Yes! There Is Good News!
Bill Rollins has been publishing each week a column in the local Elk Horn, Iowa paper for the past several years.
Note the original publication date on each blog post
Note the original publication date on each blog post
It was four years ago (March 7th 2016 - to be exact) that this endeavor of writing an article on “good news” began. This article marks the 201st article I have written. Seems like a mile stone of sorts, maybe even an opportunity for celebration!!
But before we start that, I have a question for all of us; have these articles done us any good? What in the world could I mean by that? Well, if my effort in writing and your effort in reading have not had some affect on our lives then we are operating in the realm of vanity. And what is the definition of vanity? Webster’s dictionary says, “Any act that is empty, futile or worthless.” I, for one, am not comfortable operating in that manner and I hope you are not either.
So, perhaps this is confession time! This really has been a fulfilling endeavor for me. I do not just write them only in the hope that you are edified, but I write them in the desire that I, too, learn something – and I have. So let’s move forward with this.
There is much that goes on in this world that might be labeled vanity. In our previous article I wrote, “Satan will take one of God’s truths and place an hundred lies around it. He really does not care which lie we choose; if we bite on any of the “hooks” he has set up, he wins.” This, of course, happens quite often in many religious circles. Satan knows just how to spend his time while getting us to waste our time.
One of the greatest lies that he has put forth is indeed, vanity: that which is empty, futile and worthless. We live in the greatest, most affluent nation the world has ever seen. Our lives revolve around many episodes of vanity. We see something that has great value and yet we treat it as empty and worthless – I might label many things along this line. The Bible is one thing that comes to mind. There is no book on the face of this earth so valuable as God’s word and oft times we let it lie on a shelf collecting dust.
Satan wants us to spend our time with that which is vanity. Take for instance a simple work of fiction, written by a mere human, and we treat it with adoration and recommend it to our friends and loved ones. Oh, I’m not pointing any fingers here for I too have done this. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with reading a good piece of fiction – reading is always stimulating to the mind and will usually increase our outlook and intellect. It may be labeled as entertainment, and we all need some of that. It only becomes problematic when this is the only reading we allow into our lives.
We could go on looking at many areas of our society for the empty things it provides for us but let me ask another question – what is the opposite of empty and worthless? Well, that’s easy; and you say; “that which is full and valuable.” In the Bible, however, the opposite of vanity is “glorious.” On the one hand we have, “Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” And on the other hand we read, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name.” One thing we are told not to do and the other we are urged to do. Vanity verses Glory – it is worth thinking about.
Until next time – consider the good news and give glory to God!!
Sally and I have just purchased a “new to us” vehicle. Oh yes, we now have a car that was built in the 21st century. There are a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ that we have never seen before and so have caused some consternation for us. Thankfully, this car came equipped with a manual that explains, in detail, how the automatic temperature control works; how the CD player works; oh yes, even how
the headlight system works. I say thankfully, because it makes things much easier!
Many things around us today are quite technologically superior to our experience and so we need to understand how they work and how to use them so that we might enjoy the product more fully – the engineers that designed our car, our microwave, our DVD player and yes, even this computer, had the forethought to
supply a manual of operation with the product.
These items I have just mentioned are really quite simple, one might say infinitely more simple than the human beings that God created with Adam and Eve. And so, yes, they (and we) need instruction on how to conduct themselves. God put Adam
in the garden and told him to work the garden and take care of it. Work is part and parcel of living a good and productive life. Work is necessary to sustain the life of an individual – we all need to eat!
They were also commanded, by God, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, in this story of Adam and Eve, we find that they bought into the lie that Satan brought to them. The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan convinced them that it was they and not God who should make the rules.
Have you bought into Satan’s lie? In many ways all of us have accepted this lie and we want to decide how to run our own lives. But you and I have been given a manual to guide us – He has given to us the Bible, the written word of God. It is filled with wisdom.
Things were much simpler back in the days of our first parents. God started them off with only a few instructions and so Satan only had to convince them to accept one lie. They sinned and of course, the rest is history. There are tens of thousands of lies out there today that our Adversary has placed in front of us; harmful lies; lies that lead to death. But God, the creator and designer of mankind, has equipped us with an amazing manual of how we should conduct our lives so as to have an easier life, a safer life and a more Godly life. And yet many
have never read these easy, gentle and Godly words from our Father in heaven.
I have appreciated the many of you who have seen me around town or even stopped me on the street to tell me how you enjoy these articles. My hope and prayer is that they may draw you into a closer relationship with God. But they will never and should never take the place of the words that proceed from the mouth
of God. Good words they are!!
In Psalm 1 we learn that if a person does not walk with the wicked, stand in the
way of sinners or sit with mockers; if his delight is in the law of the LORD and meditates upon it day and night then, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever
he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3) I believe all of us understand what a simile is: a comparison between two things by using the words “like or as;” an individual can be like a tree which yields fruit.
John the Baptist confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees when he says this in Matthew 3:10, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Be careful Pharisees and Sadducees your fruit is not looking so good!!
Why tell you all this? In our previous article we talked about a tree and its fruit in the Garden of Eden – actually there were many trees in Genesis 2:9. Most of them were good for food and free to eat from, but at the center of the garden there were only two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In our lessons as children, we may have been taught that Eve partook of
an apple from this tree. Ah, such a wonderful fruit bearing such a heavy burden!!
But really, what are we to learn here? There are only two ways to walk in this world; the way of life or the way of death. God’s way is, of course, the way of life! Jesus Himself said that He was the way, the truth and the life (John14:6). He also
told Martha before they went to her Brother Lazarus’ grave that “I am the
resurrection and the life.” God gave Adam and Eve only one commandment, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They broke that one commandment and so were banished from the Garden of Eden. And so the
curse, the curse of death, has been placed upon all of their descendants – i.e... us!!
In believing the lie of Satan, these two original parents of ours, told God that they wanted to be able to choose for themselves what is good and what is evil. Ad so we, today, desire to follow in their footsteps and decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil – what is right and what is wrong. As I pondered the direction of our previous article I see that I made this statement, “As I take a look
around me and at our society and yes, even at the entirety of the world, I have to wonder where we have gone wrong. The things of God seem to be far from us.”
You do remember that mankind went so far astray from God’s way of life 1650 years after Adam was created, that He brought a flood upon the earth and, except for God’s grace with Noah, all of creation would have been wiped out. Yes, God is a gracious God. Noah and family, by being in the ark, were saved through water.
And that is the good news – we’ll consider this topic again next time.
Yes! There is Good News!
by Bill Rollins
original post date: February 14, 2020
I just noticed that our previous article
ended with the words,
“Think about these
things”. And of course
I was considering the beautiful and
wonderful reward that our God has.
But I wonder how many of us truly
think about, or meditate on the “things
One comment I made previously
was that God desires for us to have
an intimate relationship with Him.
Are we human beings hard wired in
our make up so as to have that same
desire? In one sense the answer is
yes, we are!
But as I take a look around me and at our society and yes, even at the entirety of the world, I have to wonder where we have gone wrong. The things of God seem to be far from us.
The Bible teaches us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). In the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, we read, “I, the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). God set out, in His creation of the universe and the earth and the people there-in, to bring forth beauty and wonder and awesomeness; and to share His love and goodness, His being and His beauty with those He has created. His purpose has never changed!!
The failures in our society and civilization lay squarely upon our shoulders. Remember at the end of the sixth day of creation, God looked around, saw all that He had made and “it was very good”. But somehow we are not satisfied with all God has given us and it started with our original ancestors, Adam and Eve.
“Now the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden.” …. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:8-9 & 15-17)
I believe we all know how this story unfolds. “The serpent was more crafty than any of the creatures the LORD God had made.” (Gen. 3:1) This serpent, who we know as Satan, deceived our first father and mother. Satan lies to the woman by questioning what God had said, “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, Satan tells her that God is keeping something from her and her husband.
So the woman considers this and sees that the fruit on this tree is “good for food and pleasing to the eye”. In this she was correct for God had said these very words above in verse 9. But she added that it was, “also desirable for gaining wisdom”. Eve bought Satan’s lie – God never said anything about wisdom. Oh yes, there is much more here; but we’ll save that for next time. Think about these things.
As we finish this six week study, let me summarize by saying that salvation comes by faith and the reward that our Savior is bringing with Him is based upon our obedience in doing His word and His will – as our father Abraham did.
In Matthew we find a very curious scripture that talks about these two aspects of doing God’s word and His will, it is found in 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Here we find “many” who, after prophesying, casting out demons and doing mighty works in the Lord’s name, have Jesus say unto them that He never knew them and He tells them to depart! Why? Evidently they did not do the will of the Father and they were workers of lawlessness.
Let’s consider this for a few minutes. First of all, what is the will of God? This sounds quite serious because we do want to be able to enter the kingdom of God!! We could possibly fill a book seeking to answer this, but let’s look for our answer in a different area of this scripture in Matthew. Jesus declares that ‘I never knew you.’ This word ‘knew,’ in the Greek language, is “ginosko.” Vine's Dictionary of Biblical Greek tells us that the word frequently indicates a relationship, often between God and man or between a husband and wife. This is a word that shows intimacy and so Jesus is intimating a lack of relationship. If one does not have a relationship with Him, then He does not know them. Hence, it is God’s will that we seek Him with all our heart so as to form a relationship of love with Him!
But what about this statement, “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” What is a worker of lawlessness? Again, we can go to the Greek to understand this word – it is used of one who “acts contrary to law.” Paul tells us that God’s law is holy, righteous and good and Jesus wants us to be a “worker of the law” or, one who is “obedient in doing His word” as I mentioned in the first paragraph.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 14:23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” Wow!! The Father and Son will choose to live in me – now that is a heavy statement. A couple of verses before that, Jesus says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Friends and brethren, this is the relationship Abraham had with God. It is as intimate as it gets. There is no greater reward for us to receive than to have this intimacy with the Father and His Son. And this is what we should strive for. Salvation? Yes! Access to God through Jesus’ blood? Of course! But what a reward He has set before us!!! Think about these things.
So, picking up from last week, we read that Abraham kept God’s commands, requirements, decrees, and laws; and he did so some 400 years before God codified them and gave them to Moses and the children of Israel. We know Abraham as a man of faith, but he was also a man of obedience. These laws of God have been in effect since creation.
We read of these laws in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, and many feel that they were just for the Israelites but do not take into consideration that the laws of an all wise God, Creator of mankind, were meant for the benefit of all of Abraham’s children as well as for all of mankind. Yes He loves all of His creation.
Let me pause here so as to help us keep our focus. Our original thought was that which is found in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to his works.” In speaking of the law that is to be obeyed, we are in no way suggesting that salvation may be earned! No, we have already established that Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works, so that no one can boast.” Let us never forget that!! This is our fifth consecutive article on the dual subject of 1) the rewards for works and 2) the faith and obedience of Abraham.
The writer of the book of Hebrews touches on this subject in a couple of ways. In chapter 3 he gives us a quote that he lifts from Psalm 95:7-11 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Today we do have His voice to hear, for His words are recorded in our Bibles. But oft times we harden our hearts against them. Let us not provoke God as they did! And who were they? Hebrews 3:16 tells us: “For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?”
So we see that they were unable to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. Here in the book of Hebrews we learn that disobedience is equated with unbelief. And what “reward” did they receive? They were not allowed the blessing of entering the land promised to Abraham. The book of Hebrews goes on to teach us something more: “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” And yet Abraham did!! Do you combine faith with obedience? Stay with me here – this topic is important.
Sometimes we think that the New Testament is made up of “new” thoughts and words, when in truth much, if not all, consists of quotes and thoughts brought forth from the Old Testament. For example; we have been considering the scripture from Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to his works”, but this is a quote from the book of Isaiah 62:11, “Behold, your Savior comes! See, His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.”
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, speaks the words that John the Revelator records so that we may see this connection. It is important to understand that without the Old Testament, the New Testament loses some of its meaning.
And so it is with our understanding of our father, Abraham. Jesus says, in John 8:39, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the works that Abraham did.” Paul tells us that if we are in Christ, “we are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Oh! Then maybe we should look to Abraham our father for instruction. Follow along with me here: We will go back once again to Isaiah to read his instruction concerning Abraham, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him.” Isaiah 51:1-2
Are you one who pursues righteousness and seeks the LORD?
In the previous article I mentioned that father Abraham has much to teach us. First of all he was faithful in all his ways. Secondly, he was obedient in his service to God. When God appeared to Abraham’s son, Isaac, He told him this; “Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” (Gen. 26:5) Now this is interesting! This statement made to Isaac comes some 400 years before God gives the Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.
And here we find Abraham keeping God’s law! Maybe we should also!!
Another thing that God commended Abraham for doing is found in Genesis 18:18-19, “Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.”
Are you a person of faith? “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (Gal 3:7) And Abraham did many wonderful things. Stay tuned, there is much more coming your way.
In the book of Genesis we meet a man by the name of Abram (which literally means – father of height). We know this man as Abraham (God changed his name in chapter 17 to mean father of nations). In Genesis 12, God chooses Abram to be the father of His chosen people and God promises to bless him greatly if, in his obedience, he leaves the home of his family and comes to the land God will show him; and not only show him but also give to his descendants. God states the blessing in Genesis 12:2&3, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
In Chapter 15 God tells Abram that He has a great reward coming, but Abram reminds God that he has no heirs to leave it to, only a faithful servant. God tells him, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he took him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’. And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” This is where we were a couple of weeks ago, when we talked of Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 4:3. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God promised him many, many offspring!
Who is this son that God says will be Abram’s heir. Well, if we keep reading in Genesis we come to find out that his heir is named Isaac. Isaac has a son named Jacob, whose name is later changed to Israel and he has 12 sons who become the nation of Israel.
But wait! There is a curious scripture in Galatians 3:7 “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”
Paul says that God preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham and what is the gospel? That Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham would die for the sins of mankind and that through His resurrection would bring life to all who believed!! What might we deduce from these statements? We should see that all nations have now been blessed through Abraham because his offspring, through time, became the Savior of all mankind, i.e. all nations.
Remember, we have been talking these past few weeks, about receiving the reward that our Savior will have with Him when He returns to earth, Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to his works.” This reward consists of both blessing and cursing depending on our works. Jesus tells us in John 8:39, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the works that Abraham did.” I believe in that previous article, we were attempting to see what works Abraham accomplished. And now after laying this ground work, we shall. Sooooo …. Let’s stay tuned because father Abraham has much to teach us.
“If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)
Here we have a classic, “if / then” statement. So, in order to consider whether or not you are included in the “then” statement, you must be able to claim the “if” part. Do you belong to Christ? Only you can answer this question. The reality of it is between you and God. He knows your heart. He knows every aspect of your heart. Do you?
It may be hard to understand why this ancient Hebrew might be claimed as our father. The words “Abraham’s seed” mean that we are his offspring. But we cannot even claim that unless we know that we “belong to Christ.” So perhaps we should take a look at what that might mean.
First of all we must understand that if a person belongs to another then they are a possession; perhaps a slave or a bond servant. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians concerning the body he writes, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” What was that price with which we were bought? Peter informs us of that purchase price in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Yes, the purchase price that is demanded in payment for our sins and to buy us back (ransom us) from death and give us eternal life is the “precious blood of Christ.” Have you come to grips with that understanding? This is a pretty heavy thought for us to get our minds around. But get around it we must!!
If you would “belong to Christ” then you have to: know that you are a sinner who has broken the “good, holy and righteous laws of God,” believe and understand that the blood of our Savior is necessary for our redemption, and because of points 1 and 2, you must repent of those sins and be baptized for the remission of those sins, just as Peter told the crowd in Acts 2:38. Those steps are not hard to do – at least not physically. But to do them from the heart, which means that we have humbled ourselves before our God, takes a true movement of the Holy Spirit. To do that from the heart takes a great commitment to live according to God’s ways and to begin to love Him with all our heart, strength, and life.
That is what it takes to ‘belong to God.’ “But hey”, you ask, “What does that mean for me?” It means that you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. We will look at the promises to Abraham of which we will be heirs to, perhaps next time. But for now, let us read the statement Paul makes just prior to this one in Galatians 3:29. In 3:26 he writes, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” O my!! Sons of God – sons of the Creator of all the universe, sons of the Living God who originally blessed Abraham.
Wow, that is good news!!
In the 22nd chapter of the book of Revelation (the last chapter in the Bible), we find the apostle John bringing the entirety of God’s word to completion. In the 12th verse of that chapter he quotes our Savior Jesus, as saying this, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to his works.”
There are some folks who do not think that “works” have any place in the life of a believer. They will quote this scripture in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works, so that no one can boast.” But they confuse the concept of salvation with that of reward.
Salvation is the free gift of God and can in no way be achieved by our works. Simply put, it cannot be earned. The Apostle Paul says it this way in the book of Romans 4:1-5, “What shall we say that Abraham, our father according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” I hope we all understand this; if not, please let me know.
The concept of reward, however, is different. Jesus clearly tells us that when He comes back to the earth, He will bring a reward to give to everyone based upon their works. Because He will give to everyone a reward, we must understand that there are two sides to this reward; the Bible calls them blessings and curses!
I believe it will do us some good to consider this topic. I am sure we all want to be on the side of getting blessings and not curses. Let us take a look.
Above, I mention Abraham, who according to Paul is the father of us all; that is, all the faithful. In this same chapter of Romans that I quoted above we read, “(Abraham) is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God in whom he believed.” (Romans 4:16-17)
Did Abraham have to do anything? Why, yes he did! In Genesis 12, God told Abram (Abraham’s original name) to, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and come to the land I will show you.” God tells Abram that He will bless him in several ways (ah ha, blessings for obedience) and so we see that Abram left just as the LORD told him.
The entire story of Abraham is a beautiful one. From Genesis 12 through 25 we learn of the trials, the joys, the battles, the faith, and the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience that Abraham, who is called “our father in the faith,” encountered.
Why look at this topic through the life an ancient man of God called Abraham? He is our father in the faith and Jesus said this, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the works that Abraham did.” (John 8:39) We know Abraham was blessed; what works did he do?
Don’t go away folks, there is still more to come!!
Bill Rollins resides in Elk Horn, IA, with his wife, Sally, and has pastored the Church of God of Omaha, NE for more than 35 years.