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If using Mobile device, Refine Search may be located at end of page.
To receive copies Words of Life Email The Apostolic Church of Queensland.
This greeting to a loved Christian brother at the beginning of John’s third epistle, highlights the two treasures required for community fellowship, LOVE and TRUTH.
The Apostle John continues in the remainder of the letter to identify what is seen when those two precious stones are missing or overwritten by natural desires.
Love and truth are indeed like precious jewels in our lives, and as time moves on, they seem to be getting rarer and rarer in our western society. We have the God given ability, as Gaius did, to make sure those treasures are valued and visible within our daily interactions.
Recently I witnessed a brother who works with precious gems showing and describing the process of taking raw stones and highlighting their natural beauty in jewellery. Love and truth also require cutting, polishing, and shining within our lives so they can be appreciated by others. They must first be sought out amongst all of the distractions of modern life.
Jesus Christ was the epitome of love and truth in His life upon this earth. Those traits which were so precious in Him, were also visible to those around Him in His words and actions and we are still beneficiaries of their effects today.
Love was required for a perfect God to lay down His life for imperfect mankind. The result being His unmerited favour as Saving Grace for all.
John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
As the spiritual body of Christ on earth, let us endeavour to shine forth those treasures of love and truth to those around us.
At the start of each New Year of Grace many people make plans and resolutions in order to achieve gain in their life. Logically, the ‘gain’ we desire shapes the goals we set and the actions we take to achieve them.
The Apostle Paul gave sound advice (above) on this matter to Timothy and all who laboured in his time. He reminds us that we ‘brought nothing into this world and we can carry nothing out’ (V7) but our passing from this life must be prepared for during this life. There is no greater gain than our soul’s salvation to eternal life. We sing, ‘the sky not the grave is our goal’ or as Apostle Paul also puts it, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Our contentment in this life is not dependent on the ‘things’ we have but upon the peace and joy within our life, which can only truly come from access to godliness.
Global changes have caused us all to reflect a little more upon life and its purpose. On a recent family gathering at a seaside location, I saw the following sign outside a coffee shop:
“Good health is the new wealth,
Gratitude is the new attitude.”
All good gifts in our life come from the loving, Heavenly Father. Let us all seek His blessings and therewith be content.
We read in our text our Lord’s words “Doubt not” and this should lead us to ponder on what doubting means. If we take the dictionary, we find that it is a state of mind, that hangs between two contradictory conclusions, or in simple terms, a place where we park in our mind, at a T junction, before we continue our journey one way or another. In the spiritual sense, we see clearly then why the Lord said we should avoid this stop, particularly when it pertains to our desire to follow His words and commandments. If we allow ourselves to doubt and pause in our quest, Satan is immediately there, and because of the doubt, we can then have a battle on our hands.
In the natural we have all experienced how, if we set out to do something and then doubt our ability to see it through, we usually fail. How often on T.V. have we seen a sportsman or woman about to perform a high jump or weight lift, and at the last minute, doubt appears in their eyes and they usually fail. The downfall of man and woman had its origin in doubt and we read in Genesis 2:17 God’s Commandment, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest there of, thou shalt surely die.” While Adam and Eve had no doubt in God’s words, they lived under God’s blessings, but when Satan came to Eve and put an alternate view to her in Genesis 3:5 “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” Because of the doubt shown by Eve, Satan was able to lead them to disobedience to God’s words.
The consequence of allowing doubt to creep into our faith in Christ, is shown in many parts of the Bible. One of these graphic examples is when the Apostles saw Christ walking on the water and Peter asked the Lord “to bid me come to thee”, and the Lord commanded “come”. Peter did not doubt that single word and walked on the water toward Christ, but when the weather became boisterous and in Peter’s mind he paused and let doubt in, then he sank and called to the Lord to save him. Christ’s words should ring clear to us even to-day; “0 thou of little faith, wherefore dids’t thou doubt?”
In our daily life, both natural and spiritual, we are confronted daily with happenings and teachings which require us to try the situation, we call on our common sense to test the natural things and we should call on God’s spirit within us, to test the spiritual to see if they are possible in the natural and from God’s word in the spiritual. Once we have determined these things, our faith should then take over and we should proceed. It is only when doubt is allowed to come to the fore, that we are deviated, which usually leads to failing and unhappiness.
Having seen the downside of doubt, we should take heart from our Lord’s promises in our text, if we can overcome doubt in our lives, we can see the great blessings that can flow. Christ likened the trials and tests that come into our lives as mountains, (mountains of cares, etc.) but He promised that if we have faith in Him, and doubt not, we can command that those mountains be removed and cast into the sea. And His further promise that all things asked in His name in prayer, doubting not, ye shall receive.
To help us overcome this doubt in our lives, God has given us His Spirit. The Apostle John writes in 1 John 5:4-5 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” If we can all devote some time to overcome “doubt” in our lives, we will appreciate and taste more and more, the blessings of God.
The text shows a turning point which was always in God’s plan. The Apostles of our Lord, who went up into the mountain witnessed and were shown a vision, which confirmed what our Lord had been teaching them, but they had not understood. As He was speaking to them, He was transfigured and shown to be in His heavenly glorious form before them, radiantly white. The scripture in another place says it was whiter than anything that could have been produced on this earth. So bright and white was the righteousness of Christ, that His disciples could not look upon Him.
They saw that He was speaking with Moses and Elijah. It is recorded they were speaking about the events that He had to go through in fulfilling that period of time, to allow a new period to begin. Our Lord had told His disciples that the law and the prophets were to John the Baptist, and from that point, the Kingdom of God would be preached. They did not understand because they were of the Jewish Faith and they believed that the Messiah would come and the Kingdom of God would begin. They witnessed and saw the three together. We have heard how a bright cloud came over this mountain and surrounded them. There are very few occasions in the scripture where it is recorded that God came directly from Heaven, for man cannot look upon God and live, for the glory of God is so great, but He sent His glory to overshadow them. We see that mortal men had to fall on their faces, for they could not look upon the glory of God and live.
God gave unto us on that day, the most profound message in a few words. He said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” He confirmed that Jesus His Son and He was able to stand in the presence of God and live, which showed that He was indeed the Son of God. Then God gave direct to the world, that great commandment, the three words that if only we could cling to in this life, we would not need to know and search any other things within our lives. “Hear ye Him.” An instruction that we now needed to listen and hear what the Son of God had to say and the message He had to bring for the Messiah had been rejected, and now there was a period of preparation for the Kingdom of God for all, and this preparation would come through the Word of God, and so fulfilled what Christ had said. The scripture records the Apostle Peter in his enthusiasm, did not realise what he was saying. He said to the Lord, – Let us build three tabernacles; one to Thee, one to Moses and one to Elias. The tradition in those days was that these tabernacles were like an altar, where people who passed by, could kneel down and remember a great event and give thanks unto the Almighty God. When he looked, the only one standing there, was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so fulfilled God’s promise through Christ, that the laws which came through Moses, would be fulfilled. The guidance that came through the prophets, who were responsible to bring God’s word to this earth were to end. Now Christ and He alone, would bring about the way to the kingdom of God. The law and the prophets were now finished, and Christ’s word that the Kingdom of God shall be preached, was now to begin. He told them to tell no man of this until He had resurrected from the grave. This was His first teaching — the resurrection. We know that Christ went into the grave as the son of man, for on the cross He became an ordinary man when He took the sins of the world upon Himself, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, He came out of the grave as the Son of God. Now this promise could be given to the world for all mankind that heeded His word.
It is very easy for us to say that we accept Christ’s words. Hear ye Him was the instruction. We in our life say that we accept His word, but — Do we? Do we sort them out and accept those that are pleasing and fit in with our life style? Do we reject those that we think do not fit in with our life style? Hear ye Him was the commandment, hear every word. To take it further, His Words when He said to the Apostles and sent them into the world, “He that heareth you, heareth Me.” The Holy Ghost brings to our remembrance all His words. We must strive at all times to not only be the hearers, but also the doers of His Words as we work towards the coming Kingdom.
We see in this text the first words given to the Apostle John were fear not, fear not for I am the first and the last, I am He that was living and was dead and am now living, and I have the keys of hell and death. Now that fear that our Lord spoke of before this came to pass, that fear of fearing God, for He had the power to not only take our bodies, but our souls in hell, that fear now was no more for the believer, for everyone that believes that our Lord came into the world, and He was the first and He will be the last, and that He has the keys of hell and death. No longer should we fear but we should reverence God’s name and give thanksgiving unto the Almighty God at all time, that He has given to the world this great gift, this gift where one has made a sacrifice great enough to overcome that power of hell and death.
It is only our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who holds those keys, and if we live according to His teaching, those keys He has already said they will be coupled with other keys. He had already said to His Apostles that He gives unto them the keys to the kingdom of heaven. They were not the keys to hell or death, they do not have that power that is only vested in our Lord. But the keys that He gave His Apostles were the Word of God, the gospel of salvation, the keys that open our heart and allow His word to enter in and increase our faith so that we understand that now as we leave this life, whether it is a natural death or whether it is a forced death, we do not fear, for we know that death has been overcome and there will be a resurrection again. Death is only the temporary ending of this body, but it will rise again when our Lord returns.
We should not fear hell for hell is the place of going to wait for judgment and for us in the Christian Church, judgment is with us each day of our lives, that is why we are taught that, that is one of the commissions of the Apostles to preach repentance and remission. We can now in sincerity, repent for our sins, we can receive remission of our sins through the partaking of the body and blood of Christ and through that, we no longer have to answer for that sin. Even all of those sins that are committed, as the Lord said in the quietness of the night, those things that we do when we think others cannot hear them. If we do not recognize them as sins, then they will be broadcast out on the day our Lord returns, but if we are sincere and we are humble and meek and recognize that we are sinners, we can have those taken away from us and therefore then there will be no need for judgment, for we have already judged ourselves unworthy and been given the remission or the righteousness of Christ, to make ourselves worthy so that we can stand before this glorified Christ and look unto the blessings that He will bring unto us when He returns.
Now all of this is only made possible through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit has been sent into the world to give us this guidance and this teaching and it was already foretold many, many years ago that this would happen and we today are blessed that we live in this period of time when the Holy Spirit labours through flesh and can give us that hope, can give us that understanding so that we in our lives, can make this preparation. The Psalmist already wrote of this preparation in Psalm 34:11 “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and liveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivered them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivered him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The Lord redeemed the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
We see the great promise foretold those many years ago. We must hold fast to these promises of God, remembering His words, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.”
When our Lord spoke this parable to the people, all scribes and Pharisees, and all of the devout Jews all roundabout
were horrified. This offended the Jews to no end, because the pearl comes from the oyster and the oyster under the
Jewish law was regarded as an unclean animal. Who was this man who was telling them that out of an unclean
living being could come a great treasure? Our Lord of course was testifying to them that while they were unclean
in their own being, and the same applies to us today, we can never become a treasure. We have to go through a
cleansing process. He was telling them that the Kingdom of God would be like that great pearl, and He was
testifying that He would bring into the world the teachings, the way He would be the head, but there would have to
be also in this life a living being or a living organism that could bring about the way and show the door to this
Kingdom of God. Revelation Chapter 21 verses 19-22, the city that will become the Kingdom of God: “And the
foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was
jasper; the second, sapphire, the third, chalcedony, the fourth, an emerald, The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius;
the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz, the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the
twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street
of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and
the Lamb are the temple of it”. If we follow that description and we relate it back to our Lord’s teachings, all those
treasures and all those valuable stones, none of them are living. They are all metals that have been created down
through the years through the acts of God. There was only one living treasure described there and that was the
pearl, the gate or the entry into this city where the light of God will shine at all times. Therein we see that our Lord
was testifying of a way, a living way that we could go and become part of this. He was testifying of the Church that
He would establish on this earth and it could be the means of showing the way, providing access to those doors to
allow us in.
We then have to contemplate on how the pearl is created. Firstly it needs the oyster which we have already heard
under the Jewish law was regarded as an unclean animal. We are all in that situation. We are unclean until we are
redeemed through the Grace of Christ. The oyster is not an animal that moves from place to place seeking and
looking and trying to find a better place. It sets itself firmly on a rock. We the Church must set ourselves firmly on
the rock of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We must not move to other places thinking that they will be more
prosperous, that they will be better for us, that we will receive more from following this around. The rock of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be the only thing that will hold firm no matter what happens. The oyster does
not travel around looking for its food. It sits and waits patiently, opening its doors so that God can provide it with
its sustenance. That sustenance comes through the water being distributed through it back and forth, and it is the
same with the Church. The water of the Holy Spirit has been given unto us to feed us with the proper things in life.
This water will always come. Every now and then a grain of sand will come which is an obstacle, which is
something that gives us pain we might say. That is not the kind of thing that we would look for, and so it is within
the Church. Many things come within the Church that we think are objectionable; but does the oyster throw it out –
No. Through the Grace of Christ it takes that objectionable thing and it works on it, and it coats it in a coating, a
white coating, a coating of righteousness, and this then becomes a shining precious pearl that others can look upon
and wish that they also could be partakers of this. That is why our Lord said – We must never judge in this life.
‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.’ We must show mercy, we must show compassion, we must show love, we
must follow His example. We must treat everyone as having God within them and we must never reject. We must
always try and encase them, lead them to the Grace of Christ so that they too can become another pearl, another
door, showing the way into this great kingdom that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has prepared for us. We are
blessed. We have received the Word of God over many years. We understand the blessings, but there are many out
there in the oceans as grains of sand that are flowing here and flowing there, and they have not yet lodged within
this home or within this living creature that can bring about a peace and contentment and beauty that they cannot
find within the world. We must constantly be aware of the obligation to tell others of this wonderful way into this
Kingdom of God.
Most of us make promises to ourselves to mark the beginning of a new year. We may resolve to save more, to exercise more, less time on the internet, to watch our diet, more contact with the family, work more for the church, more leisure time etc. etc. We begin with good intentions, but before long old habits tempt us to take up our old ways. We slip occasionally, then more frequently, and then most of the time. Finally, it’s as if our resolution never existed.
Instead of choosing our own self improvement goals, we might be better to ask ourselves “what does the Lord desire of me?” Our text, through the prophet, answered this in his day when the people were planning all the different sacrifices and offerings they could bring, when he told the people God wants us to do what is right, to be merciful, and to walk humbly with Him. All of these things relate to soul improvement rather than self improvement.
Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our own strength. The Holy Spirit has the power to help us as believers in our Spiritual growth. Ephesians 3: 16-19 “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ May dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
As we begin a new year let us resolve to allow The Spirit to allow us to be more like Christ and to walk humbly with God. The words in the often sung hymn tells us what we should ask of the Spirit.
Holy Spirit, faithful guide!
Ever near the Christians side,
Gently lead us by the hand,
Pilgrims in a desert land.
The above text shows us the scene of Christian Judgment.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had already said that not all who said to Him: “Lord!”, would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of His Father in Heaven. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name?, and in thy name have cast out devils?, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”. (Matthew 7:22-23)
To want to serve Jesus is good and lovely, but learn from His words: “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” and “inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me!”
One still frequently hears too, words of so-called friends of Jesus: “Lord!, we have heard thy sermon, we have eaten and drunk in the fellowship, and participated in Holy Communion.” Then He will say to them: “Yes, you have served me and built me churches, you have worshipped me; but you have not helped me. I suffered, I strove, I fought against unrighteousness, I suffered slavery and misery, and you did not help me!” “Then comes the question: “Lord!, when have we seen you thus?” and Jesus answers emphatically: “No, you have not seen me thus, but you have seen your fellow men, your brethren and sisters, who have found themselves in all sorts of dire straits with regard to money and possessions, rest and solace, education and improvement. You have not helped, supported, saved. You have been unconciliating and have kept your time, your possessions, your knowledge, your love for yourselves.”
The Lord counts all these things as sins of commission and omission against Him. He says therefore: “Go from me, I do not know you. I do not recognize your Christianity!” “If only we had known!, “some will say. Here our error comes to light. We must not do good in order to please God and Christ or anyone else, but simply because it is good! The people around us are God’s creatures, just as we are, and therefore they are our neighbours, and God’s Kingdom must be spread amongst them. This has been understood by the other friends of Jesus who have blessed their fellow men and have stood by them without ever guessing that they were thus serving the Lord personally.
All service to man is service to idols. Jesus demands of us service to God such as He Himself performed. Service to God is perfect service. In this context we can learn from Him, who loved the world (mankind) so much that He gave His own life for men, that they might not be lost, but might have eternal life. His voice does not sound out for His own honour and His own glory, but to keep and to save, to perfect everything that is imperfect in us and around us. Inasmuch as we turn to Him out of gratitude, He says to you and me: “See, those are your neighbours, my brethren and your brethren!” – A day’s work for the Saviour, that is worth the trouble!