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
As we have peered into the topic of “good news” these past few weeks, we have been considering an interesting scripture in the book of Revelation 17:14: “And they will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.” We have talked about how it would be a good thing to be with our Savior at this point in time and so perhaps we should understand these 3 terms from a biblical standpoint. We have seen how we may be called by God and we have seen how the choosing takes place, but what about the third category: “faithful?”
And then there is that fourth word, “followers.” Let’s take a look at these last two words; shall we?
So let’s say you have been called by God (and I believe that if you have been reading these articles, you have been); and let’s assume you have prepared the soil for the scattered seeds that are being sown, and are being chosen by God; now you must pursue faithfulness!
In Romans 4 Paul gives us the ultimate example of a man of faith. 4:1 “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’ ...” Later, in the book of Hebrews chapter 11, often called the “Hall of Fame of the Faithful,” we read about Abraham in verse 8, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land… By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.”
Abraham had faith in God when he was told that even in his old age he would have a son. Abraham had faith in God when he was told to leave the land of his fathers and move to a new land. Abraham had faith when God told him to sacrifice this very son that God had promised to him. And then Jesus says in John 8:39, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Wow, did I just read the word “works?” I thought we were talking about faith. Abraham is the father of the faithful – what is this about his works?
The letter of James has something to say about this: James 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead … You have faith that there is one God. Good! But even the demons believe that and shudder.”
We shall, God willing, look further into this subject the next time. But isn’t this exciting – we have, in this study, gone from the book of Romans to Hebrews to John and finally to James. The bible is a unified book and a treasure trove of knowledge!!
“He is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.” Who are the called, who are the chosen and who are the faithful?
We saw, in our last installment, that the Bible tells us, “Many are called but few are chosen.” And yes, that call goes out in many ways. For me, it was a conversation I had with a co-worker who told me of the truth of God. I listened to him and realized that God was calling to me; God wanted me, a sinner, to be a part of His family. Wow! Imagine that, the God who created all things wanted me, this “nobody,” this blue collar welder, working in the oil fields of Wyoming, to be His child!
But I was hard headed and I balked. It took two years of inner struggle with my old ways to finally realize that I could no longer ignore God. The great God of the universe wanted my heart. And I finally gave it to Him!
The call goes out in many ways. Some might read something on the Internet; some will read a tract or booklet left lying around. Some might turn on a TV program that opens their eyes to the truth of God and still some might read an article written in a small town, donation-based newspaper called the Danish Villages News. Has God called you? Does God want you to become one of His precious children? Does the Creator of all things want you to open up your heart to all that He has for you? Only you can answer these questions. But answer them you will . . . either with an emphatic yes, or a destructive no; for “Many are called but few are chosen.”
As we saw in the previous article, the seed of God’s calling will only produce fruit in the right type of soil: “But some fell on good fertile soil and grew, producing a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” In that parable of Matthew 13, three quarters of the seed scattered did not produce any fruit – there was no “choosing” by God in those cases. But God is truly looking for those few who will open up their hearts to Him.
When did God call you? Do you remember His gentle hand leading you into the sheep fold? Wait a minute, Bill, you are mixing metaphors here – our ninth grade English teachers would be appalled – you started off talking about agriculture and now shifted to animal husbandry!
Hmmm!! God uses many metaphors to teach and to call. Sometimes He uses fishing and other times He uses building construction. God wants all of His children to “get” what He is saying and does not limit Himself to only one avenue.
Are you being called now? Do you have the good soil that will produce a hungry heart for God? I hope you do. We are not playing games here with God – He wants sons and daughters to love Him so that He might teach and bless. Next time (God willing) we will talk about the third aspect of this topic – the faithful!
In the past couple of articles, we have seen that although the good news of the Gospel consists of the life, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it does not end there. In fact, the resurrection of Christ begins for us (upon whom the ends of the age have come) with the realization of the good news that was prophesied in the Old Testament. But this good news, in all actuality, never ends! For it finds its fulfillment in the eternal life that is promised to God’s called, chosen and faithful followers.
Are you there yet? Have you been called by God? If called, then have you been chosen? And so, if called and chosen, are you faithful?
These three categories, called, chosen and faithful, are found in the book of Revelation 17:14: “And they will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.” To be with our Lord and King at that time, is news of such great joy that it is really inexpressible! But you must be called, chosen and faithful!!
In Matthew 22:14, just after Jesus telling of the parable of the wedding supper, we read, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Does that concern you? Do you wonder, sometimes; perhaps you have been called of God but for some reason haven’t been chosen of God? I mean, why would God call someone and not chose him?
There are many ways in which God may call an individual. Paul addresses this when he says in 1 Cor. 3:6, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but it is only God who makes it grow.” I must figure that everyone who is reading these articles are familiar with their Bibles. Perhaps many of you attend a worship service, at least from time to time. Within the pages of the Bible are many potential seeds that may be planted in the heart of the reader. Within the words of a sermon or Bible study are also many potential seeds. And so it is within these articles, potential seeds abound.
I mention that they are “potential seeds” because although they enter your brain through your reading or your hearing, those who are chosen of God are the ones that allow them to be planted within their hearts. Remember the parable in Matthew 13 concerning the “Sower and the Seed.” Some seed fell on the path to be eaten by the passing birds; some fell on rocky places but because of shallow soil the new shoots quickly withered; some fell among the thorns and were choked out and died; but some fell on good fertile soil and grew, producing a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.
So, receiving the seeds means you have been called. But what kind of soil are you? I believe God makes it clear that we must be good soil if we are to be found chosen. God does the calling and the choosing, but we must prepare the soil!!
Perhaps we should look at this some more next time.
Well of course there is “good news.” It is all around us. There is joy and there is happiness and there is a merry heart for all who will believe!! God tells us through Moses, “The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Jesus Christ died for you and for me that we might be reconciled to the Heavenly Father; that is good news. We had been reckoned as sinners as the result of being descendants of our first father and mother: Adam and Eve. But thanks be to God for the life we are offered through the Son of God!
May we level with each other through the confines of these words; without this sacrifice of the Son of God, we have no hope!! As I mentioned last week, we will have perhaps 70, 80 or 90 years to enjoy physical life (the only thing we, as human beings, know), and then we die. Or as the scripture in John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we do not believe, we perish!
This is quite interesting because our God (the one and only God) is offering to us, free of charge, an extension of this life we have been experiencing and yet this extension is in no way to be compared to some overtime period in a field of sports – this is life eternal!! It is interesting because most people on this earth do not accept this idea. Let us bring that closer to home – most people in this country of ours do not accept this idea. What about in the state of Iowa, the county of Shelby or even this local community of ours? How about those of you reading this newspaper – do you accept this idea?
In our previous article, we paid a short visit (through a vision of the Apostle John) to the throne room of God. We were in Revelation chapter 4. John was permitted to see things that he, frankly, had no words to describe. Throughout the book of Revelation, John uses metaphors, similes, and analogies to try and get across the idea of what he saw. The Apostle Paul had a similar experience that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:1, “I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Paul, one of the foremost servants of God in the New Testament, was not permitted to tell of his experiences when in the “third heaven” that is, the place where God dwells.
Then we find Moses, one of the foremost servants of God in the Old Testament, spending time in the presence of God. Moses was not permitted to see God’s face but was allowed to experience that presence. When God came down in the cloud on Mount Sinai, Moses bowed his face to the ground and worshiped. And when Moses came down from the mount into the camp of Israel, his face had a radiant glow. The scriptures say that the people were afraid to come near him!! (Ex. 34:8 & 29-30)
My friends, think upon these things and until next time, remember, we have good news all around us.
What is it that you expect to be doing one thousand years from now? To tell you the truth, it is hard to see that far into the future, isn’t it? On this earth, the Bible tells us, we might expect to have 70 years of physical life. This is what it says in Psalm 90:10, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty if we have the strength.”
There are many people in our little community that must have great strength for they have reached into their eighties and even into their nineties!! At some point though, we must die – as the old saying goes, “there are no survivors on this planet.” But then what?
If our names are written in the book of life, we wait for the resurrection from the dead. But then what? Whoa, let’s not go too fast here. What do I mean by no survivors?
In the book of Hebrews 9:27 it is written, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment ... ” Yes, all of us are given just this one opportunity to live a fleshly existence. And even though Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:51), those that do not “sleep” must shed this flesh and be clothed with a new body. Paul goes on to say, “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed, For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:52-53)
OK, so what do you expect to be doing one thousand years from now? Is your name written in God’s book of life?
The most famous scripture in the Bible is arguably John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It we are looking for good news, this is a very good place to start. (OK, if we are true to God’s word, we should start at Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But that is a topic for another time!)
God gave us His only begotten Son that through His death, we may receive life. And that life is the life we are talking about – eternal life! That life is beyond our understanding, beyond our comprehension and beyond anything we might imagine!! It is a life spent with our Heavenly Father and with His Son. It is a life that will be filled with joy and peace. It is a life that will be spent experiencing the true glory of God – a glory that today is not available to us. “Then Moses said, ‘show me your glory.’ And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you and I will proclaim my name, Yahovah ... But you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” (Ex. 33:18-20) In that day we will be allowed to see what the Apostle John saw when he was “in the Spirit,” “At once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow resembling an emerald, encircled the throne …. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder ….”
What an awesome experience!! And truly Good News! Stay tuned for more.
“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)
“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)
It is, indeed, a beautiful thing to have access to the word of our Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth!! He is the Creator of all things and just as any manufacturing company will provide the user with an instruction manual, so our Maker and Designer has given us a manual to instruct us on the proper use and care of who we are and how we operate.
We have spent a few weeks looking into the first Five of the Ten Commandments of God. And so now we will consider the last five. God has not put as many details into these final five as He has the first ones but one of the first things we should take note of is that they all begin on a negative footing: “You shall not …” I believe we all know what it means to murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness and covet. These are not obscure words that send us to the dictionary to search for their meanings. And I believe if we spent some time in consideration of these 5, we would understand, if we are rational, just how good they are and how necessary they are for the safety and health of a society. We all know that we “should not ……”!
But let’s take a look at some of these five from a positive perspective. How do we do that? I’m glad you asked!
The Sixth Commandment is: “You shall not murder.” So how do we look at this in a positive light? Perhaps the simplest way is to consider how we might help others to live a better life. In our little community of Elk Horn it has been my observation that we do a very good job. There is always a helping hand, a visit to the sick or bereaved, a donation to those in need when tragedy strikes.
When considering theft, we might turn it around and think about those in need and how we might give of ourselves. Here in this community, we have a food pantry to donate to. And there is usually a notice in the newspaper concerning an organization putting on a charitable fund drive. We are so blessed to be able to give!
I am sure that you could add to this “positive aspect” list of the final five commands. But let’s stop and take a quick look at what Jesus had to say about these commands. Remember, He came not to abolish the law but to fill it to the full. “You have heard that it was said ‘Do not commit adultery’. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” (Matthew 5:27)
There is an immense amount of instruction given to us in the Word of God. Sometimes we may think that the law is only found in the Old Testament but according to many commentaries, there are more commands in the New Testament – Jesus came to fill to the full. God’s word is good and “the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” Rom. 7:12.
Several weeks ago we began looking at the Ten Commandments and we’ve come through the first five with five more to go. We have seen that God placed many details within the first five and have considered just how we should look at them. But as we come to the last half of the Ten, they come at us rapid fire and quite straight forward. “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet: your neighbor’s house; your neighbor’s wife; his manservant or maidservant; his ox or donkey; or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
In Matthew 4 we read about Jesus’ baptism, His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and, immediately following, the temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Then in verse 17, we see that: “From thence forth Jesus began to preach.” We read in chapter 5 that His message to the crowds began with what we call the beatitudes. And then in chapter 5:17 we find Jesus laying down the “ground rules” for His ministry; He did not want anyone (including you or me) to misunderstand just how He approached His ministry. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fill them to the full. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything has come to pass.”
We will (God willing) take a closer look at these final 5 commandments but for now I suggest that we take a short sidetrack and see just how our Savior saw this “Law” that was codified in the part of our bibles called “The Old Testament” I use the word “codify” here because this is what Jesus is talking about when He used the term “smallest letter” and “least stroke of the pen.” To codify something means to write it down.
The Jews of His day, the Pharisees and Sadducees, etc., had developed something called the “oral law.” This was not a part of the law that God gave to Moses to write down. The Jews had their traditions and passed them on down through the generations by word of mouth – thus the “oral law.” We find, later on in Matthew, that Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for this, calling them hypocrites and so in Matthew 15:3 we read, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? … Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your traditions.”
This is a very important concept to understand. Jesus specifically used the terms “smallest letter” and “least stroke of the pen” (in Matthew 5:18) in order to differentiate the written word of God from this so called “oral law.” God’s word is truth – the rabbi’s words, not so much!
As Jesus continues His preaching to the crowds in Matthew 5, He begins to teach about God’s law and to “fill it to the full.” And we will look some more at this in our next article. But remember this: The Apostle Paul tells us in Rom. 7:12 that the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”
And that my friend is Good News!!
When I was young I was introduced to the Ten Commandments and given a simplified version of them to memorize. I recall that I memorized the fifth commandment as, “Honor your father and your mother.” And this is the gist of what is said there, but our Heavenly Father gives us a few more details in this next commandment.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) These are interesting details, are they not?
God has given us the first 4 commandments that teach us how our Heavenly Father desires to be worshiped; but before He gives us the last 5 commandments, ones that teach us how to enjoy a prosperous society, He tells us that we must honor our parents. This fifth commandment acts as a bridge from God to society. In it He teaches us that the family unit is the foundation of society. Without this understanding, society has no substance upon which to stand.
Our society today appears to be on a slippery slope downward toward calamity. The honor that a child is required to have for his parents becomes hard to find today. God, the Creator of all things and all people, knew that this command was imperative for an orderly society and so He added the promises to the base command.
Do we want a long life? I believe most of us, if not all, would answer yes. Do we want a long life that goes well for us? If I get to live a long life, I sure would desire it to go well!! I believe a sane person would answer yes! And what’s this about “the land the LORD your God is giving you”?
God is the owner of all things. In Leviticus 25:23 He tells us that the land is His. As the old song says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through” – God brought the land into existence and He can surely take it all away.
There is a principle tucked away in this 5th Commandment – and it involves respect for authority. The first authority for a family (after God) is the parents. But in a solid society, authority extends outward to what the bible calls “elders.” When I was a kid, I knew that when my friend’s parents told me to change my behavior, I had better obey. I also understood that policemen were around for our good and they were to be respected.
God is the ultimate authority but He has placed others in society to keep order. Paul says it this way in Romans 13:1, “… there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”
God has told us to “Honor our father and mother.” And so I see that Jesus tells us that God is our Father – He is our Heavenly Father. Therefore honor God, all you His children!!
In looking at the Fourth Commandment we saw, last week, that there was a slight difference in the two instances where the Ten Commandments are written. Deuteronomy begins by telling us to “Observe the Sabbath day” and Exodus starts by telling us to “Remember the Sabbath day. In Exodus the emphasis of this command is related to the creation found in Genesis 1 and 2. Within this version we find written, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your animals, not the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
As we look at this, let us note that God is concerned with animals. He is the Creator and He has compassion upon all the He has created. The alien that might have been living among them (There were a few Egyptians that tagged along with them as they left Egypt.) was also to be given a rest day. But the emphasis here is upon creation week.
In the other version of the commandments found in Deuteronomy we find this addition, “The seventh day is a Sabbath day to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, not your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath Day.” The emphasis here is on the fact that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. This was something that God wanted His people to remember and so to memorialize it by keeping the Sabbath day; a day of freedom.
Allow me to consider here what the Apostle Paul tells us about our own slavery. In Romans 6:16 we read, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Jesus Himself said in John 8:34, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
And so, what is the sign that leads us to remember our freedom? It is the Sabbath day! And our freedom leads us to rejoice in the freedom of obedience.
Within both of these versions we find written that the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD. This is not a man-made concept. God blessed the day and made it holy; only God can make a day holy! It is a gift from God to us and is something to be valued.
In every place I look, I see the hand of God giving good gifts and blessing to His people – let us rejoice in our God!
We have taken a look at the first three Commandments in our previous articles ,and so we come to the fourth. When we consider these first four we see that they all pertain to our worship of God, and that is an important observation. God does indeed come first in everything.
I have my Bible open to Deuteronomy 5, which is where we find the second entry of the 10 Commandments (the first being in Exodus 20). The first thing that grabs my attention is that this fourth Commandment is the longest of all the ten. Our God does not waste words. Words are of great importance to Him. Remember in the gospel of John chapter one it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God.” Two things are to be understood here. First: this is a reference to the Son of God, who, in the book of Revelation 19:13, is referred to as the “Word of God” and second: we see in the book of Genesis that it was with the use of words that God created all things – “And God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light,’” etc.
Our God does not waste words! Deut. 5:12, “Observe the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” In the book of Exodus it is written, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” One version tells us to “remember the Sabbath,” and the other tells us to “observe the Sabbath.”
The version in Exodus is calling us to remember. What does it want us to remember? The idea of this day of rest is not something new. It is not something that was given to the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. God established the Sabbath at creation!! “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He ceased from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He ceased from all the work of creating that He had done.” (Gen. 2:1-3) It was God who gave to His created ones, a day of rest and because the Israelites had been slaves to the Egyptians for over 200 years, He wanted to remind them of this extremely important day.
As slaves, they most likely had been working seven days a week – no time off. God reminded them of this wonderful gift and commanded that they cease form their labor and spend one day out of seven, worshiping Him. What a beautiful gift for God’s people. Are you one of God’s people?
Just as we saw in considering the importance God places on words, we see a similar concept here in the Sabbath day, a day of rest. When God began to create, He used words and when He refers to His Son he calls Him “the Word;” so, when we consider His Sabbath, we remember this creation and when we ponder His Son we find in Him the true rest for our souls, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) There is more on this topic 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.