Let’s Work Together

 

In 1970 a blues/rock group called Canned Heat released a song entitled, Let’s Work Together.  It was a modest commercial success, rising only to #26 on the U.S. charts.  However, the song struck a chord with many because of how deeply divided the country was at that time.  Its lyrics called on people of all ages to put their differences aside and to work together because, as the song said, “together we stand, divided we fall”.

While it is unlikely that any of the band members realized it, the idea of working together is one of the most fundamental principles in scripture.  The Lord referred to it when He was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul.  The Lord responded to this charge in Mt. 12:25, saying, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he also emphasized the importance of this principle.  In Eph. 4:11-16 he said that the Lord had placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers into the church in order to equip the saints for the work of service.  Then, he said that the purpose of this was so that, “the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (v. 16).

Therefore, it is imperative that Christians work together within the body in order to accomplish the Lord’s purpose.  In 1 Cor. 12:12-26 Paul used the illustration of a human body to describe how each member of a local congregation plays an important part in the spiritual health and growth of that congregation.  The bottom line is that we are all essential to the good of the church and we must all do our part to help the church be all that it is intended to be.

To accomplish this, we must each commit to four basic principles.  First, we must be willing to submit to biblical authority.  Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Mt. 7:21).  If we commit to doing whatever God’s word requires of us, we will work together with our fellow Christians to build up the church.

Second, we need to start living by the Golden Rule.  In Mt. 7:12 Jesus said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  This means being proactive in the exercise of our faith.  If we do this, the church will be better because of it.

Third, we need to look out for the interests of others instead of only looking out for our own interests.  In Phil. 2:3-7 Paul told the church in Philippi to have the same attitude as Christ in this regard.  He went to the cross because He was looking out for our interests more than His own.  If we focus on the needs of others, and they likewise focus on our needs, the church will be better off.

Finally, we need to be willing to personally do whatever the Lord requires for the good of His kingdom.  Isaiah the prophet answered God’s call by saying, “Here am I.  Send me!” (Isa. 6:8).  This should be our response as well.  God has not called us to be spectators, but to be active participants in the work of His church.  If we respond as Isaiah did, the church will be blessed by our actions.

The work of evangelizing and of edifying the saints is in our hands as the church.  The church is “us”, not “them”.  If we don’t do this work, it won’t get done.  If all of us don’t do our part, it won’t happen.  Therefore, let’s work together to get it done.

Centurions

 

The backbone of any military service is its non-commissioned officers.  These men and women make sure the officers’ orders are followed, and that the mission is successfully completed.  They are different from the rest of the enlisted ranks because they are typically more career-oriented and more devoted to the business of soldiering.  In past conflicts American NCOs have often used their initiative and expertise to lead our troops when officers were unavailable or incapacitated.  This has been and continues to be a significant advantage when our armed forces go into battle.

In ancient times there was a class of soldiers in the Roman legions who perfectly fit this model.  They were the centurions.  A Roman legion generally consisted of 6,000 men who were led by a general whose name would be written in the chronicles of the legion’s victories.  The centurions, however, commanded 100 men and were the glue that held the legions together.

When we open the pages of the New Testament, centurions are mentioned several times.  In each case they are portrayed as honorable men. They were conscientious in the fulfillment of their duties, and are never depicted as being abusive or unscrupulous.  In the one certain instance in which Jesus dealt with a centurion, the man treated the Lord with utmost respect.  This incident is recorded in Mt. 8:5-13 and in Lk. 7:1-10, and the Lord marveled at the faith of this Roman soldier.  When the Lord breathed His last breath on the cross, the centurion who was in charge of the execution exclaimed that Jesus must have been the Son of God (Mk. 15:39).  This certainly suggests that he was far more honest than many of the Jews.

The most important centurion of whom we read in the New Testament was Cornelius.  In Acts 10 we learn that he was a devout man whose prayers had risen as a memorial before God (Acts 10:4).  Although he was accustomed to commanding others, this centurion followed every command the angel of God gave him.  Then, when Peter came and preached the gospel to him and his household, this centurion obeyed the command to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:48).

The centurions of the New Testament are an example that we would do well to follow as believers.  We should be diligent in our service to the Lord, just as they were to the Roman legion.  We should be dependable and reliable in our service, just as they were.  We should be willing to do whatever our commander, Jesus, requires of us, just as they were to their superior officers.  And, we should be respectful and humble before the Lord, just as the centurion was in Mt. 8 and Lk. 7.

A common malady in many organizations is that too many within the organization want to be the boss, and too few are willing to be the workers.  We sometimes refer to this condition as, “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians”.  The centurions of whom we read in the New Testament were chiefs in one important sense, but they were also Indians in another, equally important, sense.  These men knew how to balance their responsibilities both as leaders and as servants.  So, also, must we.

No matter what our role is in the church, we are all slaves of the one and only Son of God.  Even those who are vested with the responsibility of leadership in the church, must also themselves serve the King of kings.  The church only grows when each member does his or her part in accordance with God’s word (Eph. 4:11-16).  Therefore, let’s make it our goal to become centurions for the Lord, and to give Him the kind of honorable service that He alone deserves.

Choices

 

One of the more powerful memes to appear on social media says, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.”  The author of this statement is unknown, but its truth is unimpeachable.  Unfortunately, too many people seem to be unconvinced of it.  The criminal makes the choice to break the law, but often seems genuinely offended that he must pay a penalty for that choice.  The abortion industry thrives because so many choose to ignore this truth.  Even professed believers sometimes get caught up in the mistaken idea that somehow we can avoid the consequences of our choices.

It is obvious that irreligious people have no vested interest in the principle of choices and consequences, but professed believers certainly do.  The scriptures testify to this truth, literally from cover to cover.  Adam and Eve made the choice to eat the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences for having done so.  God punished them and cast them out of the Garden of Eden.  King David made the choice to commit adultery with Bathsheba, and he, too, suffered the consequences of his choice.  The child born from that illicit union died, and the sword never departed from his household thereafter.

In the New Testament, Judas Iscariot made the choice to betray Jesus to the Jews.  At any point up to the very act of betrayal he could have made a different choice, but he didn’t.  When he felt remorse for what he had done, he made another choice.  He chose to take his own life.  Instead of receiving forgiveness and redemption, he sealed his fate, and is now held in universal disdain by all believers.

This is where believers sometimes get caught up in the mistaken idea of avoiding the consequences of our choices.  We understand, appreciate, and desperately depend on the grace and mercy of God who offers us the forgiveness of our sins.  The blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed on the cross of Calvary, washes away our sins when we are immersed for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  After this initial cleansing, we are promised that it continues to cleanse us when we sin, if we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:5-10).

In Jer. 31:34 the prophet quoted God the Father saying that in the time of the new covenant He would forgive the iniquities of His people and He would not remember their sins anymore.  This is a fundamental truth which all believers hold dear.  When God forgives our sins, we are forever spared the eternal consequences of the choices that led to those sins.  However, the fact that God does not remember the sins He has forgiven does not remove the temporal consequences of those sins.

A murderer can be forgive of the choice to take someone’s life, but he will still likely be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison for that act.  An adulterer can be forgiven, but he will likely spend the rest of his life dealing with the temporal consequences of having violated his wedding vows.  A liar or thief can be forgiven, but he will still have to deal with the physical consequences of these choices.  The point is this: forgiveness does not remove these physical consequences, and we are misguided to believe that it should.

Saying that we are free to choose, but are not free from the consequences of our choices does not negate God’s grace and mercy.  It simply acknowledges the fact that our actions have physical as well as spiritual consequences.  Let us keep this truth in mind every day.  Perhaps doing so will help us make the right choices instead of the ones that will lead us into sin.

Humility

 

If we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that much of the drumbeat of animosity and vitriol in our public discourse is due to the raging egos of the people involved.  From the office of the President, to the halls of Congress, to the playing fields of sports, to the talking heads of media, our nation is awash with arrogant and condescending people.  Politicians decry election results if they lose, because their egos will not allow them to accept defeat.  Athletes and actors, who make millions of dollars for playing kids’ games or playing make-believe, think their feelings and opinions are better than anyone else’s.  Even professed believers get caught up in this madness.

When we open the pages of scripture, we quickly discover that this is not the way God intends for us to act.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God’s word clearly teaches that we should be humble.  We should be humble before God, and we should be humble with each other.  However, we struggle with the concept of humility because we equate it with weakness.  We assume that the humble man will get run over in life, and none of us wants to be a doormat.

The scriptures, however, show us that humility has nothing to do with weakness.  In fact, the humble man is actually the stronger man.  The chief example of this is Moses.  No one would accuse Moses of being a weakling.  No one would suggest that Moses let people walk all over him.  Moses stands as a man of great strength, yet the scriptures say of him, “Now Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Nu. 12:3).

The secret to being humble is trusting God.  Moses understood and believed that God would take care of him as he did God’s will.  Because Moses trusted God, he didn’t have to promote himself and beat down his opponents in order to show his strength.  Because Moses trusted God, he simply did what he was commanded to do.  He didn’t have to worry about personal glory.  God exalted him for his faithfulness and no other exaltation was necessary.

In the New Testament Paul spoke of humility in Eph. 4:1-3.  He said, “Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  This is the heart of being what God wants His people to be.  In order to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we must do so with humility and gentleness and patience.  This is how we preserve the bond of peace that is created by the Spirit of God when we obey the gospel.

The ongoing drama being played out in the public eye demonstrates the pettiness of human ego.  There is no semblance of humility among the participants, no matter what place they occupy on the political spectrum.  It is shameful and disgusting.  It demeans all the participants, and hurts all of us.

This kind of drama among God’s people is even more distasteful and destructive.  When professed believers let their egos run rampant, they are going contrary to everything God’s word teaches us.  We would all do well to heed the admonition of James, who said, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:6-7).

He Who Is Without Sin

 

In Jn. 8:1-11 John tells us of an incident, recorded nowhere else in the New Testament, in which the Jews brought a woman to Jesus for judgment.  They told the Lord that she had been caught in the act of adultery.  They said that the Law of Moses required them to stone her, but they wanted to know what the Lord thought.  Their goal was to use His response against Him.  If He agreed that she should be stoned, they would turn Him over to the Romans, who did not allow occupied nations to exercise capital punishment.  If He said to let her go, they would denounce Him to the people for violating the Law of Moses.

The Lord’s response was amazing.  First, He ignored them by stooping down and writing with His finger on the ground.  When they persisted in asking Him, He stood up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).  The effect was complete and immediate.  One by one, from the oldest to the youngest, the men quietly walked away.  When they were gone, the Lord stood up and spoke to the woman.  In v. 11 He said, “I do not condemn you, either.  Go.  From now on sin no more.”

The primary lesson from this incident is the gracious forgiveness that the Lord offers mankind.  This woman was no doubt a grievous sinner, but the Lord forgave her and set her back on the straight and narrow path.  Surely if the Lord could forgive such a woman, He can forgive each of us.  There is no more beautiful truth in all of scripture.

Unfortunately, some have taken the Lord’s statement to the Jews and twisted it to mean something far different than He intended.  Many today now use these words to rebuff any criticism of their actions or lifestyle.  If we suggest that someone’s conduct is ungodly, they may reply that unless we are sinless ourselves we have no right to correct them.  This is not what the Lord meant at all.  His remark to the Jews was based upon His knowledge of their hearts.  They were not concerned about this woman’s soul.  They were only looking for a way to attack the Lord.  This is why He spoke to them as He did.

When we are sincerely concerned for another person’s soul, however, we must try to turn them away from their sins, no matter what our own sins might be.  In Gal. 6:1 Paul said, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to himself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  When one Christian corrects another, it is not to be done as though the one correcting the other has no sins, but rather, in recognition of his own sins, and in the hope of helping a brother or sister remain in the fold of God.

This is the goal, as stated by James in Jas. 5:19-20.  He said, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”  If we may take this action only if we are sinless, then no one would ever be turned back from sin.  Therefore, we must correct one another, but we must do so in a spirit of gentleness, as Paul commanded.

The only one who is without sin is our Lord Jesus.  None of us will ever attain this by our own power.  However, correcting one another in accordance with God’s word is one of the highest forms of love we may show.  If we truly care for one another, we will correct each other when we need it, and we will receive such correction with grace and humility.  This, after all, is how we can help each other get to our heavenly reward.

We Are Family


There is no more beautiful human relationship than that of family.  These are the people who are the closest to us and who are most dear in our hearts.  We sometimes speak of them as being our blood relations.  By this we mean that they share the same essence as ourselves.  Biologically we share the same DNA and many of the same physical characteristics.  Emotionally and psychologically we think and react similarly, if not exactly the same as each other.

In some circumstances a disparate group of people may come together in a relationship that is nearly as close as that of a physical family.  The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team is an example of this phenomenon.  They were an especially tight-knit team, even though they were composed of men of various ages, ethnicities, social, and educational backgrounds.  They thought of themselves as a family and even adopted a popular song of the time as their theme song.  That song was We Are Family by Sister Sledge.  The unique chemistry of this team, along with their family-like devotion to each other resulted in them winning the World Series that year.

The benefits of being a family are easily seen and greatly to be desired.  It is no wonder, then, that this is one of the images used to portray the body of Christ, which is His church.  God, the Father, is the patriarch of the family.  Jesus, the Son, is the older brother and heir of the family.  Those who are Christians are the adopted children in the family.  In Eph. 1:5 Paul spoke of this adoption.  He said of God, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

As members of the family of God, Christians share certain things in common.  These things are our spiritual DNA, as it were.  The most important of these is redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.  When we obey the gospel our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16), and we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Because our sins have been forgiven, we become heirs in the family of God.  In Gal. 3:29 Paul said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”  As heirs of the promise, we share the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14).  As members of the family of God, we share the same destiny, which is a place being prepared for us in heaven (Jn. 14:1-3).

In the same manner as in a physical family, there are certain expectations for how we should conduct ourselves.  In Col. 3:1-17 Paul spoke in some detail about these expectations.  Members of the family of God are expected to refrain from every kind of ungodly word or deed.  At the same time they are expected to exhibit certain qualities such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.  The bottom line is that whatever we do in word or deed must be done in the name of our Lord Jesus; that is, by His authority and in accordance with His will (Col. 1:17).

Because we are adopted into the family of God, we are in many senses different from each other.  However, these differences should no longer apply in our relationships with each other.  Like the Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979, we should be tight-knit and devoted to each other in the family of God.  No one should be more important to us than our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There should be no length to which we wouldn’t go for one of our spiritual family.  God the Father and Jesus His Son have done much more for us than we can ever do for each other.  Therefore, we must love and support each other all the way to heaven, because we are family.

Disappointment

 

One of the facts of life is what we call disappointment.  This is a state of mind in which a person feels let down or frustrated or dismayed about something.  This feeling can come about because of actions one takes, or fails to take.  It can also arise due to the actions of another.  In other cases, disappointment may occur when events beyond one’s control result in the loss of some highly anticipated opportunity.

Disappointment is an ever-present part of our existence because we are human beings.  In spite of our best intentions, we are going to let others down in one way or another.  Children disappoint parents when they act up in a public place, or get in trouble at school.  Husbands and wives disappoint one another when they forget important anniversaries, or when they say or do things that hurt each other.  Employees disappoint their employers when they fail to give their best on the job, or when they violate a trust.

Every one of us has caused disappointment in another.  Every one of us has been disappointed by another.  Every one of us wishes this were not the case, but we can’t escape it.  It is human nature to let others down, to disappoint.  This doesn’t justify it, though, or make it more palatable.

We may sometimes wonder, “What if there were a means to never disappoint, or to never be disappointed?”  We need not wonder about such a possibility, for it exists.  Long before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah recorded the words of God the Father, who declared this truth.  In Isa. 28:16 the scripture says, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly corner stone for the foundation, firmly placed.  He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” (NASB)

This declaration is a prophecy about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We know this because both Peter and Paul quoted it in their letters.  In 1 Pet. 2:6, as Peter exhorted his readers to come to Christ as living stones, he said, “For this is contained in scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (NASB)  Paul uses the same words, again with reference to Christ, in Rom. 9:33 and Rom. 10:11.  Peter and Paul both confidently assert that Christ will never disappoint those who believe in Him.

This assertion is simple, but it requires a degree of maturity on our part to fully understand it.  Some will say that they have indeed been disappointed by the Lord.  They make this statement primarily because they didn’t receive the answer to prayer that they desired.  Thus, they believe the Lord let them down.  In extreme cases, such disappointed people have even renounced their faith in the Lord.

The reason for their disappointment is not because of a failure by the Lord, but because they have failed to understand the context in which Peter and Paul spoke.  The Lord is the foundation of the church and the precious corner stone of it as well.  If we believe in Him, obey His will, and live faithfully for Him all the days of our lives, we will not be disappointed at judgment.  We will indeed receive the home being prepared for the faithful.  No one who truly believes in Him will be disappointed in this regard.

What about when bad things happen?  In Rom. 8:18 Paul said that such things are not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us.  Bad things happen in life, but these things are not the most important things.  The most important thing is to believe on the Lord.  Those who believe in Him will not be disappointed.

Flood

 

The third week of August 2017 in Texas was one for the record books.  It began with a total solar eclipse, and was followed by some small earthquakes in the oil patch.  Temperatures reached 100+ in many parts of the state, and then Hurricane Harvey hit the southeast Texas coast.  Days after Harvey made landfall huge sections of the greater Houston area were under water and it was still raining as the storm slowly moved toward Louisiana.  The devastation from the hurricane and the flooding is catastrophic.  Some say the damage will exceed that of Katrina in 2005.

Our collective hearts are broken as we view images of those whose homes and possessions have been destroyed, and whose lives have been devastated by this event.  While many are resolved to return to their homes and rebuild both them and their lives, others, no doubt, are hovering on the brink of despair.  Some may even wonder where God was while all this was going on.  Admittedly, it is difficult to maintain one’s composure and one’s faith in the face of such destruction, but this is exactly what we must do.

As devastating as Harvey was, it was nothing compared to the flood that God sent to cleanse the world in the time of Noah.  In that flood, the rain fell for forty days and nights, the waters rose to a height of about 22′ above the highest mountains, and they remained on the earth for 150 days (Gen. 7:17-24).  This flood was indeed an act of God, purposely done in order to cleanse the world of sin.  For the nearly 100 years that it took Noah to build the ark, he appealed to mankind to repent and enter the ark in order to avoid the impending destruction.  No one did so, and they all perished, except for Noah and his family.  When this cleansing was completed God brought Noah and his family out of the ark and promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood (Gen. 9:8-17).

God promised Noah that the rainbow in the sky would be the sign that He would never again bring a worldwide flood on the earth.  Every time it rains today, even during events like Harvey, God’s rainbow is there, keeping His promise.  This is the good news that more than offsets the devastation of natural disasters such as Harvey.  As terrible as such events are, God is still in control and will not allow the earth to be destroyed by these things.  We need to take hope from this promise and not lose faith in our creator.

The imagery of a flood perfectly captures how we sometimes feel in our spiritual walk.  In 1995 a group called Jars of Clay wrote and recorded a song entitled, Flood.  It captures the helplessness we feel when we are overcome by sin, by depicting a man being overwhelmed in a flood.  In the refrain of this song, the man turns to the only one who can save him.  He cries out to the Lord, “Lift me up, when I’m falling; lift me up, I’m weak and I’m dying; lift me up, I need you to hold me; lift me up, and keep me from drowning again.”

Like the people outside Noah’s ark, we have no hope as the flood waters of sin engulf us.  However, if we turn to our Savior and Lord in obedience to His will, we have the assurance that He will indeed lift us up by the blood of His cross.  If we surrender to Him, then no flood waters will ever threaten our spiritual house.  Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, the rains will fall, the floods will come, and the winds will beat on our house, but it will stand because it is founded on the rock of our Savior Jesus Christ (Mt. 7:24-27).  In the spiritual floods of life we have only one reliable resource to rescue us.  Therefore, as we anticipate these floods, let us turn to the Lord in obedience to the gospel, and cry out, “Lift me up!”

Eclipsed

 

The first total solar eclipse to traverse the continental United States since 1918 occurred on August 21, 2017.  The rarity of this kind of event lends itself to incredible hype and excitement.  Millions of pairs of special glasses were sold so people could safely view this wondrous celestial phenomenon.  The total eclipse was only visible in a small swath of the continental U.S.  Even so, one source estimated that the economy lost nearly $700 million in productivity due to the large number of workers who left their jobs to observe this event.

An eclipse occurs when one celestial body passes between the sun and another body, thus blocking the sun from that body’s view.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth.  A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth passes between the sun and the moon.  Whether the eclipse is partial or total, the effect is that the view of one body is obstructed.  In the areas in which the recent eclipse was total, the sun was fully blocked by the moon.  Only a “halo” was visible around the edges of the moon at the most complete point in the eclipse.

All those who wished to view this phenomenon were warned to only do so with protective glasses or by means of a device that projected the image onto another surface.  Anyone who failed to obey these warnings ran the risk of permanent eye damage from looking at the sun with the naked eye.  Fortunately, most people were wise enough to heed the warnings and take proper precautions to view the eclipse.

As we stand in awe of events such as this, there is a spiritual lesson that may be drawn from it.  As believers we are called to keep our eyes on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we go through life.  In Heb. 12:1-2 the scripture says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Sometimes, however, our view of the Lord can be eclipsed because we allow something else to get between us and Him.  This can happen in many ways.  When we allow ourselves to pursue the passing pleasures of sin, we have allowed those desires to eclipse our view of the Lord.  When we put work or school or hobbies or friends or family before our devotion to the Lord, we have let these things eclipse Him in our sight.  When we fail to give our very best in His service, whatever the reason may be, we have let the Lord be eclipsed in our lives.

In Mt. 6:24 Jesus 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.”  When we consider this statement in conjunction with the admonition to fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), we see that we must not let Him be eclipsed in any way.  He is the author and perfecter of our faith, who went to the cross to pay the debt for our sins.  For this reason nothing can be more important to us than our Lord and Savior.

If we allow anything to eclipse the Lord in our lives, we run the risk of permanently damaging our souls.  If we face Him this way in judgment, the darkness into which we will be cast is total, terrifying, and eternal.  Therefore, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, and let us not allow anything to obstruct our view of the Son.

Unconditional Surrender

 

World War II raged from 1939 to 1945.  It was truly a global conflict, with battles being fought from Europe to Africa to Asia and in virtually every sea.  Amazingly quick victories by the Germans and the Japanese in the early days of the conflict left their opponents reeling.  In time, however, the tide began to turn.  By early 1944, it was evident that the Allied nations would ultimately be victorious.  At this point the leaders of the Allied nations met to discuss how to conclude the hostilities.  While they squabbled over some of the details, they agreed on one point. The Allies would demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.

Unconditional surrender meant that the defeated nations reserved nothing for their own control.  They had to give up all right to self-determination, or to dispute or resist anything imposed on them by the victorious nations.  They could place no conditions on their decision to lay down their arms.  The defeated nations must place themselves completely at the mercy of the victors.  This insistence on unconditional surrender was a prudent measure.  The Allies did not want to leave their defeated enemies with any means to undermine the peace or to resume the conflict.

In the context of spiritual matters, the principle of unconditional surrender is just as valid as it is in the context of human warfare.  The scriptures teach us that our sins make a separation between ourselves and God (Isa. 59:2).  This separation is characterized throughout scripture as rebellion against God.  When we persist in our sins we are, in effect, at war with the Creator of the universe.  It is a war that we cannot win, of course, and the consequences of losing this war are too great to bear.  Rev. 20:11-15 tells us that at judgment those whose names are not in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death.

All who fight against God until judgment face this fate, but there is an alternative.  In Col. 1:19-23 Paul explained that God offered peace to mankind through the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s blood paid the price for our sins, and thus gives each of the opportunity to be reconciled to God.  There are terms, though, but why would we expect otherwise?  God is the victor in the great battle between good and evil.  As the victor, it is His prerogative to establish the conditions for peace.

God’s terms are simple and they are unequivocal.  We must obey the gospel, and we must be faithful to Him until we die.  Our Lord Jesus declared God’s terms as clearly as anyone could.  In Mk. 16:16 He said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  In Rev. 2:10 the Lord told the Christians of Smyrna, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.”  That’s the long and short of it.

However, we will never obey these commands until we unconditionally surrender to the Lord’s will.  We cannot place any conditions on our obedience.  If we wish to be saved, we can no longer reserve any aspect of our lives for our own control.  We have to run up the white flag and let God have His way with us.  We must place ourselves at His mercy.  Anything less than this is unacceptable to Him.

Our Lord Jesus showed us how to do this throughout His ministry, and especially on the night before He was crucified.  In the garden He asked that this cup might pass from Him, but then He prayed that the Father’s will be done and not His own (Mt. 26:39).  If the Son of God unconditionally surrendered to the Father’s will, how can we do any less?