This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on April 29, 2016.
In the early years of commercial flight, and with the advent of voice radio transmission, officials determined that they needed an easily understood term for use in emergencies. A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London came up with the term “mayday,” derived from a French term that means, “come and help me.” This term became the universal distress signal for voice procedure radio communications. It is primarily used by aviators and mariners, and is repeated three times to signify an actual emergency. An aircraft pilot or ship’s captain who sends a “mayday” signal is declaring a state of emergency and is requesting assistance from all available sources. At that moment nothing is more important, because it is literally a life or death situation.
We do not normally associate “mayday” with spiritual matters, but it certainly fits. During Paul’s second missionary journey, he and his companions came to the city of Troas in Asia Minor. In Acts 16:6-8 Luke tells us that Paul intended to go into the areas north and east of the group of cities in southern Galatia that he had visited on his first journey. God, however, had other plans for the apostle. In Acts 16:9 the scriptures say, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night; a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.” In effect, Paul received a “mayday” call from Macedonia.
In response to this call, Paul went into Macedonia and preached the gospel in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. From there he went into the province of Achaia and preached in the cities of Athens and Corinth. The “mayday” call in Paul’s vision was God’s way of directing Paul into a fertile field for evangelism. The success of this mission was such that thriving churches existed in several Greek cities for many years thereafter.
It is clear from this miraculous vision that God wanted Paul to go into this region to preach the gospel. Was it because God knew that the people in this region would be more receptive to the gospel than those in the other areas Paul wanted to visit? This is certainly possible, since God sees the heart. We don’t know if the Macedonians realized that they were lost until Paul preached to them, but God knew they were. It may have been that God, seeing their lost condition, issued the “mayday” call on their behalf, by means of Paul’s vision, so the opportunity for salvation could be brought to them more quickly.
The issuance of a “mayday” call, however, does not guarantee salvation in a life or death situation. Sometimes help does not arrive in time, as in the Titanic disaster. Even when help arrives in time, though, the ones in danger must respond to that help in order to be saved. When Paul arrived in Macedonia, he preached the gospel to them. Some of them believed and obeyed. Others did not. For those who refused to believe and obey, the “mayday” call did them no good.
The same is still true today. Whether we realize it or not, if we are outside of Christ we are like the passengers on a sinking ship. Our souls are in jeopardy, and we have no means to save ourselves. We desperately need someone to come and help us. God has sent out a “mayday” call, by means of the Great Commission, so we may be saved. When someone comes and preaches the gospel to us, this is the help we need to save our souls. But it will only save us, if we obey it. A drowning man may call for help, but if he refuses to grasp the life preserver when it is thrown to him, he will still drown.
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” means one is in a life or death emergency. This is our situation if we are outside of Christ. The answer to our spiritual “mayday” is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we obey the gospel, our souls will be saved. Why would anyone be so foolish as to refuse this salvation?
At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he returned to Jerusalem for the first time in many years. He was bringing a gift from Gentile Christians for the needy Jewish brethren in Jerusalem. While Paul was in the temple grounds with some of the Jewish Christians of that city, the Jews took exception to his presence and began to beat him. Roman soldiers came to his rescue and when order had been restored, they allowed Paul to address the crowd of Jews.
The record of Paul’s defense is found in Acts 22:1-21. In the course of his defense Paul declared his heritage as a Jew and publicly admitted that he had personally persecuted Christians, even going so far as to obtain letters from the leaders of the Jews so he could go to Damascus in search of Christians. In vs. 6-11 Paul told the crowd what happened to him as he approached the city. A bright light shined on him from heaven, and the Lord spoke to him, commanding him to go into the city where he would be told what he must do.
In vs. 12-16 Paul told of the visit by Ananias, who had been sent to him by the Lord. Ananias restored Paul’s sight, which had been lost when the bright light shined upon him. Then Paul related what Ananias told him on that occasion. Ananias said, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). This statement is extremely important because it tells us that Paul was not yet saved, even though he had seen Jesus and spoken to Him. He was not yet saved, even though a miracle had been performed on him. He was not yet saved, even though he had spent three days fasting and praying while waiting in Damascus (Acts 9:9, 11).
Paul’s conversion is important because it contradicts the things that many people believe save them today. Some believe that some kind of supernatural overwhelming by the Holy Spirit is what saves them. Paul saw and spoke to Jesus, but Ananias commanded him to be baptized to wash away his sins. Some believe that praying in penitent contrition saves them. Paul prayed and fasted for three days, far longer than anyone does today, and still Ananias told him to be baptized to wash away his sins. Some believe that all one has to do is call on the name of the Lord in order to be saved, so they offer a prayer in order to do so. Ananias, however, told Paul that being baptized to wash away his sins is how one calls on the name of the Lord.
A few years after the incident in Acts 22, Paul stood before the Roman governor of Judea, Porcius Festus, and the Jewish King Agrippa. As Paul made his defense before these rulers, he again told his conversion story. In Acts 26:19 Paul said, “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision.” In this brief statement Paul affirmed Luke’s record in Acts 9:18 that he immediately obeyed Ananias’ command to be baptized to wash away his sins. Paul understood that his soul was in jeopardy before God, and that his only hope was to have his sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. He also understood that his sins would only be washed away when he submitted to baptism into Christ. This is why he did not delay to obey.
All who have not yet been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38-39), are still covered with their sins. All who face God in judgment in this condition will be lost for eternity. This truth makes this matter urgent. We do not know when we will die, and we do not know when the Lord will return for judgment. We do know, however, that when the Lord returns, He will deal out “retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Th. 1:8). So then, why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
When Moses wrote the song that became Psalm 90 in our Bibles, he spoke of the limitation of human life. In Psa. 90:10 he said, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” This limitation on the number of years we live creates challenges for us. One challenge is to not waste our lives on frivolous things. Life is too short to be spent on things that truly don’t matter.
Another challenge is to make provisions for the continuation of one’s life’s work. A prudent business owner, for example, will prepare a successor to carry on after he is gone. He will also initiate protocols so the business will continue to function in a productive manner. After all, no one wants the fruit of his labor to come to nothing after his passing.
This same challenge exists in spiritual matters because even the most godly and spiritually-minded of people are going to pass away some day. This is certainly one of the reasons why God’s word instructs parents to teach the scriptures to their children in every aspect of life (Deut. 6:6-9; Eph. 6:4). It is also why Paul instructed Timothy to teach faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). This is the only way in which faith in Jesus Christ can be sustained from one generation to the next (2 Tim. 1:5). We must instill this faith in others and thus create a line of spiritual succession, as it were.
As important as this principle is, it is surprising how rarely we see it followed in the scriptures. Eli the priest was a godly man who served the Lord for many years. His sons, however, were not like him. 1 Sam. 2:12 says that they were worthless men and did not know the Lord. This is one reason why Samuel succeeded Eli as a priest of Israel. Samuel, likewise, was an outstanding priest and judge over Israel, but his sons also did not follow in his footsteps. 1 Sam. 8:3 says that they turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes.
Both Eli and Samuel were godly men. Even so, their godliness was not a building block for their sons. At least part of the reason for this failure had to be because their sons were unwilling to follow their father’s example of faith and service. This is a key aspect of their character that must not be overlooked.
In contrast to Eli and Samuel, Paul was able to pass on his faith in Christ to the next generation of preachers of the gospel. In Acts 16 he took the young man Timothy into his charge and molded him into a capable and trusted gospel preacher. He did the same with Titus, whom he called “my true child in common faith” (Tit. 1:4). Both these men did outstanding work in the kingdom and built upon Paul’s good works with their own faithful service. The difference in Timothy and Titus is that they were willing to follow Paul’s footsteps, and to build upon his example of faith. Because they were willing to learn from Paul and to do as he did, the church prospered for many years after the great apostle passed on to his reward.
This is the challenge that we face in every generation. We must be willing to learn from, and to emulate, the godly men and women who have gone before us. Whether they were our parents, preachers, elders, or Bible class teachers, we must not refuse the mantle of discipleship that they have worn. If we are unwilling to build upon the good works of those who have preceded us, how will the church continue to accomplish God’s purposes? Therefore, let us be like Timothy and Titus, and step up to continue building faith in Christ as long as we live.
From time to time Christians may be prompted by events in the nation to question what their obligations are to civil government. Some may be drawn to the libertarian point of view that sees government as essentially evil and advocates virtually no governmental control in our lives. Others, leaning more toward the socialist perspective, may support the idea of expansive governmental intervention in the lives of its citizens. At tax time, however, nearly everyone tends to wish, if not openly advocate, that government would just go away and leave us alone. It is interesting that this tension exists in a country such as ours, for we have been, until recently, blessed with a government that was generally supportive of Christian values and that was not an impediment to the pursuit of faith in Jesus Christ. Few in the world’s history have lived in such a political environment, certainly not the first Christians, who lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire.
During the Lord’s ministry on the earth, the Jews used every possible means to have something with which they could accuse Him. In one attempt, they asked Him if it were lawful to pay the poll-tax (Mt. 22:15-21). His answer, they assumed, would with put Jesus at odds with the Roman government, or at odds with the Jewish people. His response, however, did neither of these things. Instead, it put His accusers to flight.
In Mt. 22:19 the Lord asked the Jews to show Him the coin used to pay the poll-tax. In v. 20 He asked whose image was on the coin. The answer, of course, was Caesar’s image. It was at this point that the Lord said, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (vs. 21).
This simple, yet profound, answer is still our guide today. As the Lord’s people, we are bound by our obedience to the gospel to follow every command of the Lord (Mt. 28:20). Therefore, we too are to render to Caesar (our government) the things that belong to Caesar. In context this means that we must pay our taxes in accordance with the laws of our land. We don’t have to be happy about it, but we must do it because our Lord requires it of us. In application this means the we must always conduct ourselves in accordance with the laws of society, as good citizens ought to do. Christians should never be law-breakers, but rather should be an example of how godly people live.
There is, however, more to our obligation. The Lord also said to render “to God the things that are God’s.” The things that are God’s are our lives spent in obedience to His word. This most certainly refers to our souls, which His Son purchased with His blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Acts 20:28), but it also includes our earthly possessions, which His Son promised to provide to us if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33). In addition to this, rendering to God the things that are His involves the focus of our minds upon His word so we will handle it accurately (2 Tim. 2:15), and so we will share it with others so they will have the opportunity to be saved (Mt. 28:19-20).
Understood in all of this, of course, is that when Caesar’s things contradict God’s things, our first obligation is to God. Human governments will always tend toward things that violate God’s will. We are seeing more and more of this very thing in our current government. Nevertheless, God’s word instructs us that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We are, after all, citizens of God’s kingdom first (Phil. 3:20). Then we are citizens of our earthly nation. If we keep this priority straight, then we will be good citizens of both realms.
At the end of the Lord’s message to the church in Ephesus, He said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). This exhortation was the incentive the Lord offered this church if they would repent as He instructed them in v. 5. In the context, of course, the Lord was referring to their eternal reward in heaven. His characterization of it as the “Paradise of God” is an interesting imagery.
The word “paradise” originated in the ancient Persian language. It was incorporated into the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, and from these into modern English. The term originally referred to an enclosure and came to mean a park surrounded by a wall. Such an enclosure was an especially appealing site because it typically contained lush, beautiful plants and trees. Being enclosed by a wall separated it from the mundane and less beautiful landscape beyond the wall, and also protected it from many predators. In time, the term “paradise” came to refer to the garden of a king, which would be far more beautiful than any other park.
When Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they used the Greek word paradeisos to refer to the Garden of Eden. They also used this term several times in Isaiah and Ezekiel to refer to a garden of God. Thus in Jewish thinking this term began to take on a spiritual meaning. One of the ways in which this was so is that “paradise” became the preferred designation for the resting place of the righteous dead. The righteous, then, could look forward to a beautiful resting place where all the pain of life would be forgotten. The Lord Himself used this word in Lk. 23:43 when He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in Paradise.
The imagery of the final resting place of the righteous dead as paradise provides a strong incentive for us. The Lord’s story about the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31) shows us the stark contrast between the waiting place of the wicked dead, versus that of the righteous dead. In this story the Lord said Lazarus went to “Abraham’s bosom”, while the rich man went into “torment”. Although He did not use the word in this story, there is no question that Lazarus was in paradise.
As wonderful as this imagery is, however, the Paradise of God, as the Lord used it in Rev. 2:7, is even more wonderful. The Paradise of God in this sense is the place that is prepared for the righteous in heaven. In Jn. 14:1-4 the Lord told the apostles that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. In that place God the Father will dwell with His people, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. In that place there will no longer be any death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:3-4). The righteous will dwell there in peace and security because no evil person or thing will ever enter there (Rev. 21:27). In that place the redeemed of earth will have free access to the tree of life and to the river of the water of life, which flows from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1-2). There is simply no other king’s garden to compare with the Paradise of God.
The contrast to the Paradise of God is the Lake of Fire, into which the unrighteous will be thrown after judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Therefore, it behooves us to make the right choices in life so that our names will be found written in the Lamb’s book of life at judgment. There is a paradise awaiting all those who obey the gospel and live faithfully for the Lord. It is the ultimate paradise. It is the Paradise of God.