LOVE WORTH DYING FOR

 

 

Our battle is not with flesh and blood, but it is a spiritual battle between good and evil. In any war there are casualties, but we must be able to endure difficult times, and even to risk our lives in order to fight that battle to spread God’s message. We must be able to endure the fiery darts of the enemy with faith and truth. We also need to remember that in our mission we must always obey the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ over the commands of men.(Acts 5: 29)

 

Through the gospel of Jesus Christ people learn the truth and are rescued from the deception of evil.

Mat 18: 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost…….Luke 5: 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

 

We must be willing to risk our own lives to spread that message in order to save the lost.

Mark 8: 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it…….John 15: 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you…….. Mat 5: 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…….Rom 12: 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

So we’re to bring others to the knowledge of God, and to be obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ by spreading the gospel. In order to do this it will be necessary for us to enter into enemy territory and rescue those who are held captive by sin.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

Our weapons are of the Spirit.

2 Cor 10: 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;……Heb 4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart…….Eph 6: 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

 

You shall be hated of all men, but you must not surrender.

Mat 10: 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved…….1 Pet 5: 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:……Heb 3: 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God…….James 5: 10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

 

Our rewards for being obedient to the will of God.

Rev 22: 12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city…….Heb 10: 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

 

What will happen if you succumb to the enemy?

1 Pet 4: 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?…… 2 Thes 1: 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;…… 2 Pet 3: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

 

Love in it’s earthly realm is usually a one-sided affair in which one of the parties often gets hurt. Many – if not most people – are willing to even do harm to others if it’s to their own advantage. Even the nice actions of people are often done with their own ulterior motives in mind. A person who possesses true biblical love is usually the one who gets hurt in this present world, but the Bible tells us that our hope is in the world to come, and not in this world. Even this though becomes a secondary motive as you begin to love, and become perfected by the word of God.

 

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WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?

 

During last weeks study I brought up the question of “what does it mean to do the will of God”. Since this should be a priority in the lives of all Christians, I want to start this week to take a closer look at that.

 

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done earth as it is in heaven.

Mat 6: 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 

What then is in heaven that is not on earth?

John 3: 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

The saved – or, those that do the will of God!

Heb 10: 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

 

Though Jesus is talking to his apostles in the next verses, once we understand his word and believe it, they also apply to us.

John 15: 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

 

Here Jesus condenses it a bit, but says the same things in Acts.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The previous two examples are telling us that we must go out and spread the message that Jesus gives us from the Father to the whole world. And that is the message of not only salvation through Jesus Christ, but to love each other as he commands us to. Since we are called to be God’s representatives on earth, we need to reflect his will, and his kingdom.

 

Jesus tells us that he has come to save the lost.

Mat 18: 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.(see also Rom 5: 8)

Luke 5: 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

That’s why we must also love our enemies as Jesus commands us. And that’s also why we will suffer persecution.

 

We can only overcome evil by doing good. 

Mat 5: 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you……..46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?…….48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect……. Rom 12: 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Our battle is not with flesh and blood. 

John 19: 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Eph 6: 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

 

We must endure for the sake of doing God’s will.

2 Pet 3: 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Mat 28: 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

We can see that following Jesus Christ isn’t any picnic to say the least, but because we deeply believe in his word,  and because of our faith in him, we gladly do what he commands of us.

When I was a kid, whenever my dad would give me a chore to do he would always say “and do it like you mean it”! I never really understood why many of those things were so important to him, so of course, while I did the chore, my heart wasn’t really in it. As Christians we should try our hardest to fully understand God’s will to the point where it becomes our own will, otherwise like in the parable of the sower(Mat 13: 18-23) our faith will soon wither away. Our hearts should be in it, and we should not be just going through the motions(Psalm 119). By obeying Jesus’ commands to us with this kind of understanding, we are also obeying the commands of our Father in heaven.

BY GRACE WE ARE SAVED – IF…….

 

The Bible tells us that by grace we are saved(have eternal life) – meaning that it has nothing to do with anything we ourselves can do, but purely God’s freewill gift to us. But even a free gift sometimes comes with certain conditions attached to it. Though our salvation is a free gift from God in response to our faith, the following briefly describes what it is that we must each examine ourselves for to see if we are truly “saved”(2 Cor 13: 5).

 

See this conditional statement in Romans.

Romans 10: 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

 

The first condition in the previous verses that is attached to your salvation is that you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord. If we take this statement at face value then it seems to be very self-explainitory. But Jesus, as he often does in the Bible, expands a bit on this idea in Matthew, and makes it clear that there’s more to it than that.

Mat 7: 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

 

This brings up another question. What is the will of the Father? Here are some verses that help to explain this.

John 5: 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…….23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him…….10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love……. John 15: 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Mat 7: 12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

If you study these previous verses a little you should be able to see that by obeying his Son Jesus you are obeying the Father. So we are to obey whatever Jesus tells us. Although we are told much more in the Bible, Jesus sums up all of his commands in one sentence – to “love one another, as I have loved you”. Sounds easy – right? This should come as second nature for a practicing Christian, but he also tells us that we are to love our enemies. That’s where it becomes a little more difficult sometimes.

 

Now here is a further explanation to the second condition for our salvation from Romans 10: 9. The following verses – which were in last weeks study – tell us why it is so important that we must believe that God raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead .

1Cor 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

 

Understanding the Bible is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You need to put in the corners – or the foundation first, and the rest of it will go together a lot easier. All of these verses together tell us that in order to have this hope of eternal life – or be “saved”, you must truly believe in your heart that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that he can, and will do the same for you as is promised in Romans 10: 9. Then you must choose to faithfully honor and obey him as your Lord – which means that you agree to obey his word, or commands. 

This begins a discussion as to what the will of God is for us, which I want to go into more detail about in the next couple of weeks. 

 

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD

 

In the previous study I looked at the reasons why we have hope of eternal life through our faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection. In that study, I touched briefly on the fact that James adamantly tells us that having faith without works is dead. But in the book of Hebrews it tells us that we are to repent from dead works – this is actually said to be one of the foundational principles of our faith. One person seems to be telling us that we must include “works” in our faith, while the other is saying that we need to repent from our dead works. I want to say a little more about this, and try to clear up some of the apparent contradictions. It’s not talking about the same type of works here. It’s easier to understand if we remember that besides there being two different types of works, there are also two different covenants(also called testaments) – the old and the new.

James tells us that faith without works is dead.

James 2: 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Jesus tells us here that not only is He our Lord, but that we must follow his commandments.

Luke 6: 46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

John also tells us that we need to keep God’s commandments – or “works”.

1John 5: WHOSOEVER believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

John gives us a hint as to what those specific commandments/works are in the previous verses, but Jesus in his own words also very broadly explains what they are here.

John 15: 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

If there is still a question in your mind as to what these commandments – or “works” – are, look at these two verses that more clearly tell us.

Paul tells us in Galatians.

Galatians 5: 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

And James tells us the same thing.

James 2: 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Now that we know in general what the “works” of faith are that James spoke about, let’s contrast all of the previous verses  with the writer of Hebrews telling us that we must repent from dead works.

Heb 6:THEREFORE leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit.

Let’s now look at the type of “works” it is that we are supposed to repent from.

Heb 8: 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away………Heb 9: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation………14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Now we can see from the previous verses that the type of works that are dead – being of an old covenant – are the type that would effectually make you righteous by obeying God’s commandments along with the sacrificing of animals, while the other type – the new covenant – makes you righteous through the grace of God if we choose to obey  Jesus as our Lord in faith. Notice here too that having a clear conscience plays a big role in our moving on to “perfection”, which is talked about as being the next step in a Christian’s life after building the foundation.

 Each of the two covenants comes with it’s own set of rules so to speak, and only through the new covenant can we truly be made righteous before God, and thus have the hope of receiving eternal life. Remember that a covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. Just like they had to follow their part of the agreement in the old covenant – that is to obey the commandments of God – in return for the promises that God made to them, our part of agreeing to this new covenant is to obey the words of Jesus Christ(Mat 28: 18-20), in return for this hope that he has given us of eternal life. Of course there is a little bit more to it, but this should give us some more understanding from which to build a good foundation.