sighing into singing.  But we must be willing to wait on Him with constant prayer and meditation on His Word.

Habakkuk presents to us a conversation and prayer between the prophet and Jehovah God.  As the book opens, he asks God when He will respond to Judah's oppression of its poor.  Notice that the Law of Moses regarding protection for the poor and the weak was no longer practiced, so he cried out to God saying, 
"O Jehovah, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save.  Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? for destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up."  (Habakkuk 1:1-3)

Then the LORD responds, explaining to Habakkuk that He has a plan.  He will raise up the Chaldeans (Babylonians):
"For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling-places that are not theirs.  They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves." (Habakkuk 1:6-7)

When Habakkuk heard God's answer, he was shocked.  No matter how bad Judah had become, Babylon was certainly worse!  God told Habakkuk that in His time, justice would prevail for the wicked, of both Judah and Babylon.  God would use the Babylonians ("terrible and dreadful") to reprimand the evil of His chosen people.  Judah would not get away with her sin.  Habakkuk struggled to understand how a just and righteous God could use such a wicked nation as Babylon to accomplish His will.
  • The Babylonians (Chaldeans) were full of pride (Hab. 1:9-11; 2:4; Jer. 50:29-31).  
  • They worshiped the god of might (Hab. 1:10-11).   
  • A nation who killed, conquered, and plundered other nations for "evil gain"  (Hab. 2:9).  

The prophet acknowledged that God has "ordained him (Babylon) for judgment and has established him for correction"  (Hab. 1:12).  God answered the prophet by explaining His sovereign power and control over the kingdoms of men, and all of His creation.  In Habakkuk 2:18-19, God explicitly warned Habakkuk about the man-made idols that His people were still trusting in.  Through Habakkuk, God continued to reveal Himself and His Laws to His chosen people.

The question remains:  Can a righteous God use a more wicked people to judge a people that is more righteous than their enemies?  (Hab. 1:3).  It seems to make more sense that Judah (a less wicked nation) should be the one to be used by God to punish a more wicked people (the Babylonians) and not vice versa.  Habakkuk saw God's plan as a conflict with His holiness and righteousness.  He thought it unjust (Hab. 1:13).  However, God reassured Him that Babylon would also be judged and punished for her sins only after He had used them as His vessel of punishment of Judah for her sins (Hab. 2:6-19).  All of God's creation is at His disposal to punish the wicked and his lawlessness, but He is a just God, who rewards the faithful.  The righteous who live by faith will be rewarded.  
"And Jehovah answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it.  For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.   Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith"  (Hab. 2:2-4).

The purpose of the prophecy is to prove God's sovereignty and wisdom in His judgment and mercy in history.  That purpose is perceived only by those who walk in faith.  God's holiness and righteousness (justice) cannot be questioned!


II.  THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL LIVE BY FAITH:

Toward the end of the chapter, Habakkuk understood God's plan as well as His holiness and righteousness.  That understanding led him to compose a beautiful psalm of faith because of God's justice and what He had done in the past for His people.  The final chapter of Habakkuk (ch. 3) is his prayer to God.  Habakkuk's conversation with God was profitable.  As a result of his fervent prayer to God, he began to understand God's sovereignty as well as His care for the righteous.  He acknowledged that God's will was to destroy the wicked of Judah using a nation whose wickedness was much greater than theirs.  His conclusion is one of great faith.  Despite the coming tribulation that was coming to God's chosen people, Habakkuk concluded with confidence, knowing that his God would keep His word and would demonstrate His righteousness as He had foretold.

"I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place; Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, For the coming up of the people that invadeth us.  For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines; The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food; The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places"  (Hab. 3:16-19).

How comforting it is this passage to me in that it proves over and over God's everlasting promises, keeping us afloat in this wicked and godless world that we live in!  So let the righteous today "live by his faith" and hope on God's eternal promises (Hab. 2:4).  The strength of our faith is through Jesus, our Lord (Phil. 4:13).  Lest we forget, God is aware of all unrighteousness (injustices) and will judge in His time and in His way all lawlessness of the wicked.  He has shown us in history that He will demonstrate His justice on all the nations.  The wicked will never go unpunished.  The righteous will be vindicated and rewarded!  

So, when you find yourself discouraged and your faith seems to be wavering, carry your struggles before the throne of the Almighty like Habakkuk did.  And no matter how awful things appear, we must rejoice in the God of our salvation with hope.  Why not have the courage to approach God with your doubt and confusion as well as your unbelief?  Why not seek our Heavenly Father in faith and understanding of His Word?

It is the faithful who dare to come near the throne of God in prayer for answers when their faith is weakened, and it seems small.  Let us not make the terrible mistake of keeping them to ourselves because Satan will take advantage of our doubt. Let us not put our understanding of the Word of God in a box!  God's words help us in our times of distress, confusion, doubt, and calamity. Therefore, let us trust in God and not in any systematic theology that we have invented about Him. The danger is that it will lead us to misunderstand Him and lead us to error.  You may rest assured that if we trust in God, you and I will come out victorious!

Consider how we can overcome our doubts, deepen our understanding, our faith, prayer, and find joy and hope in our Almighty God amid our distress, confusion, uncertainty, and calamity.

  • All Christians have to wrestle with the problem of evil:
One of the most common questions among skeptics and even Christians is the problem of evil. Indeed, we live in a world of lawlessness, where crime, war, disease, and terror seem to dominate. Some have mistakenly concluded that since we live in an imperfect world, there is nothing supreme and intelligent in the universe.  Otherwise, if there is a supreme and divine being out there, He would not be indifferent to good and evil.  Therefore, God lacks goodness and power over His creation. What they don't realize is that they are making a god of their own understanding of what God should be. Some want a grandfather in heaven whose purpose is to see all His creation enjoy themselves without any consequence whatsoever.

Atheists have not failed to make known this problem either.  In fact, some go so far as to say the problem of evil proves that God does not exist.  They say that if something is right and good, that does not prove the existence of God.
  • So, how is it that when things go wrong, that proves that God does not exist, but then if something goes right, that also proves there is no God?  
  • So if there is no God, why is there so much good?  
  • If there is a God, why is there so much evil?"  

The question is not philosophical.  It is moral.  Read Psalm 14.

Psalm 73 wrestles with this problem of evil.  The Psalmist raises the question:  If there is a righteous and powerful God in heaven, why do evil men seem to prosper, but the godly suffer?  We see this portrayed in the New Testament with John the Baptist and Stephen.

Other skeptics outrageously say,
"If God is all powerful and loving, He would put a stop to evil and suffering.  Evil has not stopped.  Therefore, either God is not all powerful or He is not loving."

It is vital to know God accurately through His Word that one may understand the problem of evil. Many make the mistake of assuming that God is obligated to explain all that He does.  They expect to know God without examining the Scriptures carefully.  In Proverbs 25:2, we read.
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter."  

Again in Isaiah 55:8-9, we read.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  

Indeed, it is hard to grasp all of God's ways.  There will be times when circumstances will not make sense to us and are hard to comprehend.  It is common to question God when one experiences evil and suffering.  Job felt this agony in Job 23:2-9.  David also did (Psalm 13:1; Psalm 77:7-8).  Even our Lord Jesus felt this anguish on the cross (Mark 15:35).  Most of us have experienced some grief in our lives.  When evil or hardship afflicts us, we feel as if God has let us down.  But it is then that we must be careful not to allow Satan to take advantage of the moment to discourage us and make us abandon our trust in God.  It is crucial to recognize that trials, evil, and sufferings are all part of the human experience.  The Bible is full of examples of heroes of the faith who underwent similar hardships.  Jesus told His disciples that even they should anticipate suffering in John 16:33. The apostle Peter asserts this in I Peter 4:12-13.

When God created the universe, He acted freely and without compulsion.  We did not deserve to be created in His image.  Creation was an act of God's own free will.  We know this from Genesis 2:7. God provided life and a lush garden for man.  Likewise, God provided a special tree that offered eternal communion in His presence (Genesis 2:9).  He entrusted man with the care of His garden (Genesis 1:28-30).  He also gave man free will to choose between good and evil when He placed the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden.  Man was not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). God sees value in choice.  It gives us the freedom to express our love for God that we may have a relationship with Him.  God does not want to force us to love Him.

There is a danger when we are given the power to choose.  We can choose the desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh, and the pride of life over a fellowship with God.  In other words, God will not prevent us from choosing evil (Romans 1:18-32).  When man rebels against God, he brings upon himself the wrath of God (Gen, 3:15-19; Romans 5:12; I Cor. 15:22).  Adam and Eve rejected God's offer of communion when they asserted moral independence.  When God acts against sin, even the innocent suffer.  In Gen. 3, we see Satan as an evil alien force in God's creation.  He, Satan, is always opposing and frustrating  God's purposes.  He seeks to destroy God's harmony with His creation.  Therefore, there is always a contest over the hearts of men.

It is Satan who inflicts us with evil and suffering (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38).  But God limits him and controls his power.  Therefore, we must always pray that He not lead us into temptation and that He may keep us from all evil (Matt. 6:13).  Moreover, the Word of God teaches us that God's righteousness and holiness cannot commune with evil (Psalm 54).  God is faithful to His promises and warnings!  

  • Use your struggles along with the problem of evil to go deeper in your understanding of God rather than withdrawing from Him.
Let’s learn from Habakkuk's example.  He learned to take his questions and complaints to God through prayer, waiting on God to answer.  We must proceed with caution when we are faced with doubts and the problem of evil.  Many often withdraw from God and His people in depression and with a pouting expression.  Others prefer to be angry with God going back to the world, convincing themselves that God does not exist because if He did, He wouldn't allow evil to happen.  Others hang on to their faith without going to God in prayer to help them solve their doubts and disturbing questions.  We must learn to live according to God's Word and let it work through our difficulties with prayer and hope in Him.  That is what  Habakkuk did.  He kept crying out to God in prayer for an answer.  When God's answer came, he said,
"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will look forth to see what he will speak with me, and what I shall answer concerning my complaint"  (Hab. 2:1).  

Moreover, God's second response included the famous verse, "the righteous shall live by his faith." (Hab. 2:4).  So when Habakkuk reaches his final prayer of joy (Hab. 3:1-19), he still does not have all the answers, yet he rejoiced since he had grown in his understanding, faith, and prayer, acknowledging that God was his salvation and strength.  Let us always remember that our struggles will lead us to victory if we trust in God and His eternal Word.  There is a lot to gain from our struggles and calamities!


  • God is Sovereign over all evil, and He uses evil to accomplish His purposes while holding the wicked accountable for their sins.
God's purposes are higher than any human being and our problems.  God explicitly told Habakkuk that He was raising up the Chaldeans and bringing Judah to judgment because of her sins.  He is the God of history, who raises up kings and peoples, taking them down again and again according to His sovereign purposes.  

I know it is easy to lose our bearings when we are facing hardship, evil, pain, and suffering.  It was difficult for Habakkuk to grasp this when the Chaldeans were destroying the nation of Judah, leveling the city of Jerusalem and the Temple and slaughtering his nation.  The Babylonians had deported by force many of his people as slaves leaving behind a weak remnant in the land to care for it.  But he and the rest (the godly remnant) learned that they had to submit to God's higher purpose in kingdom history.  Likewise, we must view our lives within God's bigger picture and purpose in history.

  • God is aware of all evil, and no evil person or nation will escape His judgment.
In answer to the prophet's second question (How could God use evil people like the Chaldeans to punish His people?), God shows the prophet that the Chaldean’s victims could take up a taunt song against them (Hab. 2:6).  There are five woes against the wicked that demonstrate that God is aware of their evil and that He will judge them for it.  Consider those woes:
  1. Woes against illegal gain (Hab. 2:6-8).
  2. Woes against trusting in illegal gain for security (Hab. 2:9-11).
  3. Woes against violence (Hab.2:12-14).
  4. Woes against seduction and rape (Hab. 2:15-17).
  5. Woes against idolatry (Hab. 2:18-20).
Take note that verse 20 says,  "But Jehovah is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."  In His time, God will trample all evil nations and save His people (Hab. 3:12-13).  Therefore, let this be our confidence and not fear all evildoers since they cannot escape God's judgment and justice.  They will not!!!

  • No evil person or wicked nation can thwart God's plans.  Rather God will use them to fulfill His plans in His time.
Habakkuk states,
"Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction."  (Hab. 1:12)  
Also,
"For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay."  (Hab. 2:3)

Let us keep in mind that God has directed all history to bring His purpose to fruition in judging all nations and evil.  We must trust Him in our troubling current events, even if these events have adverse consequences on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

  • Even though God can use evil people and nations in His plans, He is completely apart from evil, and He is not responsible for it.

As Habakkuk 2:14 expresses it well, "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea."  He shows in his prayer (Hab. 3:14-15) how God was going to "woundest the head out of the house of the wicked man, Laying bare the foundation even unto the neck."  Dig deeply into this thought!

The point of the matter is that although we must wrestle with the problem of evil, it is vital for us to go deeper in our understanding of God's Word, His ways and thoughts as revealed in the Scriptures.

  • We must pray in faith whenever we cannot understand evil.  We will find joy in God.
Although Habakkuk could not comprehend why God was going to use the Chaldeans against His people, he submitted to God's will by faith (Hab. 2:4,20).  His faith is expressed in joyful prayer in Hab. 3:1-19.  There are three lessons we can learn from all this.

    • Faith is vital to have communion with God.
"Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live by his faith."  (Hab. 2:4).  

The Chaldeans were proud.  Their pride led them to their downfall.  But the faithful or righteous will always live by their faith.  This statement is quoted three times in the NT (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).  Paul uses this statement to show that God justifies sinners through faith in His Son. The Hebrew word "emunah" is otherwise translated "faithfulness."  To be justified is to be made righteous by God.  No one is righteous before God since all have sinned and need the blood of Christ. When we obey the Gospel of Christ (repenting, confessing, and are baptized), God forgives us and reconciles us back to Him.  To commune with God, we must live according to the teaching of His Son (1 John 1:7) remaining faithful even when evil things happen to us.  If we trust God completely and submit to His Son's Lordship and rule, He will reward us and bring punishment upon the wicked, if not in this life, in eternity.

    • Faith and prayer are essential and helpful, but our strong emotions remain.
Habakkuk heeded God's words and submitted to the same Word by faith. He never prayed saying, "I see, LORD.  You are going to use these wicked terrorists to destroy our nation.  So be it!"  Instead, his prayer was "according to Shigionioth" (literally to fall back or stagger) (Hab. 3:1) even though he prayed in an emotionally poetic form.  Habakkuk affirms that when "I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place; Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble, For the coming up of the people that invadeth us."  (Hab. 3:16).  Therefore he prays, "O Jehovah, I have heard the report of thee, and am afraid: O Jehovah, revive thy work in the midst of the years; In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy"  (Hab. 3:2).

It is easy to see that the prophet was in terror, but nevertheless, he put his trust in the Almighty.  He honestly poured out all his strong emotions, along with his fears before the throne of God.  He humbly and submissively trusted in His God.  Nowhere do we see the prophet railing in anger against His God.  He acknowledged that God is faithful and just, even when He is pouring out His wrath on the sinning people.  At the same time, he pled for God to revive his work and remember mercy in His wrath (Hab. 3:2).  He still trembled with fear about what was going to happen, even though he was trusting in God.  What is the application for us today?  That even when we go through calamities and severe trials, we can confidently approach God's throne with our struggles and intense emotions and still be submissive, trusting all of His excellent ways.

  • We must find joy in the LORD despite current circumstances or events.  It is this joy that reflects the truth of our faith. 
Habakkuk had resolved to say, "Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.   Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength; And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places"  (Hab. 3:18-19).  This reminds me of Paul's triumphant words in the closing words of Romans 8:24-39.  Paul affirms that absolutely nothing would separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord (including evil, or death itself).  Such comforting words of hope!!

Habakkuk has just rehearsed for us how God has acted in history.  This book helps us understand God's hand in history.  God shows us that "all history was hastening to a conclusion that was certain as it was satisfying."  God was working behind the scenes as He has always been.  He was raising up a nation (the Chaldeans or Babylons) to punish (judge) Judah for her sins.   Take note that our God is not unaware of our circumstances nor of what is happening around us.  He is fully conscious of them and is always working to bring everything to a conclusion to fulfill His divine purpose.  And although we do not know what He has in store for us in the future, we know for sure that He will bring everything to a satisfying end where He and His faithful will triumph.


CONCLUSION:

The prophet Habakkuk looked back to the events of the exodus and the conquest, remembering how God took part in past victories and exploits.  Habakkuk could not help but see God's providential hand in all of history.  Thus, he resolved to trust confidently in His God to act again in his day like He had done in the past with Israel.  It is an excellent lesson for us today in the church, our nation, and our lives.  We, too, can have confidence in God's sovereignty and goodness.  Remember that God's ways and thoughts and timing are not the same as ours.  Did you know that the theme of the book of Revelation is the same: victory for those who trust in God and leave it to Him to avenge them?


Habakkuk's journey was not just one man's journey.  Many before him had walked that path as they still do today.  It is a journey that we must walk at some point in our lives.  Like Habakkuk, we can be confident that our God will keep His promises as well as His warnings.  Our God can shake nations and destroy kingdoms.  He is sovereign and almighty.  Our God has shown us this pattern throughout history.  He is all-wise, and He knows what He is doing, and we must understand this.

The book of Habakkuk highlights God's omnipotence, sovereignty, and righteousness.  All nations are under His control.  We are at His disposal.  We must be still in faith and know that He is at work. We can rest assured that He will judge the wicked along with their lawlessness. And even if we cannot see it now, He is still on the throne of this universe and will eventually do so.   He will defend His holiness and righteousness His way and in His own time! 

We must face all the evil in the world, adversities, calamities, pain, suffering, etc. with deep faith and hope in Him.   Both are vital to our walk and communion with Him.  The faithful of God do not live by human reasoning.  Let us be wise and not get trapped into living this way in the name of Christianity.  Many think that our job (the church) is to put political pressure on the leaders of this nation and those of the world to enforce righteousness.  But this is not our Christian job; it is God's job!

Although our present is very uncertain and scary, we must choose to trust in our God Almighty.  Looking back at the past, we have the assurance that He will show His sovereignty and righteousness and bring all nations under His feet.  We know this because we read it in His beloved book.  I am fully confident that those who follow Him, walking in righteousness will be vindicated, and the unrighteous will be judged. Don't lose hope!  Wait on the God of our salvation!  We must remember that when doubts cloud our minds and hearts because of hardship, tragedies, pain, suffering, and so on, we must go back to the truth of how God has worked in history.  His greatest work was in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior!  When we stand in the God of our salvation, we can firmly stand since He is our Rock and hiding place.

Let us unite our voices with Paul as he sang in prison surrounded by enemies everywhere (Christians and non-Christians), but he still could say with joy,
"Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.   In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.   And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus"  (Phil. 4:4-7)  

Let these words sink deeply into your hearts!!


Why not take a look at the heroes of the faith that we read about in the book of Hebrews?  They changed the world because they endured as seeing one who is invisible. Their hope was not in man but God.  They waited patiently on God to work or act, and He always did the work right.  As God worked, things began to change.  History is a witness of how He worked, how He amazingly worked through men and women, how He stopped the mouths of lions, subdued kingdoms, overthrew thrones, won empires and finally changed the course of history by faith!


Let us walk like Habakkuk and all those who walked before him and after him with faith, prayer, and joy in the Almighty God of all.
"These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world"  (John 3:16).  

This world of evil, distress, difficulties, suffering, and pain is not our world, for we are just passing through.  We, Christians, must keep our eyes fixed on our final destination (Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). This world is just our training and preparation for eternity.  

May we always trust in God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.  He has shown us through His revealed Word that He is the God of history.  May He help us to lift our eyes to Him alone, rejoicing amid our trials, problems, calamities, pain, and suffering.  May we always remember that He is the God of our salvation and strength, the God, who "maketh my feet like hinds' feet, And will make me to walk upon my high places."


Luci

Thursday, June 4, 2020

THE GREAT AND ULTIMATE SEPARATION

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life... 
Matthew 25:31-46



Abraham lied to King Abimelech. He said that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife. The king took Sarah into his home, intending to make her his wife, but God struck him and his house of sickness and closed the wombs of all of the women. In a dream, God revealed the truth to the king, so he asked Abraham why he had done such a thing. Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife." Godliness in the Bible is literally the fear of God and the devotion that grows out of that fear. The proverb says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7).  "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Jesus teaches us the fear of God by describing a place of everlasting punishment that is called hell. The fear of God is clean (Psalm 19:9). There is nothing evil about fearing God, so let's talk about hell.

Few doctrines in the Bible are more hated, ignored, feared, or unpopular than the doctrine of eternal punishment (hell).  For many, the thought of eternal punishment (hell) and burning in hell for eternity is extremely repugnant to the human mind.  Most people shy away from the concept of hell.  Many pulpits ignore or refuse to preach about eternal punishmentletting brethren and unbelievers live in disobedience to Christ without the fear of eternal consequences.  They would rather talk about heaven than the certainty of judgment. They seem to forget that for justice and righteousness to exist, there must be a Final Day of Judgment.  God has declared in His Word that,  “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”  (Hebrews 9:27).  

This world of darkness is filled with lots of lawlessness and wicked men that get away with every form of crime.  Often, we Christians get discouraged because apparently the wicked always wins and prospers (Psalm 73; Mal. 3:14-15).  Indeed, our world is lawless and imperfect, and the wicked usually are not punished for their crimes or lawlessness.  The righteous seem to suffer most.  Take, for example, our Lord Jesus, who suffered severely and was crucified at the hands of wicked men; the persecution of the early church (many faithful Christians died at the hands of evil men for righteousness), etc.  For justice to prevail, there must be a Final Day of Judgment!  

Our Lord Jesus Christ has declared that He will sit on His throne of glory and separate the righteous from the wicked.  He will do this as the shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  Both will be judged according to their works (righteous and evil works).  Then the dreadful sentence will be executed accordingly.  The anguish and torment of the wicked in hell will be eternal!  Indeed, the nature of this doctrine is terrifying to the human mind.  But, despite the concept of everlasting torment, many find it revolting, ignoring that such a doctrine came from the lips of Jesus, our Lord.  Jesus spoke more of hell and its horrors and dreadfulness than the prophets and apostles ever did. He continually warned and still is urging men of the devastating dangers of going to hell.   To ignore and disregard the clear teachings of Jesus (His doctrines) is to deny Christ Himself!  



I.   THE NECESSITY OF HELL:
  • The Nature and Fall of Man:
Man was created in God's image after the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).  God gave man free will to choose good or evil.  God did not program men to rebel against Him, but rather men have chosen to willfully reject Him and Heaven's plan for living on earth (Matt. 23:37; John 5:40).  Take note, that man was made upright and not evil but has mostly sought to do evil (Ecclesiastes 7:29). 
  • Sin and the Nature of God:
The Word of God clearly teaches that God is holy (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).  That is, He is utterly separate from evil and sin.  His holiness is demonstrated throughout the Bible (at Sinai [Exo. 19:12-25]; the Tabernacle arrangement, with its holy and most holy place, the abode of God [Exo. 25:22]).  His holy nature was indeed demonstrated to instruct the Israelites about Jehovah's holy nature (Exo. 26:33).  

God's holiness not only suggests that He cannot commit sin (James 1:13), but it also implies that He cannot fellowship with sin and ignore rebellion.  “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”  (Hab. 1:13)  God does not take pleasure in wickedness or lawlessness (Psalm 5:4).  Those who indulge in evil will be recipients of His vengeance.  The Bible declares that the wicked and disobedient are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5). 
  • God Promises Righteous Vengeance:
Our Gracious God, promises righteous vengeance and just repayment for sin  (2 Thes. 1:6; Heb. 10:30).  Evil and all lawlessness call for the just wrath of a Holy and Just God.  Evil cannot go unpunished!  God is upright, and all of His judgments are righteous (Psalm 92:15).  If there is no hell, then there would be no final victory over evil.  All evil must be utterly defeated, or there can be no heaven Heaven is the complete absence of sin and lawlessness in the presence of a Holy God.  Without eternal punishment, evil would be allowed and condoned.  
  • Sin Separates Man From God:
When man willfully chooses to sin, he is immediately separated from his Holy Creator.  Isaiah said, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear”  (Isa. 59:2).  In Biblical terms, “death” frequently means a separation.  “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead”  (James 2:26).  Thus, when a person enters a state of disobedience and sinfulness, he is dead in his transpasses, spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1).  In doing this, he separates himself from God. Remember, God did not initiate or forced us, but it is our choice and responsibility for sinning.

In Ezekiel 18:20-27 God declared, 
The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him... 25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? 26 When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth therein; in his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right? '”

According to Ezekiel 18, God blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient.  Do you suppose it is fair and just for God to bless only the obedient and ignore the disobedient?  In Ezekiel 18:25, we read that the ways of the wicked are not just, but crooked.  Why?  Because instead of accepting responsibility for his wickedness, he chooses to blame others and avoid at all costs the punishment that he deserves because of his iniquities.  God has also declared that if the righteous person turns away from righteousness and commits iniquity or sin, he shall die (v. 26).  And if the wicked turn away from his wickedness, “he shall save his soul alive” (v. 27), “He shall surely live, he shall not die” (v. 28).  After declaring this, He asks the house of Israel, “Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right?" (v. 29)

The answer is crystal clear.  Their ways were wicked and crooked.  God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34).  It is all up to man to choose whether to obey God and go to heaven or disobey Him and lose his soul eternally in hell.  The righteous, the obedient, will be saved, and the wicked and disobedient will be punished.  However, if the obedient lives and does not die because of his righteousness and obedience, it would be absurd to let the wicked and disobedient enjoy and partake of the same blessing.  If God allows the wicked and disobedient to live, then, where is the righteousness (justice) of God?  Indeed, God is righteous and just in that He blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient.

Hence, the existence of a place of punishment is not illogical or unreasonable, but rather it is in perfect harmony with the righteousness and justice of God (2 Thes. 1:6-10).  So it is just and righteous for God to repay with affliction, tribulation, and it is also just for God to bless His righteous and obedient ones.


II.  WHAT IS HELL LIKE

None of us know much about hell (since no one has been there and has come back) except what is revealed in the Bible to us.  We are aware of this dreadful place only through the revealed Word of God and what Jesus taught us about hell.  Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person (James is the only other writer who wrote of Gehenna in the NT, James 3:6).

The description of hell in Mk. 9:43-47 is very specific: 
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.”
The Old Testament allusion (indirect reference) to hell helps us have a clear understanding of what hell is like:
  1. The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah was a foretaste of hell (Gen. 19:24; Jude 7).
  2. A place where the wicked are cast down to destruction and are consumed with terror (Psalm 73:18-19).
  3. Sinners in Zion will receive everlasting burnings (Isaiah 33:14).
  4. The Day of the Lord's vengeance, where He will bring everlasting burning (Isaiah 57:21).
  5. A place where there will be no peace for the wicked (Isa. 57:21).
  6. A place where the wicked will go where their worm never dies, and their fire is never quenched (Isa. 66:24).
  7. Where the wicked will awake to everlasting contempt (despised and rejected, Daniel 12:1-2 10).
In the New Testament Jesus described hell as:
  1. Hell fire, fiery hell and hell of fire (Matt. 5:22).
  2. Jesus warned us that it would be better to lose one's hand, his foot, or his eye in this life than to go to hell (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:9).
  3. A place where God can destroy both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).
  4. A furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42).
  5. A place of damnation, eternal punishment (Matt. 23:33).
  6. A place of outer darkness where the weeping and gnashing of teeth never ends (Matt. 25:30).
  7. A horrible place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).
  8. A dreadful place of eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46).
  9. A place where the fire never is quenched, and the worm never dies (Mark 9:43-48).

Many other passages speak of hell's damnation and punishment without using the term “gehenna.” Consider them as they describe everlasting torment:

  1. Matthew 8:10-12 as outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  2. Matthew 8:29, where the evil spirits acknowledge there is a time for torment.
  3. Luke 13:3 for the disobedient, rebellious, and who do not repent and eventually will perish.
  4. Luke 13:22-30, where the workers of iniquity will be forced to “depart” from God's presence.
  5. Luke 16:19-31 to teach the story of the rich man and Lazarus and the everlasting torment of the rich man.
  6. John 3:16, 36, where all unbelievers will be condemned.
  7. John 5:28-29 where some will be raised to receive damnation.
  8. Romans 2:5, 8-9 of the Lord's wrath that would bring tribulation and anguish.
  9. Romans 2:12, where all sinners will perish.
  10. Romans 5:9 God's wrath.
  11. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9,  God's vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His might.  Heaven is described as fellowship with God, while torment is the expulsion or removal from His presence.
  12. Hebrews 10:28-31, a punishment worse than death without mercy.  It will be the vengeance of the living God.
  13. 2 Peter 2:17, an eternal mist of darkness.
  14. Jude 7, 13, vengeance of eternal fire and the blackness of darkness.
  15. Revelation 14:10-11, a place of torment of fire and brimstone where there is no rest, night and day forever.
  16. Revelation 21:8, the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

Hell is repeatedly described as a place of “fire,” and suffering, condemnation, and destruction (Matt 5:22; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mk. 9:44-47; Jas. 3:6).  Moreover, hell is described as a “lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8); a place of “outer darkness” and agony (Matt. 22:13; 25:30) such as will cause “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42, 49-50).  A place of torment and utter separation from God (Lk. 16:24, 28; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).  Indeed, it is a dreadful, horrible place and one must avoid going there at all costs!!!

Men belittle “hell fire and brimstone” preaching and teaching because they don’t believe that the Bible is the Truth.  Therefore, they cannot be frightened by the Bible’s warning.  They will scoff at the Bible doctrine of hell and belittle it.  Even our brethren scoff at the power of the fear of hell to motivate obedience to the Gospel.  They seem to overlook what Paul said,
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience”  (2 Cor. 5:11).  

Those who scare children away from fire, electric sockets, poisonous drinks or pills, snakes, toys, and anything that threatens them are saving the lives of their children by fear.  So, why should one be ashamed to scare people with the dangers of hell or everlasting punishment?  The truth is that we do not scare people into heaven, but we do persuade others with the fear of the Lord to return to Christ as a way of escape from this place of everlasting torment (hell).
“Wickedness is atoned for by loyalty and faithfulness, and one turns from evil by the fear of the LORD”  (Proverbs 16:6).  

Sinners must acknowledge their lost condition outside of Christ and accept that being lost means going to hell eternally, where suffering and agony never ends.  The horrible thought of going to hell ought to alarm us and cause panic!!
“He also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb”  (Revelation 14:10).  

There will be no remedy to stop the pain and agony for eternity!!  Therefore, we must try to rescue the lost from the broad road that leads to this terrible perdition, hell. 

Sadly, most people do not fear hell, eternal punishment, because they refuse to believe in God and His Word.  They are blind, refusing to see and acknowledge that in hell, they will be in torment and anguish in flame.  There is no more horrible suffering than this, which will have no end whatsoever!


III.   HOW LONG WILL THE PUNISHMENT LAST?

The main objection usually made against the doctrine of hell is its everlasting, eternal nature.   The concept of eternal punishment has faced considerable resistance, even though it is clearly stated in the Bible.  Many refuse to accept and believe that the wicked will be punished eternally after death. The skeptics reject the idea altogether.  Others believe that it is unjust.  Indeed, Jesus will punish the wicked and reward the righteous (Romans 2:5-11; Matt. 25:41, 46).  The wicked, the disobedient will go to eternal destruction, the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  The righteous, the obedient, will receive eternal life.  Only the redeemed, saved ones will live forever with Jesus.  

The Scriptures explicitly affirm the abiding nature of divine retribution.  The everlasting shame and punishment of the wicked (Matt. 25:46).  The term “everlasting” literally implies “always being.” It is contrasted with that which is “temporal” as found in 2 Cor. 4:18.  Some make the argument that “everlasting” does not mean “truly unending in nature.”  We know the truth about Jesus’ usage of this word, not from the word itself, but through the words of the Judge, as expressed in the Word of God.  In Matthew 25:46, the term “eternal punishment” is contrasted with the “eternal life” (i.e., everlasting communion with God).  Both sentences are unending in duration.

Moreover, in Mark 9:48Jesus stressed that in hell, the fire is never quenched (the agony never ceases).  Furthermore, in Revelation 14:11, John describes a third angel who announces in a loud voice that the wicked are going to perish with the lawlessness of this world.  Those who choose to serve and obey the prince of darkness, i.e., Satan, must expect to suffer the eternal consequences, eternal punishment.  One cannot sin and get away with it.  That simple!  The wrath of God will fall on those whose master is the devil.  And though the wrath of God here on earth is still mixed with His grace (Matt. 5:45), in hell, the wrath will be unmixed.  It will be eternal torment with fire and brimstone.  It will be a horrible judgment that will never end, according to the vivid language of Rev. 14:11.  The fact that this never-ending punishment awaits the wicked and disobedient should encourage all men (believers and non-believers) to obey God and do His will.


CONCLUSION:

After death, judgment follows.  There will be no second chance for salvation (Heb. 9:27).  There is a great contrast between those who die in the Lord, the saved (the obedient and righteous), and those who die lost without obeying the Gospel of Christ.  “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us”  (Luke 16:26).  There is no opportunity for obedience after death!!!  (Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46)

The Bible describes the penalty of hell as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14), which conveys the ultimate separation from God.  Final judgment will take place to manifest the glory of God to all mankind by demonstrating His righteousness and mercy (2 Thess. 1:3-10).  It will be an entirely fair judgment (Rom. 2:11, Ps. 98:9).  Mankind will not have a second chance after death (Luke 16:24-26).  The book of Hebrews connects death with the devastating consequences of judgment.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”  (Heb. 9:27). 

Therefore, in light of the final judgment, Christians should be able to forgive each other freely, for we know that all record of wrongs will be settled on that dreadful day of judgment and will be made right.  God will avenge us and will repay (Rom. 12:19).  God's delay return is because He is longsuffering, patient, not wanting that anyone should perish but that everyone comes to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).   The Lord is patiently and kindly inviting all sinners to repent.  Therefore, it is our duty as Christians to bring the message of salvation (evangelizing) and so help all men not to perish in hell eternally (Rom. 10:14-15).

The Bible is crystal clear about the consequences of our choices in this life. There is a right way and a wrong way to live, and we must stop to reflect frequently.  We will spend eternity, either in Heaven or in Hell.  This reality is presented in Romans 6:23.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
This is made clear in the parable of the talents.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master'”  (Matt. 25:21, 23).
  That joy is heaven!!
“But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?'  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”   

That place of darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth is hell! 


There is no third alternative It is either heaven or hell.  The way of heaven “leads to life (heaven)” (Matt. 7:14).  The way of hell “leads to destruction (hell)” (Matt. 7:13).  And each one of us will either spend eternity in heaven or in hell.  For, “we shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10).  The truth is that since God raised Jesus from the grave, He has given us the assurance that God will make mankind accountable on that Final Day of Judgment (Acts 17:31). So, heaven and hell are real rather than some theorized possibility or folktale.  God wants all men to be with Him in heaven (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).  Yet, Jesus has stated that most of mankind will end up in hell (Matt. 7:13-14).  Take heed!

The price of hell is too high!  Hell will be forever, and man does not have to go there.  But they need to faithfully obey God now!  There is a deadline, and that is the Day of Judgment (2 Peter 3:10-12).  We have no idea when that day will arrive.  The eternal home of our soul and the souls of men is at stake!! Therefore, we must endeavor to be watchful and ready for that final deadline.  The Bible plainly teaches that there will be a day of reckoning, and we can be sure of this.  There will be a day when each of us will be audited and called upon to answer for our life (Rom. 14:11-12; Matt. 25:31-46). On that day, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil”  (Eccl. 12:14).  How will you stand in that day?  Are you prepared for the final deadline?

We either submit to God's rules or foolishly let our sins find us out.  In torment, there will be a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous (Luke 16:26).  There will be a great gulf of separation between the righteous and the wicked.  There are only two ways and two destinies.
“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. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”  (Matt. 7:13-14).  

We either do everything God's way or our own foolish ways.  We are either in Christ or not in Christ.  We either are faithful children of God or partake of the wickedness and sins of this world.  We either separate ourselves from all forms of ungodliness and worldliness or mix with the wicked ways of this life.  We either keep ourselves unspotted and separated from the world, or we are defiled in God's sight and lose our reward, eternity in heaven with Him.  Let this sink deeply into your hearts!!

When Jesus returns, it will be a big surprise for most, and it won't be a pleasant one.  But for the faithful, it will not be a surprise at all, and it won't catch them off guard for he will be prepared. Therefore, let us resolve to be faithful servants always, growing in the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.  Always striving to obey God's truths with a humble heartRemember, we only get one chance at life (Heb. 9:27).  Don't blow it!!!

How many people examine their lives and come to the conclusion that they are headed for hell?  I am sure the number is small.  Yet, Jesus, our Lord, taught that many are traveling the broad road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13).  Many deceive themselves, believing they are saved and do not consider themselves to be lost.  There is no middle ground between lost and saved!  If one is not saved, then he is lost.  Some are convinced they are saved, having accepted the doctrines of menThey teach that salvation is obtained by accepting Jesus as their personal savior and confessing His name.  The Word of God does not teach that doctrine of salvation (Rom. 6:17)!! 

Jesus has given us many warnings about the false doctrines that we must avoid (Matt. 15:8-9; Rev. 2:15). When one accepts error, especially concerning salvation, he will be lost eternally (Gal. 1:6-9).  God's plan of salvation is easy and is found in the New Testament.  It involves faith, confession, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  Men's false doctrines about salvation are found nowhere in the Bible!  

Knowing that someday we all will die and will be raised to stand before the Judge of all in judgment and receive our eternal reward, heaven or hell, how seriously do we acknowledge this?  Are you ready for death, resurrection, and final judgment? Man has only one earthly life and death.  After judgment, men will receive their eternal destinies.  The righteous will receive eternal life, a state of bliss in the presence of God.  On the other hand, the wicked will receive eternal punishment, suffering, and sorrow, separated from God.  How much worse could it be?

Judgment will be fair and just!  It will be based on Truth (Rom. 2:2).  Men will be judged without partiality (Rom. 2:11; 1 Peter 1:17).  Judgment will be inescapable (Rom. 2:3).  It will be universal (Rom. 2:6, 9, 10; 10:14-12).  It will be individual (Romans 2:6; 14:12).  It will be thorough.  All aspects of life will be examined (Rom. 2:7, 8, 9, 10, 16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eccl. 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 12:2).  And it will be final!  The rewards given on that day will be eternal and unalterable (Rom. 2;7; Matt. 25:46).

Are you preparing for judgment?  Remember, the Gospel will judge us.  Therefore, you must obey the Gospel.  Are you ready to face the Judge of all the earth?  Are you ready for Judgment Day?  

May we never miss heaven, the grandest and most glorious place ever conceived.  May we be found faithful and profitable servants by our Lord and not be cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  May we thirst for righteousness all the days of our lives here on earth and not have to suffer unendingly and unbearably.  May we always obey our Lord to avoid being punished with everlasting destruction away from the presence of our Lord.  May we never miss heaven and be lost forever!  May we teach the lost the Gospel of salvation that they may obey the Truth and be ready for Judgment Day.  May we be prepared to face the most excellent Judge of all the earth who has promised us to make a fair judgment.

Luci

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

GOD IS NOT FAR FROM EACH ONE OF US

"That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us."
Acts 17:27



As I look at the current state of our nation: the political atmosphere, the degradation of the family, our schools, the high rate of drugs, fornication, and alcohol among our youth, I can't help but be grieved. There are so many souls at stake here that don't have a clue as to God's purpose in their life. They are being destroyed for lack of knowledge of the Truth. They even reject that knowledge. What they don't realize is that when they refuse to know God's Truth, it leads them to their own destruction.  My fervent prayer is that those hearts who are seeking God diligently may come to know the Jesus of God's revealed Word, the Bible, and be saved. I have prayed that those who are developing a seeker's heart might find God so that they may know the blessings of a relationship with Him, and that they may seek His face, and respond to His calling (Psalm 27:8).

Our loving and merciful God loves all souls.  They are all precious to Him.  He desires all men to seek Him diligently, repent, and turn to Him, their Creator for salvation (Psalm 14:2-3; Jeremiah 7:7-11).  He wants all men to know Him (1 John 1:1-7).  I assure you that if you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him and know Him and His ways so that you may serve Him faithfully.

In Hebrews 11:6, we are told that "without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."  Although the word "faith" (believe) can be a powerful word in the Bible, the word "must" used in this passage is much stronger.  It is used to indicate something mandatory, necessary, and something that ought to be done.  Therefore to seek God, one "must" believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him diligently.  Without "faith," it is impossible to please God.

The only truth is that we all one day soon, whether we want to or not, will meet our Creator, our God. Therefore, why not seek Him while you are still alive so that you can repair your relationship with Him before it is too late.  Your eternal destiny is important and is knocking at your door.  Don't let it go!  Why not seek Him and accept His invitation without resisting it?  Jesus, our Lord, died for us that we might know His Father, be accepted by Him, be adopted by Him, be reconciled to Him, and be saved through Him.  Therefore, do not neglect His great invitation of salvation, eternal life   (John 17:2-3; 1 John 5:20). 


I.   HOW DOES ONE SEEK GOD, FIND HIM AND KNOW HIM?

When man seeks God diligently, he will find God.  In Deuteronomy 4:29, we are told:
"But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul."  (Deuteronomy 4:29)

What was true back then in the days of Moses is true for us today.  In Matthew 7:7, our Lord Jesus stated.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Again in Acts 17:27 we read,
"That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us."

Our God is not far from any of us, but we must seek Him diligently. Sadly many seek Him and turn to Him only when they're in distress (Deuteronomy 4:30), yet our God is all-merciful to the genuinely repentant heart (Deuteronomy 4:31).  I do not deny that it is good to turn to God when adversity strikes, but it is always so much better to seek Him, inclining our hearts to Him at all times.

  • God is Knowable:
In Acts 17:22-23 we read;
"So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you."

Paul is standing amid the philosophers at Athens (the legislative body).  He perceives that they are "very religious" in the way they lived their life, i.e., they seem to respect what is divine.  Indeed, this is a good trait to have as long as one's religion pleases God.  The problem is that many who are religious, practice their religion only when it is convenient for them.  It makes them hypocrites.  You see, the Athenians were religious people though they severely misunderstood the concept of deity.  These Athenians were exclusively Gentile.  They worshiped idols.  It was easier to find a god in Athens than a man!  These were people who were very ignorant of God and the long-awaited Messiah.

Before Paul could preach to these pagan Gentiles about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, he had to correct their flawed religion (their faulty knowledge of deity).  That is why it is so vital when one is teaching the "good news" to consider the level of knowledge a person might have and start from there, the way Paul did.  Paul noticed an altar "to the unknown god."  Of course, this "unknown god" was the only true and living God.  It is ironic that they would worship the only true God without knowing Him.  Paul did not waste any time but went straight ahead, instructing those who would hear him about the living God.  In Acts 17:24-27, he said,
"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us."

Isn't it something that the "unknown god" that the Athenians worshiped without knowing it, was the true and living God?!  The God that created everything!  The true living God and giver of life.
  • A God that does not live in physical structures made by men.  
  • A God that is almighty and all-powerful.  
  • A God, who is Lord, Master, and Ruler.  
  • A God who exercises authority over all His creation.  
  • A God who does not need anything offered from men like food or drink.  
  • A God who desires men to submit and surrender to Him alone.  
  • A God who wants complete and faithful obedience from His creatures.  
  • A God who is the Sustainer and not the sustained one!  
  • A God who has set boundaries on mankind and that regulates them (Daniel 4:25).  
  • A God who wants all mankind to seek Him!  
  • A God who wants humanity to search for Him and find Him!  

Therefore, all of humanity is obliged to seek Him while there is time.  This is precisely what Paul was eagerly trying to teach and help the Athenians to grasp.

You see, as Paul was trying hard to teach the Athenians to seek God, he indeed assured them that God was not far away from any of them.  He helped them to acknowledge that God was involved in their lives. Our awesome God is near to all who are diligently seeking Him.  He has made everything possible for man to know Him through Christ.  Our God did not ignore or overlooked the wickedness of man.  Otherwise, there would not have been any need for a Savior.  God expected these Athenians to repent the same way He wants all people today to repent of their wicked ways (Acts 2:38).  He seeks to instruct all men in His divine nature and His plan of redemption through His Son.  God wants to lead mankind to repentance, a change of mindset, and behavior.  God desires all men to repent and obey Him.  He wants all people to escape eternal damnation through the power of His glorious Gospel of grace.

Sadly, there is a final Day of Judgment approaching (Heb. 9:27), and no one will escape it.  We must be ready for it!  This should be enough to move us to repent and obey Him and avoid condemnation. The only way to escape the eternal destruction of our souls is through obeying the gospel. Jesus, our Lord, and Savior, will be the righteous Judge of all (2 Cor. 5:10-11).

  • That same Jesus who was crucified for the sins of this world.  
  • That same Jesus who was resurrected and is alive again.  
  • That same Jesus, who was raised from the dead by the power of God, His Father, never to die again!  
  • A Jesus, who gives us hope through His resurrection, that according to God's promise, we will be raised again from the dead.  Such a promise is beyond words!!

When Paul spoke to the Athenians about the "resurrection of the dead," they began to ridicule him. These Athenian Philosophers were not too much in agreement with a universal resurrection.  Many decided to cling to their false beliefs.  Yet some seekers genuinely desire to hear and learn more about the gospel of Christ.  Sadly, from what we read in the Scriptures, the gospel was not able to reach many souls there in Athens.  But according to Luke, some did obey.  Today we have the same problem.  Why?  Because the gospel message is preached to many different hearts, resulting in many different responses (Matthew 13).  The seed is planted, but many do not respond well.

  • Finding God Through His Revealed Word:
God inspired some men (called prophets) to speak and write down His Word.  They spoke God's divine words.  The sum of all these sacred writings is what makes up the Bible.  A book trustworthy, of course, God being the only Author from the beginning of mankind.  A God who is eternal and whose Word is also eternal.  A God who made us and told us how we ought to live.  A God whose Word is life and is food for our souls.  And as we read the pages of His divine Book, we begin to know the Author.  We want more and more, we hunger and thirst more and more for Him.  A God who satisfies our hunger and yearning through His Word, when we are diligently seeking Him. He challenges us to examine His Truth.  God's eternal Word is for diligent seekers and not for casual inquirers.

For one to know God, he must seek and rely upon the revealed Word of God (I Corinthians 2:9-13. Romans 10:17 and II Timothy 2:15).  God's ultimate plan or intent is for men to "seek" Him (Acts 17:27).

God is calling all men to seek His face, to draw near to Him (Psalm 27:8). God calls us through His eternal Word to a cleansing of our mind and heart.  What that means is that we must be willing to put away all sin.  It is the only way to turn our hearts toward Him.  His Word is alive and can penetrate the soul and the spirit by changing our intentions and way of thinking into righteousness.  The Word can cleanse the hearts of all men bringing them into newness of life, but man must humbly accept the remedy for the illness of the heart called sin.

His Word restores our souls to perfection if we indeed want to know Him and want to be like Him. There is no other way! God's Word endlessly transforms us.  God's everlasting Word does not return to Him void.  His Word regenerates us according to the character of God.  Our transformation or the renewing of our mind and soul is like a metamorphosis.  It can only be accomplished through the Word of God, His Truth.  His Word gives us excellence.  And this excellency of His Holy Word is seen in us if we abide in it and obey it.

One can have knowledge of God and yet not know Him.  In John 8:18-19 Jesus said,
"I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, 'Where is your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.'"

The Pharisees thought they had knowledge of God, but in fact, they didn't.  And since they didn't know the Father, they couldn't have fellowship with either the Father or the Son.

God is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23).

Jesus said, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17).  Jesus' words are words of eternal life.  The Word of God offers us many benefits, such as peace, freedom, trust, purity, love, joy, and hope. But we must love it and let it bear good fruit or good results in our hearts.  If we use God's Word, according to His will, it can prosper us and make us productive.  God's Word will not return to Him void.


  • Jesus Came to Earth to Reveal His Father to Man:

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known"  (John 1:18).

God has given us His Son, and in Him, we have everything we need to know about the Father.  When we know the Son, then we can know the Father and have fellowship with Him (John 14:6-9; 6:45). Jesus died for us that we might know God, His Father, be accepted, adopted, become heirs, and have eternal life (John 17:2-3; 1 John 5:20).

We can know God, the Father, through His Son.  Through Jesus, we can find our way back to the Father. Jesus, our Lord, is our link to God.  No one can come to the Father except through His Son, our Lord, and Savior.  Jesus came to earth to save us from the bondage of sin.  Sin separates us from God, the Father.

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,  or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear."  (Isaiah 59:1-2)

The Bible word "iniquity," "sin," and "transgression" are mistakenly understood as synonyms. The word iniquity refers to that which is perverted, defiled, or twisted.  God has commanded us to walk the straight way, but when one perverts it, defiles it, or twists it (by changing it), one commits iniquity.  Now to sin is to miss the mark, i.e., God's target.  We sin by falling short of God's expectations or going beyond them without respecting His authority (Deut. 12:32; Col. 3:17; Lev. 10:1-2).  To transgress is to rebel or trespass against God.  The truth is that God hates all iniquity, sin, and transgression made against Him.  He demands obedience out of us, His creatures.  Turning against Him in disobedience is against God's holy nature.

Sin severs our fellowship with our Father.  Sin is a grave thing, and we must not take it lightly.  Sin is so serious to the Father that He had to send His "only begotten" Son to die for our sins.  Our sins had to be atoned by the blood of Jesus.  His death on the cross became the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  It is through His shed blood that God, the Father, has made us alive with Christ and has forgiven us of our sins.  It was through Jesus' atoning that we can have fellowship restored to the Father. 


CONCLUSION:

When one is seeking God, he learns God's will for him.  It means that one knows God and obeys His Son's teachings (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 John 2:3-6).  So how can we find God that we might know Him and obey Him?  By simply seeking God's invitation diligently; by accepting the duty of seeking; by not resisting it; by wanting to know God and do His will.

God wants all men to obey and please Him.  He is a God of consequences who does not tolerate an unrepentant and proud heart. He accepts and receives only a humble and contrite heart that seeks Him.  He wants all men to seek Him to find Him.  God is all-merciful and gracious and will not turn His face from man when he diligently wants to return to Him.  He is also a God of lovingkindness.  A kindness that overflows with love.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8)

Our God desires all humanity to have godly sorrow for their sins (2 Cor. 7:10).  Therefore to seek God is to seek righteousness and humility (Zephaniah 2:3).  Jesus spoke of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness in Matthew 6:33.  Therefore, the best time to seek Him and obey Him is now. Today is the day of salvation!  Let us show a heart that diligently seeks after God.  God is near to those who are seeking Him from their heart.  He will not let them down.  Let us take advantage of God's invitation and drink freely from the river of the water of life.  Let us eat freely of the tree of life which is offered to those who want to wash their robes and enter the gates of the city, the heavenly Jerusalem, His church.
"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever."  Revelation 22:1-5
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.  Revelation 22:17
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. Revelation 21:6-7

Everlasting life is only offered to those who seek, obey, walk with, trust, and serve the only true and living God.  Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is what really matters.  Calling Him Master, acknowledging Him as the source of all life, the Light, the Way is not enough!  It is not sufficient.  Likewise, recognizing that He is all gracious, powerful, wise, and almighty is not enough either.  Obeying Him and doing His Father's will makes our confession sufficient!

God wants all men to drink of the living water to refresh their thirsty soul and obtain salvation through obedient faith in Jesus.  Anyone is welcome to drink freely of this living water to satisfy their thirst by believing in Jesus and obeying His teachings.

May the Lord help us to present His Holy Word faithfully to the lost that they may know the peace and freedom that we have come to know through that Everlasting Word.

I want to leave you with the compelling words of this encouraging poem:



You call Me "Master" and obey Me not.
You call Me "Light" and seek Me not.
You call Me "Way" and walk Me not.
You call Me "Life" and desire Me not.
You call Me "wise" and follow Me not.
You call Me "fair" and love Me not.
You call Me "rich" and ask Me not.
You call Me "eternal" and seek Me not.
You call Me "gracious" and trust Me not.
You call Me "noble" and serve Me not.
You call Me "mighty" and honor Me not.
You call Me "just" and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame Me not!

Luci