One of These Days. . . .



In 1962 a record was released entitled, “Old Rivers.”  Walter Brennan, a famous character actor of that time, recited the words with a choir singing in the refrain in the background.  The song was about Old Rivers, an elderly farmer whose life was being remembered by a man who had spent his childhood following him as he worked in his fields.  The refrain of the song spoke of Old Rivers’ desire to depart and be with the Lord.  It began with the words, “One of these days, I’m gonna climb that mountain, walk up there among them clouds.”

The phrase “one of these days” is a statement of a wish that is hoped for, but without any definitive schedule attached to it.  In the song, Old Rivers knew that one day he would pass on to the other side, but he did not know when he would make that trip.  This is why he said, “One of these days, I’m gonna climb that mountain.”  He could not mark a date on the calendar for his passing.  All he could do was acknowledge the fact that one day he would.

We often use this phrase in a slightly different manner.  We may tell a friend, “One of these days, we’ll do this or that.”  When we say this, we may fully intend for that thing to happen, but we do not set a specific time to do it.  In such cases the occasion may never come about because neither friend ever schedules it.  In other instances, we may say this to be polite and to appear friendly, when we actually do not intend to make it happen.  It is a way to deflect making a commitment without appearing to be unkind.

We also use this phrase sometimes with regard to our obedience to the gospel, and to our faithfulness to the Lord.  One who is not a Christian may say, “One of these days, I’ll start coming to church, and I’ll get my life right with God.”  A wayward Christian may make the same statement when he is urged to renew the practice of his faith.  We have no way of knowing if this is a true statement of that person’s intent, or if it is just a polite way of saying, “No, thank you,” to the Lord.

Even if we were to take such a statement at face value, we cannot allow it to go without noting an important consideration.  “One of these days” is an ambiguity.  It is a dangerous balm to salve one’s conscience about any subject that he actually wants to avoid.  “One of these days” cannot be found on any calendar, and thus postpones the action that might resolve whatever issue is under discussion.  Whether it is health issues or exercise, pursuit of some educational or vocational goal, or following through on one’s commitment to the Lord, “One of these days” just kicks the can down the road.

“One of these days”, however, plays right into the devil’s hands.  It has been said that one of the devil’s greatest lies is that we have plenty of time to get right with God.  If he can convince us to wait until “One of these days”, he knows that we will very likely never follow through with our obedience to the Lord.  The reason why this is so is because we have no guarantees that “One of these days” will ever come.  In Jas. 4:14 James warned that our life is a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  We never know when our life will end, so we can’t wait for “One of these days.”  Likewise, in Mt. 24:36 Jesus warned that no one knows the day or hour of His return for judgment, so we can’t wait for “One of these days” because we don’t know when the Lord will return.

This is why Paul said, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).  Our only guarantee is this moment, and this breath we take.  To put off obedience in the hopes of some future opportunity is to court eternal condemnation.  To wait for “One of these days” is to play Russian roulette with one’s soul.  Make today your “One of these days” and get right with the Lord in obedience to His word.

Treasures In Heaven



The story is told of a wealthy man who died and appeared at the pearly gates.  An angel met him to escort him to the place where he would live for eternity.  As they walked along the man was overwhelmed by the beauty of the golden streets and the incredible mansions that lined it.  “Surely one of these is mine,” he thought, but the angel just kept walking.  Soon he noticed that the streets were no longer gold, and the houses were smaller, but still very nice.  He again thought that one of these must be his heavenly home, but the angel continued walking.  Finally, they came to a dirt path.  The angel led the man down the dirt path and stopped in front of a dilapidated shack.  “Here is your home,” the angel said, and turned to leave.  The man began to protest, saying that there must be some mistake.  How could he be assigned to such a poor dwelling place when they had bypassed so many fine mansions and houses?  The angel quietly replied, “Sir, we did the best we could with what you sent ahead.”

This little story helps us visualize an important spiritual principle, but like many human illustrations it misses the mark in one aspect.  The idea of there being mansions in heaven comes from a mistranslation in the King James Version of Jn. 14:2.  The Greek text says there are many rooms in the Father’s house.  The King James translators, working from the Latin Vulgate translation, mistook the Latin term, mansio, which means a place where someone stays, for mansion, a place where a lord lived.  This was never the intent of the Lord’s words in Jn. 14, and for this reason we should not expect to live in a mansion in heaven.  However, the idea of sending something ahead is a valid point, for the Lord Himself exhorted us to do so.

In Mt. 6:19-21 the Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We understand that the Lord was not talking about sending physical building supplies ahead for one’s eternal comfort.  Instead, He was talking about one’s priorities and focus in life.  This point is made clear in v. 24 where the Lord said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The context for these remarks is the Sermon on the Mount, and in particular the Lord’s discussion of mankind’s preoccupation with the necessities of life.  Even in the first century people were so focused on making a living that they were tempted to neglect their responsibility toward God.  The Lord’s message on that occasion was to put God first in their lives, and then all these things would be added to them (Mt. 6:33).  This is not only the divine prescription to alleviate worry in life, but is also the way in which we store up treasures in heaven.

The reason for the Lord’s concern is seen in His statement that where our treasure is, our heart will be there also.  This is a fundamental truth that transcends time and culture.  Our treasure is those things on which we place the greatest value.  If we place greater value on the physical things of life, our focus is going to be limited to this earthly realm.  If, on the other hand, we place greater value on spiritual things, our focus will be on God and on His will.

The scriptures warn us that at the end of time the physical realm will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:10-13).  If our treasure is worldly things, it is going to be lost when the Lord returns.  However, if our treasure is in heaven, we will be among those who are welcomed into the heavenly city at the end of time to live with the Lord forever.  There is no greater treasure than this.

So then, where is your treasure?

The One Who Endures



The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  Most of us have heard this statement in one form or another many times in our lives.  We understand it to mean that we cannot reach any goal, no matter how near or far, until we have taken a step toward that goal.  This makes perfect sense, but it is not the whole story.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who lived about 300 years after Lao Tzu, said, “Well begun is half done.”  This statement is less well-known, but perfectly complements Lao Tzu’s proverb.  Aristotle understood human nature.  He knew that we often content ourselves with the fact that we’ve begun something, but then never complete it, or complete it inadequately.  Thus, he admonished against being satisfied simply with a good beginning.

As useful as these proverbs may be in secular matters, neither of them adequately addresses the most important issue of all: the journey to eternal life.  The scriptures, not surprisingly, cover every aspect of this journey.  In Mt. 7:13, 14 the Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  This is the beginning of the journey to eternal life.  This step is taken when one obeys the gospel by being baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16, et al).  If one does not take this step, he will never reach heaven.

Then, in Mt. 24:10-13 the Lord said, “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”  This statement covers the completion of the journey to eternal life.  Taking the first step begins the journey, but only those who remain faithful to the Lord until the end will reach heaven (Rev. 2:10).

In between the first step and the last step, the scriptures offer this admonition from the pen of Peter: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them” (2 Pet. 2:20, 21).  This is the inspired equivalent to Aristotle’s “Well begun is half done.”  Peter tells us that having begun the journey to eternal life, we must not turn off the path until we reach heaven.  Those who begin well, but do not finish, will suffer condemnation from the Lord.

A modern proverb says, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”  We understand that this refers to one’s heart, rather than to the results on the field of competition.  We use it to encourage each other in whatever endeavor we might undertake, and it fits that purpose well.  When we reflect upon this proverb in a spiritual context, however, we discover that it applies both to one’s character (heart), and to the results of his efforts.  In 2 Tim. 4:7, 8 Paul told Timothy that he anticipated receiving the crown of righteousness because he had been faithful to the Lord to the end.  He also said that this reward is reserved for all who would do as he had done.

Here’s the point: All who are faithful to the end will enter heaven, just as Jesus said: “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”

Do Two Walk Together?



Amos was a prophet from Tekoa, which was about six miles south of Bethlehem.  He ministered during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah and Jeroboam II over Israel in the 8th century B.C.  His primary message was a warning to the pagan nations and to Israel of God’s impending judgment.  A key part of this warning is in the form of a discourse in which God lamented Israel’s departure from the faith (Amos 3:1-8).  This departure was made all the worse because God had chosen Israel from among all the families of the earth to be His, but they had rejected Him (v. 2).

In Amos 3:3-6 God asked a series of questions, each of which implied a negative response.  The most important of these questions is in v. 3, where God asked, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (ESV)  The obvious answer is, “No.”  Two people cannot walk together if they have not agreed to do so.  The implication, of course, is that Israel was no longer in agreement with God.  They were walking their own way, which was clearly not God’s way.

This is such a simple, yet powerful illustration of a fundamental truth in our relationship with God.  We cannot walk together with God if we are trying to go our own way through life.  The Old Testament certainly affirms this truth in case after case.  Moses frequently admonished Israel to carefully keep God’s commandments and to not turn aside to the right or to the left (Deut. 5:32).  In other words, Israel must agree to walk God’s way in order to be blessed.

This principle was reaffirmed by our Lord during His earthly ministry.  In the Sermon on the Mount He stated it very simply in Mt. 7:13, 14.  He said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NASB)  He further emphasized this truth in Jn. 14:6, where He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (NASB)

It is hard to argue with these statements.  God the Father said two cannot walk together unless they agree to do so.  His Son, our Savior, said there is only one way that leads to life, and He is it.  No one will come to the Father except through Him.  Therefore, we must agree to walk the Lord’s way in order to have eternal life.

Agreeing to walk the Lord’s way means that we subjugate our will to His will.  It means that we do not second-guess God’s will, or question the direction it leads us.  It means that we commit to obeying all that He commanded us, just as Jesus said in Mt. 28:20.  Walking together with the Lord means that we acknowledge that He is God and His will must be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

There are many today who claim to be walking with God.  The airwaves are full of preachers who eloquently declare their fidelity to God and call others to walk with them, as they walk with God.  The proof in the pudding, as it were, however, is whether these proclamations agree with what God’s word has revealed.  God accepted no variation from His will among His chosen people Israel, even though they served what the book of Hebrews calls “the shadow of good things to come” (Heb. 10:1).  How much more so, then, is this the case for those who live and serve in the reality of the kingdom, as we do today?  The only way we can get to heaven is to walk together with our God as He leads us there through His inspired word.  Don’t you agree?

Do I Have to Go to Church?



Some who read the title above will immediately respond that we don’t go “to church,” we are the church, and we go “to worship.”  This, of course, is completely accurate, but it is a technicality that does not negate the basic question.  Some honestly wonder whether it is absolutely necessary to be present every time the church gathers for worship or Bible study.  Others ask only to validate their laxity about church attendance.

Elders and preachers have struggled with this question for generations.  Some take the view that a “faithful” Christian will be present every time the doors are open, unless providentially hindered.  Others take the view that once a week, sometime on Sunday, is enough, and anything more is optional.  One side will argue from scripture that we must be present at every assembly, while the other side argues that to believe such is Pharisaic.

Complicating this discussion is the fact that the scriptures simply do not give the kind of answer either side desires.  Nowhere in scripture do we find any statement that specifically requires attendance at multiple assemblies each week.  Neither, however, do we find any statement granting the freedom to be absent from the assembly for whatever whim might strike us.

The clearest statement about attendance in the assembly is in Heb. 10:23-25.  Here the scripture says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

The writer of Hebrews says we must not forsake the assembly, but did he mean three or four such assemblies every week?  The simple answer is, “No.”  The scriptures suggest that first century Christians met once on the Lord’s Day to worship and to observe the Lord’s Supper.  They did so because of the realities of their work week, rather than as a doctrinal statement.  They worked seven days a week and thus had to meet either early on Sunday morning before going to work, or late Sunday evening after finishing work (cf. Acts 20:7-8).

The rise of multiple assemblies each week came about in modern times, and for at least two reasons.  At one time the morning assembly was when communion was served, and was thus closed to those who were not members of that church.  The evening assembly was an evangelistic assembly, when non-members were invited to attend.  Later, especially during World War II, an evening assembly was deemed necessary because so many people worked shifts at defense factories that operated around the clock.  The addition of Bible classes, or Sunday School, and mid-week Bible study or prayer meeting arose from a perceived need to facilitate knowledge of God’s word among members of the congregation.

The point in assembling together, as stated in Hebrews, is as a sign of holding fast to our confession, and to stimulate one another to love and good deeds in view of the imminent return of the Lord.  Compared to our first century brethren, many of whom met daily and from house to house (Acts 2:46-47), even meeting four times a week seems insignificant.  As we consider this issue we have to ask two questions.  First, “Is worshiping God less important than anything else we might do when the church assembles?”  And, second, “Is holding fast our confession and stimulating one another to love and good deeds less important than anything else we might do?”  If so, then, no, we don’t have to go to church.  But, if we love the Lord and appreciate the salvation He has given us, then we won’t want to be anywhere else when the church meets, however often that might be.  In the end, we know that this pleases God, and isn’t that more important than anything else in life?