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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From Sound the Trumpet!, December 2013
Christ came the first time to the manger in Bethlehem. There is a tremendous contrast with His first coming as compared with His other comings.
He was born in a cattle shed. Only those who have around cattle can understand what a lowly birth this was. The smell of cattle permeates your clothes and your nostrils until you just want to escape it. Nothing could be more humiliating. He was laid in a cattle manger and wrapped in rags. Remember, this is the creator of all things, never has there been such a demonstration of humility.
The religious leaders of Israel couldn't trouble themselves to walk the few miles to Bethlehem where they knew He was to be born and from whence came to them the announcement of His birth.
By contrast God sent a star to proclaim His birth; to the shepherds He sent a multitude of angels. Then God sent from the east wise, wealthy men who were probably of nobility, men with rich gifts, who came to worship Him.
Such a contrast still exists today and has existed for two thousand years. To the believer He is the Lord of his life, the altogether lovely one. He is the preeminent one of his life; he bows before Him and worships Him. Multitudes over the last two thousand years have gladly laid down their lives for Him. This God-man is by far the most loved man that has ever lived.
To the world Christ is the most hated man that has ever lived. That hatred has persisted in every generation since that day. Herod sought to kill Him as a child. The Jews and the Romans crucified Him on a cross. Today that hatred has not subsided one iota, He is still the most hated man who has ever lived. Such hatred was foretold in His own words. There is no greater proof that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, because, people have for 2000 years treated Him the way He said they would. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
His FIRST coming was to die on the cross to pay the price of man's sin and redeem men. Our appreciation as believers for that act will find us praising Him for all of eternity.
His SECOND coming will not be to the earth but to the clouds of the sky to catch up or rapture His bride the church and take them to heaven. There are two wonderful things about that prospect.
We will then be with Him forever. And we will share in His eternal glory; we will actually be made like Him. “...we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2b)
His THIRD coming will be to defeat Israel's enemies and set up the Millennial Kingdom.
Before that kingdom of righteous can begin some preparations must be made. Satan must be bound, we read about that binding in Revelation 20:1-3,
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”
Notice the emphasis on this setting Satan aside, it is a complete incarceration. Just note some of the words used, "bound" - “bottomless pit” – “shut up” – “set a seal.”
Then notice the reason: “that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.” The overall purpose of Satan's binding is to change the atmosphere of the millennial age, to change the moral, spiritual and ecological environment. Satan is the corrupter of men and destroyer of the earth. Not only will Satan be bound but Christ will reign in righteousness. What a profound transformation of the world!
For the first time since the fall, men will live in a perfect environment. Throughout the ages men have sought to make the world a better place to live. The liberal philosophy says, if you create an ideal environment men will respond and be good. Change man's environment and you will change men. Governments today operate on that principal.
In Revelation 20 we have the millennial test. During that 1000 years God proves the lie to this idea. Man's problem is not his environment it is his unregenerate heart. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)
After many years (up to nearly a thousand in some cases) of living in the perfect environment a great multitude of unregenerate men and women fail the test. Revelation 20:7-9,
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”
Notice, the Millennial age is now over and after many hundreds of years of the benevolence of Christ and living in a perfect environment of righteousness, these unregenerate people, who have heard and rejected the gospel will fail the test.
“And they went up on the breadth of the earth,” apparently the overwhelming majority of the people of that millennial age, billions who lived under the gracious provision of Christ proceed to go to war against Him. “The breadth of the earth,” this is an army that covers the whole earth.
They set about to kill Christ and His followers. Billions who were in the kingdom but the kingdom was never in them. They appeared for hundreds of years to be something they were not. Billions who went through the motions of the worship of Christ but never had Christ in their hearts.
Back in the 1960's in our youth group we saw over 100 teens come to Christ. It was a time of great excitement. That was fifty years ago, today as we look back we realize that a great majority of people have gone back to the world.
A dear and good pastor recently shared with me his experience. He said that some years ago his pastor told him to write down on a piece of paper the names of 20 Christians he knew and watch what happens to them. He shared with me that there are only three names left of that list; the others have gone back.
As I look at the Evangelical/ Fundamental Church my heart is fearful that multitudes are in the Church but Christ is not in them. They appear to be in the kingdom but the kingdom is not in them.
There is a profound lesson here; you cannot force righteousness on the human heart. The answer is not environmental. The ideal environment of the millennial age or even the environment of heaven would not change man's sinful nature and his sinful heart. This is why there has to be a hell to prevent the contamination of sin and to isolate the sinner. “And there shall in no wise enter into it (heaven) anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Revelation 21:27)
There is a great hope today that has captured the hearts of millions, including the world's leaders. The hope and belief is that mankind will come together in good will and begin to solve the world's problems, problems which threaten not only quality of life but man's very existence. This will be the agenda of the coming world church, and the lie which will be received with great enthusiasm.
Man's need is not a change of environment, nor a renewed commitment to cooperation, nor a re-organized political agenda; man's need is a new heart, a new nature. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
LISTEN CAREFULLY-Satan is not to blame for man's sin. Satan will not be present during the 1000 years when these men and women will be tested. They will fail the test without his help.
Each man is to blame for his own sin. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (James 1:14) Satan is not to blame for our sin. Satan simply draws out of our hearts the things which are already there. We need to lay hold of this truth. The problem of sin is found in the human, unregenerate heart. Satan is simply God's instrument to reveal what is in the unregenerate heart.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Notice, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” The most deceitful thing, according to this verse, is the human heart. There is nothing anywhere more deceitful than the human heart. It is “desperately wicked,” there is nothing anywhere in the universe more wicked than the human heart, including Satan, who is no more wicked than our unregenerate hearts. Do you understand our need for salvation?
Man is without any hope of doing the right thing in God's eyes, he is lost in sin without hope. Praise the Lord; this is why Christ came to die for our sins, to redeem us and to make us partakers of a new nature, the divine nature. Jesus stated so simply how we can have that new nature, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
We not only need to be saved and regenerated, we need to be rescued from our resident, old unregenerate nature to enable us to live a life pleasing to God. Herein lies the second great lesson. With the sin nature that still lives in us, we have the potential to practice the most unimaginable sin.
As believers our problem is found in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Verses 19 to 21 present a list of the sins every believer has the potential to be involved in if he walks in the flesh.
The wonderful and simple remedy is found in verse 16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” God's plan for victorious living is simple and certain; we need not be defeated by our own flesh nature nor by the wiles of the devil:
Yield your life to Christ's control,
Seek to know His will as found in His word,
Put out of your life those things that are contrary to His Word and you will be filled with the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit filled life is described in verses 22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” The believer who does not “Walk in the Spirit” walks on the edge of disastrous sin.