ARTICLE OF THE MONTH
SCRIPTURAL INSPIRATION IN SOCIAL ISOLATION
(By Dr. Joel ALbert )
Uncertain times are upon us! And as we self-isolate, quarantine ourselves and undergo lock-down (three seldom used words that have become a mainstay of our current vocabulary) not just at a national level but at a global level because of the worldwide attack by a common enemy that is unseen to the naked eye, there is a plethora of questions bombarding our minds. Such a condition would never have been anticipated by the current generation, which has, to my recollection, never seen or heard of a pandemic of this proportion. Being an erstwhile dentist, I too thought of epidemics (a local spread of a disease) let alone a pandemic (a global issue) as things reserved for the pages of history. We have been thinking that science and technology have advanced to such a level that these things should not be a cause of worry for the 21st century human being!
But we find ourselves at war! A World- war no less! We’re all at war, at a global stage, against a common enemy which is by definition one of the smallest infective agents smaller than many micro-organisms known to man but deadly enough to have left the greatest minds of the world scurrying for a solution! But, as a born-again believer, who through their faith upon the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, have been cleansed from all their sin, justified by grace, sanctified to praise and glorified for always, if you will, how should we react to this situation? How do I exercise my faith, practice my love and strengthen my hope for the future that right now, seems so uncertain and full of doubts and worries about short-term issues?
Yes! I said short-term because though, as believers, we know that our eternity is secure, puny humans like us have many things to worry about! It may be our job, our studies, our family, our health- short-term issues that are, without a doubt, important to all of us. Just as an example, just within my family and close contacts, there have been a few weddings which were postponed, jobs that are under threat, exams that were suspended, families that are separated by the lack of transportation, sick ones that are worried about their treatment and health in general, the list goes on and on! I too, find myself 1500 kilometers away from the place I call home, but thankfully still at another place I can call home. Many of our dear believers may not have had a similar ‘luxury’ if you will. I’m sure some of you who are reading this are in another city, state or country, probably alone in a strange place, genuinely worried about the well-being of your dear ones across the world. What do we do in this situation? While we are ‘socially distancing’ ourselves because of the orders passed by our government (which let me say, is the right thing to do in the current situation), the only person to whom we can look for answers is God Himself and the only place where we can look for answers is HIS Word! The Word, which as a lamp to our feet, tells us how to take the next step and as a light to our path, shows us the way that we should follow! (Psalm 119:105). I’m thankful for the servants of God who, in these difficult times, in their own different ways, are sending encouraging thoughts, articles and exhortations so that all of us might find ourselves encouraged and edified in such uncertain, unusual and unprecedented times. May the Lord bless them abundantly is my sincere prayer. So, what do we do in such a time? I would like to share three simple actions that we need to do under the light of the scriptures, as we spend time in our homes with our families.
1. Let us look back and REMEMBER
2. Let us look within and RESET
3. Let us look forward and REJOICE
1. OUR SALVATION
While we sit at home and worry about a virus that has taken the lives of thousands across the world, may we never forget that the condition that has affected the whole world and that is sin! The worst thing that the Novel coronavirus can do is take the lives of people. It is scary no doubt, especially when we think of our dear ones who are weak and elderly. And as we take the utmost precaution to keep ourselves safe and secure from the coronavirus may we never forget that there is a ‘vaccine’ for sin. It is the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all our sin (1John 1:7). Sin can destroy our eternal future and whenever we are concerned about coronavirus let us be more concerned about the condition of sin that we all suffer from. Let us look back at that day, a little more that two thousand years ago when the Lord Jesus paid the price of our redemption on the cross of Calvary by shedding His blood even until the last drop. All those who believe in Him as their Lord and personal Savior shall be saved and receive eternal life. (John 3:16)
2. THE SAINTS
While we look at the past, may we also remember the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who stand as examples for us to follow while we go through these difficult times of isolation. From the Holy Scriptures, we have the example of Noah and his family who had to stay isolated from the rest of the world, have no one else for company, nothing else to do and nowhere else to go for months on end! Think of Moses who had to live in isolation for 40 years in the land of Midian. A prince who had all the comforts of his life had to fend for himself in the scorching desert and the unforgiving terrain of the wilderness. Consider David, who had to stay away from his family, his friends and even his nation and live as a vagabond, even in a cave! How about Jeremiah, who had to see his nation being plundered, his fellow brethren made captive and he himself being ostracized from the society that he lived in. How can we forget Apostle Paul who spent days, weeks and months on end, in prison and under house-arrest, having nobody else to help him! And even Apostle John, who was so used to being at the bosom of his Lord, the company of his fellow-disciples and the fellowship of the assemblies but finally had to spend time languishing in the cruel, unforgiving situation in Patmos at a ripe old age. Now compare our isolation to them! Can we even compare our situation with theirs considering that their problems were much greater than we can ever imagine? I am not belittling the mental and emotional struggles that we go through in times of isolation but when we have the examples of such people like us going through harder situations, we can glean a great deal of comfort and strength from them. And why not! Because after his time in isolation, Noah received a covenant from the Lord! Moses received a great commission from the Lord, David received a crown from the Lord , Jeremiah received comfort from the Lord, Paul received courage and strength from the Lord as evident in Philippians 4:13, and John received the celestial revelation from the Lord on that blessed Lord’s day on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:1). Oh, may we understand the reward of the faithful after periods of isolation, that they spent looking unto the Lord!
While the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly gripping the entire world in its clutches and governments and healthcare professionals are trying to counter to the best of their abilities, let’s just look back for a moment into the great pandemics that have affected the world before this! Having read about the various pandemics that obliterated large populations over the ages would send shivers down anybody’s spine! Whether it be the plague, yellow fever, cholera, the flu etc. over the ages, mankind has been ravaged by these microscopic enemies in a much higher degree as compared to the current crises. I’m not downplaying the seriousness of the current pandemic but praise God we don’t live in medieval times! As compared to the people of those times, we live in relative comfort even amidst a crisis such as this! Our suffering and worries, though serious, are much lighter, if you will, as compared to those days. While we look into the past and REMEMBER the suffering, the saints and our salvation, let us…
Secondly, In the present situation, there is a need for us to press the proverbial reset button in our lives! And we can do that in three ways 1. BUILD
The first action that we need to do is to build up the broken walls of our lives. It reminds us of Nehemiah who left the creature comforts of the palace and went into the desolate city of Jerusalem. To the city that lay in ruins and the walls that were broken down. In` such a time Nehemiah decided to go and build the broken walls of Jerusalem! (Nehemiah 2) Recently, as I was travelling within the city just a couple of days before the lockdown, I noticed many restaurants and small businesses with a board on their shutters, “Closed temporarily. Under maintenance”. It had me thinking, in like manner, isn’t this time of self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown a time for us to rebuild the broken ‘walls’ in our lives? Just like the walls of Jerusalem our personal testimony, our family altar and our assembly fellowship do require some rebuilding. Believe me, I keep myself first and then speak to you when I say this. Sadly, even though we have been doing a lot of things outwardly (out of a good intention no doubt), our personal lives, our family bond and our assembly fellowship need a great deal of rebuilding and restoration! Can we say for sure that we have been spending time just in meditation and personal prayer like the few great people of God in the Bible? I’m not speaking here about our preparation for certain word ministries and our public prayers. How sad it is that we open the Word of God or come down on our knees when there is something for ‘me’. My ‘self’ that should have been crucified with Christ! Intercessory prayers are unheard of and our busy schedules, have left us with little or no time to build up our personal walls! How about our families? It is saddening to see that families with the assembly have been broken because of the myriad issues plaguing the families of believers. The dining table becomes a place of gossip and family get-togethers are spent just for the sake of photos. Have we not understood that even though a family looks happy and intact on a public profile, it is actually in shambles! Parents are in tears for rebellious children. Wives compare biblical submission to slavery and husbands mistake biblical authority and headship to treat their wives as slaves. Many homes reek of unfaithfulness, fornication and hypocrisy. I speak from issues that I’ve come across and I’m sure there are many more. Families are broken, my dear believers and they need fixing! We need men like Obed- Edom, who teach their family the importance of the knowledge of the presence of God in their home. We need women like Tabitha, Lydia, Lois and Eunice who know their specific roles very well and served the Lord to the fullest within the sphere that was entrusted to them. We need young men like Timothy who learn to flee youthful lusts and pursue that which is good (2Tim 2:22), young women like Ruth, who exhibit virtuous qualities from their lives, just like she did. Dining tables should be like the one at Emmaus, (Luke 24:32), where the hearts of the family burn with joy and encouragement when they remember what the Lord spoke to them through His word. And as for the assembly fellowship, it is in times like these when we are devoid of it, that we understand the beauty and the warmth of true Christian fellowship! The Lord, in this present situation wants us to build, rebuild, strengthen ourselves, our families and ourselves in the assembly fellowship, which is why maybe, He has given us this current situation as a ‘reset button’ to ponder upon and to renew our relationship with the Lord and with each other.
While we build up our lives, isolation is a time for us to break a few things in our lives There is a high probability that in such a time as this, people will spend more time in front of screens. Screens that are our windows to the world! Watching the news, the television in general and even the menacing cob-web of the internet, for long periods of time, can have negative effects on our physical and mental health. This is a statement made by healthcare professionals around the world! How much more should a believer take heed in such a situation! Let us break these habits which rob us of the joy and peace that comes from within! An that can be received from the other ‘window’ that we have- the Word of God, the window to Eternity!
Yes, these are unprecedented times and it is but natural to have some fear or trepidation about the situation. But isn’t it wonderful to know that though the world is in chaos, the Lord is on the throne! He is the unchanging God in an ever-changing world! Believe, that even in these life-altering times, God’s sovereign will, will be revealed for each and every one of us personally. No matter where we are, He is in control of our lives and even the world as a whole. AND as for the future,
1. HIS PROMISES
The Lord Jesus Christ said “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world! (John 16:33). HE also said “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt 28:20). We can quote well known verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or even Romans 8:28 but THIS is the time we ought to hold on to these promises! As we look into our uncertain short-term future let us be certain of one thing, His promises are Yea and Amen for us in Him to the glory of God (2Cor 1:20) and let us hold on to them. He will never fail those who put their trust in Him.
2. HIS PROPHECIES
Just like any other event in history, this situation falls into His great grand plan and is a part of His divine time-table! And no matter how bad the situation is, the Lord in his foreknowledge knows, not just this situation but even the outcome. Much more than that, whatever the outcome in the world, He has prophesied, whatever happens, our eternity is secure in his hands. May the prophecies of the Bible remind us that worse days will come after this but there is a day we look forward to, when we all will be taken up to be with the Lord. (1Thess 4:16-18)
3. HIS PRESENCE
His presence was in our midst in the past. At his incarnation, He was called Emmanuel (God with us). John testifies of that in John 1:14. At present, the Holy Spirit indwells in us, the Lord Jesus intercedes for us and the Father is interested in our life, and is attentive to our cries. And let us not forget that one day we will be taken up to be in HIS presence for ever and ever. Coronavirus may or may not affect us, other diseases may or may not affect us but one thing is for sure, He who came and paid the price of my ransom on the cross is the one who intercedes for me to the Father and it is He Himself who has promised us that we will be in His presence for ever and ever. (John 14:3) God in His Sovereignty, is in control of your past present and future. Your security is not something you need to worry about if we have believed in him. What matters though, is that I keep continue to live a holy, sanctified life for the glory of God! May these words enrich, encourage, correct and comfort us to be faithful believers in the days and years to come. May His name alone be glorified!
DO NOT GO TO ANOTHER FIELD TO GLEAN
Written By Paily Varghese, Houston, Published also in the ‘Suviseshakan’ of November 2018, January 2019
There was a time when people were eager to buy more and more land assets. Such people were wealthy and commanded respect in the communities, as land lords. Nowadays many are shying away from the land and farming business, is not cost-effective, thus un-affordable to keep up with. Only mega farmers can survive with the application of modern farming techniques, fertilizers, and pesticides etc.
We read in the book of Ruth (Ch 2) that Ruth, a Moabite woman went to glean in the field of Boaz. He was a very wealthy, kind, and good man in stature and nature in Bethlehem. The common man would say that Ruth was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. A child of God would say that it was the grace and plan of the living God for she trusted in Him. We can see that regardless of her undeserving background, she achieved unimaginable and amazing progress in Boaz’s field. She found an immeasurable amount of compassion from Boaz. Boaz noticed the strange woman, Ruth, in his field and gathered all the details of her from the servants. Ruth’s only desire was to find mercy in front of Boaz to be allowed to keep gleaning in his field. Boaz told her “my daughter, listen, don’t go to any other field to glean, don’t leave this place, but stay with my maidservants”.
Though her request to him was only to allow her to glean behind the reapers, she got more than she could ever dream for. The extras he granted to her were: a. her protection from the young men servants, b. when thirsty, to drink from the water already was there, c.to join the reapers for the meals, d. Boaz is offering her parched corn, e. she is even allowed to glean from the sheaves, f. ordered the servants to pull some sheaves and leave it behind for her to pick them up. We see Ruth’s expression of her humility and gratitude to Boaz in Ruth 2:9 and 13. Since we are so familiar with the story of Ruth, I don’t want to go into details. We know that the informal discussions and meetings ultimately ended up in the adoption of Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi, and Elimelech’s properties etc by Boaz which was a liability to him at that time. Though Ruth longed only for her meager sustenance, God of Israel had greater plans for her. Ruth being a Moabite woman was not worthy to come in the presence of God even by the 10th generation. Amazingly she became the wife of Boaz and her name is recorded as a mother in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Were we not in the same condition as Ruth’s past, prior to our coming to the field of our Savior? We were Gentiles by nature, were under the captivity of Satan, and had no access to the commonwealth of Israel. Yet when the Lord purchased us with His precious blood we became the members of God’s family. We got more than we could ever dream for. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).
As children of God, in a sense, we also have been in the gleaning profession. Our gleanings can be of varying nature, like; for ours’ and our dear ones’ better financial, educational, marital, health, houses, employment, wives, and husbands related matters etc. But how much are we caring to glean for our spiritual enrichment? Our Boss has promised to give everything else when we seek first for His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt 6:33). We, many-a-times, forget to take it for the face value that we are in the field of the Boss, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is greater than Boaz. Though He is telling us, My Son, My daughter don’t go anywhere else to glean, how silly we are that, probably, some of us wander into others’ fields or even to the enemies’ fields to glean (Jer 2:13). We have limitations within the stipulated boundaries set by our Master and are applicable in every aspect of our life, including our married life. We are supposed to be content with the harvest of our own fields and drinking from our own cisterns, no matter how meager one may think it is. (Pro 5:15-21). It will be totally sinful to be getting attracted to the neighbors’, friends’, and strangers’ fields and seeking an opportunity to glean there, no matter how plenteous their harvests maybe. There is no excuse in wandering away yielding to Satan’s temptations. It is sad to see that some of us, instead of giving due importance to the key factors in the marriage proposals, give undue importance to the unimportant matters and have had to suffer the resulting consequences. It is a shame that we have this tendency germinating from the greed to go beyond the boundaries of our master’s field. Instead of gleaning for healthy organic grains, we mostly glean the chaff which is good only to be burned (1Cor 3:12). We can use our time and talent to glean for the souls for the Lord and they will be seen in the palace of our King Jesus, like the good grains stored in the warehouses (Lu 3:17, 12:21). There won’t be any chance of entering into our Boaz’s mansions along with the material possessions that we accumulated in this dirty world. It’s a shame that we are not gleaning for the spiritually profitable treasures that can be compared to nonperishable items as silver, gold, and precious stones. On the other hand, we are concentrating and whiling away our time and efforts on the gleaning for the wood, hay, and straw etc. which are not allowed on board during the Bon-Voyage!! (1Cor 3:15). Those treasures of ours’ from this world will be good for the Anti-Christ and his people and that too only for a short time.
The people of Israel were sumptuous in the vineyard of Boaz, our great God. But they not only failed in yielding good grapes for the master but on the other hand yielded wild grapes. They became stiff necked, and rebellious. The Lord removed the hedge of the vineyard, broke the walls, burned the vineyard, and left it a waste to be trampled down. The people were carried away as captives to strange lands. This is a very scary lesson for us. He allowed briers and thorns to come up over the land. (Please read Jer 2:13 and Isa 5:1-10).
Beloved ones, we believers are the Israel of the Lord in the New Testament at this period of the Dispensation of Grace. To be clearer, we are the Bride betrothed to the Lord Jesus Christ our groom, to be married in the future, just like Ruth was married by Boaz, later. We are sealed with His Holy Spirit of promise, given the earnest of the Holy Spirit, and anointed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21-22, Eph 1:14, 1 John 2:27). We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 1:3). Our Boaz, Christ, has promised and has been supplying all our day-to-day needs and will continue to do so until the end of our pilgrimage in this world. And then He will snatch us away from this sinful world to be permanent with Him in the heavenly places where there won’t be any want at all. He is our Redeemer who paid the priceless redemption cost of ours’. Beloved brothers and sisters, before we were saved by our Redeemer Jesus Christ, we were idol worshippers like Ruth was in Moab. But since we came to the field of our Boaz how happy and content we are!! Let us be steadfast in our faithfulness to our Great Boaz, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is my sincere desire, prayer, and appeal to all of you who are outside the boundaries of Christ’s field, to please enter in. You can freely enter in with the confession to Jesus Christ that you are a sinner and thus a stranger and unworthy to enter. Pray to Him to redeem you into His green field. He will not only admit you into his pleasant pastures but also will make you a member of His Royal family by adoption and you will be happy content, and peaceful for the rest of your life in this world, and forever, later. May the Lord help you to do that. May the Lord’s name be glorified.
-A TRUE CHRISTIAN-
A WALKING AND TALKING TEMPLE OF GOD
Written By Paily Varghese, Houston,October 2017
The word of God says that the body of a believer is the temple of God. Based on that fact, there are multiple responsibilities entrusted upon a believer concerning the body.
Before a good quality product or equipment is produced in mass quantities and taken to market; prototypes and stringent testing etc has to be performed to prove the design, functionality, and reliability of that product. The original designer and manufacturer (O.D.M) of the 1st human is The Almighty God who conceived the design and molded Adam, the 1st man (Gen 1:27). He did this by his own hands and in His own image with the soil of the earth and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, thus he became a living soul (Gen 2:7). God didn’t have to make many prototypes or testing to prove the human body.It was taken straight into mass production from the conceptual and 1st prototype stage. Man is not evolved from the animals, as some believe and try to spread around. The reality being, that He is the unmatched super master craftsman in the whole universe, The Almighty God does everything right at the first time without anybody’s help.
All His works are always perfect. While continuous modifications for improvements are necessary for the products made by man, it has not been necessary for the living God to make changes in human body. Man’s body remains the same from the very beginning as created by God, till to date after thousands of years. God in His creation of mankind embedded the amazing phenomenon of the ability to exercise the free will by man. Man abused that great virtue by choosing to sin and came short of the glory of God. The issues that mankind face since then, is not stemming from the creation of God, but it is fundamentally because of the original sin and the sinful life being lived. Though the original design and development of man was by God, He gave permission and blessing to mankind to increase. “Be fruitful and multiply” He said (Gen 1:28). We read “the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” in Gen 6:6. He didn’t grieve because of any flaw in His creation of mankind. It was only because the 1st man disobeyed God and mankind plunged into the sinful state of life. Man feels that he can find solution for many of his problems by taking special care of his/her perishable body. He is unaware of the fact that all the issues have a concrete bearing on the original sin he committed. In the body beauty area, the money being spent is inconceivable. Covering of the temporary body fully (or even just partially by some), with expensive costumes in a competitive world is another challenge. Apostle Paul says “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (1Tim 2:9-10) Apostle Paul writes to Timothy “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1Tim 4:8).
We ought to understand that Each Believer is a Holy Temple of God as it says “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and…. you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. …., which temple you are” (1Cor3:16-17). The truth that “those who defile their bodies will be destroyed”, need to be considered with fear and trembling. This is true concerning the body of a believer as well as the assembly one belongs to. Though it was God’s intention to have close fellowship with the man, the Devine dwelling in the human being became impossible because of the original sin and the sinful life of mankind. That is why confessions and sacrifices were introduced many years back in the day-to-day life for the temporary relief from the sin. But to get freedom from the bondage of sin forever, to escape from the captivity of Satan, and to attain the eternal salvation, God prepared a way. That was through His only begotten son Jesus Christ who offered Himself as an ultimate sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. Anyone who confesses the sins and accepts Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord can not only become the children of God but also become the temple of the living God. Apostle Paul is asking the above question to the believers in the Corinthian church concerning their bodies. The outlook and practice of many believers there were seen by Paul as carnal and not spiritual. He reminds them “you are God’s building… ” Believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1Cor 6:19). Many think that the body is their own and that they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do, like; smoking, drinking, drugging, over eating, tattooing, have illegitimate sexual relationship etc. Since this is not the plan, desire, intention, or the commandment of God, at all, believers have to be extremely cautious. The word of God insist “you are not your own”. It becomes God’s purchased possession when one is redeemed with the Holy Blood of the Son of God.
Individuals being inhabited by the Holy Spirit are bought with a price that is the sinless body and the Holy blood of the Lamb of God. Paul again tells to the Corinthian believers “For you were bought at a price therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cor 6:20, 1Cor 7:23). Though we received the body, soul, and the spirit from God, it became necessary to be redeemed from the total bankruptcy caused due the original Adamic sin, only through the salvation prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ who offered himself on the cross. Since a believer’s body is a bought out possession of the Lord, one has the responsibility to use it to glorify the owner, God. There are many ways one can glorify God, if willing to offer it for the profitable use of God. I have seen, heard, and read about many servants of God who have walked long distances carrying gospel tracts and bibles etc to reach the unsaved ones at the unreachable places, since there were no other means to reach. There are many dear ones who have been still suffering a lot, mentally, physically, and financially in the name of the Lord. It is shameful for some believers who sing very softly or don’t sing at all in the meetings, thus not putting to use the good health God has blessed them with for God’s glory. This body is barely good enough for our life only in this world. If we don’t use it for singing, preaching, praying, and praising God while we are still alive and healthy, we will have to get out from here guilty. Not only that, we won’t have any justification for our intentional mistakes at the judgment seat of Christ who is watching and recording everything. There is a saying that it is easy to till a field covered with water and to sing in a group, since in both of these cases it is difficult to notice the unfaithfulness of the slackers. “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully” (Jer 48:10). Thank God that we still can see in some places young and old brothers and sisters singing loudly together and glorifying God. The Lord bought us who were like the wild asses, and tamed us. If we don’t subdue our shoulders to His works, what good is it for our master? The Lord said to His disciples “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (Luk 17:10). There is a humorous, but a meaningful story of a cowboy. He got married. Husband and wife set out for a pleasure ride on their separate horses on the trail in their ranch during the honeymoon. His horse misbehaved going off the trail. He warned it saying “You better behave properly; this is your warning No.1”. The horse misbehaved 2nd time and the cowboy warned, “Now that is No.2”. After sometime the horse did the same thing again and the cowboy angrily, got off the horse, pulled his gun, and shot it. His wife, who watched all these, felt sad and told her husband that it was cruel in his part to do like that. The cowboy told his wife “Now that’s your warning No.1”!!. If our God had treated us like that many of us wouldn’t have been alive now!! “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13).
The climax in the use of a believer’s body is the offering of it for even martyrdom for the glory of God, if it becomes unavoidable. Many children of God glorified God like that in the history of The Christian Church. Perhaps, this can be a very difficult and scary situation. But when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit and remembers as to how the Savior loved us and gave His body and blood for our sake, he/she won’t consider it as a loss or a failure, on the other hand, a gain and a victory just like the 1st martyr, Stephen, did. Jesus told to his disciples “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28).
It is necessary to take care of the body which is an earthen tent and God’s temple, as needed. But spending a lot of time and money in the nourishing, and cherishing of it, need to be re-examined. It would be more profitable to spend more time in front of the true mirror, the word of God, to examine and enhance our inner beauty, rather than doing overtime in front of the mirror trying to improve and enjoy the outward beauty.
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel;
rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 3:3-4).
Betrothal of the believer: Paul said that he is jealous concerning the maintenance of the holiness of the Corinthian believers who were spiritually engaged for the permanent joining with Christ in the future in heaven (1Cor 11:21). We believers belonging to the Global Church are in the same condition and therefore, have the responsibility to present ourselves in purity and holiness as incorruptible, chaste virgins in the presence of our master. Our God is a jealous God. We don’t have the right to have illegal and unholy relationship with strange Gods. We ought to remember that each believer is a building block/a precious stone in the building of the Holy church of the Lord (1Cor 3:9-10). The Lord was kind enough to seek and find us, the wild, unattractive, left out, neglected, and crude stones. He shaped us to give us beauty to be used as precious building blocks in the building process of His beautiful and costly church. “Fellow citizens with the saints, members of the house of God, ……..God's household, …, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:19-22).
Paul says again that Believers’ bodies are members of Christ: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? (1Cor 6:15) Being the members of Christ, our bodies should never be put to shameful use or any kind of abuse. “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1Pet 1:15-16)
We are the Holy priests in our bodies, the temple of God: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). The responsibility entrusted upon a believer who is ordained as the Holy Priest, is extremely important. We ought to offer spiritual sacrifices continuously to God the Father though Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. As the late great poet K.V. Simon sang “Oh almighty God, praises will rise up from the inner being of mine which is the great temple of God”.
My beloved readers, if there is any one of you who has not experienced the beautiful transformation of turning you into the Holy Temple of God, it is because of the deceit of the enemy, the devil, who is living in you now. Believe in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary; confess your sins to Him. He will come into your heart and make it His dwelling place. He will make your life peaceful, joyful, and guaranteed for the eternal life. You will never regret and will be happy that you did it!!
REMISSION OF SINS AND WATER BAPTISM
There are certain groups of believers, known to be evangelicals, still teach that baptism is essential for the salvation. They refer Acts 2:28 as the important verse in their effort to establish that belief. Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”. Based on this verse they believe and teach that one has to be baptized for the remission of sins.
It is necessary to understand what the word of God is teaching on the subject of the remission of sins, not just by one verse but by many other verses also. Remission of sins is not only for the believers of New Testament. David sings “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In the same Psalm concerning the receiving of the forgiveness of sins he says “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. In Psalm 51, David prays “According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions”. God forgives sins on the basis of the repentance and confession of sins in the presence of God. Read the verses in Isa 44:22, Ez33:11, Jer18:11, Hos14:1-4 etc. During this New Testament period also we see that God by His grace grants forgiveness of man’s sins. Only God has the sole authority for the remission of sins. Because Jesus Christ was God, He gave the remission of sins to many during His life on the earth. He looked at the people who approached him in faith and said “son your sins are forgiven”. He said “your faith has saved you”. Jesus Christ never mandated baptism or any other rituals to any one for the remission of sins. The only solution given in the New Testament for the salvation of sinners is, Faith in Christ. By Grace through faith we are saved (Eph2:8-9). If it is by faith, it is not by work (Rom 11:6). Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Tit 3:5). Baptism is an act and is a righteous act. If He didn’t save us because of our righteous deed, baptism can’t become an essential factor for the salvation. One who believes, will have eternal life (Joh5:24, 6:47). It is recorded in the Scriptures that those who believed were baptized. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized (Acts 2:41). Philip told the Ethiopian minister that if he believes he can be baptized (Acts8:37-38). If a person is saved at the very moment he/she believes, it is certain that the baptism is not to save but because he/she is saved. If a person cannot be fully saved only by his/her faith in Christ, it will mean that Jesus Christ is not able to save us fully, and that the work of salvation is not completed by His death on the cross. If baptism is essential for salvation, none of the Old Testament (O.T.) believers was saved. For them as well as for us, faith is the very basis for salvation. We see in Heb 11 a long list of the O.T. saints who were saved by faith. None of them was baptized. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Not to all who believed and baptized, but to all who believed, to them He gave the right. This means, that all the ones who believe in Christ can become the children of God without being baptized. If so, what is the meaning of Acts 2:38? If the meaning of that verse is that salvation is by baptism, it will be contrary to the doubtless doctrine mentioned above that salvation is by ‘Grace through faith”. So, no, let it never be the case. In the word of God there is not even any least amount of contradictions to one another. We should never try to form a doctrine based on just one verse. We should diligently compare one verse with other verses on the same topic. So, it is not mentioned in Acts 2:38 that the remission of sin is by baptism. If baptism is necessary for salvation, one will have to get baptized again and again for the remission of sins committed again after the baptism. Nobody can claim that not a single sin was committed after the salvation. If baptism is necessary for the remission of sin, one has to keep on getting baptized.
In Acts 2:38, it is the repentance that is mentioned before the remission of sins. The true repentance is the confession of sins and believing in Christ. That is how one receives the remission of sins. Peter says “get baptized” since the remission of sins is received through confession. The order in that verse is; confession, remission of sin, and baptism. Some refer the verse “He who believes and is baptized will be saved;” (Mar 16:16) in the argument that baptism is necessary for the salvation. But they forget the 2nd half of that verse which says “but he who does not believe will be condemned”. The statement that “A person who boards and sits in the bus will reach the destination but the one who doesn’t board will not reach”, doesn’t mean that “one must sit in it” to reach. Does it not mean that one has to enter into the bus to reach the destination? Likewise, when it says that the one who doesn’t believe will enter into condemnation; does it not clearly mean that faith alone is the essential factor for salvation? There are people who teach that it is through baptism one unites into Christ and gets saved etc., referring to the verses in Romans chapter 6; “as many of us as were baptized into Christ”, “buried with Him through baptism”, and in 1 Pet 3:21“baptism … saves’ etc. This teaching will overturn the clear, basic, strong, and fundamental doctrine given in the scriptures that salvation is received free by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Baptism is the outward reflection of what changes come to us internally when we are born again by faith in Jesus Christ. We joined with Christ, we are buried with Him, and we attained resurrection along with Him etc, are reflected through the baptism. In fact, these events are not happening at the time of baptism but when we believe. Baptism is the after effect of that reality of faith. All the statements on the reality can also state about the after effects.
Beloved ones, “need of baptism for salvation” is not the true doctrine, and not the gospel. For the question “what shall I do to be saved?” the answer is, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”. That is the only answer. Don’t add baptism or The Lord’s Supper etc along with that. If something else is added, it will become another gospel. That will be a serious mistake. We believe in baptism. Certainly, the born again children of God should obey the commandment of the Lord who saved them and obey Him in the waters of baptism. Not ‘to be saved’ but because ‘is saved’.
A FIELD TRIP AT THE REMEMBRANCE TABLE
Written By Paily Varghese, Houston, Published also in the ‘Suviseshakan’ of June 2017, June 2017
Field trips and camping are common, especially among the younger ones. The purpose and advantages of these field trips are multi fold. Apart from the pleasure of mingling with the nature, the partakers get to study the flora, fauna, beautiful streams, and many other aspects related to geography and science in general.
The field trip I would like to talk about is not a very refreshing one as briefly outlined above but of a different nature. We read in Heb 13:11-13 “…..Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp (to the field) bearing His reproach”. The picture of the condition 'outside the camp' will/should, indeed, transform us to a thought provoking mood at the ‘Remembrance Table’. As participants of the Table of the Lord, we will not or cannot remain without the heartfelt gratitude to the Lord. It is very important to remember that Christ took
that field trip of the utmost torture for our sake so that we don’t have to take that rough route. On the other hand, we can now rejoice. This fact will enable us to shed tears of joy, remembering the extreme amount of pain and agony the Son of God suffered for bringing us to this glorious joyful state. It can also make us shed some tears of pain, sorrow, and gratitude remembering His sufferings.
One may ask as to how we can literally remember all the sufferings of Christ at the table. Beloved ones, it should actually flash through our hearts in a few moments. It is mind boggling to contemplate the fact that God so loved us that He gave His only begotten son so that we should not perish but have everlasting life. For it was “fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings”( Heb 2:10). In this field trip we see that Jesus, though did all good things, and no fault was found in Him, yet, allowed himself to be nailed to the cross. And it was rightfully so, that the object of sacrifice offered by God for the redemption of mankind ought to be an innocent, unblemished, and sinless Lamb. And that was nobody other than the Son of God, the most supreme object. In spite of the careful selection of the animals picked for the Levitical sacrifices, they all were imperfect since taken from the sinful world. None of those objects is comparable to Jesus, the only begotten son of God, who came from the bosom of the father. He is the purest and the best in the whole universe, known and unknown, for this ultimate offering by God the Father.
The apostle is taking our attention to the Levitical sacrificial system through the preceding verses that the bodies of the animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin offering, are burned outside the camp. Jesus also suffered outside the city gate, in order to sanctify us with His own blood. Thus we ought to take this field trip to refresh the remembrance of the incomprehensive and unexpressive passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Outside the camp is an undesirable and unsafe place, since it is the dwelling place of all kind of down trodden, neglected, rejected, despised, forsaken, heinous, and violent people. Lepers were a common part of this scene too. Law breakers/Criminals are stoned to death or crucified outside of the camp. There is plenty of security and safety within the walls of the city and soldiers are on guard for 24 hrs a day. Our Lord gave himself outside the camp for us. He endured all the bitter experiences during His earthly abode when He came down leaving all the glory, safety, security, and the protection he was commanding in the heavenly places. Believers’ worship will be incomplete without this mental field trip during the remembrance meeting.
The Lord endured that rough and tough field trip about 2000 years back for our sake, literally carrying the heavy cross by Himself. He shed His sweat and blood in this world for us. His sweat turned into large drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. They offered Him vinegar mixed with gall to drink on the cross. The reproach, mockery, and the physical torture He suffered are beyond comprehension. Yet, He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”. He cried out in those hours of darkness created by the Father “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”? Even one of the thieves crucified on His side ridiculed Him. Jesus said on the cross “It is finished” and He cried loudly “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” and gave up the ghost. He willingly yielded Himself to death. Therefore, neither Christ, nor the writer of the Hebrew epistle, is mandating a literal field trip upon us, but to remember His sufferings. How many of us, probably, take part from the table in a mechanical fashion or as a routine ritual? Do we spend even a few seconds to truly remember His passion? Somebody sometimes starts a song at the remembrance meeting in connection with His broken body or the shed blood. This is with an intention to help the participants to remember the sufferings of the Lord. I personally believe, as many others also do, that a quite time will be more beneficial to have the true concentration and self examination to remember in utmost reverence and to pour our hearts in gratitude to the Lord at an individual level. Thus we can be more truthful to the Lord’s command “…do this in remembrance of Me”.
The scene outside the camp during the Levitical sacrificial system wouldn't be a pleasant one. One could see bellowing and bleating animals waiting to be sacrificed, heaps of firewood, the portions of the animals that are not burned on the altar being burned, the heaps of ashes, the smell of the burning flesh, and smoke etc. When Jesus stated to His disciples “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer (Luke 22:15) and asked his followers “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), he had not taken the trip of His sufferings in its climax. He knew that it was imminent after that supper in the upper chamber. Though all the lovely words came out of the mouth of Christ and His actions are to be remembered and followed to its core, His passionate commandment “Do this in remembrance of me” is the crowning one of all which came out of the bottom of His heart. We do not need to bring animals to the remembrance meeting to be offered as in the Old Testament time. The cup of the bitterness for the sake of our salvation was drunk by Him to the last drop and the baptism of death on the cruel cross of Calvary was tasted by Him to the fullest extent. Thus, He has made all the ordinances very simple and easy for us. The bread and the cup are sweet and enjoyable. When we take part from the loaf and the cup, we are reminded of the sufferings of the true Passover Lamb, our Savior, Christ. He summed up our duty as a return for His extreme sufferings; by asking us, the beneficiaries, to remember and declare His death by taking part from those substances. There are other diverse important factors in the ‘Remembrance’ itself, like how we should be willing to suffer for the cause of the Lord etc, but we are not getting into that now. The loaf and the juice don’t turn into flesh and blood as some people believe. Those are only emblems through which we remember His broken body and the shed blood for the propitiation for our sins. What a blessed, kindhearted, loving, and merciful shepherd is ours and how wonderful is the grace of God toward mankind!!
As human beings, we can come to know the realities of suffering only when we actually pass through it. In the case of Christ, He knew it all along, even in the eternity past, that mankind would sin and come short of the glory of God and that the Father’s plan for their redemption from the sinful state had to be accomplished only through the Son’s sacrificial death on the cross. It was in the fullness of time was come that God sent His Son born of a woman to die that vicarious death (Gal 4:4). Even centuries before He took the birth in this world, prophets prophesied about his coming and the sufferings. Among them the one who narrated it in an extraordinary fashion is; Isaiah who dedicated the whole chapter 53 for this purpose. The Lord Himself read the relevant portion on the purpose of His coming, from the scroll of Isaiah’s prophecy 61:1-2 and read it in His local synagogue of Nazareth and said that, that prophecy was fulfilled that day (Luke 4:18-21). When John states that “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11), we get a glimpse of the rejection and reproach He received from His own people, the country, and the whole humanity. John the Baptist repeatedly testified about Him “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). In other words, God gave His first and the best, about whom He testified “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. He endured the cross and despised the shame for the joy that was set before Him. This is the Lamb of God whom we ought to remember.
If any of my dear readers have not been privileged to have a true and realistic remembrance of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ through the participation from His Table, you can do it. Just confess your sins to Him and accept Him as your personal savior and Lord, witness Him in the waters of baptism, and be a participant of the table of the Lord with a sincere heart, filled with the gratitude to Him. May the Lord help you to be receptive and submissive to this valuable advice? Amen.