Monthly Archives: October 2015

You Follow Me

We, as the Lord’s people, are continuing to see our society spiral down into spiritual darkness in many avenues. Over the past generations we have seen our country disregard the Lord’s Word time and time again as the very fabric of our society continues to tear away in regard to common decency, morality, even marriage. We are tempted to wring our hands and cry out “Woe are we!” as we lament these serious issues. Religious people in general are tempted to march in the streets, cry out against wickedness with placards using politics to mend these issues, and even some are drawn to speaking in hatred and anger toward these ills and those that seem to be at the heart of such wickedness. While Christians need to be reminded of many things we can say in this regard, such as the importance of speaking the Lord’s truths in love and letting the light of the Lord shine from our lives in this dark world, there is another point that I think is important that will help us testify to the Lord’s truths in a right and just manner.

There are a number of passages that come to mind as I think on what our response should be to these things. These answers are not “exciting” as many long for as man’s wisdom often is, nor are they appealing to the flesh. However they do appeal to holy spirits and are indeed godly responses to these issues and can and will help us be the “World’s Bible.”

I recall the discussion Jesus had with Peter in John 21:15-22. Jesus had just spoke to Peter of his (Peter’s) death. Rather than meditate on the Lord’s words of admonition and take them to heart, Peter tried to change the subject to John, to which Jesus said, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” That was the Lord’s answer to Peter’s concern: “You follow me.” That admonition will help us as we perceive seemingly troubling times. “You follow me.”

I recall a discussion Jesus had with his disciples in Matthew 20:20-28 when His disciples were arguing with each other in regard to some of their number wanting to be higher placed in the Lord’s kingdom then their brothers. Jesus’ answer to their concern/squabble was in verses 26-28. Rather than being concerned as to who was the greatest in the Kingdom they were told to serve one another! What a great answer! That will help us navigate through these troubling times.

Again, another discussion Jesus had in Luke 13:1-5 gives us a beautiful answer to observing and living in troubling times. Jesus was reminded of some Galileans whom Pilate had killed and of 18 people who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell. Jesus’ answer to both observations was for people to “repent!” That will also help the Lord’s people in troubling times.

I am also reminded of the Holy Spirit’s observation of the coming parents of John the Immerser, Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-6. At a time when many of the Jewish leaders were corrupted by their own traditions rather than those of the Lord, the High Priesthood had become a political position, and many of the Jewish people had fallen away from the Lord’s will for their lives, Zacharias and Elizabeth had remained faithful to the Lord. The Holy Spirit referred to them as “both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They did not let the wickedness of others keep them from following the Lord, nor should we!

What can help us remain faithful in these troubling times? What can give us proper spirits as we observe man’s wickedness? Consider these 4 admonitions and what they call us to do. “You follow me.” “Serve one another.” “Repent.” Be “righteous before God.” What better answers for our lives as we humbly walk in the Lord’s ways. If we heed these admonitions we will be lights in a dark world. We will have a positive effect upon others. If we are busy serving the Lord we will not have as much time to worry and complain about our society’s moral issues. And most importantly, the Lord will be pleased with us! “You follow me!”

~ Jay H. Graham

Blood Guilt

In the story of Jericho two spies were sent by Joshua, the Israelite commander, into the city before the invasion of Canaan began. In Jericho the spies found an ally in Rahab the prostitute who recognized the divine power behind the army of Israel and wanted to save her family. A simple bargain was struck in which the spies, whose lives were saved from local authorities by Rahab, agreed that Rahab’s family would be spared, but on one condition. Every person who would be saved must be in Rahab’s house. Any of them who left the house would die, and “his blood will be on his own head” (Joshua 2:19). Rahab took this arrangement to heart, and brought her family into her house to await the Israelite victory, which she and her family survived.

The concept of personal responsibility for our choices in life is pervasive in the Bible. When Solomon became king of Israel he warned a man, Shimei, who had been an adversary of King David that he would be safe and secure as long as he remained in Jerusalem, but if he ever left the city “you can be sure you will die; your blood will be on your own head” (1 Kings 2:37). This was not a complicated arrangement, but the man who had been warned and fully informed did make a trip out of the city after 3 years to retrieve runaway slaves from the Philistine city of Gath. Shortly after his return to Jerusalem he was reminded of the terms of his parole, and Shimei was executed shortly afterward. His blood was on his own head. He chose to do what he did despite knowing the cost.

The prophet Ezekiel was told in broad terms that every person is responsible for their own behavior, whether good or evil, and that one who persists in doing evil will be punished for his own sins, not son for father, and not father for son, but each person is responsible for their own behavior. After listing several kinds of sinful behavior, the Lord said, “Because he has done these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head” (Ezekiel 18:13). No one but the sinner is responsible for the consequence of the sins.

Ezekiel himself was warned that while he wasn’t responsible for what people do, he was responsible for warning people about what they did. He was like a watchman for Israel, God said, and if a watchman saw enemy forces approaching and warned the people, he had done his job. If the people who were warned listened and thus saved their own lives, well and good. If anyone did not listen to the warning, then “his blood will be on his own head” (Ezekiel 33:4-5). On the other hand, if the appointed watchman gave no warning then when disaster came “I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood” (33:6). This was the position Ezekiel was in. He had to warn people of their wrong doing, whether they listened or not. In order for Ezekiel to save himself from blood guilt, he had to warn the sinners, whether they listened or not. Sinners who listened and changed would be saved, but each sinner would be responsible for his own sins, his own repentance. Ezekiel must warn them with God’s words, or else God would “hold you accountable for his blood” (Ezekiel 33:7-9). The reaction to the warning was up to those who heard.

Several times in Leviticus 20 this idea of personal responsibility for sin, lawbreaking, is emphasized in the sexual sins and rejection of authority listed there. Capitol crimes included cursing father or mother, adultery, incest with close relatives, homosexual acts, bestiality, and acting as a medium or spiritist, with the reminder over and over, “their blood will be on their own heads” (Leviticus 20:9-16. 27). This again is a basic and vital concept: the lawbreaker is justly responsible for the known outcome of breaking the law. None of these things listed as unlawful are needs, none of them are required behaviors, none of them are unavoidable, none of them are beneficial, but rather each is a voluntary act, an appetite pursued, a will surrendered. To know the law (and Israel was required to know the law and rehearse the commandments on a regular basis) and choose to voluntarily violate the law, no matter how attractive or rewarding that violation might seem, “their blood will be on their own heads.”

If people choose to do what leads to death, they are responsible for their own death. The follower of God, on the other hand, is responsible like Moses, or the spies, or Solomon, or Ezekiel, to give warning, to make clear what leads to life, and what causes death.

~ Charles Fry

Lost In Harmony with God

There is reason to fear God. What we think of ourselves may not stand. No one can escape the truth. The beauty and goodness of what God has done will not be lost on anyone, and many will awaken to the unpleasant realization of failure. We are fashioned by the Heavenly Creator to understand and respond to the truth. Whether we admit it or not, we know this is a good thing. God has given us a high order of life. “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. . . I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:1, 6). All are called gods and all will ultimately agree with Him. There is harmony in this even in the sorrow of condemnation.

The eighty-second psalm was written as an admonition to Israel. The psalmist wrote of Israel’s past and future failures, as well as their potential to fulfill the good of God’s design. Man has divine origin not only because he is a part of God’s creation, but because man was given a share in God’s divinity. “You are gods.”

When man was created, he was made like God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). God creating an image of Himself would be similar to man making a statue of himself. This is a feeble comparison but the idea of making an image is true. The very best of artistic talent among us can fashion a shape which may evoke some attitude or feeling but that is all the farther it goes. The image has no life. On God’s plane of wisdom and love, the image He made was not done in futility, conceit, or artistic reverie. He created an image of Himself that is true, beings who might live in the glory of our Father’s goodness. We are designed to be His children, not in a figure of speech but in the reality of His creation.

We see, in God’s conversation with Cain, that Cain possessed a measure of awareness and capability similar to God. It is the core of accountability.

“So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Cain was accountable for doing well. This implies he understood God’s will. It further indicates that God made known His will. Cain and his sacrifice were rejected because he failed to do well. God reasoned with Cain in the aftermath of this failure. This at once denotes God’s desire for Cain’s reform. Cain could have repented and done the right thing. Being accountable, able to understand and able to respond, having the capacity to learn and the capacity to repent, are markers of being made in the image of God.

Jesus taught of a certain rich man who died and was in torment: “he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). There was no talking back, no hiding his guilt, trying to offset it by whining. He didn’t argue that there would be no comfort forthcoming. He accepted his situation. He knew the righteousness of God. This was amplified by a fervent desire that his brothers should be saved. (This shows the condemned want the gospel to be preached.) “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment’” (Luke 16:27-28). Abraham told him that his brothers had Moses and the Prophets. This tormented man could appreciate the truth. What God had established through Moses and the prophets (the Bible) was enough. They (as well as we) did not need a resurrected neighbor to bring proof. This former rich man was in harmony with God because he understood and learned something in his state of torment. He was not forced into this awareness. He came to it because this was the only thing left – the truth.

As shown by Jesus, the brothers of the rich man could have learned. Jesus didn’t tell us their outcome. However, there is a warning for us. We can put a veil over our ability to know and walk with God. We can give in to deception. We can live a lie if that is what we want. We can choose the truth or the lie. In the grave and beyond we will wear the outcome of our choice in harmony with our Creator. We are gods, and we will appreciate the truth and know that God is right.

One might argue; “We didn’t ask to be created. It would have been better not to have been born. If God is so good then why did . . .?” This evasion might seem to shield us for a little while, but it won’t last. In the end, every soul, whether rebellious or just, will tender their agreement that God is good, that the prospects of life were desirable, and that He is fair and just. Therefore “every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

~ Louis Garbi