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Thomas Bluemling

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

In the last few days, we have been confronted with the reality of genuine love, how it lays down its life for others in sincere selflessness.  Now, the apostle John sets forth a challenge.  It is a challenge to put an end to words without actions.  It is an unhealthy church indeed which is filled with nice people who do not love one another.  One man gives a heart-moving testimony, but then it is discovered that he has been abusing his wife.  A woman who greets everyone with a smile is, in reality, a viper, spreading the poison of gossip and slander throughout the church.  Another compliments the pastor with joy, but speaks evil of him behind his back. Some are lying at work; several are committing tax fraud; a few are having affairs; one has cheated his own family out of what he owed; some gather for pessimistic gossip; one is tempting a married man; several are hating others in their minds; most esteem themselves better than the others; and all of this is happening under the motto of “love God and love people!”  Such a church is a den of hypocrites, an abominable fraud.  Now certainly, there will always be varying levels of maturity in a church, and without a doubt, some false converts; but nevertheless, a healthy church will be a reflection of the love of Christ.  It is that genuine love, love which is married to truth and expressed in action, which marks us before the eyes of the world as true Christians: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

Whenever our hearts are not set upon the Lord, we are bound to drift into hypocrisy.  As the degree of our desire for God decreases, so also does the degree of our sincere love for one another.  In time, we are bound to end up as an empty shell, a smiling lie where love once abounded.  Where before there was concern and good deeds, now there is sour criticism.  Where before there was selfless service, now there is laziness.  Where before there was passion and affection for the saints, now there is bitterness and contempt.  Where before there was giving, now there are stingy assumptions and withholding.  Where before there was joy, now there is murmmering and complaining.  Where before there was action and fruit unto God, now there is stagnation and death.  This is what happens when sin turns our hearts away from the love of Christ, from a continual preoccupation with giving ourselves to Him who died for us.  All too quickly, we become those who have “a form of godliness, but [who deny] the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).  We become those who love in word and tongue, but not in deed and truth.  In the book of James, we are reminded of how meaningless it is to be nice without loving:

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-16)

The modern church is plagued by this kind of “hateful niceness,” this meaningless hypocrisy.  John is challenging us today not to love only with our words, not to just talk like a Christian, but to begin walking like a Christian.  To love in word only is to live a lie, but love in deed and in truth is to abide in God.

The sincerity of our love relates directly to our personal relationship with the Truth.  Consider that, to love in word only is to be a hypocrite; it is to be an actor, and thus, a liar. Furthermore, never a man lied to another without first lying to himself, for there must be a reason to lie which there never truly is.  As the Scripture says, “no lie is of the truth.” (1 John 2:21)  We will go further still: Never a man lied to himself without rejecting God, for to do so is to reject Truth which God is.  Thus, it is impossible to love in word only without rejecting God.  In the following passage, we can see how Israel was rejecting the knowledge of God as they continued to lie to themselves:

“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord. Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders. And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity. Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:1-6)

Whenever we love in word only, we are embracing lies, and rejecting Truth and Love which is God.  Just like Israel, we are refusing to know the Lord through deceit.  Remember, it is those who do the truth who come to the light (John 3:21), and the light is God (1 John 1:5).  Logically then, those who love only in word, who live according to the lies of their own hearts, who do not do the truth, are the same who reject the light, the same who reject God.

Love is not self-definable, but is living Truth.  Remember, we love God by believing and obeying Him (1 John 5:3), and believing and obedience are things done according to Truth.  Thus, loving without truth is literally impossible.  Even our affections for God cannot be severed from truth, for we cannot love God without loving truth, for He is “a God of truth and without iniquity” (Deuteronomy 32:4).  And, if we do indeed love truth, we cannot simultaneously love lies.  Consequently, true affection for God is incompatible with the lies which feed into hypocritical love.

What we do with truth has everything to do with our love.  When people “turn away their ears from the truth,” (2 Timothy 4:4) their love for pleasure is more compelling than their love for God.  They are willing to embrace a lie if it serves their interest.  If their love for God was preeminent, nothing would deter then from seeking truth, even if it required them to forsake sinful pleasures and selfishness.  Thus, when people “resist the truth,” (2 Timothy 3:8) they are resisting true love, and when they “turn from the truth,” (Titus 1:14) They are turning from true love.  No one can be saved without receiving the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10), and no one can receive the love of the truth without forsaking the lies upon which sin is founded.  Loving God is loving Truth.

Love and Truth are eternally married, and one cannot treat one in any manner without so treating the other.  One cannot esteem one in any way without so esteeming the other.  One cannot speak against one without speaking against the other.  No one can do one without doing the other.  There is no emphasis of love when there is no emphasis of truth.  There is no growing in love when there is no growing in truth.  When we understand this, we can expose many of the Devil’s lies, for he is always attempting to divorce the two.  Every form of counterfeit love must necessarily separate love from truth.  This whole idea that “doctrine divides, but love unites” is a lie of Satan.  Doctrine simply means teaching, and right teaching is truth.  You can’t love without truth, because love is knowing the Truth and is expressed by obedience to the truth; and you can’t obey the truth if you don’t know it; and you can’t know it if you aren’t taught it.  Thus, love is built on truth.  To minimize doctrine is to minimize the truth by which we love.

The quality of our love manifests our relationship with truth.  Regardless of how doctrinally sound we are, if we are not laying down our lives for others, we have not received the truth.  No one who loves truth lives according to lies, yet so many professing Christians do not love sacrificially, and so do not love truth; nor do they love God, for God is Truth.  We need to understand that, when it comes to loving God, our life is our doctrinal statement.  Our actions will reveal what we truly believe and what we really love.

Loving words are good, and we should not neglect them, but they must be accompanied by loving actions which correspond to divine truth.  If we bless in word, let us also bless in deed.  If we love God in song, let us also love Him in selfless service.  If we talk much about the truth, let us also live the truth.  May we, by the grace of God, esteem love and truth as inseparably joined, as being always in agreement with one another, as equally desirable and amiable.  In other words, let us love God as He is revealed to us in Scripture.

© 2018 Thomas Bluemling All Rights Reserved 

Thomas Bluemling

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12)

Our study of love has now brought us to the straightforward and practical book of James.  This is a book written to confront hypocrisy in faith, partiality in love, and unholy conduct.  It encourages us to continue in patience, to show mercy, to seek wisdom, and to love sacrificially.  It warns us of the danger of lusts, the power of the tongue, and the deceptions of sin and the devil.  It urges us to lay aside all filthiness, to receive the engrafted word with meekness, and to pray fervently.  While love is only explicitly mentioned three times, it is taught implicitly throughout the entire letter.

In our verse, we can see the connection between love and enduring temptations; those who love Jesus are the same who endure the trial of their faith and receive the crown of life.  Fiery trials are the testing ground of our faith and love, and God has ordained that all His people must pass through the fire: “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)  Between each of us and glory, there lies a proverbial mine field of trials which we must pass through to gain this victor’s crown.  As much as we can be sure that God has called us to salvation, we can be sure that He has called us to suffering.  The life of the apostle Paul serves as an example of our call to suffering.  The Lord spoke of the Paul saying, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” (Acts 9:15-16)  In the same way that Paul was called to suffering for the name of Jesus, so also is every true Christian:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:16-17)

Only those who have denied themselves, who have loved the Lord more than their own lives, will embrace the suffering of the cross.  This is why these trials are so important; because they manifest the nature of our love for God, whether it is genuine or not.  Jesus warned about those who, despite their apparent love for God, would fall away in times of persecution:

he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

In the midst of severe trials, the temptation to become offended at God can be very strong.  Whenever painful sickness afflicts us; whenever our closest friends betray us; whenever we lose everything; Satan will tempt us to become offended, and to get angry at God.  We can see how Job’s wife fell into this sin, for, after the loss of their flocks, herds, and their children—when Job was covered in painful boils from head to toe, she said, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9)  In spite of his wife’s unhelpful advice, Job refused to forsake his faith and trust in the Lord.  He answered his wife with wisdom saying, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)  Job was being tested by the most severe trial, and where others would no doubt break under the affliction and become offended, Job’s love for God only shined with greater brilliance.  From the tormenting affliction of the fiery trial, Job’s words were not of wrath, but of praise: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).  In our letter, James even uses Job’s patient faith as an example for all Christians who are suffering:

“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 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.” (James 5:10-11)

In the first chapter of James’ letter, we can learn much about enduring trials.  James begins by setting forth the proper attitude towards suffering:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Does God really want us to look at our suffering as something joyful?  Does He really expect us to have a big smile on our face when we are afflicted by trials?  It is not a matter of forcing a smile in times of suffering, but rather, in having a deep realization of what God is doing through our suffering.  With eyes of faith, we must look past our unenjoyable circumstances to see the blessing that God is giving us through the trial.  Notice in the following verses, how God works through trials to bring us to new heights of righteousness and holiness in our walk with Him:

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4) 

“For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10)

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11)

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3)

Enduring fiery trials is only possible when we have the wisdom to accept that, even in our suffering, God is working all things for our good.  When we are in severe pain or grief, Satan will tempt us with lies, telling us that God does not love us or that He is not treating us as He should.  He will even use people like Job’s wife to come along and lure us into his snares of sin and unbelief.  This is why wisdom is so crucial in times of suffering.  After instructing us to count it all joy when we fall into temptations, James turns to this important matter of divine wisdom:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

When we find our faith being tested, one of the most needful graces is wisdom; we need wisdom to see our circumstances through the lens of faith, and to understand our suffering in the broader and more spiritual context of what God is doing within our hearts.  The reason that Job’s wife spoke “as one of the foolish women” (Job 2:10) was because she lacked the wisdom which Job had.  In the same way, there are many Christians who fall into a wrong mindset in times of trials, for they become angry at the Lord for their suffering, not realizing that He desires to bless them through the trial.  Because of this attitude, it is likely that many forfeit the blessing, for chastening is only profitable to those who are trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

James teaches us to have an attitude of one who is in training.  First, he warns us not to suppose that God Himself is tempting us to sin:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15)

One of the reasons that people become offended and angry at God is because they begin to blame Him for their sins.  When they get angry during trials, they justify their anger by accusing God of causing their sin by placing them in such terrible circumstances.  In this, they fall into the same sin as Job’s wife.

Secondly,  James teaches us how God has designed us to be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures, and how according to this intent, we are to manifest the righteousness of God from the midst of these trials (James 1:17-20).  Thus, he warns against becoming angry, saying, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)  Remember, according to the writer of Hebrews, our trials yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [or trained] thereby;” (Hebrews 12:11) and not unto them who react with anger toward God for their suffering.  Therefore, we must hold fast to the faith in times of suffering, trusting in the Lord, and remaining reverent towards Him: “we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9)  In our trials, we must be wise, and understand that our loving Father has no delight in our suffering, but that He is working something in us of immeasurable value.  While our suffering might be painful, and while it may be difficult to look at our situation with joy, we must pray for the wisdom to see our suffering according to God’s word.

Lastly, James presents us with the right mentality of one who is being trained by God through trials.  He writes, “my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).  If we are to learn from our trials, we must be swift to hear; we must keep our ears open to receiving wisdom from God.  Thus, James urges us to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save [our] souls.” (James 1:21)  If we are to learn from our trials, we must be slow to speak.  Just as Job, we must guard our mouths in times of suffering, for Satan will tempt us to say things which we will regret later.  Finally, if we are to learn from our trials, we must be slow to wrath.  As we have noted, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness which God has designed us for.

In all of our suffering, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, and on the glory we will share with Him.  We must always remember that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  As our verse reveals, there is going to be a magnificent celebration on that day when we appear before our Lord with joy.  How quickly will all of our trials be forgotten when we receive the crown of life, that blessed crown of victory which is promised to all of us who love Jesus!

© 2018 Thomas Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." (Hebrews 12:6)

If we are to have a right understanding of the love of God, we must not overlook how His love is sometimes expressed in loving discipline. There are some Bible teachers who have taught Christians that it is never God’s will for His children to suffer; but this is simply not the case. The Bible says, "as a man chasteneth [or disciplines] his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." (Deuteronomy 8:5) In fact, we learn from the twelfth chapter of Hebrews that, if someone is not disciplined by God, they are not His true children: "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:7-8) All true children of God will, from time to time, come under the rod of God’s loving discipline. The Bible tells us that God will rebuke us if we need it (Hebrews 12:5). Have you ever thought of God as a Father who will rebuke you when you need it? Those who have come under the rod of God’s discipline know all too well how severe His rebukes can be. For example, when the Corinthians were taking communion in an unworthy manner, many of them became physically sick, and some even died (1 Corinthians 11:30). This severe chastening wasn’t God hating the Corinthians, but loving them by disciplining them as a good Father. The apostle Paul made it clear that if the Corinthians would have judged themselves, God would not have needed to judge them (1 Corinthians 11:31).

With that said, it is important to have a right attitude towards His discipline. The Bible says, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him" (Hebrews 12:5). If we are not of an understanding heart, we may become bitter against God when we are chastened. Rather than allowing God to correct us, we may become even more hardened in our sin. The following section of Hebrews twelve addresses our tendency to become bitter, and warns us against it:

"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:9-13)

In these verses, we learn of the attitude which we must have towards chastening. We are to be in subjection to our Father, not becoming angry or rebellious, and we are to be "exercised" by His chastening, allowing it to correct us rather than resisting His will. As these verses reveal, when God is chastening us, He is trying to heal us; but if we harden our hearts, we may be turned out of the way and become worse and worse. As this shows, it is important to understand that God is not allowing us to suffer simply to make us suffer, as if He enjoyed troubling us. On the contrary, He acts in our best interest.

This brings us to an important point regarding the chastening of the Lord. Should we think that God is angry with us when we are chastened? The Bible reveals that when David was chastened, the Lord was angry with him for his sin:

"O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin." (Psalms 38:1-3)

Should modern Christians, we who are under the new covenant, fear the wrath, meaning anger, of God? Should we believe that God becomes angry with us when we sin? Many modern-day Christians would say that God doesn’t get angry with Christians the way that He got angry with Israel in the Old Testament. But does the New Testament tell us that God never gets angry with us? There is this notion in the modern church that, because of the cross, God no longer becomes angry with His people when they rebel. According to this line of thought, God does not look on us as sinful even when we sin, but rather, He sees only the righteousness of Christ which has been applied to us; but the New Testament makes it clear that, even though we are accounted righteous in Christ, God is not blind to our conduct. Consider that the jealousy of God, which is a form of righteous anger, applies even to new covenant believers:

Old Testament: "They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger." (Deuteronomy 32:16)

Old Testament: "How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?" (Psalms 79:5)

New Testament: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy [meaning jealousy]?" (James 4:4-5)

New Testament: "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?" (1 Corinthians 10:20-22)

Many Christians have been led to believe that the way God deals with His people has changed in the new covenant. They believe that, since we have been accounted as righteous by faith in Christ, God can’t get angry with us; but we need to remember that the Old Testament saints were declared righteous even as we are in the new covenant. In fact, when the apostle Paul wrote about justification by faith, he used Abraham as an example! Old Testament saints therefore, were also accounted as righteous by faith, and yet, God still became angry with them when they sinned. For example, the Bible tells us that "the Lord was with Jehoshaphat" (2 Chronicles 17:3) and that "his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord," (2 Chronicles 17:6) yet when he sinned, wrath was upon him from before the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:2). Likewise, Hezekiah "clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him," (2 Chronicles 18:6) yet the Bible tells us that when he sinned, "there was wrath upon him" (2 Chronicles 32:25). The bottom line is, whether you believe that God becomes angry with rebellious Christians, or if He is only displeased, He is certainly not indifferent to disobedience and will discipline those whom He loves.

As we have noted in previous meditations, we need to have a healthy fear of God; not fear as only reverence, but fear as trembling at His word. In many churches, a lopsided concept of God is being taught, a conception which has been stripped of anything severe or frightening. Many are being led to believe that a sin-hating God doesn’t become angry at rebellion—and this in spite of many severe warnings throughout Scripture. Friends, we need to return to a balanced understanding of God. We need to understand that God has given the Old Testament for our instruction, and that God wants us to learn about Him and how He reacts to sin by reading those accounts (1 Corinthians 10). Many Bible teachers want to cut the Bible into many pieces, telling us that this part was only for this group, and that part was only for that group; but these are man-made divisions created according to the wisdom of man and not God. God wants us to understand that the accounts in the Old Testament "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Corinthians 10:11) It is high time that we return to a balanced understanding of God, and learn of His goodness and severity:

"For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." (Romans 11:21-22)

With all of these things in mind, we need to be careful not to suppose that God would hate His own children. The best way to illustrate this is to think of God’s anger as the anger of a loving father. The father who loves his son will become angry with his son’s rebellion because he cares for him and knows that he has been raised better. It is theunloving father who is careless towards his son’s rebellion, and who does not rebuke or restrain him (1 Samuel 3:13). A good example of this loving anger is seen in how Jesus reacted to the hard-hearted religious leaders in Israel. Israel was His own chosen nation, and Jesus was not only grieved, but angry with their rebellion:

"And they watched [Jesus], whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other." (Mark 3:2-5)

We have been blessed to meditate on an aspect of God’s love which is not studied and discussed as much as it probably should be. How wonderful it is to know that our Father loves us enough to correct us when we need it! May we not harden our hearts when we are disciplined, but allow God to correct us. Then, when chastening yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness, we will say with the psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes." (Psalms 119:71)

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

In yesterday’s meditation, we were reminded of what genuine love looks like in a Spirit-filled church. Rather than being a once-a-week event, a thriving church is an organism, a body of redeemed people who have left off loving the world—who have left off loving their own lives, and who have made conformity to Christ the wholehearted ambition of their lives. It is with great joy that they live as being dead to the desires, ambitions, and cares of self, and expend themselves unrestrainedly in ministering to one another (Acts 2:42-47). They desire opportunities to love others sacrificially because they understand that insomuch as they are crucified to self, the life of Christ is manifested in them (2 Corinthians 4:10, Galatians 2:20). Now, for today’s meditation, we will continue to focus on the true Spirit-filled church, but this time with an emphasis on fellowship. As we noted yesterday, the early church was "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house" (Acts 2:46). Apparently, the life of the church was life to these Christians, for their whole world seems to have revolved around meeting with other believers in fellowship.

In our verses, we can see the importance of this continual fellowship among believers, for we are commanded not to "[forsake] the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:24). Now, this verse is most often used in relation to Sunday church services, but it applies to more than that. The author writes that, rather than forsaking fellowship, we must exhort, or encourage, one another. How frequently are these exhortations necessary? Early in this letter, he writes, "exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews 3:13) Thus, we are all in need of daily spiritual encouragement from one another. God has designed His church to be mutually dependent, and to grow as various members of the body minister with their spiritual gifts. While Christians have always met on the first day of the week, we should not suppose that they only met weekly. As these verses show, the early Christians were in fellowship on a daily basis. Consider that the church grows as "every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part" (Ephesians 4:16). With this in mind, isn’t it obvious that a church in daily fellowship would experience exponentially greater growth than a church which only meets once of week? More meetings mean more opportunities for ministering to one another, and more ministry to one another means more spiritual growth. Not only that, but it means less opportunity for Satan to deceive Christians, for such daily exhortations serve to guard them against his lies.

We may all agree that daily fellowship is ideal, and even that it is commanded, but how could it be possible in our modern busy world? How could Christians meet for daily fellowship when many are working long hours and have numerous obligations to fulfill in the evenings? The answer is a process of disentanglement from the world. The Bible says, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:4) If we are to have maximum fellowship in a busy world, we must teach and strive for disentanglement from it. The world tells us that we need to be involved in this, and we need to be involved in that, and our kids need to be doing this and that; but God hasn’t told us that we need these activities in our lives. On the contrary, our God tells us that we need daily fellowship. So many Christians have become entangled in the world to the point of exhaustion and frustration. Many are entangled because of their need for money, or because of various other obligations. The good news is that God doesn’t ever give us commands that we can’t keep with His power! As we strive to free ourselves from these entanglements, and as we rely on Him to free us, we will grow in freedom to serve Him.

With these things in mind, we need to turn our attention to the purpose of this daily exhortation. Our verses tell us to "consider one another" (Hebrews 10:24). We are not primarily to consider ourselves when we fellowship, but to consider one another. We should follow in the example of Paul who, desiring to visit the Roman Christians, said, "I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established" (Romans 1:11). Paul’s primary motive for wanting to fellowship was not for his own gain, but for the gain of others. He wanted to minister to them so that they might be edified, built up and strengthened in the faith. Now, compare this to the way many people think about fellowship in our day. Whether it be Sunday services or gatherings at homes, many Christians decide whether or not they will attend from selfish motives. They may not attend church because they don’t like the music, or because they don’t like how other Christians act, and so forth. But this is a complete reversal of how we ought to think about Christian fellowship. We should be desiring to fellowship so that we can be a blessing to others regardless of how much we enjoy the meetings or how we ourselves are treated. It is the nature of love to forget oneself and to focus entirely on serving others. This is the attitude with which we need to approach fellowship. So many Christians are looking for a perfect church with perfectly nice people who all have a perfect understanding of doctrine; and when they find an imperfect church, they look elsewhere rather than seeing an opportunity to minister and to be used by God in the perfecting of that church. This is not to say that doctrine doesn’t matter, nor that how a congregation treats visitors is irrelevant, but only to emphasize that there is no perfect church, and that, so long as a church stands on the true gospel, we need to see imperfection as potential growth, and to desire for God to use us in that growth. Fellowship is not primarily about considering ourselves, but considering one another.

There are now many professing Christians who are not actively fellowshipping with other believers. Many will even say, "I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian." This attitude is addressed directly in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where, in describing the local church as a body, he writes, "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." (1 Corinthians 12:21) In other words, a Christian cannot say that they have no need to be in fellowship with other believers. Why is this? Because, as we have noted before, God has designed all members of the local church to be mutually dependent. God has made us to be spiritually dependent on the various gifts of the other members. The Bible says, "we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Romans 12:5) God has designed each local body of believers in such a way that all of the members need one another and grow together as they serve each other in love. Not only do we need the ministry of other believers, but other believers need our ministry. By neglecting Christian fellowship, we rob ourselves of blessings we would receive, we rob others of blessings we would impart to them, and we disobey the Lord who commands us not to forsake the fellowship.

Notice also the reason that we are to consider one another, "to provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:24). God desires His church to be "a peculiar [meaning special] people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:14) When we fellowship with one another, our desire should be to serve one another in love, and to stir ourselves and the brethren up to good works. What does this teach us about love? It teaches us that, if we desire to live a life filled with expressions of God’s love, we need to be in fellowship, for it is the means by which Christians are continually provoked unto love and good works! We have an example provoking unto love in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:

"For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many." (2 Corinthians 9:1-2)

As these verses show, a zeal for good works can have a contagious effect among Christians. When we continue in fellowship, and see other Christians bearing fruit in various works of love, it tends to encourage our hearts and provoke us unto love! When a local church is filled with the Spirit, and many are involved in works of selfless love, the effect can turn the world upside-down (Acts 17:6)! This won’t happen in church that is just busy with programs and activities. There are countless churches which wear themselves out with such things. Rather, it happens when a church is truly growing up into Christ by self-denial, mutual edification, and faith working by love as the Spirit leads. There is a real spiritual energy in a church which is being used mightily by God, an energy which cannot be manufactured by adding programs, changing the music, or appealing to emotions. It is the joy and energy of the Holy Spirit at work in Christians who are dying to themselves and spending themselves in service to one another.

If Satan has his way, he will turn our churches into spiritual grave yards, buildings filled with dead religion. He desires to keep us entangled in the affairs of this life, so that we will never experience the spiritual growth and power which the early Christians had. He desires to be deceived in how we think about Christian fellowship, so that we don’t attend church, so that we don’t desire daily fellowship, so that we remain ignorant to the life of spiritual power which comes from such mutual ministry. He is quite pleased with our priorities being out of order, and with our one hour of religion a week. But he cannot stop God from awakening His church! Let us arise from our sleep to true spiritual power and victory. Let us no longer forsake the assembling of ourselves, and instead exhort one another daily unto love and good works!

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10)

Real love often requires hard work and great sacrifice.  It isn’t the kind of love which says kind words and then abandons you in your time of need (James 2:15-16).  On the contrary, it is love that bends over backwards to serve, to edify, to bear the burdens of others.  Modern Christianity emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus, but all too often, it fails to emphasize how our relationships to others are part of our relationship with Jesus.  For too many Christians, there is a disconnect between laboring in love for others and showing love toward Jesus.  They suppose that the Lord will be pleased with them if they read the Bible more, put more money in the offering plate, or go on a fast; yet they will not pour themselves out in service to others.  The following excerpt shows that this same error was also prevalent in ancient Israel:

“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:5-7)

We need to understand that we cannot be a friend of God without also being a servant.  Our verse teaches us that our work and labor of love must be shown toward the Lord; and showing love towards the Lord is done, at least in part, by ministering to the saints.  Remember what the apostle Paul said concerning the love of Philemon:

“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints” (Philemon 1:4-5)

When there are urgent needs within the church, do we see an opportunity to show love toward Jesus?  Or, are we only concerned with our own “personal relationship” with Jesus?  The reality is, if we have not the heart to serve others in love, our relationship with Jesus, regardless of how spiritual we suppose we are, is lacking in love.  God’s word to His people is, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:4)  All of us have been brought together into one spiritual body, and “all the members of that one body, being many, are one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12).  Consequently, the needs of one member of the body are the needs of the whole.  We are connected to one another in Christ, and therefore, to neglect the needs of other saints is to neglect our own body.  Not only that, but it is to neglect our Lord!  Remember, on the Day of Judgment, Jesus is going to separate the sheep from the goats based on whether or not they showed love to Him.  The goats will be horrified to learn that by neglecting the needs of others, they were neglecting Jesus Christ:

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:41-46)

There are many churches in which people come and go with little more interaction than a smile and a handshake, where so few are even aware of the desperate physical and spiritual needs all around them.  This is one of the consequences of turning churches into theatres where the musicians and the preachers perform for the audience, an audience which is only asked to give tithes and offerings.  In other words, “Bring your wallets, not your problems.”  This is a far cry from the reality of a Spirit-filled church, one in which the members of the body are deeply involved in each other’s lives and in serving one another in love.  In the book of Acts, we are given an example of what a Spirit-filled church looks like:

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

These early Christians didn’t compartmentalize their faith—they didn’t limit it just to Sunday.  On the contrary, they were gathering daily!  More than that, they were in each other’s homes, for they went from house to house sharing meals with one another joyfully.  Unlike many modern professing Christians, they were not trying to protect their own way of life.  We don’t hear anything about the family that was too busy to share their home with the others.  We don’t read about the family that was only seen once a week with little to no involvement.  These Christians had truly given their hearts to the Lord, and that resulted in them giving their time, their possessions, and their service to one another with joy!  We don’t read about the family who had great need, but who were virtually ignored by the church.  On the contrary, these Christians made it their business to know one another’s needs, and went as far as selling their own things to meet those needs!  They didn’t hold back their savings for their retirement plans.  They didn’t offer their brethren temporary loans.  Friends, there is no way we will see a truly Spirit-filled church until we see Christians who are wholeheartedly given to the Lord, who sincerely love sacrificially.  The world is waiting to see true power in the professing church, and that power can only be manifested when we die to self in love for others.  Remember Jesus’ command, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)  How did Jesus love us?—by the greatest self-sacrifice of all time!  Our love for one another is to reflect that sacrifice.  In other words, when our love for one another becomes like Jesus’ love, it will put us on a cross to ourselves; it will require us to serve others at great personal cost.  This is not Sunday religion.  This is not compartmentalized Christianity.  Without death to self in the church, there can never be true life.

What is the secret to this willingness to die to self in love for others?  These Christians understood something very powerful.  They understood that when they gave sacrificially, they weren’t really losing anything.  Rather, they were gaining!  Remember the words of our Lord:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

The early church really believed these words, and they acted on them in faith.  They really believed that by loving sacrificially, they were exchanging temporary and perishable things for a testimony which would echo into eternity.  The question is, “Do we really believe?”  Do we really believe that, like our verse says, “God is not unrighteous to forget [our] work and labour of love?” (Hebrews 6:10)  Or, does our refusal to love sacrificially expose a lack of true faith?  When it really comes down to it, this is about a choice between loving God and loving our own lives.  Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)  There are all kinds of people talking about love in this world, but how few ever live it?  This is what the Christian life is all about.  This is the reality of it.  Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, and so we, in love for Him, die to ourselves in love for one another.

We need to honestly reflect on our own hearts.  Have we been withholding love from others because we are trying to hold on to our own life?  Are we acting as if loving sacrificially would be a loss?  Are we acting as if God would forget the love we have shown toward His name?  Let us encourage our hearts even now, for we know that God is not unrighteous to forget our sacrifices of love; and we can be certain that “there is a reward for the righteous” (Psalms 58:11).  Let us ask ourselves how God might use us to meet a need in the church.  What sacrifice of love can we make unto the Lord?  It could be our time, our service in a ministry, our financial support, or our prayers.  Let us, like our Lord, take the place of servants to His body, the church.

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Our continuing quest to comprehend something of love has brought us to the beloved book of Hebrews.  This letter is written to testify of the superiority of the new covenant over the old.  In this first chapter, the writer’s goal is to show how Jesus is superior to angels.  As part of this section, the writer quotes from the psalms, reminding his readers that no angel was ever spoken to as the Father spoke to the Son.  As today’s verses remind us, the Father has given Jesus an everlasting kingdom (Matthew 4:17).  He is shown to be worthy of power and glory forever because of His perfect righteousness (see also Matthew 6:13).  In our verses, the writer of Hebrews quotes from the forty-fifth psalm which describes the Son’s love for righteousness and hatred of wickedness:

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Psalms 45:6-7)

As these verses show, the Father delights in the Son because of the Son’s delight in righteousness.  Jesus alone lived a life which was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26)  The Bible says that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)  Because of His perfect righteousness, even when He gave Himself as an offering for sin, it was impossible for death to hold Him (Acts 2:24); and after three days in the tomb, He rose from the dead, and, “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)  The principalities and powers, the demonic forces of Satan, did not perceive that Jesus would conquer them by willingly going into death, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)  They had no idea that Christ was going to use death itself to defeat Satan; as it is written, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14)  By His death and resurrection, Jesus completely disarmed and defeated the devil.  In the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18)  Now that He has conquered death on behalf of His people, He has the authority and power to give them His kingdom!  This eternal kingdom is a reflection of its eternal King, for it is a kingdom of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy [Spirit].” (Romans 14:17)  Notice that this kingdom is in the Holy Spirit.  We should not think of it as an earthly kingdom, but as a spiritual one.  Jesus explained this saying, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Wherever there is true righteousness within a heart, the kingdom of heaven is there (Romans 5:21).  This kingdom is not given to everyone, but only to those who seek it.  Jesus said, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:31).  In other words, seek to make King Jesus the ruler of your heart, the governor of your thoughts, words, and actions.  Being in this kingdom is not knowing about Jesus, or knowing about the Bible.  It is much more than knowledge.  The Scripture says, “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)  When the kingdom of heaven is within a heart, the reigning power of sin is broken, and faith works by love unto righteousness and holiness!  Just as Jesus loves righteousness and hates iniquity, so do all of the subjects of His kingdom.  This kingdom is called “the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him;” (James 2:5) and the Scripture commands us saying, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” (Psalms 97:10)  Thus, it is a kingdom given to all who love Jesus in truth, who love righteousness and hate evil.  Loving what Jesus loves and hating what He hates is the greatest evidence that His kingdom is truly reigning in our hearts.

Wherever there is true peace within a heart, the kingdom of heaven is there.  The Bible says, “The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.” (Psalms 29:11)  Remember the words of Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)  Any lack of peace which we have is a failure to remember how much God loves us.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  What did Jesus say so that we might have peace? Before He said this, He had been expressing to His disciples how God loved them saying, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27).  Our peace is rooted in the understanding that God is our loving Father.  Our peace only surpasses all understanding because we know that God’s love surpasses all understanding.  The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).  Love casts out all cares and worries, which are types of fear, and which are based in a lack of faith in God.  Therefore, “put on [love], which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15)  When the peace of God is ruling in our hearts, we can be sure that the kingdom of heaven is within us!

Wherever there is true joy within a heart, the kingdom of heaven is there.  Notice those marvelous words, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Hebrews 1:8-9)  The Greek word translated to “gladness” means exceeding joy!  The Bible says that in His presence, there is fullness of joy (Psalms 16:11); and “the joy of the LORD is [our] strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  The more that we press into the kingdom by faith, the more our hearts will be filled with joy in our Lord.  In his letter to the Philippians, which is filled with joy, Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

When we consider our King, and when we consider His kingdom, how can we not desire to seek Him above all else?  He is called “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)  He is clothed with majesty and strength, His garment white as snow, His hair white like pure wool, His eyes as a flame of fire, His feet like fine brass, His voice as the sound of many waters (Psalms 93:1, Daniel 7:9, Revelation 1:14-15).  He is the “KING OF KINGS, AND Lord OF Lords.” (Revelation 19:16)  He is enthroned on high, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.” (Ephesians 1:21)  Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne—the throne of His holiness, the throne of His glory, the throne of His grace, the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, the throne of David, a throne which shall endure as the days of heaven (Psalms 47:8, 89:14, 29, 103:19, Isaiah 9:6-7, Matthew 19:28, Hebrews 4:16, 8:1).  His “dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)  It “shall break in pieces and consume all [the kingdoms of the earth], and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)  He is “Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1 John 2:1) the “name which is above every name!” (Philippians 2:9)

How can we not love King Jesus with all of our hearts?  How can we not seek His kingdom?  How can we not desire for Him to reign in our hearts?  There is only one thing that can prevent us from fully surrendering all to His Lordship; the deceitfulness of sin.  Who in their right mind would ever give up an eternal kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy?—especially to remain in a kingdom of darkness and spiritual death which leads to eternal punishment!  No one presented with a clear choice would ever decline the King of glory!  Yet, because of the deceitfulness of sin, countless multitudes choose to let sin reign in their hearts unto their own destruction.  As the Scripture says, “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)  Either we will love righteousness, hate iniquity, and reign with Jesus, or we will love iniquity, hate righteousness, and die with the devil.  Jesus is the King over all heaven and earth, and “he must reign” (1 Corinthians 15:25).  Anything short of complete surrender to Him is utter folly, for it is the love of unrighteousness; it is to embrace sin and death; it is to despise all that is good and glorious!  May we ascribe to King Jesus the glory that is due His Name, and seek His kingdom above all.  May we, like our King, love righteousness and hate iniquity, that we may abide with Him forever!

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

“For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” (Philemon 1:7)

Paul’s letter to Philemon may only be twenty-five verses long, but it blossoms with colorful truths which delight the soul.  In this letter, Paul is writing to Philemon concerning a former bondservant named Onesimus, who had run away from his master to Rome.  Apparently, when Onesimus had come to Rome, he came across the apostle Paul and was converted.  Now, Paul had urged Onesimus to be reconciled to his master, but wanted to send a letter ahead in order to make Philemon aware of what had occurred and to encourage him to meet Onesimus with forgiveness.  Paul begins his letter by greeting Philemon and the other brethren with him, and proceeds to describe his prayers and thanksgiving for how God had been using Philemon among the saints:

“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” (Philemon 1:4-6)

Even while in prison, Paul was hearing word about Philemon’s faith and love, and was giving thanks to the Lord for filling Philemon with these wonderful fruits.  Philemon’s love was genuine, for it was love “toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints” (Philemon 1:5).  True love has the Lord as its primary object, and the saints are loved as unto the Lord.  There is no such thing as a true love for the saints which is disconnected from a true love for Jesus, for the two must be one love toward Jesus.  Philemon’s love was not only a love primarily toward the Lord, but also an impartial love, for it was a love toward all the saints.  Such a love was not ultimately of Philemon, but of God; and Paul recognized this by thanking the Lord for what He was working through Philemon.  Notice the magnificent joy which Paul and his companions experienced when they heard of Philemon’s love:

“For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” (Philemon 1:7)

Why was Paul so filled with joy and comfort at the hearing of Philemon’s faith and love?  Because “the bowels [or affections] of the saints [were] refreshed by [him].” (Philemon 1:7)  In this we see the heart of the apostle Paul, a heart that fervently desired the best for other saints, a heart which rejoiced at the report of fruitful Christians.  There is no hint of ministerial envy in Paul’s words, for he was not driven by selfish ambition, but only selfless love for the church.  In his second letter to Corinth, Paul described his great concern for the churches as something which came upon him daily (2 Corinthians 11:28).  He grieved in prayer when reports came of fruitlessness or apostasy, but he rejoiced when reports came of fruitfulness in faith and love.  He was entirely consumed with a heart for Christ’s bride.

Our verse demonstrates the amazing power of love to bring strength and joy to all around us near and far!  Just by loving the saints by faith, Philemon was refreshing the local church and also bringing great comfort and joy to an old imprisoned apostle a great distance away.  When true love is flowing from our hearts out into our lives, there is a ripple effect which occurs.  Only God knows the full impact that a single act of love can make on the world.  Consider for a moment, how we are reading about Philemon’s love even now, many centuries after his death; and even now, God is using his faithful love to impact our own hearts!  There is no way Philemon could have ever imagined how many people from all nations would read about him and his love.  Likewise, we have no idea how God will use our love!  Sometimes we can’t even see the immediate influence, let alone the influence that results all around us over great spans of time.

Philemon had a love which refreshed the affections of the saints.  Christians like Philemon are a great joy to have in a local body of believers.  Their love for the Lord becomes infectious, and demonstrates to others the wonderful blessings which accompany a life given wholly to Christ.  Simply by their example, they show others how to walk by faith in love.  To the saints, they are “the savour [or aroma] of life unto life.” (2 Corinthians 2:16)  Hearts are encouraged and comforted as the love of Christ is manifested through them.  When we consider Philemon’s powerful influence on other believers, are not our own hearts stirred?  Do we not desire to be such a blessing to our brothers and sisters in the Lord?  If this is our desire, we must, like Philemon, become a “fellowlabourer” (Philemon 1:1).  Philemon wasn’t only a hearer of the word, but a doer.  He was a man of action who took steps of faith according the word of God.  Even though he was most likely a wealthy man, for he had servants, he was not distracted by worldliness.  In fact, if he was indeed wealthy, the text may suggest that he refreshed the saints with his selfless generosity.  Whether Philemon’s great love was expressed by giving his possessions or by giving himself to the needs of others as a servant, the result was the same; the saints were refreshed.  If we are to be used by the Lord to refresh His beloved saints, we must, like Philemon be willing to labor in love for their benefit.  Refreshing love is selfless and sacrificial love—love which expresses itself in the likeness of Christ’s love for us at the cross.

Keeping in mind that the “bowels” are used to describe the affections, we might wonder why it is so important for our affections to be refreshed.  What are these affections which Paul is speaking of, and how do they relate to love?  It is important to make a distinction between these affections and regular human affections.  The affections which Paul is describing do not arise from our own flesh nature, but from the Spirit of God in us.  They are referred to in Scripture as “the bowels of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:8)  Thus, they are the Lord’s affections which work within us as we abide in Him and walk in the Spirit.  Moreover, these holy affections serve to evidence the presence of the love of God in our hearts:

“whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17)

When the Spirit of God fills us, we become filled with divine affections from the Spirit of Christ.  We begin to have compassion we never had, mercies we never could have offered, grieving and sorrow over sin which we were never before capable of experiencing.  These affections are glorious, and should be sought after more than precious gold, but they are only available to those who “have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24)  The old unholy affections must be put to death before the new can be manifested in our hearts.  Thus, we are commanded to “put off the old man” (Colossians 3:9) and to “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” (Colossians 3:12)  Not only do the affections of Christ transform us, but they also enable us to impact others in a way that strengthens the same affections in them.  Just as Philemon, those filled with the affections of Christ refresh the affections of others.  An example of this can be seen in the seventh chapter of Paul’s second letter to Corinth:

“Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.” (2 Corinthians 7:13-15)

Can you imagine what it is like to feel the very heart of God within you?—to long for what He longs for, to feel the compassion He feels, to have His affection for the saints, to feel His grieving over sin, and to be overtaken by His fierce hatred of evil?  These most holy affections are available to saints who put off the sinful flesh and unite themselves to the Lord as loving servants.  They are available to those who patiently wait upon the Lord in prayer, who seek His face, who desire above all else to remain in close communion with Him.  Do you honestly desire the affections of Christ?  Do you take the time to seek His face, crying out to Him to give You His heart for the lost, to give you His hatred of sin, to give You His love for the saints?  Are you hungry to be so united with Him in fellowship, that His affections become your affections?  Love will transform your heart, but only if you seek His face above all else; only if you crucify the flesh with all of its affections and lusts.

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

“That [the aged women] may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children” (Titus 2:4)

In today’s meditation, we are blessed to come to the book of Titus, which like Paul’s letters to Timothy, is a very practical letter for the church.  Here in the second chapter, we discover a list of things which Paul commands Titus to teach, “things which become sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)  Among this list of commands, we find our verse, in which Paul tells Titus to utilize the wisdom of the older women for the benefit of the younger.  According to Paul, the older women are to be teachers of the younger.

Before we go into the matter of what the older women are to teach, we should be careful to clarify the matter of female teachers in the church.  Much of the confusion in the church concerning this matter comes from misconceptions about Paul’s words, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.” (1 Corinthians 14:34)  When we try to understand this verse, we must take other verses into account which further qualify its meaning.  If we were to take Paul’s words strictly literally without taking others into account, we would have to require women to be completely silent in church.  They wouldn’t be allowed to greet one another or even sing songs.  Clearly, this would not be a correct interpretation.  In fact, there are other verses which assume that women may pray and prophesy in the church.  Earlier in the same letter, Paul writes, “every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head” (1 Corinthians 11:5).  Clearly, women can’t prophesy in silence!  Thus, Paul’s command for women to keep silence in the churches must have a more narrow meaning than the literal reading first suggests.  Paul writes that “it is a shame for women to speak in the church;” (1 Corinthians 14:35) yet prophecy implies speaking.  Therefore, Paul must have a specific meaning in mind when we uses the word “speaking.”  A clue is given in Paul’s words, “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home” (1 Corinthians 14:35).  When we read this section in context, we can see that it has to do with women remaining under the authority of their husbands.  The husband is the representative head of the family, and so should be the one to speak on behalf of the family in the setting of the church.  For the wife to speak without bringing the matter to her husband is for her to subvert his role as the head of the home.  Thus, Paul’s command for the women to keep silence is not an all-encompassing law, but one which must be understood and applied with wisdom and discernment.  This understanding of Paul’s words, namely that it regards authority, is confirmed in Paul’s first letter to Timothy where he writes, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)  A woman is to conduct herself in a way which reflects her position under the authority of her husband.  Just as a junior military officer would not step forward and speak for his commander, the woman should likewise respect her husbands position.  This does not mean that she never speaks, but only that she never speaks in a manner which subverts his position of authority over her.  Furthermore, women must not fill positions as the authoritative teachers of the church.  They may pray, and they may prophesy, but they may not be pastors or deacons, and they may not fill an authoritative role over men, for that would subvert God’s line of authority.  As the Scripture says, “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)  But how can a woman prophesy in the church without seeming subversive to the men?  The Bible says, “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)  A woman who prophesies may speak words which edify, spiritual words from Scripture which grow others; she may speak words which exhort, or encourage others; and she may speak words which comfort, words which console troubled or weary hearts.  She may not stand as a reprover of the church, or speak as one who has command, for this is not the role which the Lord has given her in the church.

Now, having discussed the matter of the woman’s role in the church, we will turn our attention to our verse.  As our verse implies, we should not assume that young women are already loving their husbands.  In fact, we should not assume that they even understand what love truly is.  Modern culture has saturated our minds with false notions about love, and even mature Christians often have many misconceptions concerning it.  This is why there is a great need in the church for the accurate teaching of love; and there is an especially great need for the older Christian women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and their children.

Just as we should not assume that young women are loving their husbands, we should also not assume that they are loving their children.  The picture of the loving and nurturing mother is set in our minds as one of the most beautiful illustrations of love, but not all mothers are so loving.  In fact, as many horrifying news reports have recently demonstrated, there are many mothers who neglect their children to pursue their own desires.  Furthermore, even many mothers who ensure that their children are cared for neglect them in other ways.  Many mothers now set their children in front of a television, or drop them off at childcare, so that they can be free to do other things.  Financial constraints make this a necessity for some women, but others desire to be free from the constraints of motherhood.  In any case, God looks on the heart, and He understands whether or not a mother lacks love for her children.

In the next verse, we are shown more of the kind of things the older women are to teach the younger: “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” (Titus 2:5)  Younger women must be taught to be “discreet;” to be self-controlled—not to react with anger or violence, but with patience, forbearance, and wisdom.  They must be taught to be “chaste;” to be modest and pure—to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9-10)  They must be taught to be “keepers of the home,” a God-given role which the world thoroughly despises.  They must not be as the adulteress of Proverbs, who wears the “attire of an harlot,” who “is loud and stubborn,” and whose “feet abide not in her house.” (Proverbs 7:10-11)  They must be taught to be “good;” to adorn their profession of faith with good works of love.  Lastly, they must be taught to be obedient to their own husbands.  When we studied the thirteenth chapter of Romans, we learned how love, when it is under authority, expresses itself by willing subjection.  Just as Jesus, under the authority of the Father, submitted to the Father’s will in complete obedience, the wife, being under the authority of her husband, is to submit herself obediently to his will.  As long as the husband is not compelling her to sin, she is obligated to obey.  The notion of humble subjection is repulsive to our flesh nature.  For the same reason that men rebel against God, women rebel against their husbands and children rebel against their parents.  The carnal, or non-spiritual, mind hates the idea of submission.  This is another reason why the older women need to teach the younger.  There is a spirit of rebellion in the world, and godly women stand out as shining stars in the darkness as they submit to their husbands in love.  They are a rebuke to a world which hates any form of subjection whether it be to God or to human authorities.  How shocked the wicked women of the world are when they see true Christian women, women who are filled with joy and peace, and who are quite content to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord!

There is now, more than ever, a need for woman’s ministry in the church.  There is a great need for the older woman, those who are spiritually mature, to teach the younger women about true godly womanhood.  Modern young women have been thoroughly indoctrinated with feminist notions which destroy the home and any hope of healthy family relationships.  They are taught to despise the idea of submission, and to associate male leadership roles with male chauvinism and sexism.  They are taught that there should be virtually no difference between men and women.  All of these notions are contrary to true love, and the older women must be empowered by the church to address them by speaking the truth in love!

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:10)

Today, our journey brings us to a most somber reality; that many “who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy [Spirit], And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:4) will ultimately fall away from the love of Christ.  It seems that Demas, whom Paul mentions in our verse, is an example of such a soul.  Despite having been a companion and fellow-laborer with the apostle Paul, he turned back to the vain love of the world; and lest we suppose that Demas’ folly is a rarity, we have the words of Jesus Himself who said, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)  It is not few, but many who shall go in the way of Demas—many are even now turning away!  Satan seduces the servants of the Lord with “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16)  The more that iniquity abounds in the earth, the more that the temptations of lust and pride seem inescapable, and the more souls turn aside after the deceitful snares of sin.

When the love of the world subverts one’s love of Christ, it causes a Christian to die a slow spiritual death.  Furthermore, it is a silent killer, for its victims are usually entirely ignorant to their true state!  Make no mistake; professing Christians all around us are even now succumbing to this deadly deception.  These are not people who see themselves as lovers of the world, but those who claim to love Jesus, who are sure that their love for Him is sincere, who even read their Bibles, pray, and attend church!  Jesus described this deadly killer in a parable, likening it to thorns:

“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14)

In Luke’s account, which is quoted above, it is the individual believers who are choked, but in Matthew and Mark, it is the word they received which is choked (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:19).  This reveals that when the word we received is choked out, we ourselves are being spiritually choked.  Jesus said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)  When we become distracted by the cares and pleasures of this life, our true life is being choked out!  This is the gruesome spiritual death which so many around us are dying without even realizing it.  Consider how many Christians are caught in the thorns of life, who are drunk with social media, sports, entertainment, and all of the trends and empty pleasures of this world.  Many have no idea that even while they enjoy their pleasures, they are spiritually wasting away.  The Bible says, “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” (1 Timothy 5:6)  True spiritual life is not for those who live for themselves, but for those who die to themselves.  Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:25)  There are untold numbers of professing Christians who have been deceived into thinking that Jesus wants to help them live the most self-fulfilled life possible, but this notion couldn’t be further from the truth.  We are commanded to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).  With that said, certainly, the Christian life is deeply fulfilling, and there is wonderful joy and peace in it; but there are different understandings of what a fulfilled Christian life looks like, and all are not true.  The Bible does not say that Jesus wants to bless all Christians with the nicest houses, cars, and bank accounts.  Rather, we are literally promised persecution, tribulation, and chastening (2 Timothy 3:12, John 16:33, Hebrews 12:6).  The truth is that our richest joy and our deepest peace are often found in the deepest suffering.  Furthermore, this joy and peace does not stem from getting the desires of the flesh, but from our eyes being opened to the reality of what our suffering reveals:

“…ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8)

One of the methods which Satan uses to deceive Christians into loving the world is by subverting the true gospel with a social gospel.  The social gospel is recognized by its emphasis on Christian social activism.  For example, a preacher who teaches the social gospel will refer to Scriptures about justice in order to exhort Christians to fight for things like religious freedom, ending inequality, securing human rights, economic changes, and so forth.  It all sounds wonderful and righteous; and that is because much of what it seeks to accomplish are good things.  The problem with the social gospel is not so much in what it fights for as it is in what it emphasizes.  Remember, Jesus was not a social activist!  There were many social issues in first century Israel, but Jesus never lifted a finger to change them.  But what about His healings?—and what about the money He gave to the poor?  Couldn’t those have been efforts which would give credibility to the social gospel?  Not at all, for if helping the sick and the poor with their physical problems was the primary emphasis of Jesus’ mission, we would not have the following Scriptures which explicitly say otherwise:

  • “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)
  • “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

Jesus’ primary mission was not to heal physical sickness or to give money to the poor.  His primary mission was to save sinners from the wrath of God.  Likewise, this is the primary mission of the church.  We are not commanded to be social activists, but preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is not wrong to fight for social justice, but a church which emphasizes social activism more than the furtherance of the true gospel is focused more on this present world than that which is to come.  Those who love this present world fight for their rights more than they spread the gospel.  Those who love this world focus on social justice more than winning souls to the Lord.  Those who love this world are more preoccupied with politics than with learning the word of God and obeying it.  The true church has operated under ever form of government and under the most severe persecution.  It will be just fine whether the social environment seems favorable or not.  Again, this is not to say that Christians should never fight for social justice, but only to be a reminder of our priority.  We are not called to Christianize the world, but to call a people out of the world unto God by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The devil will try anything he can to distract us from a heart which is fixed upon Jesus and obedience to Him.  There are countless ways that we can get caught up in the things of the world without even realizing how distracted we are becoming!  The love of the world usually destroys its victims slowly, over a long period of time.  A Christian who was once fervent in prayer, focused on seeking the Lord, and active in obedience, is often, by degree, distracted by the things of the world, and choked by earthly cares and pleasures.  Over time, something takes hold of their heart; it could be anything—even things which are seemingly harmless like movies, the internet, hobbies, friendships, news, books, work, vacations, finances, etc.  It isn’t that these things are necessarily evil, but only that they can distract the heart from seeking the Lord.  They can become the thorns which choke out the word and sap us of spiritual life.

It is sad to consider the legacy of Demas, a man who, in spite of his efforts to further the gospel, is only remembered for loving the world and forsaking the apostle Paul.  This should remind us that, when it comes down to it, the Christian life is about a preeminent love for God, a love which surpasses all worldly affections and pleasures.  As the Scripture says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)  We must ask ourselves where the eyes of our hearts are focused.  What are our hearts thrilled about, desiring, preoccupied with?  What drives us on each day?  What fills our minds?  Is it Jesus?  Or, have we become distracted?  Have we left our first love without even realizing it?  Are we, like Demas, forsaking the Lord for our love of this present world?

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

Thomas Bluemling May 20 · Tags: demas
Thomas Bluemling

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

The Bible tells us that just prior to the return of Christ, there will be a great earthquake, the sun will turn black as sackcloth of hair, the moon will be darkened to the color of blood, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-14).  At this time, as the sign of the Son of Man appears in heaven, all of the peoples of the earth shall mourn (Matthew 24:30).  The prophet Isaiah described this scene, saying that men “shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” (Isaiah 2:19)  This will be the Day of the LORD, when Jesus comes “with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9)  He will appear in the glory of his Father, in flaming fire, with His mighty and holy angels, to take vengeance on the godless and the disobedient (Mark 8:38, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).  This will be a day of divine punishment on a scale unlike anything the earth has ever seen. The Bible tells us that as they see Him coming in the clouds, many will be wailing because of their grief (Revelation 1:7).

The Day of the Lord, otherwise known as the appearing of Christ, includes both the punishment of the wicked and the glorification of the righteous (see Psalms 112:9-10, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).  While true Christians look forward to this day (Romans 8:23, Revelation 22:20), unbelievers use lies to put it far away from their minds (Amos 6:3, Ecclesiastes 8:11).  In any case, this will be a day of two extremes, for all shall be confirmed to one of two eternal destinies.  God has not been secretive about the Day of the Lord, but has given detailed prophecy concerning it.  He has clearly declared the two eternal ends saying, “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.” (Psalms 145:20)  And lest anyone would suggest that God is simply going to annihilate the wicked, God has explicitly qualified their destruction as being everlasting (Psalms 52:5, 83:17-18, Jeremiah 23:39-40, Daniel 12:2, etc.).  In fact, if we were to believe that the punishment of the wicked was not eternal, then we would have to believe the same thing regarding heaven, for the same Greek word is used for both (Matthew 25:46).

It will be a day of an extreme mixture of emotions, for many will be wailing in sorrow and terror while some will be rejoicing.  Those who refused Christ will be filled with shame, fear, and mourning, but those who received the love of the truth will be filled with confidence and joy.  What experience one will have hinges entirely on how they have personally responded to Jesus Christ and His gospel.

For us who believe in the gospel, the Day of the Lord will be a glorious day, the day of the redemption of our bodies and glorification with Christ!  All of the trials we endured for the gospel will be found to praise and honor and glory (1 Peter 1:6-7).  In fact, this day will be so unimaginably wonderful that the Bible teaches us to live in the light and expectation of it.  Grace teaches us to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13) 

It is sad to think of how disconnected many of us are from this fast-approaching day.  How little do many of us think on it and consider our lives in the light of it?  Is it possible that the full gravity of it has not affected our hearts as it should?  Is it possible that we lack a passionate expectation because of our unbelief?  Consider that, according to Scripture, “they that turn many to righteousness [will shine] as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)  Do we labor for the furtherance of the gospel in light of this magnificent promise?  How many Christians do you know who are intentionally seeking to turn people to righteousness?  Consider also that those who, out of true faith, give their time, money, and possessions to the Lord, store up for themselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21, 19:21, Luke 12:33-34).  How many Christians do you know who are exchanging their earthly treasures for heavenly treasure?  We have to ask ourselves—honestly ask ourselves if we are taking these truths seriously.  Many of us need to pray for a spiritual wake-up call, lest we come to that day with shame and regret.  The apostle John wrote to believers saying, “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28)

According to our verse, there is a crown of righteousness laid up for all who love Christ’s appearing.  There is a great reward in store for those who truly love Jesus, those who have not rejected Him, but have denied themselves, taken up their crosses, and followed Him.  These are the true saints of God, those who have suffered His reproach, who have been hated for His Name’s sake, who have fought the good fight of faith and have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).  These are the fruitful branches, doers of the word, obedient children, and faithful witnesses.  They have received the love of the truth, hated iniquity, sought the Lord wholeheartedly, and walked by faith.  When others turned away to sin, they held fast to their God and stood boldly against the tides of ungodliness even to the death.  Their strength was not their own, yet they prevailed by faith in Jesus Christ.  Their reward is an eternal weight of glory, to have the magnificent glory of God unveiled to them perpetually throughout all eternity!  It cannot now be fathomed how magnificent their rewards will be, but it is certain that when the wicked see it, they will be horrified at the lie they were sold (Psalms 112:9-10).  At that moment, the truth about sin will be fully disclosed, and the wicked will become keenly aware of their own damnable folly in following after their lusts; but for the righteous, all of their suffering and labor, and all of the persecutions they endured, will appear a small thing in the light of their reward.  As the Scripture says, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” (Psalms 31:19)  On this great day, we shall see “the hope which is laid up for [us] in heaven.” (Colossians 1:5)

We need to understand that, very soon, “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)  The Bible says that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)  The church is not exempt from judgment!  Rather, the Scripture warns us that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).  In fact, those who teach the church are subject to a more severe judgment than other Christians (James 3:1).  The Bible says that “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)  In Paul’s first letter to Corinth, he described this judgment which is going to bring the true nature of our labors to light:

“Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

What a shameful thing it would be to see that all of our labors were done in hypocrisy! —to discover that our motives were not pure!  For hypocrites, the best-case scenario is salvation without reward for their labors; the worst case is being separated from the sheep as a goat, a self-deceived false-convert.  Jesus is not going to judge based on appearances.  Even if we have labored for fifty years in ministry, and even if many came to salvation because of our labor, we may lose our reward if the all-seeing eyes of Christ determine that we did it in pretense (1 Corinthians 9:27).  Remember, the Bible warns us that “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).  We may be able to deceive other people about the motives that drive us, but Jesus searches the heart.  He will judge the things which we thought we could hide!  The Bible says the Lord “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

Friends, we need to assess ourselves in this area.  Are we truly longing for the blessed hope, the day when we shall see Him as He is?  Do we long to be glorified with our Lord?  Have we taken His warnings of judgment seriously?  Have we “purified [our] souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren?” (1 Peter 1:22)  Have we so diligently abided in the love of God that we know that we shall have boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 4:16-17)?  If deep realizations of the coming Day of the Lord are not affecting our hearts, we can be sure that something is amiss in our walk with the Lord.  Imagine for a moment, that it was announced to you that you had won a billion dollars, and that it would be delivered to you the following day.  If you truly believed the message, how would it affect you?  Would you be indifferent to the news?  Of course not!  Yet, we who believe have been told of things infinitely more glorious, and what is our reaction to them?  Is there any joy at the thought?  Or, like so many today, can we listen to a sermon about the joys of glory, and nod off in boredom?  If so, something is terribly wrong.  When the world distracts us from seeking God wholeheartedly, our eyes begin to close to the great realities of God’s word.  Over time, we backslide into a spiritual sleep.  Our hearts become increasingly indifferent to these magnificent truths!  The only way to have our eyes opened again, and to see the wonder of salvation, is to repent from our waywardness and set our hearts on seeking the Lord.  The more that we love Him with an undivided heart, the more that we will love His appearing!

© 2018 Thomas B Bluemling All Rights Reserved

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