Many Christians pride themselves in their distinctives; that is, their theological positions that set them apart from other Christians. I am not one of them. I see Christ’s Body as one. Our distinctives are caused by our limited or faulty knowledge. Our denominational differences are caused by our foolish pride in that limited knowledge.
Our only glory should be in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul emphasized this in Galatians 6:14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.” Nothing in this sin-cursed world system meant anything to Paul, nor should it mean anything to us. Knowing Christ and living our lives 100% for Him is all that matters.
Paul did not glory in the number of baptisms and he evidently kept no records of who he baptized. Knowing who or how many he baptized was not that important to him. That’s the message of I Corinthians 1:10-17. Verse 17 should forever settle it in our minds that baptism is not a part of salvation. One can be saved and go to Heaven without being baptized.
IS BAPTISM IMPORTANT?
Yes it is. Though it does not save you nor insure your salvation, it is the first step of obedience for a new Christian. Every Christian ought to be baptized in order to declare to the world that he is now a Christian. Every preacher who wins people to Christ should teach them to take that first step of obedience to Christ. Baptism, though not a part of salvation, is a part of the Great Commission. When we win people to Christ, we should teach them the importance of taking this first step of obedience to Christ.
Read the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Read the historical account in Acts 2 of the first church service after the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven and spiritually baptized and united into one body those who believed and received the Gospel as Peter preached it. Note that when the people believed the Gospel, they were baptized in water. Continue reading through Acts and you will see that baptism in water always followed salvation.
WHAT IS THE PREREQUISITE TO BAPTISM?
According to Acts 8:36-37 the only prerequisite to baptism is to believe the Gospel and receive Christ as your Saviour. A full understanding of the Bible or spiritual maturity are not necessary in order to be baptized.
If one is truly saved, he will hunger to know God and His Word. He will have an insatiable appetite to know the Bible and he will have a desire to obey it. That’s why a new Christian needs to be active in a church where the Bible is clearly preached. If you have recently been saved, I encourage you to read and devour this HIDDEN TREASURES web site and then find a church that preaches God’s Word in harmony with what you are learning here, as long as you find it to be in harmony with the Bible.
If you find that I am not in harmony with the Bible, then you need to part company with me as a false teacher.
SHOULD BAPTISM BE BY SPRINKLING, POURING OR IMMERSION?
I’m not going to tell you. What I think, is not the issue. What the Bible says, is what counts. Two examples of baptism should suffice to help you determine how to be baptized. The example of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17 and of Philip baptizing a new convert in Acts 8:26-39.
Oh, I should give you a hint. The Greek word translated baptize literally means to immerse or dip.
Often when a father or mother is saved, the entire family follows the parent and is saved and baptized. That was the case in two examples in Acts 16. Read Lydia’s story in 16:13-17 and the Philippian jailer’s story in 16:19-34.
In both case the entire family came to faith in Christ and in both stories the whole family was baptized. If you want to believe that the little children who were saved were sprinkled or water was poured on them, I have no problem with that. What is important to me is that baptism does not save and that believing in Christ as Saviour is prerequisite to being baptized. according to Acts 8:36-37. Note the clear question in verse 36 and the clear answer in verse 37. Also consider from the account in verse 38, why would Philip go down into the water with the eunuch, if he was only going to sprinkle or pour water on his head? I have found that it is quite impossible to immerse a person in water unless I am in the water with them.
However, if you come to me as a Christian, who after trusting in Christ was sprinkled or poured upon, I am not going to ask you to be immersed, unless you are convinced that’s what you ought to do.
WHAT’S HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM?
When one puts his trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit instantly baptizes the new believer into the Body of Christ, the Family of God. That has nothing to do with denominations or a local church. Instantly you know, recognize and love other Christians as part of the Body you have just entered. You recognize other Christians as your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:13-27 teaches this.
It is normal for a new believer who senses he is now in God’s family, to want to follow the Lord in water baptism and get involved in a local church where the Bible is faithfully preached.
My warning to you would be to be very careful where you settle in a church. Make sure you measure what you hear and experience by the plumb line of God’s Word. That’s why I encourage you to get into HIDDEN TREASURES and get acquainted with the Bible. Read the articles with an open Bible. Then visit churches and test everything that is said and experienced by the Bible. When you find such a church, get baptized and be faithful in your attendance and share the Good News with everyone you meet.
One day I will meet you in Heaven and we will have all the time in the world
(for we will be in a realm where time is no longer measured) to get acquainted and learn how God has worked in your life.
God’s plan of salvation is logical. Paul uses financial accounting terms in Philippians 3 to explain it. The historical details of his conversion are described in Acts 9 by Dr. Luke; but Paul shares his own personal testimony in Philippians 3.
Before Paul met Christ, his spiritual asset column was filled up with all his personal assets he was counting on to make him worthy of Heaven. But in a moment of time on that Damascus Rd. when confronted by the risen Christ; Paul experienced a radical transformation in his heart which extended to every area of his life. as he realized that all the things he considered spiritual assets were in fact his spiritual liabilities. Christ, his major liability became his most valued asset.
In fact, Christ became so surpassingly valuable to him that those things which were once his assets became not just liabilities. He described them in Philippians 3:8 as garbage, and yes, even excrement!
In two parables found in Matthew 13, Jesus taught the same thing about salvation. In verse 44 He describes salvation as a man finding a treasure in a field. The treasure was so valuable that the man sold everything he owned in order to buy the field and thus secure the treasure for himself.
In the same 13th chapter of Matthew in verse 45-46 Jesus relates another parable of a man selling all that he owned in order to purchase a pearl of great price. That treasure and that pearl in those parables are a picture of the salvation Christ offers us. Nothing we own or experience compares with the value of salvation. Your wealth, your women, your success in life is nothing in comparison with knowing Jesus as your Saviour.
Even your religion is excrement in comparison to knowing Jesus personally as your Lord and Saviour.
Fornication, adultery and sexual perversion are not the only vices in life. The worst vice in life is a Christless religion. That’s what Saul of Tarsus had before his conversion; a Christless religion. He hated, not only Jesus, but those who loved and followed Jesus.
But in a moment of time, described in Acts 9, Christ overcame him and he fell to the ground and surrendered to Christ as His Saviour and as His Lord, Immediately Saul, a proud Pharisaical Jew, turned his back on Judaism and became Paul, a fire brand for Christ. His personal knowledge of Christ far surpassed what his religion offered him.
Let’s look at his former asset column in which he had trusted to make himself acceptable before God.
1. His self-righteousness
Most of the world does not understand this. They count their self-righteousness among their top assets. Ask any unregenerate on what he is counting to attain Heaven. Nearly all will reply, “I think God will see my good deeds as outweighing the wrong I have done. I think that on that basis I will one day be in Heaven.”
And yet, the Bible thunders back in both the Old and New Testament that our self righteousness is less than worthless. Isaiah 64:6 describes our self-righteousness as filthy, stinking bloody rags. Both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-6 make it crystal clear that no one can attain Heaven by his own works of righteousness.
So if you are trusting your self righteousness for Heaven, I urge you to take it out of your asset column and place it in your liability column. Your good works can never save you.
2. His circumcision
Because Paul had been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, according to God’s Old Testament Law, he gloried in that ceremony as he came to realize that of all the people on the face of the earth, he was one of the elite sons of Abraham. Surely that asset would see him into Heaven one day.
3. His position as a son of Israel
He was not only a son of Abraham and Isaac, but he was also a son of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. As an Israelite he inherited all the assets listed in Romans 9:4-5 that came with that family.
He did not yet understand the truth of I Peter 1:18-19, Having Godly parents does not insure our salvation. We cannot inherit salvation from them.
4. From the Tribe of Benjamin
Paul was not just an Israelite. He was an elite Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. At the time of the division of Israel into Northern and Southern Kingdoms, Benjamin had joined with Judah in the southern Kingdom. From the tribe of Judah one day the Messiah would come. He was a blue-blood Jew. His tribe had kept pure by not intermarrying with others.
PK’s (Preacher’s Kids) and MK’s (Missionaries’ kids) though blessed if they have godly parents, have no in with God, apart from His grace. I as an MK had to recognize my lost condition and put my trust in Christ; otherwise, I as an MK would have spent eternity in Hell.
In Acts 26:4-5 in his defense before King Agrippa, he refers to his life as a strict Pharisee; but in I Peter 1:18-19 he admits the vanity and uselessness of tradition as a means of securing salvation.
6. Zeal and Sincerity
In Philippians 3:6 he speaks of his zeal. No religionist was more zealous nor sincere than Saul of Tarsus; but that zeal and sincerity was worthless as far as attaining salvation was concerned.
Not only was he zealous and sincere; but he saw himself as blameless, as far as God’s Law was concerned. He couldn’t think of a single sin in his life. He believed himself to be blameless of breaking any of God’s laws.
How blind he was and how blind and self-deceived is anyone who sees himself blameless before our holy God.
When we read the story of Paul we are reminded of the rich young ruler In Matthew 19:16-22 who came to Jesus and claimed perfection before God’s Law. God exposed his sins and we read that he turned away from God sorrowfully.
In contrast, Saul of Tarsus, the chief enemy of Christ and His Church, when confronted with his sins before God, bowed in saving faith and surrender and became an outstanding servant of God in the first century.
Both Saul of Tarsus and the rich young ruler considered themselves blameless before a holy God; but when they each met Christ, Saul (Paul) saw himself bankrupt morally before God and received Christ, whose righteousness was put to His account. The rich young ruler rejected Christ and His righteousness and went away lost, trusting in his own pitiful self righteousness which stunk as filthy rags in the nostrils of God.
How do you stand before our holy God? Do you dare to approach Him in your own filthy self-righteousness, or do you see your self-righteousness as a liability and cast yourself on God’s mercy and receive by His grace the asset of His righteousness credited to your account?
The triple overall theme of the New Testament includes:
1. The exaltation of Christ
2. The explanation of the Gospel
3. The warnings of false doctrine
We are repeatedly warned about false teachers and false doctrine, starting with Jesus’ warning in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:15-29. Paul repeatedly warns us, as well as John, James, Peter and Jude. Their Epistles are filled with warning against false teachers.
We’ve come now to Philippians 3 and in verse 2 Paul warns us against false teachers. Then in verse 3, he describes true Christians.
First he warns against false teachers. He describes them as dogs, evil workers and the concision. Though I am a dog lover, I am also aware that dogs love filth. They love to smell it, roll in it and even eat it. An unbelieving false teacher, though he may have a pleasant personality and great skill teaching, is spiritually as filthy as a dog. Proverbs 26:11 describes those who reject God’s Word as spiritual fools, who as dogs return to their vomit. Though we can be loving and patient with sinners, we cannot afford to give an inch to false teachers. They must be removed from their offices; whether deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, pastors or seminary professors.
Secondly, false teachers are described as evil workers. False teachers, though seemingly nice people and even smart people, cannot be trusted nor condoned. They must be recognized as evil workers and removed from their teaching positions.
Thirdly, the false teacher is described as a member of the concision. That was another way of describing the Judaizers who were poisoning the young Gentile converts with the need to be circumcised. Circumcision is the surgical procedure on the male organ of a Jewish baby boy on the eighth day after his birth. Many gentile boys are also circumcised for health reasons. That is a decision between parents and their physician. It has nothing to do with our spiritual standing before God.
The Judaizers in Paul’s day were insisting the male gentile believers be circumcised and observe the Jewish Feast Days and sabbaths. Wherever Paul was preaching and leading people to Christ, these members of the concision followed to poison the young converts with requirements that had nothing to do with their salvation they had received as a gift of God’s grace.
Satan, the god of false religion, has always attempted to infiltrate God’s people to contaminate the Truth and weaken young Christians. Jesus referred to them as those who sow tares in a field of wheat. Paul referred to them as wolves who destroy the flock.
God has given us a way to recognize Truth from error. It’s found in Philippians 3:3. There Paul describes the true circumcision, those whose hearts have been circumcised by God who saves and cuts away sin in our lives. A true Christians is not simply one who has determined to cut sin out of his life and do right. Rather, he is one whose heart has been cleansed by the blood of Christ and his heart desires to please God. When the heart is right, the right actions will follow.
A DESCRIPTION OF TRUE CHRISTIANS
So Paul in Philippians 3:3 describes the true Christian as one who worships God in the spirit, who rejoices in Christ Jesus and who has no confidence in his flesh nature. That’s one of the most complete descriptions of a Christian in all of the Bible.
The True Christian Worships God in the Spirit.
True worship is totally internal in nature and character, but it works itself out in a changed life. A true Christian is one who adores and worships Christ in His heart. That worship is prompted by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
His worship is not prompted by tradition, so-called worship music, culture, guilt or fear.
Nor does he worship to be accepted by others.
Nor does he worship to work up emotional feelings and feel good about himself. True worship slays self-righteousness as we give all honor and glory to God for who He is and what He has done for us.
In fact, true worship will make us aware of sin in our own lives as it did for Isaiah as he worshipped God. Read of his worship experience in Isaiah 6. It not only caused him to seek cleansing from sin, but also resulted in a desire to serve the Lord in whatever way God could use him.
Any so-called worship experience that does not result in a desire to confess and turn from sin and yield ourselves for Christ’s service, is simply an empty emotional selfish feeling not worthy of the designation, worship.
He does not worship to solve problems nor to gain blessings.
He does not come to church to worship, for a true Christian can worship God 24/7 wherever he is
Rather, he comes to church to hear the preaching of God’s Word and as he hears the Word, he responds in corporate worship with other Christians, as well as private, secret worship too deep and too intimate to make a public show of piety. Such piety is vulgar, hypocritical and false
Worship is not just singing or saying words to God. It’s partly that, but it’s much more. It’s responding in praise and thanksgiving to God. True worship always results in obedience in service and in sacrifice to God.
The True Christian Rejoices in the Lord.
Christianity is a personal loving relationship with God based on an understanding and acceptance of the Gospel.
The Gospel is composed of objective facts. Jesus is God in human flesh. He was born of a virgin mother. He lived a sinless life and then went to the cross and willingly shed His blood and gave His life for our sins. Three days later, God the Father raised Him from the dead. He ascended back to Heaven. Those who trust Jesus and His blood sacrifice are forgiven, cleansed of their sins and made fit to live with God throughout eternity.
But salvation is more than receiving these objective facts. It is more than a mere intellectual understanding of the Gospel. That intellectual understanding results in a personal, subjective relationship with God. That personal relationship results in a life of rejoicing in Christ; just as a bride and groom who have given and received objective pledges from one another in their marriage vows are bound together in a new relationship with one another that results in a lifelong relationship of rejoicing in each other. That rejoicing in Christ is the theme of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. You’ll see that theme throughout the Epistle.
Notice, Paul is not telling us to be happy in our circumstances. Happiness has to do with our happenstances. Some happenings are good and some are bad. Some bring happiness and some bring sadness. God does not call you and me to be happy in our sad circumstances. Rather God calls us to rejoice in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. Such rejoicing acts as shock absorbers to cushion the difficult circumstances of life and to live a smooth, peaceful life, in spite of the bumpy experiences and emotions of life. As long as we are walking in fellowship with Christ and rejoicing in Him, the circumstances really don’t matter.
Horatio Spafford, a lawyer and real estate investor in Chicago, was an associate of D.L. Moody, evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago,
After the Chicago fire of 1871 most of his real estate holdings lay in ashes. In November of 1873, many of the schools had not yet been rebuilt in Chicago, so he and his wife decided to travel to England and enroll their children in an English academy so they would not be held back in their education.
Just before they left America, a business development made it necessary for Horatio to stay in America and so he sent his wife and daughters to England on the ship, Villa de Havre. In mid ocean, they collided with another ship and their ship sank, taking the four daughters to the bottom of the ocean. Mrs. Spafford was able to cling to some floating wreckage and was saved from drowning. In England she telegraphed her husband, “SAVED ALONE.”
With his financial holdings gone and now his daughters gone, he penned the following words which became a song Christians find great comfort in singing.
It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this bless assurance control.
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
What comfort these words have brought to countless hearts.
He Has No Confidence in the Flesh
A true Christian has no confidence in the flesh. By the flesh, we are speaking of our unredeemed humanness, our sinful self nature.
There is nothing wrong with our physical bodies. The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Though we are redeemed, if our trust is in Christ; yet our flesh or self nature is not yet redeemed. Romans 7 gives us the most information concerning our flesh nature.
Our self nature is basically selfish, proud and lustful. Paul, the spiritual giant, confesses that there’s not one good thing about our self nature. We are not to trust it nor feed it and our text, Philippians 3:3, warns us to have no confidence in it. In other words, if you are a Christian, don’t put yourself in a position where you could fall into sin. Many, many pastors and other Christian leaders have not heeded this warning, thinking themselves spiritually strong enough to avoid sin. In a moment of unexpected weakness they have allowed the flesh nature to lead them into sin.
May God help us as Christians to always be aware of dogs, evil workers and those who would lead us into religious bondage and may we worship God in Truth and in the Spirit. May we rejoice in Christ and in what He has done and is doing for us and may we have no confidence in our sinful flesh nature.
“We who preach the Gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We are not diplomats, but prophets and our message is not compromise but an ultimatum.”
AW Tozer in Man The Dwelling Place of God 1966
Most people know the story of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. Many know He came to die on a cross for sinners. They celebrate His birth with carols, decorations, parties and gifts; even though a strong, growing vocal minority would like to see Christmas removed from the American landscape.
But although much of the world is aware of and even celebrates Christ’s first coming, most of Christendom despises and ignores His second coming to judge the world. Many who call themselves Christians are ignorant or misguided about this Biblical truth.
Unbelievers don’t want to hear about the second coming of Christ, or judgment and hell. They dread it and down deep in their hearts they know it is true. If as adults we believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, they would laugh us off as foolish; but because they have a vague uneasiness that the Bible and Christianity may possibly be true, they hate and try to silence Christianity and those who declare it. They mistakenly think that if they silence Christians, God and His Truth will go away.
Regardless, we Christians need to lovingly and faithfully warn them. In fact, one of the best ways to share the Gospel is to begin by warning sinners of the Biblical facts concerning Christ’s second coming.
Jesus constantly warned of His second coming throughout His ministry. In Luke 12:40 He taught, “Be ready also: for the Son of Man comes at an hour when you don’t expect Him.” In Acts 17:30-31 Paul approached the unconverted religionists in Athens with the warning, “The times of this ignorance, God winked at; but now commands every man everywhere to repent. Because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead.” Jesus, who was crucified, buried and raised from the dead on the third day, is one day returning to this earth. His second coming will be to judge and rule over this world for a Millennium, one thousand years.
Go to the link on PROPHECY to learn more about the Millennium and of the eternal state which follows.
Though unbelievers hate and despise the idea of Christ’s return to judge this world, we Christians long for His return and we sing, “Oh, Lord Jesus, how long, how long, ere we sing that glad song, Christ Returneth, Christ Returneth. Hallelujah Amen. Hallelujah Amen.”
Listen to these Biblical promises of Christ’s second coming that challenge us as Christians to be faithful and ready for His return.
“Be patient therefore brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient, establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.” James 5:7-8
I encourage you to read the major passages on the details of the return of Christ for His own as found in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
How can we prepare for His coming? Let’s return to Luke 21 as we wind up our study of Christ’s Olivet Discourse. Jesus says to us in verse 28, “Look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.”
I. LOOK UP WITH ANTICIPATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
When we look at the circumstances around us: political, economic and moral darkness, we have reason to feel hopeless, despondent and in despair.
But when we look up to Jesus who bids us to be of good cheer for He is returning for us and to take over this world one day, perhaps sooner than we can imagine; He give us His blessed hope. James wrote in James 5:8 “Be patient, establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near.” The last promise and the last prayer in the Bible are found in Revelation 22:20. They are “Surely I come quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
II. LOOK IN WITH INTROSPECTION AND SELF-JUDGMENT.
That’s Jesus’ challenge to us in verse 34 of Luke 21. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Christ is warning us here to beware of living lives of excess, immoderation and self-indulgence, living for fun and pleasure and self-satisfaction. Imagine! Christians partying while the world around us goes to hell.
It’s not sinful for Christians to have fun and enjoy life. I love Church socials and wacky fun. I love to see our children and our teens enjoying occasional church socials and parties in the homes; but it is wrong for Christians to be surfeited or weighed down, trying to drown themselves in the pleasures of life and forget the reality of Christ’s imminent return.
If anything, church parties and socials should be occasions when we invite our unsaved friends to join us in our fun times so that they can see first hand the reality of Christian joy. That may be the first step to winning them to Christ.
The joyful anticipation of meeting Christ imminently should lead to growth in virtue and holiness. Listen to John in I John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. and every man who has this hope in him, purifies himself even as He (Jesus) is pure.
Paul says the same thing in Titus 2:11-14. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldy lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works.”
Paul writes these kinds of warnings to the various churches. You can read another of them in Romans 13:11-14. Peter also warns Christians of the return of Christ in II Peter 3. In verse 11 he reminds us as Christians, “See then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”
John, an old man when he writes His Epistles, in I John 2:28 reminds Christians, “And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
III. LOOK OUT WITH EVANGELISTIC CONCERN
In the Matthew 24 account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus refers to the need for evangelistic activity. He reminds us that in Noah’s time in the days before the Flood began, life went on as usual with people eating and drinking and getting married and ignoring Noah’s warning of a world wide flood right up to the day Noah and his family entered the ark. In Luke 21:35 Jesus speaks of the world’s population as being trapped in a snare when He returns to judge.
In II Peter 3 Peter likens the universal world wide flood of Noah’s Day to the world wide judgment that will fall on the earth when Christ returns. As people scorned a flood in Noah’s day; so today, unconverted scientists and teachers close their minds to all the evidence of a flood because they know that if they believe it to be true, to be consistent they must also believe in the world wide judgment Peter warned of in this 3rd chapter.
How do you stand? Is your faith in Christ who died for your sins and rose again for your justification? If so, you are justified and ready for the return of Christ. If not, you stand condemned to the fiery judgment that awaits this earth and all those who dwell on this earth.
Thank God for the doxology in Jude’s little one chapter epistle. Verses 24 and 25 declare “Now unto Him (Jesus our Saviour) who is able to keep you from falling and to present you FAULTLESS before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, OUR SAVIOUR, JESUS, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.”
Solomon’s temple, one of the architectural wonders of the world, was built silently. According to I Kings 6:1-7 there were no sounds of iron tools such as hammers, chisels, etc. All the measuring and cutting of stones was done at the quarry. The temple went up at the building site in total silence as the men put the pre-measured, pre-cut stones into their proper places.
Is this just mere trivia? Not at all. Nothing about the Bible is trivial. Everything is for a reason. There’s something intriguing about this silence. It tells us something about God and of how He works. Consider
OUR SILENT GOD
The universe moves in its orbit in total silence. The sun rises and sets in total silence. At the Grand Canyon and other marvelous natural wonders, the hushed silence is noticeable as people ponder God’s creation.
Oh yes, there is the occasional roar of thunder and lightening storms, of tornadoes and hurricanes and other natural disasters. That’s all part of the curse of sin on this earth. So are the angry screams and roarings of anger and rage as sinful people vent their sinful hearts.
Babies are formed silently in the womb. They continue to grow from infancy to old age, all in silence. All of God’s creation moves through time and space in total silence.
Though God moves and acts in silence; the redeemed respond in worship and praise in a great variety of beautiful melodious and harmonious music to God and in joyful fellowship with Him and with one another.
By contrast there is the mind-numbing dissonant cacophony of discord and confusion in hell’s music.
As one who loves God-glorifying music, I can’t wait to hear and participate in its variety and perfection in Heaven.
In the midst of God’s silence, when it seems as though nothing good is happening and God is not answering our prayers; we can take comfort that God is at work in our lives and working all things together for our good.
Listen to the third stanza of the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem as it speaks to us of Christ’s coming into this world.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given.
So God impart to human heart the blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin;
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
As physical growth takes place silently in the body of a child who eats, drinks, exercises and rests; so spiritual growth occurs silently in those who feed on His Word and surrender to His will.
In this message, consider the silence of:
1. Worshiping God
2. Serving God
3, Effecting change in individuals, churches, nations and the world.
THE SILENCE OF WORSHIP
Habakkuk 2:20 instructs us regarding worship, “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Reverential silence is to be desired in worship. It’s not that there should be a funeral-like silence in the church; but a respectful, reverential silence is often missing.
There is a place in worship for loud, joyful, Biblically-based, instrumental and vocal music as David describes it in the Psalms, some of which are Psalm 33:3, 66:1-2, 81:1-3, 95:1-3, 98:4-9, 100. Quiet, peaceful music that turns our thoughts to reflecting on Christ and what He means to us also has a place in worship.
Not only should we joyfully sing from our hearts, but we should reach out in Christian fellowship to others in genuine love, warmth and friendliness.
Let us show respectful, reverential treatment of our church property, including our rest rooms, sanctuary and hymn books. At the same time, keep in mind that our bodies are the true sanctuary in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. As much as it is important to take care of our church sanctuary, it is even more important that we recognize our bodies as the true sanctuary and holy property of God, as I Corinthians 6 teaches.
The highest form of worship takes place silently in our hearts as we worship the Lord in Spirit and as He prepares our hearts for the Truth of His Word, the Bible. John 4:24
Certainly singing hymns and choruses from a wicked, rebellious heart is blasphemous, according to Amos 5:21-24.
THE SILENCE OF DOING GOD’S WORK
As Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ ministry in Isaiah 42:1-4, Jesus ministered quietly. He was not a rabble-rouser. Though we are to always be ready to share the Gospel; our witness is empowered by the silent witness of a consistent godly life. If we are failing to live it, it would be better to be silent about our love for Christ, because our hypocrisy brings shame to His name.
Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:11-12 that we are to mind our own business as we do our own work quietly. Jesus gives a wonderful description of the attitudes of the Christian life in His Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-16. For more on this, go to my link, Beatitudes, on this web site.
God’s work takes time, energy and commitment; however, we must avoid frenzied activity. Yes, we get physically tired and emotionally drained, but in our weakness, He promises His strength. Read some of the wonderful promises upon which we can rest in our times of weariness. Isaiah 40:29-31, 30:15, Zechariah 4:6 and Matthew 11:28-30.
THE SILENCE OF EFFECTING POLITICAL CHANGE
The political situation in America and throughout the world today is not encouraging, to say the least.
I am convinced from Scripture that my calling as a preacher is not to get caught up in politics and political and social causes. I believe that through my faithful preaching of the Word and magnifying Christ, I can quietly be used of God to effect changes in values and thus changes in political thinking as changed people seek political leaders who best reflect their changed values.
As Christians are grounded in God’s Word, they become like King David’s mighty men described in I Chronicles 12:15-40 Note especially verse 32 as the men of Issachar are described. They were men who “had an understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do.”
God is not impressed with big crowds nor majorities. In fact, God does not get the biggest crowds in this world today. The devil does. He not only gets the biggest crowds, but he also makes the most noise. We accomplish nothing by trying to out-shout him.
God still speaks with a “still small voice.” I Kings 19:11-12
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
“Stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still. Psalm 4:4
Our strength in times of trouble is to sit still. Isaiah 30:1-7
We are to study to learn to be quiet before God. I Thessalonians 4:11.
We are to pray for our leaders that we may enjoy a peaceable and quiet life. I Timothy 2:1-2
A woman’s greatest strength is her “meek and quiet spirit”. I Peter 3:4
How does God change our nation? Quietly without any big show or loud commotion as we Christians get right with God. II Chronicles 7:14
What is this sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4?
For one thing, we know from Hebrews 3:1 and 4:9 that it concerns Christians. The Christian life is likened to Israel‘s journey from Egypt through the wilderness and into Canaan.
We know it is a place of rest from our own works, efforts and struggles. 4:10
We know that only unbelief keeps us out of that land. 4:11
The Exodus from Egypt
Israel‘s 400 years of slavery in Egypt is an illustration of our condition before we were saved. We were slaves of Satan and knew nothing of true freedom. We were, as Hebrews 2:15 describes, all our lifetime in bondage to religion; trying, but failing to gain merit with God.
Then in the fullness of time God gave them Moses to lead them out of Egypt and slavery. That took place at the first Passover described in Exodus 12. You remember that each family had to slay a lamb and smear the blood on the doorpost of their house so that the death angel would pass over them as he went through Egypt that night killing all the first born of the land. The death angel passed over the homes covered by the blood. What a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins! How important it is that we trust in that shed blood for our salvation! Those covered by the blood of Christ will never experience God’s condemnation. Are you covered by that blood? Are you trusting the blood sacrifice of Christ on Calvary as your only merit for salvation from sin and judgment?
Next day, after the angel of death had struck Egypt and Israel had been spared, they began their journey from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. You remember the miracle of crossing the Red Sea on dry ground and then later the Egyptian army being drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued after Israel.
The rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe Israel‘s journey through the wilderness on their way to Canaan. Those books speak, not only of their journey, but also of the laws, the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system that God gave them for dealing with their sins and living their lives so as to please Him.
Their destination, the land of Canaan, does not speak primarily of Heaven, as many of our Christian songs teach; but of a life of victory we can experience as we live in a sin-cursed world. Yes, Canaan is a picture of the life that every Christian ought to be living here on earth right now. This life in Canaan, though filled with battles with Satan our enemy, is described as a life of REST.
REST is the key word in Hebrews 3 and 4.
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness they eventually came to Kadesh-barnea in the northern desert just south of the border of Canaan. Number 13-14 tells the story of how Israel sent twelve spies into Canaan to spy out the land so that they would be prepared to enter. Ten of those spies brought back a negative report of unbelief. “It was too dangerous. There were too many enemies. It was impossible.” Only two spies, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a positive report. “Yes, there were enemies, but with God’s help, they could enter the land and be victorious!”
Israel listened to the majority report and gave up right then. They moaned and groaned and said it was impossible to enter. God became angry with them and sentenced all the Israelites twenty years old and older to continue to wander in the wilderness until they were dead. Forty years later when all were dead, God called Joshua to lead the new generation, including eighty-five year old Caleb, to enter Canaan and begin conquering the enemy. That story is told in the book of Joshua. Basically, they were told to rest in the Lord, obey Him and watch Him conquer the enemies and enable them to possess the land. This is told in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua.
What dangers do we face as Christians?
Through the sin of failing to trust God, we risk the danger of never entering the land of Canaan, the victorious Christian life. We risk the danger of just existing all our days, walking as living zombies with no purpose, no joy and no victories over sin. That’s the warning in Hebrews 3:7-11. Though saved, we depart from the living God and live our lives as though He were dead. I’m afraid that Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years is a picture of many Christians who go through the motions of Christianity, but with no reality of walking with the Living Lord and experiencing His purpose, joy and victory in their lives.
Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to be aware of those defeated Christians and exhort them daily, lest their hearts become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Be aware that if we entertain and coddle even just a little sin in our lives, our hearts will gradually become calloused and hardened to where we don’t care.
We Christians who rejoice in our eternal security in Christ need to be especially cautious that we do not use that truth as an excuse to become careless about sin. If you’ve not read it, I encourage you to read my article on eternal security in our SALVATION series.
How do we partake of Christ?
Note the exhortation in Hebrews 3:14 “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfastly to the end.” How do we partake of Christ each day? We partake of Him as we read and take heed to His Word daily. His Word is the daily food that sustains us. Find a church that is faithful to the Bible where you are faithfully fed. Use this web site to help feed your soul as you test by the plumb line of the infallible, living Word of God what I or anyone else writes or says.
What must we fear?
Hebrews 4:1 warns us to fear something. What is it that we are to fear? Certainly not our eternal security in Christ. A Christian need not ever fear losing his salvation. Read Romans 8:28-39 for a powerful statement on why this should never be our fear. Our standing in Jesus’ righteousness can never change.
Certainly we ought not be concerned whether we are pleasing God through the Sabbath observance or through any other ceremonial law for Israel under the Old Covenant. That is not even an issue. If you have come to Jesus as your Saviour and are trusting Him, the observance of ceremonial laws and sabbaths should have no place in our lives. Those are all shadows of Christ. We have Christ Himself. The only value of studying those shadows is that we can learn more about Jesus.
If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation and for your life, you have nothing to fear as far as your standing is concerned. I John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.”
What is it then that Hebrews 4:1 is telling us to fear? The fear should be that of falling short of entering into Christ’s rest. We should fear displeasing our Heavenly Father.
Do you remember when you as a little child were warned by your parents to stay out of the street so you would not be hit by a car? As a little child, did you live each day in mortal fear of being hit by a car or being punished by your parents. Of course not! While you played in your yard or in the park with your parents or an older brother or sister, you didn’t even think of the dangers of the street; however, if your ball rolled out into the street, you were fearful of venturing out into the street. Even if a car didn’t hit you, you did not want to risk getting punished for disobeying your parents. Hopefully, your friends exhorted you to stay out of the street. So in our walk with God Christian friends and pastors exhort us to avoid seeing how close we can play with fire without being burned. They exhort us to come to church when we are beginning to get discouraged and slack off. See Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24.
How do we labor to enter this land of rest?
Hebrews 4:11 asks that question.
For one thing, we get into the Word of God. 4:12 It exposes the thoughts and intents of our heart like nothing else can. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to conviction of sin.
As we struggle with our infirmities and sins, remember that Jesus our great High Priest walked this earth as a man experiencing all the temptations we face yet without sin. He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help us discover His victory when we are tempted. 4:14-16
Have you come to know Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Victory and Rest? I’m not teaching present perfection. I John 1:8-10 teaches that we will not be sinlessly perfect until we arrive in Heaven in our glorified bodies at the Rapture of the Church.
However, even though we are not perfect yet, we can learn to enjoy consistent victory over sin as we come to Jesus, our Sabbath Rest. Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him, learn of Him and yoke with Him in service. We will discover the wonderful rest that comes in fellowship and service with Him.
My prayer for you, dear reader, is that your eyes will be opened to grasp this wonderful, life-changing truth of discovering The Lord Jesus Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Lord, as your Life, as your Victory over sin and as your Sabbath.