I look at my life and even though I believe in God and have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, there are times I don't feel close to God. I'm sure you have had the same feelings? Is it enough for me to be believe, to be baptised or to accept God exists? My doubt is caused because sometimes I want to do something to help myself into heaven. I don't want God to do it all. I forget the Bible says I can do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). He alone has done all that is necessary for me to spend eternity with Him. All my efforts to climb into heaven will fail. But still I crave to 'feel' close to God, to know every minute that He is with me. Am I unique? I think not! There are many churches today that say you have not been saved unless you receive the Holy Spirit. They believe He must come into you and you must feel His presence? They call Him down from heaven to give themselves an emotional feeling that He has entered them. The Apostle Paul says: "Do not say in your heart who will ascend into heaven (that is to bring Christ down) or who will descend into the deep (that is to bring Christ up from the dead)" Rom 10:6,7. The Holy Spirit is equal to Christ and the Father. What applies to Christ applies to all three of the God Head. The Holy Spirit is not Father Christmas! He does not come into a person's life with ecstatic murmurings or loud cries from congregations. We are justified by our faith in Jesus and even though we may not feel His presence every day, He is always with His chosen children.
Life is Fraught with Danger. When Jesus died upon the cross He died for our sins. He justified us with His Father and once we are justified through our faith, we begin our journey through this life until finally we are taken to God's kingdom, where we will be glorified. I do not have to tell anyone here that there are many dangers on our journey through this life! There are many twists and turns, many ups and downs. Sin, although still present, no longer has mastery over the born again Christian who has made a choice to come out of the world through baptism in Christ.
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt they were freed from slavery. Their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land had begun. Being set free from bondage, the Israelites became an example to us who accept Jesus and start on a new journey through life. What happened to most of those Israelites who came out of Egypt? Did they stop sinning? Did they follow God's commands or did they rebel against Him and his servant Moses? Even Aaron, the brother of Moses allowed the people to make a golden calf and worship it. Aaron was too weak in character to stop the voice of the crowd. Every Israelite who cried out for a foreign god had seen the miracles of Jehovah. They had walked through the water on dry land and saw the Egyptian army drown when God returned the waters to their original path and yet just a short time after this they reverted back to their heathen ways. After 400 years of living in Egypt they had been contaminated with the vices of the Egyptians. Their flesh had enjoyed the pleasures of sin and they were lusting back to those licentious times. They wanted to party, to drink to dance and celebrate. They threw off their inhibitions and worshipped a foreign god of gold in the shape of a cow. (Ex 32:1). Their hearts were back in pagan Egypt. They had forgotten the harshness of their lives under Pharaoh.
To be born again is to start life anew. We put behind us those things that we once did naturally in the flesh. We are free to choose whether to remain in our sin, or be set free from our sin. How many Israelites actually made it to the Promised Land? How many of us will reach the Promised Land? Will we continue to look back to our old life and wish we could recapture some of the memories? Will we forget the hardships of yesterday and only remember the good times - the Christmas gift times. Our memories are not always based on reality. Unless there was specific trauma in some ones past most look back at the happy times and forget the sad. Within us all is the desire for happiness but searching for this without God will lead us to take the wrong road through life to attain this elusive emotion. As the Israelites walked through the desert they murmured and grumbled. They wanted meat not the manner from heaven, so God gave them what they wanted and it led to death. As their feet wandered the desert, their hearts remained in Egypt. Just like Lot's wife, when she came out of Sodom. Having left her children in the city and the comfort of her home, she did not think of the sinfulness of the people she had left behind, but wished to be back with her children in Sodom. It was because of this that she disobeyed God by turning and looking back on the burning city. As a consequence she forfeited her own life. Will we who have been saved turn back before we finish the race and lose our place in the New Jerusalem? (Rev 21).
Sanctification. As we continue to wander through the desert of this life, as long as we hold on to Jesus, we are being sanctified. It is our daily walk with Jesus that sanctifies us. We have to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling, (Phil 2:11-13). Does this mean we become justified by the works we do? In one sense, 'Yes' although no one can work their way into heaven. However, Jesus says that we will be judged by our works (Rev 20:12,13). These are works that come from the faith we have in Christ and it is He who gives us the works to do. What are these works? Jesus gives us the answer in (John 6: 27-28):
"Do not labour for the meat that perishes but for the meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give you; for it is He who God has sealed." The disciples then asked Jesus: "What shall we do that we might do the works of God?" Jesus answered: "This is the work of God, that you believe on Him who He has sent." Jesus goes on to say that He is the Bread of Life. So if we accept Christ and symbolically eat Him, that is fill our minds with His Word and follow Him, we become transformed into His likeness.
Jesus died once and for everyone. Accepting His death upon the cross and his resurrection is the key to eternal life we are now justified in the eyes of God and every sin that we have committed in the past and in the future has and will be covered by the blood of Christ. Does this mean we can go on sinning? Never. We have been justified from our sins not in them and are being sanctified daily. God knows we will be tempted to sin especially in the early stages of our walk through the desert of this life and we can fall into the traps of the devil. He has had over 6000 years of watching and learning the human character. When we let our guard down, taking our eyes off Jesus, the devil can trip us up and make us stumble. But that is all he can do. God will pick us up every time we fall as long as we keep close to Him and He will teach us how to combat the tricks of the devil. The closer we get to God, the harder the devil works to make us sin. As the bible says: "we do not wrestle against man, but the principalities of the spirit world." (Eph 6:12). We are not strong enough in our own strength to fight these fallen angels, but as John reminds us, we have an advocate in heaven who has defeated the enemy he is our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 John 2:1).
The Work of Jesus in Heaven Today. After His ascension from this Earth (Acts 1:9-11), Jesus began His work in heaven as high priest. Paul says: "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Heb 9:24).
In the Jewish tabernacle in the wilderness set up by Moses, (Ex Chaps 35-40), the high priest throughout the year ministered in the first apartment of the sanctuary "within the veil" which formed a door that separated the holy place from the outer court. This represented the work of ministry upon which Jesus himself entered at His ascension. In the earthly tabernacle, the priest would present the blood of the sin offering, also the incense, which ascended with the prayers of Israel. Christ, now in heaven, presented Himself as the blood sacrifice before the Father on behalf of sinners with the precious fragrance of His own righteousness, the prayers of penitent believers. This was Jesus work of ministration in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary securing the repentant sinners pardon and acceptance with God. However, their sins still remained in the record books of heaven. Consequently, as within the service of the earthly tabernacle there was a work of atonement to be done which on earth was completed at the end of each year. Therefore, after eighteen of earth's centuries of securing the repentant sinners pardon with God, Jesus would move to the second part of the sanctuary in heaven to complete the work of atonement for the removal of sin from the sanctuary. This service began as foretold by Daniel the prophet, (Dan 8:14), Jesus our High Priest entered the most holy to perform the last part of His solemn work to cleanse the sanctuary. To do this, Jesus had to begin by examining the books of record of each individuals life to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ would receive the merits of His atonement, which is eternal life. This work in the sanctuary, Jesus must complete before He can return to the earth to give to everyone His reward according to his works (Rev 22:12 - also GC, Chap 23 What is the Sanctuary?)
Noah. We know from (2 Peter 2:5) that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. For over 100 years he warned his fellow citizens of the impending disaster urging them to repent and return to God (Gen 6). At first many listened to him but as time went on the pleasures of the world were more appealing. As the years passed, life went on as usual for everyone. Noah continued to build the boat and preach about the coming disaster, which would involve water that would soon fall from the sky. During Noah's time, the ground was watered with the dew. No rain had ever fallen upon the earth; therefore many began to doubt the sanity of Noah and his family. They ridiculed and taunted him until they were silenced when the rains began to fall.
Final Message Today. The Three Angel's messages in (Rev 14: 6:12) are God's last message of warning to every human being on this planet. It is our duty as Christian's to preach this message informing everyone of Jesus' soon return to this Earth. We are to be as Noah was, preaching the everlasting gospel to the world, even if we too are ridiculed for our belief. As we wander through the desert of this life we will come across many people who do not known Jesus. We are to pray for boldness and courage to speak the Word as often as the opportunity presents itself. If we shirk this responsibility, then we may be held accountable for every person's life that we could have but did not share the Word with (Gen 4:9). Comfort and ease in this life is a great weapon for the devil. He cannot comprehend those who would rather give up their ease to follow Christ to death. It makes him angry when we get off our chairs and do God's work. Of course no one wants to have problems in their life, but we must remember that our salvation depends upon our faith in Jesus. From this faith will follow the works that we have to do and that means moving our legs in the direction He points us.
We, who believe, are being sanctified day by day. Some days the rain will fall and we will feel separated from God, but know this, He will not separate Himself from us. When we become discouraged we have two roads that we can take, we can either get on our knees in prayer or we can be like Judas and let discouragement lead us to death. We may not go out and hang ourselves as Judas did, but we can let our discouragement lead us back to our old ways. We can willingly jump out of the hand of God. The bible says: 'if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity he will die and the righteousness that he has done will not be remembered' (my summary of Ezekiel 3:20-24). The belief that once we have been saved (justified), we are always saved, is a miss understanding of justification. The parable of the sower in (Matt 13:1-9) is a good example of the types of people who are justified by faith at conversion but their life style and the cares of this world finally take them away from the God they once believed in. The desert is too harsh for them. They want the easy road. Every little trial they encounter takes them away from their saviour. The cares if this world leads them to forget God.
Many of the young today want to be successful in this world. Talent shows abound with those wanting fame and fortune. Gambling is endemic in our society. It is the poor who spend the most on the lottery and with every successful person there are millions going into poverty, spending more and more of their limited income in the hope of a big win. In the past couple of years, TV and Internet Bingo have taken off big time. People are invited to deposit 5 and get 30 to play. Once caught in the trap, the urge to continue gets stronger and stronger until every waking hour is spent sitting in front of a computer or TV gambling - not only wasting money on a chance win, but wasting precious time. Not so long ago the Orthodox churches frowned on gambling but now they remain silent even encouraging gambling with tombola evenings.
Since the mid 19th century when the theory of evolution was introduced to society as an alternative to a creator God, worldliness has taken the place of spirituality. It has left a great hole in the psychic of men, which is now being filled with all kinds of mystery and intrigue. Our TV screens and cinemas have had an explosion of supernatural films now in 3d to dull our senses and turn our minds away from God. Our frontal lobes are being lulled into a false sense of security ready for the penultimate greatest event in earth's history the coming of the false messiah. Satan himself will transform himself into the person of Christ to fool the whole world. (2 Cor 11:14). The scene is being set with a false religious system, which is beguiling the masses that want to 'feel' the Holy Spirit in their lives. Protestant churches, which once relied on the Bible and the Bible only as their foundation of faith, have capitulated to the call for ecumenical unity. They call for dialogue with the mother Church, to bring peace on Earth. Peace at any cost. It doesn't matter that this global church in its worship system praises the god of this Earth. Its grand ceremonies appeal to the senses. The altar of God has been desecrated and the altar of Baal is worshiped upon. The Bible is no longer the infallible Word of God. Tradition and ceremony have replaced it. History attests that when the Law of God is set aside, God, who is a jealous God, (even though he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11)), His Law, which is a transcript of his character, when it is broken is in direct rebellion against Him as creator and ruler of the universe. Whilst He allows rebellion to go on for a short time, it cannot continue forever. As the flood swept away all humanity except Noah and his family, soon the Earth will be consumed with fire to put an end to all sin forever. (2 Peter 3: 3-7)
Is Israel still God's Chosen Nation? The Jews continued to rebel against heaven even though they had been given a great insight into the oracles of God but they chose to ignore the direct warnings from the prophets and killed many of them for speaking the truth. Finally, at the death of Stephen, in AD 34, (Acts 7:59) just a few short years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the glory of God was taken away from the chosen people and given to the gentiles. In AD 70, the Roman army destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and the Jews were scattered abroad. The chosen people today are all those who accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Final Events of Earths History. We can see from the economic troubles and climate changes that we are on the brink of a monumental event about to occur. There is distress amongst the nations as predicted in (Luke 21:25-28). The false evolutionary philosophy that I have already mentioned is taking over the minds of our children in schools. Spiritualism is growing with a belief in the immortality of the soul. (1 Tim 4:1-3) Even though we are told by God in (Lev 19:31), not to have anything to do with familiar spirits, children are being bombarded with the supernatural in books and movies such as Harry Potter, (see also (Matt 24:23,24; Gal 5:19:21 and Rev 22:15). There is also great apostasy in our churches (2 Tim 3:1-4 - read also Luke 18:8 and Matt 24:12).
James says of the days just before Christ's return:
"Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have horded wealth in the last days. Look the wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you (James 5:1-6). He goes on to instruct us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. We should not grumble against one another but be an example of patience in the face of suffering as were the prophets. We are to persevere as did Job because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy and we are not to show unrighteous anger (v 7-11).
(Dan 12:4) informs us that knowledge would increase in the last days. In this past century there has been a greater understanding of prophecy in the Bible. More people have gained greater general knowledge through reading, writing and the invention of the telephone, radio, and television and just in the past 20 years, the Internet. We are able to run to and fro (travel) faster than at any point in history, with Trains, Cars, Aeroplanes, and Rockets to the stars. We have highly sophisticated weapons to kill each other with.
As Christians we are not to be overwhelmed or concerned at everything that is happening today. God is in control. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28). And (verse 31): "so likewise you, when you see these things come to pass, you will know that the Kingdom of God is at hand". .
Even though some days we may not feel the presence of God, we believe that through daily prayer and Bible study He will always be there for us. We are Justified by our faith in Christ. We are being Sanctified day by day waiting for Glorification when Jesus returns to take us home together.
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