Sometimes the Saviour spoke in parables. Sometimes He enacted them. The enactment is simply a parable in action and such we have here at the beginning of our chapter. The contents of the chapter are built around two questions. The first was a recurring question among the disciples, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" The second was Peter's question, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" Had they but known it, the two questions were intimately connected, for true greatness was really a humility which would have no hesitation in forgiving. But the Lord graciously and patiently answers each question in detail.
Notice how the chapter commences, "At the same time." Literally it is, "In that hour." The Master had, in that hour, just demonstrated what true greatness really was. Though Sovereign of all and Lord of the temple He had just waived His rights and had conceded to pay tribute money. He could have resisted and justly refused, but as He explained to Peter, "Lest we should offend them....", and in humility He provided the tribute money both for Himself and Peter. This was greatness indeed.
He called a little child. How easily and freely and unafraid the children went to Him. How unlike He was to the austere and unapproachable Pharisees. He set the little one in the midst of the disciples and taught them. It was not human nature for man to be childlike. There must be conversion to be fit for the kingdom. The child did not press rights, did not arrogantly push its way, did not harbour malice, and did not aspire to worldly greatness. So the children of the kingdom must humble themselves and become as this child in their midst. As for those children who believed on Him, woe to that man who stumbled them. Here is assurance, if assurance were needed, that even little ones may believe on the Saviour, and we must not discourage or offend or despise them.
Offences would come, but woe to that man by whom they would come. It were better for him that he were drowned in the depths of the sea with a heavy millstone about his neck. So, the Lord exhorts, if any man had a failing in any respect, a trait of character which would tend to give offence to any of these little ones, let him deal ruthlessly with it. Was it a quick tongue? A hasty temper? An impatient spirit? A jealous nature? A haughty attitude? Let him hasten to get rid of such from out of his life. It was better that he live without it than die with it. The Father in heaven took constant notice of these little ones. They were precious to Him and the Son of man had come to save them. They were like little lambs, gone astray by nature, but meaning more to Him than those ninety-nine other sophisticated men who did not appear to need Him.
The Lord now returns to the question of offences between brethren. There was a proper and spiritual procedure to be followed and the initial purpose was not to assert rights but to gain the offending brother. "Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." Keep the matter contained between the two, the offender and the offended. If the problem could thus be resolved then happily that was the end of it. No others need to be involved. There was the sad possibility however, that the offender would not hear or respond. Go back to him again then, taking one or two others to help face the difficulty. Sadly though, he may also refuse to hear these, in which case it was now a matter for the assembly to judge. If there was no suitable response to the assembly then there would be a regrettable discipline and they would be in accord with heaven in such a spiritual and orderly judgment of the matter. Even where there may be apparent weakness, just a small company gathered to His Name and for His glory, the Lord would be in the midst of them and would be in agreement with heaven their spiritual and scriptural decisions.
This now raised Peter's other question, "How often do I forgive?" Perhaps Peter thought he was being magnanimous in suggesting seven times, but the Lord multiplies it by seventy, four hundred and ninety times! It is not to be taken literally of course, as if we should refuse to forgive the four hundred and ninety first offence. Jesus expounds a parable. A king had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents. The servant's wife, his children, and his property, could all be sold to pay the debt, but he pleaded for the king's patience and for time to pay. The king was moved with compassion and graciously cancelled the large debt. The servant however, had a fellow-servant who owed him a hundred pence. There was no comparison between what was owed him and what had been forgiven him, but callously he demanded immediate payment of the hundred pence. He would not listen to the pleas of his debtor, and had him cast into prison. But others were watching, and greatly grieved, recounted to their master what had happened. His lord was angry. Here was ingratitude indeed, one who had been forgiven so much refusing to forgive so little. One who had been the subject of great compassion and pity had denied compassion and pity to his fellow.
The lesson for us all is so obvious. Who can estimate how much we have been forgiven? Who can assess the greatness of the mountain of sins that have been blotted out? "How amazing God's compassion," who can measure it? And yet! Is there not so often amongst us an unforgiving spirit which denies to others what has been freely granted to us? This brings no pleasure to the Father. He forgave us when we were but poor sinners. These offenders envisaged here are our brethren, they are members of the same family and of the same body. We who have been forgiven so much, "Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellow-servant?"
—to be continued (D.V.)
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
(8) "FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS," PART 2 Read Chapter 4 again
In Part 1 of this study, we suggested that this chapter can be divided as follows: (1) The reaction of Mordecai, v1-4; (2) The role of Hatach, v5-10; (3) The responsibility of Esther, v11-17. We have already given some thought to the first two sections of the chapter, which brings us to:
3) THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ESTHER, v11-17
Mordecai had already urged Esther to intercede for the Jews before Ahasuerus, see v8. This section of the narrative emphasises at least three important matters:
A) The task seemed impossible. 4.11-12
Esther outlines court procedure: "Whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live. "That in itself hardly seems a problem — after all, Ahasuerus wasn't away fighting the Greeks, and we might have expected king and queen to spend some time together every day. But the King's affection (see 2.17) seemed to be cooling off a little, and Esther has to say, "I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days." To put it in plain words, Esther is saying, "Sorry, but there's nothing much I can do about it."
It's all too familiar, isn't it? "We're living in the last days, you know ... people are gospel-hardened aren't they (are they?) ... it's in a day of small things (quoted from Zech.4) ... people are so materialistic ... more people in this country go to the mosque on Fridays than go to the Church of England on Sundays ... anyway, the Lord's coming back! The last remark seems to be an excuse for doing nothing! Nothing about preaching "the word; be instant in season, out of season." That is, we get on with gospel preaching whether the climate is favourable or not. All we seem to be doing is fighting a rearguard action, and any thought of expansion seems quite out of the question. It has become a battle for survival, rather than territorial acquisition. Well, Mordecai is having none of it:
B) The task demands intervention. 4.13-14
During the Great War of 1914-1918, Lord Kitchener appealed for volunteers to fight the Germans. His portrait appeared on posters throughout the country with his stabbing finger and the words, 'Your Country Needs You'. Mordecai was on the same wavelength: "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Only she had the opportunity to respect God's people. No one else could do it — but see (ii) below. There are three challenging strands in Mordecai's statement:
Failure on Esther's part would mean her own death. "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shalt enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed." Mordecai does not specify how this would happen: perhaps he was thinking of divine judgment. The lesson for us is very clear: failure to speak for Christ will mean the demise of our own testimony, and loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ. The poor condition of many assemblies today, and the closure of many assemblies, is largely due to past failure in evangelism. It almost seems that sometimes assemblies reach a 'point of no return.' The assembly that holds its 'peace at this time,' and sits comfortably in its Gospel Hall, like Esther in the Persian palace, will ultimately lose its existence.
Failure on Esther's part would not mean the annihilation of the Jews. The threat of genocide was very real, but Mordecai obviously believed in the inerrancy of God's promises: "For if thou holdest thou peace at this time, then shall enlargement and deliverance arise from another place." These are telling words. Our failure does not mean the failure of God's purpose. God will continue His work, but we will cease to be "vessels unto honour." This is precisely Mordecai's point:
Failure on Esther's part would mean the loss of the honour she would otherwise receive. Whilst Mordecai still does not mention God's Name, it seems clear that he had at least begun to recognise the providence of God. It now remained for Esther to fulfil the purpose which God intended for her. Mordecai does not speak with absolute certainty, but we can: Esther had "come to the kingdom for such a time as this."
Let's update this: if we believe that God controls and directs our movements, and has a plan for our lives, we can say, 'I have come to ... (wherever you live) for such a time as this.' God has placed us where we are for a purpose. If we fulfil that purpose, we will enjoy the Saviour's commendation, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Paul was very conscious of the fact that he had 'come to prison for such a time as this'. "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel," Phil.1.12.
C) The task requires intercession. 4.15-17
Esther accepts the responsibility resting upon her, but it wasn't just a case of sweeping into the king's presence, and hoping for the best! She was well aware of the risks involved. Her mission of intervention demanded a ministry of intercession. "Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish."
But here is a problem: there is no mention of prayer to God. We have already seen from Neh.1.4 and Dan.9.3 that prayer was always associated with fasting. J. Sidlow Baxter writes: 'Can we really believe that in a crisis which threatened death to every Jew in the Persian Empire, that there was no agonised calling upon the God of their fathers? Can we believe, too, that after the amazing deliverance which came to them, there was absolutely no voice of thanksgiving to God? There is only one possible interference — the silence was intentional!' The absence of reference to prayer and thanksgiving to God in the book emphasises one of its major lessons. We discussed this in our introduction. The Jews should never have been in Persia at all, and whilst God was certainly at work behind the scenes, disobedience robs prayer of its power and effectiveness.
One thing is very clear, the Lord's work demands self-denial and disciplined prayer. This is something that we must never forget.
—to be continued (D. V.)
The Kings of Judah and Israel
by Graeme Hutchinson (Belfast)
Ahab No.1 (Paper 8)
Further to our observations on the life of king Ahab, Scripture is careful to bear testimony to:
(d) His Industry
As the reign of king Ahab is devoted to such a large section of 1Kgs.16.28-22.40, it is not surprising that much can be said regarding his activities. Sadly, instead of being occupied with the Law and its implementation throughout the nation, Deut.17.18-20, his primary concern was self-preservation, irrespective of the cost. Consider the following points as a summary of his actions as king:
Following the long absence of rain in the nation, Ahab instructed one of his governors, Obadiah, to search the land for fertile pasture, 18.5-6. Whilst both men undertook this arduous task, it could have been avoided had the king enjoyed a closer relationship with Elijah, 18.1. Moreover, the drought had only been introduced by the Lord, 17.1, as punishment for Ahab's idolatrous practices. Therefore, Ahab's use of time was neither effective nor efficient, as his lifestyle was contradicting the Word of God. As Christians, we do well to remember that 'time is short,' 1Cor.7.29, and we must then redeem the time, Eph.5.16; Col.4.5.
A measure of heaven's attitude to the way that Ahab (and Jezebel) ruled the nation may be found in 1Kgs.18.18. The remaining verses, especially the token given to Elijah in verse 38, illustrate that whilst God is long-suffering He will eventually judge sin. Obviously many comparisons can be made between this incident and that of the Lord's death. The two sacrifices occurred around the same time of the day, 1Kgs.18.36; Matt.27.46; took place on similar locations, 1Kgs.18.19; Matt.27.33; had similar reasons, 1Kgs.18.37; Rom.5.8; and both had similar outcomes — blessing! 1Kgs.18.41; Rom.8.32.
Despite the wickedness that resided in the heart of Ahab, the Lord still granted some 'success' during his reign, 1Kgs.20.13. In the incident with the king of Syria, Ben-hadad, Ahab appeared to be very kind to the enemy (20.31-34), however, this was contrary to the Lord's will, v42. Thus, Ahab may well have 'fitted-in' to the present age, he tolerated sin! Within the assembly environment, such an attitude is to be avoided, known sin must be dealt with, lCor.5; behaviour must be consistent with the nature of our gathering, lTim.3.15.
(e) His Influence
In his role as king, Ahab had the opportunity to become a force for good, and so lead the nation into a period of spiritual growth and revival. However, throughout his twenty (+) years, his influence over others such as Hiel, 1Kgs.16.34, and Jehoshaphat, 1Kgs.22; 2Chron.l8, was sufficiently strong to lead these men astray.
The restoration of Jericho had been forbidden by Joshua after the city had been destroyed by a miracle, Josh.6.26. Just as the king established idols in disobedience to the Lord, so Hiel was characterised by a rebellious heart. Significantly, 1Kgs.16.34 opens with the words, 'In his (Ahab's) days did ...'. Was the king merely setting the standard, and so influencing others to follow? Wonderful to think that when the Lord Jesus came into this world, he actually entered into this particular city, Lk.19.1, and saved Zacchaeus.
1Kgs.22.2 records a strange phrase in relation to the movements of Jehoshaphat, the king of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) - 'Jehoshaphat came down to the king of Israel.' Literally, Jehoshaphat was going up, for the direction was northwards! Spiritually the phrase is correct, the allegiance between the two men was a movement down for Jehoshaphat. Militarily, it nearly cost him his life, 1Kgs.22.32-33. Matrimonially, it cost him his son, for Jehoram, his son, married Ahab's daughter, 2Chron.21.6. We too must be careful to avoid harmful and sinful associations, they are bound to fail.
(f) His Interests
The incident with Naboth's vineyard, recorded in 1Kgs.21, enables us to unveil the king's heart and examine what was foremost in it and in his mind. The passage indicates his:
1Kgs.21.1-2 record that the vineyard of Naboth was situated beside the palace, and Ahab reckoned that it would make a suitable vegetable garden. Temptation is always a real problem, which, as the lives of Eve, Gen.3.3, Achan, Jos.7.1, and David, 2Sam.11.2, record, is never far from us. Remember that we too have a weak sinful nature that willingly responds to tempting forces. A much better approach is to follow the instruction of Paul in 2Cor.10.5, 'bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ'. Disciplining our minds to consider spiritual matters leaves no room for temptation!
Once the God-fearing Naboth courageously rejected the advances of the king, it says that Ahab was 'heavy and displeased', v4. The same response is recorded in 20.43 when the prophet conveyed the divine displeasure resulting from Ahab's actions. Such phrases serve to highlight the bad spiritual condition of the king, he was resentful of people who stood for the truth. Nowadays, unbelievers will resent the Christian who makes a stand for God, Jn.15.19, but there is a reward, Jam.1.3-12.
Notwithstanding the fact that 1 Kings 21 stresses the role that Jezebel had in the murder of Naboth, v14, the Word of God still holds Ahab accountable,v19. This principle, also applied to Adam in the Garden of Eden, Rom.5.12, stresses the fact that God holds the male personally responsible as head. To reject God's divine order, like Ahab and Jezebel, can only result in disastrous consequences. Moreover, God is faithful to His word, for the punishment foretold in 21.19 is fulfilled in 22.38.
(g) His Immaturity
1Kgs.20.43 and 21.4 bear testimony to the childish attitude of the king, when reprimanded he sulked! Despite nearing the end of his reign, Ahab still bears the hallmarks of a young child. Not having his own way left the king discontented, displeased and depressed. Matthew Henry remarks: 'we find Paul content in a prison, Phil.4.11, but Ahab discontent in a palace,' 1994, Vol.2, p.540.
Whilst the believer may exhibit the features of a child at conversion, Matt.18.3, we must 'grow in grace' 2Pet.3.18, and emerge as men, 2Tim.3.17. Remember the words of Paul in lCor.14.20: 'Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.' Importantly, the word for 'men' in this verse, teleios, is better rendered as 'full age,' Heb.5.14).
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures
—to be continued (D. V.)
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98)
12(c)—Christ's Millennial Reign
3. Israel's part in the millennial kingdom will, of course, be in the earth, according to the terms of Jehovah's promise to their fathers. The Land of Canaan is to be theirs for an everlasting possession, and Jehovah will plant them in it with His whole heart and with His own soul, Jer.32.41. All their backsliding shall be forgotten and their sins forgiven, the law of God being henceforward divinely written in their hearts and minds. Ere these blessed results can be attained, Israel (the whole twelve tribes) will have to pass through terrible discipline in righteousness, Judah in the land and the ten tribes outside of it. But the remnant that shall be left after the sifting will be converted to God. "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. One shall say, I am Jehovah's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto Jehovah and surname himself by the name of Israel", Isa.44.3-5.
When the nation is thus right with God He will be able to use them as His instruments in dealing with others, and this in a twofold way. First, He will by their means put down enemies — Edom, Moab, and Ammon in particular escaping the devastating hand of the King of the North for this purpose, Dan.11.41; lsa.11.14. Then He will make them channels of blessing to all that are left of the nations. Mic.5.7-9 is very interesting in this connection: "And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a dew from Jehovah, as the showers upon the grass that tarrieth not for man nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off." Here we have Israel's twofold mission; as a lion among the beasts they put down foes, and as a dew from Jehovah they dispense blessing all around.
Jerusalem in that day will be the metropolis of the earth. It is Jehovah's chosen dwelling place, the spot that His heart desires as His settled abode and rest, Psa.132.13,14. He has spoken glorious things of it, and intends to make it an eternal excellency, the joy of many generations , Psa.87.3; Isa.60.15. His presence will cause it to be called "Jehovah Shammah" ("Jehovah is there"). To that centre the representatives of the nations will annually go up to pay their court to the great King and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, Ezek.48.35; Zech.14.16.
The sanctuary of Jehovah will be restored to Israel in the millennial day. Many particulars as to this and the redistribution of the land among the tribes will be found in Ezek.40.48. Well may all who behold Israel's blessing then say, "Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy one of Israel in the midst of thee," Isa.12.6.
The prosperity of Solomon's day, when all Israel sat peacefully every man under his vine and under his Tig-tree, eating and drinking and making merry, was as nothing compared with what God will vouchsafe to His people in the reign of David's greater Son, 1Kgs.4.20-25. David was led of the Spirit to describe the blessedness of that time in Psa.122, and was carried far beyond himself into rapturous worship and praise. Faith, as it contemplates the future, breaks out into: "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel"; while the enemy from without can only say with sadness, "Alas! who shall live when God doeth this?" Psa.122.18; Num.24.23.
4. The nations of the earth will then receive their full portion of blessing in connection with the people of Israel. God's mercy to His chosen will be abundantly spread abroad. His way will be known upon earth and His salvation among all nations. The name of Jehovah will be excellent in all the earth, and all nations will call Him blessed. Israel will not then be the coldly conservative people that they have been in the past, but will gladly share with others the rich blessings vouchsafed to them by God. But universal blessing cannot be until the millennial day. In vain do Christians speak of the whole world being converted by means of the Gospel as at present preached. The thought is well intentioned, we are sure, but it is nevertheless a great mistake. Ethiopia will doubtless soon stretch out her hands unto God, but not as the result of Christian labour. It will be brought about by Jewish instrumentality, when Christ is here reigning on His throne in Zion. The divine intention by means of the gospel of the grace of God is to "take out" from among the nations a people for His Name. The body of Christ is still in course of formation, and is being composed of believers from among Jews and Gentiles.
In the Church, the distinctions of Jew and Gentile have no place, Col.3.11. In the millennium they will reappear, though in blessing. The Jew will have chief place in the earth; the Gentile will be blessed subordinately. "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts; it shall come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts; I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you," Zech.8.20-23. Their kings will be their leaders in this. The nations will have their respective kings in that day, but they will all recognise the supremacy of the Lord Jesus, as King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev.21.24-26; Psa.122.10,11.
Conversion, if not absolutely universal then, will be very nearly so. "All Israel shall be saved," Rom.11.26, and apparently the great majority of the surviving Gentiles also. The words of Zechariah quoted above, point to this, and we are told elsewhere that "the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together"; also that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea"; and that the Spirit of God shall be poured out upon all flesh, Isa.40.5: 11.9; Joel 2.28. Yet we read in Psa.18.44,45, "As soon as they hear of Me, they shall obey Me: the strangers shall submit themselves (marg. 'yield feigned obedience') unto Me. The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.' Compare this with Psa.66.3; 81.15. From these, and other passages, it would appear that some will bow falsely, and merely because they are in the presence of a power that is impossible to withstand. It was so with some in the early days of Solomon's kingdom, 1Kgs.1. Such, with others, perhaps born during the Lord's reign, will be only too ready to listen to the suggestions of Satan when he is released for a little season at the close, Rev.20.7-9. What is man! Grace does not attract him; and even glory will not permanently convince him!
—to be continued (D.V.)
"Stay in" or "Come out" WHICH?
by H. W. Graham (Eire)
Reading the New Testament you will find that every young convert had to abandon the religious community in which he had been reared. Idolaters separated from the heathen temples. Disciples of John the Baptist turned away from their teacher, and then his following dwindled, Jn.1.37; 3.30. Jews, when they were able to lay aside the chains of prejudice, came out from the synagogue and temple with its divinely appointed ritual. One and all were gathered together as one flock, churches of God, churches of Christ, churches of the Saints. From such churches the gospel was sounded forth, 1Thes.1.1,8.
Modern worldly wisdom and satanic ingenuity have discovered another way more pleasing to the flesh in the believer, less repulsive to the ungodly and more profitable to the devil's interests. So young Christians are counselled to remain in the religion in which they were reared, in which they had been kept in the dark about their need of salvation, where the gospel was not preached and where conversion was denounced. They are to remain and be a testimony. This means that a Unitarian who has been saved by the Son of God is to remain where the truth of the Trinity is not held. The converted Roman Catholic is to continue at Mass and to bow down to the host. The convert from Jehovah's Witnesses is to stay under the soul destroying teaching of that system. The Episcopalian is to attend the teaching of baptismal regeneration. The Presbyterian is to listen to the teaching that the christening of an infant signifies and seals its ingrafting into Christ and its engagement to be the Lord's. They are all to support financially the spread of these anti-Christian doctrines, to encourage those who denounce the gospel, to associate in religious activities with the enemies of Christ. They are to feed their souls on chaff, drink of the living waters from the poison bottle and learn divine truth by hearing false doctrine. And all this is witnessing for Christ! It is, in fact, open disloyalty, blatant denial of Christ and downright disobedience to the word of God.
But, says one, we must mingle with people in order to bring the gospel to them. Certainly so, but we are not to do evil that good may come. We can contact the drinker without sitting down with him at the bar, the dancing enthusiast without frequenting the dance hall, the immoral person without visiting the dens of vice and the religious people without partaking in their false religion.
But, says another, did not Christ and the apostles frequent the synagogue and the temple were all was not right? Certainly they did. But remember that the Jewish religion was of divine origin and established by the Old Testament. Which of the religions mentioned above can claim this? Then, both the Lord and his apostles went to the synagogue because there was liberty to read and expound the Scriptures. Can one imagine them listening without protest to false doctrine? They went in and preached the very doctrine that was rejected in the synagogue. Christ spoke of God's favour to the Gentiles, provoked the wrath of hearers and was thrust out, Lk.4.27-30. The apostles preached that Jesus was the Christ and that God had raised from the dead the One whom the Jews had crucified, Acts 17,1-3. They were also cast out.
They went to the synagogue, preached the gospel and some were saved. Then the preachers were rejected and left, but they did not go out alone, they took the young converts with them, Acts 19.8,9. Christ went into the Jewish fold, called His own sheep by name and led them out; among the Gentiles the same happened and there was one flock and one Shepherd, Jn.10.3,4,16. We repeat that Christ and His apostles did not go in to listen to the soul-destroying teaching of ungodly men but to proclaim the whole truth of God which would save sinners and bring them out to be disciples of Christ. If a "synagogue" can be found where there is liberty to do just that, it may be entered.
When young Christians remain in association with the evils we have mentioned above they defile their souls, spoil their spiritual appetite and deprive themselves of all spiritual activity. They do not bear witness to Christ, nor to the gospel for their mouth is shut.
But why is such counsel ever given by preachers to their converts? Often it is because the preachers themselves have a guilty conscience and are walking in disobedience to the word of God in this matter. Naturally they do not wish their spiritual children to get ahead of them. Some are seeking the friendship of the ungodly religious leaders with the vain hope of thus furthering the gospel. Before the mind of others is the dream of popularity and the avoidance of that which is the result of whole-hearted discipleship the reproach of Christ, Heb.13.13.
It has often been noted that the advocates of the policy of young Christians remaining in the religious community in which they were reared, are themselves forced to admit its failure. Knowing well that spiritual progress is almost impossible in the churches they form meetings, societies, missions or unions where there can be some fellowship, testimony and teaching. They thereby admit, to use a phrase of the late W. P. Nicholson, "that live chicks cannot thrive under a dead hen." Their way is completely illogical as well as unscriptural. If the so called churches are of God no outside organisation is required. To add to what God has established is to question His wisdom and His ability to care for His children. In the New Testament churches all that is necessary is provided through the ministry of those whom Christ has gifted, the care of the elders, the Holy Spirit's power and the Scriptures. There is the place of fellowship, of worship, of teaching, of training and of gospel activities. It is the only thing established by Christ and all the energies of the Christian should be devoted to its edification and extension. These human organisations are the half-way house of men who are not willing to go the way of whole-hearted obedience to the word of God, lest they lose the favour of the clergy. They seek to serve two masters and end up earning the scorn of one for their duplicity and the disapproval of Christ for their lack of obedience.
In contrast with man's: "Stay in", we have God's: "Come out". To those in connexion with heathen religions it is: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," 2Cor.6.17. To those linked to the Jewish religion the exhortation is "Let us go forth unto Him (Christ) without the camp, bearing His reproach, Heb.13.13. To any who may be in Babylon (the harlot mother of Rome, with her harlot daughters) corrupt Christendom, the command is: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins." Rev. 18.4.
Man says : "Stay in". God says : "Come out." "We ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5.29.
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No. 1 — THE PRIORITY OF WORSHIP
"... For it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve," Lk.4.8.
Hebrews chapter eleven is the great chapter of faith, as exemplified in the lives of ten individuals and the nation of Israel, v1-31. Others are alluded to without exact mention of their exploits of faith or identity, v32-40. The life of faith for these individuals gained them a good report, which was pleasing to God. It is significant that the first three men mentioned: Abel, (v4) Enoch (v5) and Noah (v7), manifested the priority of the life of faith. Their faith was woven into a life of service for God and dependence upon Him. Yet, the order in which they appear is not just chronological. Examine God's record of their lives and you will find by an obvious emphasis, a pattern that pleases God and that we do well to follow.
Each individual's life had one predominant feature; Abel, his worship, Enoch, his walk, Noah, his witness. The Spirit of God shows what is acceptable to God in the life of faith. God wants worship as the foundation for a walk that is pleasing to Him. This is the source of acceptable service. Worship manifested in our daily walk with God will give character to our witness in a sinful world. These three lives bear eloquent testimony to the words spoken by the Lord Jesus in Lk.4.8, "thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve." Very often we hear the idea that we have been saved to serve; is this correct? Surely the teaching of Scripture is that we have been saved to worship. Only from a heart that moves daily in the attitude of worship will there be acceptable service. The absence of daily worship in the heart is the reason for a life that excludes little fragrance — a bland testimony that creates no impression in the world. Herein you will find the clue to the anomaly of a life that bears little fruit for the Lord, in spite of much activity. Worship can never be replaced by any substitute no matter how cleverly designed.
Worship has become clouded in the busyness of the modern world and being elusive has been subjected to many attempts to create an acceptable substitute. Worship will affect every department of our lives. It is not just the adoration of our great God in prayer, it is much more. True worship finds expression in our daily lives in the community in which we live. It is not the pious activity of sanctimonious souls in a cocooned environment or in the cloisters of a chapel. True worship will give vitality and verve to Christian living in society and to godly service in the assembly, and that for His glory. Therefore, the priority of a Christian's life should be worship.
We may not accomplish what Abel, Enoch and Noah did, but we have their example and should seek to emulate them. We may not be called upon to worship in such a way or in a country that results in the wrath of others being provoked, so that we face loss of life or property. While it is the hope of every worshipping saint, we may not have the privilege of walking with God until the Lord comes to catch His own away. However, our lives should be a witness for God and His standards of righteousness in a wicked world. Whatever our sphere of service or the intensity of faithfulness demanded, God expects the worship of our hearts to be manifested for His glory and that it should be the well-spring of a faithful walk and fruitful witness. Without acceptable worship, our walk and witness will be deficient.
Seeing then that worship is so important: what is worship? Many think of worship as an activity that takes place only at certain times in certain places and following a prescribed liturgy. We may shun the outward ceremony and ritual of the established Churches and yet subtly prescribe a form of worship by expected phrases of order or thought. This may initially seem to be spiritual, but often it is the opposite, and may be just our substitute for a lazy mind and a lethargic heart. Beware that in trying to sound spiritual or perhaps even to be spiritual, we do not allow the flesh to become active. Acts of worship are the result of a worshipping heart. Worship is from a heart in the right condition before God. This is described graphically by the Psalmist in Ps.45 as his "heart inditing (flowing over/bubbling up) a good matter." Worship is a spiritual activity, which is prompted, energized and executed in the power of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be mechanically initiated, nor sustained by fleshly means. Worship is the outpouring of the heart in appreciation to God and Christ; praise, honour and adoration being directed to Them in the power of the Holy Spirit. It may be done individually or collectively, silently or audibly, momentarily or continually.
There are two words used in the New Testament for worship. Proskuneo, which has the idea of bowing down before God in humble adoration, see Matt.2.2. Latreuo, which has the meaning of reverent veneration reserved solely for God, see Phil.3.3. Inherent in both terms is the idea of giving to God that which is acceptable. These words and the related subject of worship show that worship is not just the outpouring of a heart's appreciation to God but also that we give ourselves and of our possessions. It affects our innermost attitude to life and ought to be a feature of our lives day by day. The most common mistake we make is to think that worship is reserved for the remembrance of the Lord on the Lord's Day. Hence, the remembrance supper is often mistakenly called "the worship meeting." Certainly, if we do not worship at the Remembrance Supper we have missed the mark, but that is only one of the many places and times for worship. All services ought to be performed with a worshipping spirit.
Does Rom.14.1-18 not show that consideration of weaker believers is acceptable to God and therefore worship? Does Rom.15.16 not show that preaching the gospel is also worship? Phil.4.18 describes a monetary gift to the Lord as worship. ITim.2.1-3 shows that responsible citizens will pray for the authorities of the land, as the evidence of a life lived in godliness and honesty; such a life will be "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." Surely Heb.13.15 is the pinnacle of worship for the child of God. "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." Praise and adoration of God, offered through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the essence of worship. Rom.12.1-3, describes the most painful kind of worship as that of presenting bodies a "living sacrifice." This is our reasonable service or offering of worship and is the necessary foundation for any other type of worship. We may use the sweetest language ever heard in praise; we may have the biggest gift ever given; we may preach the greatest sermon ever heard; but if we are not as the Macedonians in 2.Cor.8.5, who "first gave their own selves to the Lord," it will all be for nothing. It will be like the man of lCor.13, who without love for God does great deeds and has a great gift, yet he "is nothing" and "profits nothing."
The practical implication of the Scriptures' teaching on worship is heart searching. Can I participate in collective worship if I have not been worshipping in private? It would be difficult. Does God accept my financial giving to the Lord in its fullness as worship if it does not come from a worshipping heart? Will anything be able to compensate for my refusal to bow in worship to the claims of the Lord in Rom.12.1? A consecrated life is the basic prerequisite for every form of worship in which I intend to engage. This may well be the cause of many of the long and embarrassing pauses experienced in our prayer meetings and remembrance meetings. A spirit that is constantly worshipping in private will never have to be forced into action in the public gatherings of the assembly. Worship cannot be produced at a moment's notice from a heart that has been neglectful of the sanctuary and private experience with God. Worship cannot be augmented by the use of extravagant language in addressing God since some of the richest worship has been couched in the simplest language. Contrary to common and unenlightened thought, worship is not enhanced by the better use of language, or the better presentation of truth. We may create a better sermon to be uttered before the Father and find we are engaged in the same activity as the proud Pharisee in Lk.18. Worship can only come from a heart in communion with God.
A common practice is for brethren who are never heard in the remembrance supper to be away frequently preaching on Lord's Day evening. This is plainly contrary to what God desires and should be corrected by the soul that wants to please the Lord and make his life count for God. In a large assembly, you may not participate audibly in every remembrance meeting, but to be always silent is not the bent of a worshipping life. It would be expected that those brethren who have a responsibility to invite speakers for" the Lord's Day gospel meeting would ensure that with appropriate exercise of heart before the Lord, they invite men who enjoy the confidence of their local company of saints in this matter of worship. Older brethren used to tell us that we have no right to be speaking to sinners about the Saviour if we have not first been speaking to the Father about the Son. This is still good advice!
In conclusion, worship in all its aspects is the foundation of a walk before God and will be the foundation for effective witness to the unsaved. If my worship is deficient, my walk, however orthodox will be deformed, and my witness, however vocal will be defective. Wandering feet will never be found on the same body as a worshipping heart. Many assembly and personal problems and disorders are just symptoms of a deeper problem — the lack of worship.
—to be continued (D. V.)
David's Mighty Men
2 Sam. 23.8-39 and 1 Chron.11.10-47
by D. S. Parrack, Bognor Regis, England
Paper 3 — URIAH
Perhaps the saddest and most melancholy episode in the life of David centred around another of his captains, Uriah (Flame of Jah). The first thing recorded about this man was that he was a Hittite. Indeed it appears to be almost a part of his name, that by which he was known of men, Uriah the Hittite. The Hittities were one of the original peoples inhabiting the land of promise prior to Israel's exodus from Egypt. They were by nature and choice implacable enemies of God's people, antagonistic to their well being. Uriah, however, as his very name implies, demonstrates that it was true of him as of Ruth, "The Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust," Ruth 2.12. Nevertheless, the adjunct to his name kept his origins fresh in both his own mind and the mind of his companions. Whilst the cultivation of a morbid reflection on the past is to be avoided, it behoves us to remember the place where we once were, our natural state, our darkened hearts. The Israelites were commanded so to do when first they began to enjoy the fruits of their God-given inheritance. At the commencement of their recital of God's deliverance and redemption they were to acknowledge that "A Syrian ready to perish was my father," Deut.26.5. In describing to the Corinthians the characteristics of those who "shall not inherit the kingdom of God," 1Cor.6.9, including fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, Paul adds "and such were some of you." To the Colossians he could say "You that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works," Col.1.21. "The saints which are Ephesus" were reminded of a time when they "were dead in trespasses and sins — and were by nature children of wrath even as others," Eph.2.1-3. In every case cited the immediate context shows that God has brought us out of such a position, that He has "delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love," Col.1.13. Such a calling to mind of what we were will have positive results. It will keep us humble, by showing us that in ourselves we have nothing of which to boast. "What hast thou that thou did not receive?" lCor.4.5. It causes us, as we have borne in our hearts something of the mercy of God, to exclaim as did Paul, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God," Rom.11.13. It demonstrates to unbelievers the power of God to change lives. The reaction to such a testimony will vary widely. Paul was conscious that his witness produced a variety of responses, but could say nevertheless "we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish," 2Cor.2.15. However unappreciative man might be of a transformed life, God is joyed by the savour of Christ in his saints.
Of David, God was prepared to say that he "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord — all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite," 1Kgs.15.5. The only redeeming feature in this appalling incident is the character and bearing of the one so despicably betrayed by both his wife and king. To receive a royal summons to act as a liason between Joab and the king must have appeared as a high honour. Little could Uriah have dreamed of the unworthy motives that prompted David to recall him to the capital. There is, however, no sign that such honour caused either a sense of superiority or slackening of zeal on the part of its recipient. Not only did Uriah forbear from going to his own house, but he "slept at the door of the king's house, with all the servants of his lord." He had, as seen in his answer to David's puzzled questioning, a heart fellowship with those who had no opportunity of rest and ease. "My lord Joab, and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife." Though circumstances had separated him from his fellow soldiers he was with them in spirit, longing after them. Opportunities may well come to us of opting out from the pressure of spiritual warfare. It is easy for us to talk in such circumstances of periods of lying aside but we need to be very sure before a relaxation of effort that is not dictated by our own carnal inclinations and natural desires. It may be that such a course may be advocated by a seemingly trustworthy source putting forward legitimate reasons. How unlikely was the vehicle of temptation and incitement for Uriah, yet he was enabled to withstand the pressure put on him. If he was able, through loyalty to his fellow-soldiers and captain, to stand firm how much more ought we to stand for a far worthier Lord. For "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it," 1Cor.10.13. Paul reminds Timothy that "no one enlisting as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier," 2Tim.2.4. Such a steadfast loyalty and devotion, which counts the promises and praises of this world as of little worth, will indeed bring pleasure to "the captain of our salvation," Heb.2.10.
Joab had no difficulty in putting into execution David's treacherous plot. Ironically it was Uriah's known bravery which made it appear quite natural for him to be assigned the most dangerous point in the attack. What a reputation to have and for us to covet, a preparedness to risk all and be utterly burnt up in the service of his king and his people. Paul was greatly cheered on occasions by companions of such mettle. He commends the house of Stephanas in "that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints," 1Cor.16.15. Epaphroditus was one who "for the work of Christ was nigh unto death, not regarding his life," Phil.2.30. Of Priscilla and Aquila he writes, "My helpers in Jesus Christ, who have for my life laid down their necks," Rom.16.4. Such loyalty, and disregard for self can be motivated by nothing other than love, for "love is strong as death, jealously is cruel as the grave — many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it," S of S.8.6-7. Uriah's devotion led him to very death itself, but what a triumph his life had been. Giving himself constantly and unsparingly in the cause of his king, for whom he fought to bring glory and renown together with deliverance and blessing for his people.
May we know what it is, in spite of the natural failings of men, ourselves or others, to be caught up in the all consuming love of Christ to the end that we might be enabled both "to lay down our lives for the brethren," 1Jn 4.16, and to willingly and intelligently obey the injunction to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service," Rom.12.1.
Christ our "Burnt Offering"
by D. M. Clark (Stoney Creek)
All of the five offerings, in Leviticus, give a different view of the work of Christ. The Burnt Offering is the first of the five offerings dealt with, but for the sinner, the logical arrangement of the offerings begins in the reverse order in which they are recorded.
We sense the activity of sin in the Trespass Offering, our conscience is pricked, we have trespassed God's law and feel our guilt.
In the Sin Offering a deeper work is wrought and we realise that sin is working from within us. Sin is the root and sins are the fruit.
In the Peace Offering Christ has made peace with God for us. This offering is a bridge between our former standing as guilty sinners and our present standing, "justified (acquitted, declared righteous and given a right standing with God) by faith," Rom.5.1. Also, Col.1.20: "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."
In the Meat or Meal Offering the glories of the Person who accomplished our Salvation are brought before us. Christ in all the perfection of His humanity endured the cross. How intense those sufferings must have been to a Perfect Man.
In the Burnt Offering we observe Christ the Son giving Himself wholly and absolutely unto the Father. Sin is not in question in this offering.
This is the first in the sequence of the offerings from God's perspective. It is most instructive for us, for while we rejoice in the work that Christ has done in removing our sins, we must also enter into the value of Christ's sacrifice as God sees it.
Christ, in all the excellence of His Person, gave Himself wholly to God in the absolute and utter devotion of His heart. He could say in Jn.10.17: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." We stand in amazement and marvel at such an expression of love. The Lord Jesus, in absolute perfection, and obedience, fulfilled all the Father's will.
As we consider this feature of Christ's sacrifice, Eph.5.2, becomes more meaningful to us "...Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet savour." This is the Burnt Offering view of Christ's death.
Although Jesus, the Son of Man, as the Sin Bearer, was forsaken of God, His communion with the Father, as Son of God, was never affected. At that time the Father found absolute satisfaction in the Son, who was wholly devoted to fulfilling His Will. And the Son, found all His delight in pleasing the Father. Ps.40.8, "I delight to do Thy Will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart." During His sojourn here He could say, in Jn.1.18, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." That Father-Son relationship could only be deepened by the perfection of Christ's sacrifice.
Heb.10.5-7, "Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God."
The Burnt Offering, Meal Offering and the Peace Offering are spoken of as "sweet savour offerings," Lev.1.9, 2.2, 3.5. This suggests the delight that God found in the offering. This cannot be said of the Sin Offering and Trespass Offering for God could find no delight in having to execute judgment against sin.
In the Sin Offering the one presenting the sacrifice placed his hand on the head of the victim which then became his substitute by dying in his stead. In the Burnt Offering, once again, the person offering the sacrifice placed his hand on the head of the victim, but in this instance all of the virtue and value of the sacrifice was transferred to the person offering it. For the believer, Christ as our Burnt Offering, brings us into all the favour and standing that He has before God so that we are "accepted in the Beloved."
Except for the skin of the Burnt Offering all of the sacrifice was totally consumed on the altar. The total consumption of the sacrifice shows that it was offered wholly to God, even as Christ offered Himself entirely to God. It is a witness to the devotion of the Lord Jesus in fulfilling God's will.
The priest was to have the skin of the Burnt Offering, Lev.7.8. Although the priest could only be a witness to the sacrifice, the skin was given to him as a constant reminder of what he had seen. Similarly the Lord Jesus has given us the remembrance supper as a constant reminder of His death.
We see in the emblems of bread and wine the entire compass of the work of Christ, as typified in the five offerings, and they have their place as we remember Him. However, that which corresponds to the Burnt Offering aspect of Christ's death expresses a deeper apprehension of Christ's work. In it Christ is presented to God. Our occupation is with the value and worth of the sacrifice as seen in God's eyes. How God's heart must rejoice when He hears the praise and worship of His people as they glorify and exalt His Son?
INGERSOLL AND BEECHER
At a meeting once, where both the late Colonel Robert Ingersoll, a celebrated infidel lecturer in U.S.A., and Henry Ward Beecher were present, the noted agnostic, Colonel Ingersoll, had spoken at some length and had brilliantly put forth his agnostic views. It was expected by those present that Beecher would have replied to these attacks, and would have defended Christianity, but not a word did the old man say.
At last the Colonel Ingersoll remarked: "Mr. Beecher, have you nothing to say on this question?" The old man slowly lifted himself up from his attitude and replied: "Nothing: in fact, if you will excuse me for changing the conversation, I will say that while you gentlemen were talking my mind was bent on a most deplorable spectacle which I witnessed today".
"What was it?" at once inquired Colonel Ingersoll, who, notwithstanding his peculiar views of the hereafter, was noted for his kindness of heart. "Why", said Mr. Beecher, "as I was walking down town today I saw a poor, lame man with crutches slowly and carefully picking his way through a cesspool of mud, in the endeavour to cross the street. He had just reached the middle of the filth, when a big, burly ruffian, himself all bespattered, rushed up to him, jerked the crutches from under the unfortunate man, and left him sprawling and helpless in the pool of liquid dirt which almost engulfed him".
"What a brute he was", said the Colonel. "What a brute he was", they all echoed.
"Yes", said the old man, rising from his chair and brushing back his long white hair, while his eyes glistened with their old-time fire as he bent them on Ingersoll. "Yes, Colonel Ingersoll, and you are the man. The human soul is lame, but Christianity gives it crutches to enable it to pass along the highway of life. It is your teaching that knocks these crutches from under it and leaves it a helpless and rudderless wreck in the slough of despondency.
"If robbing the human soul of its only support on this earth — religion — be your profession, why, ply it to your heart's content. It requires an architect to erect a building; an incendiary may reduce it to ashes".
The old man sat down, and silence brooded over the scene. Colonel Ingersoll found that he had a master in his own power of illustration, and said nothing. The company took their hats and departed.
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (61)
by Larry Steers (Toronto, Ontario)
Precious are the words of the hymn "Preserved by Jesus when my feet made haste to hell." Eternity will reveal how many times and how close to the precipice of the eternal burnings our Christless souls came. The day of salvation is the most precious moment in life. The main features of my conversion are as follows. Brevity demands the omission of many details.
My first birth occurred in a little country house in southern Ontario, Canada. My parents, at the time, were not saved. Mother knew the gospel well, having attended a Gospel Hall Sunday School, but father had no exposure to the simple presentation of God's way of salvation. As a result of gospel meetings held in the community hall of our small village he was brought under the conviction of sin by the Spirit of God, and through the words of Jn.3.16, trusted Christ. My mother professed a short time later and as a lad of five I witnessed the baptism of both parents.
A change in our home was immediately evident. The Bible was read at the table every day. My younger brother and I attended a Gospel Hall Sunday School, series of Gospel meetings and special children's meetings. From an early age I was convinced that the Bible was the Word of God, that I was a sinner on the Broad Road and would be in hell if I was not saved. The truth of the rapture filled my soul with fear, for I would be left behind.
During my early teen years, Dad spent many weeks in a hospital. His firm hand upon an increasingly rebellious son was missing. Many unsaved friends and a desire to participate in their activities took me away from the influence of the gospel. The prodigal character of Lk.15 was evident as I became determined to escape from the restrictions of home.
Recklessly, I conceived a plan that would take me 150 miles from home to the city of Toronto under the pretext of furthering my education. Like many young men, I felt that my mother was "out of touch" and could easily be deceived. One vital detail in my scheme was missing as I had no place to stay upon my arrival in Toronto. Who can fathom the burden of a Christian mother for a careless unsaved son? Quietly working behind the scenes and with other believers, a boarding place had been found. Before leaving home she presented me with a slip of paper on which was an address where I could obtain a room.
Never will I forget arriving at that house and the gospel texts on the walls. An old gentleman asked for my help to build a fence in the back yard. I helped build that fence with Mr. Gordon Johnston, a missionary from Venezuela. Gospel Hall preachers were the men I was attempting to get as far away from as possible. That first night in Toronto, and much against my will, I sat in the Pape Avenue Gospel Hall and listened to brethren Harold Paisley and Albert Joyce preach the gospel. Impressions were made for eternity that evening.
The stay in Toronto was short. Dropping out of school and unable to find a job, it was necessary to return home. Finding employment 30 miles away from home, I became immersed in all the worldly activities I could find.
Arriving home from a sporting event on a Friday evening, I discovered that Dad was seriously ill. The next morning he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. There are moments inscribed upon the memory that time could never erase. One of those moments in our experience occurred while standing beside my brother in the doorway of our father's hospital room. He looked at us and gave a feeble wave. The last words he spoke were "Good-bye boys." He passed away that night.
The great battle for the soul had commenced. I was deeply troubled but Satan will not release his victims easily. In spite of the inward turmoil, I resolved that unsaved friends would see no tears in my eyes and determinedly braced myself for three days. Upon conclusion of the funeral service, family members were given the opportunity to pay their last respects. When they all rose and gathered around the casket, I refused to join them. When they all sat down and the casket was about to be closed for the journey to the cemetery my wilful resolve was shattered and a proud sinner broke. I stood and alone made my way to my father's side. Looking at him, the tears flowed. He was in heaven and I was on the way to hell. At that moment I was certain that God was speaking to me for the last time.
Returning home from the cemetery, ignoring the large crowd which had gathered in the house, I made my way upstairs to my bedroom burdened about my soul. That cold January afternoon I trusted Christ while' reading Jn.5.24.
Often when one is telling their conversion the statement is made "I have no regrets." I have two. First, that I never trusted Christ earlier in life, second, that I never had the opportunity to stand before Dad, look into his face and say "Dad, I just got saved."
I was baptised in the same river in which my parents were baptised and was received into the fellowship of a little country assembly. Later, I returned to Toronto having secured a teaching position. As a teacher I was at liberty to use many summers for gospel work. This would involve going door to door in the afternoons and preaching in the evenings in areas of Ontario where there were no assemblies. A little blessing was seen in some of these places. It eventually became evident that our exercise in the gospel necessitated resigning our teaching position. With the encouragement of various brethren and in fear and trembling, we responded to the command of our Lord: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel," Mk.16.15.
Good Tidings from Heaven
Society is marked by education and knowledge Few would want to be thought of as being ignorant Parents encourage, sometimes pressurise, their children to do well at school, more are attending University, night classes are full All this is with the end in view that we will not be considered ignorant and uneducated
However, there are serious and spiritual matters concerning which the majority of the population is ignorant Let us consider just three
The risen, exalted and glorified Lord Jesus Christ gave His assessment of a company in Rev 3.17, "thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked " Here are people who are IGNORANT OF THEIR AWFUL PLIGHT. They looked at themselves and thought all is well We can almost hear them saying, "We have no obvious needs We are materially well off and are enjoying a good lifestyle " Unconsciously, they undergo an examination which is deep, internal and most revealing The result of the diagnosis is as serious as it is unexpected Instead of assessing the external, this divine Examiner lays bare the internal This is in accord with the Old Testament prophet who recorded, "the LORD seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart," 1Sam 16.7 The question to be answered by the reader is, "How would my life appear in the assessment of the Lord Jesus9" If there never has been the soul saving experience of the new birth, then regardless of all the external trappings of religion,*respectability and good works, my inward state is appalling and severely deficient in His sight
In Lk 19.44 again we read the words of the Lord Jesus, "thou knewest not the time of thy visitation " These people were IGNORANT OF THEIR AMAZING PRIVILEGE. Out of all the people and cities in the world, He chose them — What a privilege' Many who read this paper have had the amazing privilege of being familiar with the glorious message of the gospel 1Cor 15.3, "Christ died for our sins," Rom 5.6, "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly, v8 But God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us " Yet you never have responded and accepted the Saviour as your own Those in Luke 19 were bound for and hastening towards judgment as a result and thus the tender hearted Saviour weeps They did not realise their wonderful opportunity and never would experience peace What they needed could only be obtained through their acceptance of the One who died on Calvary to satisfy the claims of God's throne and open the way back to God It causes Him concern that you reject Him and are heading for eternal damnation Does it not give you any thought or concern9 Have you ever wept over your dreadful sin7
You may dismiss all that has been written above and pooh-pooh the idea of eternal punishment Some will teach the Satanic theory of annihilation and seek to comfort themselves with the unscriptural theories of men They are like those in Matt 24.39, "knew not until the flood came, and took them all away " They were IGNORANT OF THE APPROACHING PUNISHMENT. They rejected the preaching of the godly Noah and life was continuing as normal SOCIAL LIFE v38 "eating and drinking," and PERSONAL LIFE "marrying and giving in marriage," continued But there was a sudden intervention of God, v38,39, "knew not until " Their unbelief did not stop the judgment of God There was a sudden and unexpected interruption of their plans when God moved, "and took them all away " The waters above the earth combined with those beneath and led to the overwhelming deluge In a day to come, the fire that is above will combine with that beneath and sweep this ungodly world in divine judgment
Dear reader, are you aware of this or are you already living in ignorance9 Are you ready to meet God or, ostrich-like, do you hope it will never happen9 The Bible states, "prepare to meet thy God," Amos 4.12 Ignorance will not be an excuse The only answer is found in the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, "Who gave Himself a ransom for all," 1Tim 2.6, Jn 3.16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life "
We live with men and visit God. Christ lived with God and visited men.
God is behind everything and there is nothing behind God.
God causes His truth to dawn upon us rather than to burst upon us.
The best way to meet the need of a future generation is to serve the present one.
One of the chaplains of her late Majesty, Queen Victoria, had been preaching on the Second Coming of the Lord, and afterwards, in conversation with the preacher, the Queen exclaimed: "Oh! how I wish that the Lord would come in my lifetime!"
"Why", asked the chaplain, "does your Majesty feel this very earnest desire?"
The Queen replied with quivering lips, and her whole countenance lighted up by the deep emotion — "I should so love to lay my crown at His feet."
Baptism is not the act of a moment but the fact of a lifetime.
The college of every man in the assembly is his own home.
When you know God's heart you will never question God's will. The will of God is His expression of His love for me. The greatest knowledge for man to possess is to know God's will, (it is all in the Word of God!); and man's greatest achievement is to do it! Those who seek to please God, are those who seek to know, then do the will of God!