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
In our last article we talked a little about the Godly concepts of justice and mercy. You see, if God were not a God of justice He could not show forth His mercy. For mercy does not, yea cannot, exist where there is no justice. How can someone show forgiveness if there is nothing to be forgiven of?
There is a third aspect of God’s character that must be introduced at this point: grace! May I give you a succinct definition of these three aspects of God’s character? Justice is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve; and grace is getting something that you do not deserve.
And so, we are sinners – what is the result of sin? “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) You and I as unrepentant sinners will find, in the justice system of God, the verdict of “death”. We cannot complain for God has spelled it out for us. But God has provided a way out and lets us know that He has sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice to take away our sin. 1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” WOW – now that is mercy, tremendous mercy. But wait! God does not stop there. He goes on to express unto us the third element of who He is – grace!
What is this grace that God showers upon His children? What is this gift of God that goes beyond what we deserve? Let’s go back to finish the scripture quote in Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the grace of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So does this ‘three part trail’ go from: 1) we are sinners worthy of death to; 2) we accept the mercy God has provided through the blood of His Son to; 3) eternal life in our Savior? If that were so, then once we repented and received baptism we would be whisked away into the kingdom of God to be with Him forever – no more
sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, just joy and bliss with God.
Guess what, that did not happen. Not even with the Apostles!
In March of 1979 after I came up out of the waters of baptism, the same people were in the room, the same snowstorm was happening outside. That was almost 40 years ago and this physical life is still all I see around me.
God is good! Remember, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” And so God in His goodness provides for the repentant sinner in many ways. Acts 2:36-39, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
The gift of the Holy Spirit! To have a piece of God in-dwell the new child of God is an amazing concept – so let’s take a look at that next time, God willing.
In our previous article we considered the statement ‘God is good’. And I asked the question as to whether you might know someone who believes that the God of the Old Testament is mean, angry and harsh. How would you answer them?
I might start off by quoting the verse from James 1:17 (the verse I ended with last week) “(God) does not change like shifting shadows”; or perhaps the verse in Malachi 3:6, ‘I the LORD do not change’; or maybe Hebrews 13:8, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever’. These three scriptures are quite persuasive in letting us know that God did not change His ways from the front of our Bibles to the back of them!
It was Jesus Himself who told us that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." And in the letter of 1 John 4:8 & 16 we find out that "God is love!" Peter chimes in with his second letter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you; He is not willing that anyone should perish, but that everyone should come to repentance."
Wow!! This God we are called to serve really does love His creation – He loves us and desires that we abide with Him and His Son for all eternity.
One thing we must know about God; He is a God of justice. He told our first parents, Adam and Eve, what not to do. They paid no attention and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and then they denied culpability for the sin, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:11-21) This was the world’s first example of passing the buck.
Again, God is a God of justice and so punishment needed to be meted out. God went back up this ladder of blame and cursed the serpent first, then punished the woman and finally pronounced punishment upon the man. Then God, in His mercy and love for His children, provided garments of protection and modesty.
Do you remember how God worded His one and only commandment to Adam? “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.”
In a manner of speaking, they did die that day. The special fellowship they had enjoyed with God in the garden ended and any promise of eternal life for them ended that day. But on the other hand, the God of mercy and grace, bestowed upon them His forgiveness.
“As Jesus was walking along the way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before Him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good except God alone.’” (Mark 10:17-18)
We may get into this “eternal life” question at some time, but I would like to ponder Jesus statement that “No one is good except God alone”. Have you ever run into someone who said, “The God of the Old Testament was mean, angry and harsh”? Perhaps you have said it yourself! Or maybe you know someone who thinks that God cannot be good because there is so much suffering in the world.
Since the beginning of time, from when Adam and Eve were created, has there been anyone who has known God the Father better than the Son of God, Jesus Christ? In the book of Matthew 11:27 Jesus makes this statement, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” If ever there was a tight relationship it would have to be between God, the Creator of all things, and His Son, the Savior of all mankind.
A question for you: has the Son of God chosen to reveal to you the Heavenly Father? This is a very personal question. Many people go around talking about Jesus and how He has done many things in their lives; they preface their prayers with “Dear Lord” and so address our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But in Matthew 6:9, Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father …” And I very seldom hear people talk about what the Father has done for them in their lives.
And so it is good to understand your relationship with Jesus. It is also good to develop a closeness to the Father of all mankind. Jesus tells us He is good. Let’s let the scriptures tell us how good He really is.
Shall we take a look at a couple of verses from the book of Isaiah and consider his thoughts about our God and Father? “So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” (Is. 41:10&13) This One who desires to take hold of our right hand is God. Some may incorrectly state that the God of the Old Testament is harsh – but the God I serve wants, yes desires, my love and attention. He wants to strengthen and help me. Jeremiah tells it this way, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentation 3:21-26)
“He does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) Oh, there is so much more - God is good, all the time!!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of (faithful) witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
How strong was the faith of Jesus Christ? To be slightly glib, I would say that on a scale of 1 to 10, He was at a 12!! He came down from heaven (from the heavenly throne room of the Father) and became flesh.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians 2:5-8, says this, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Our Savior went to the cross for us. As He hung there, losing every drop of blood unto death, He had to have profound faith that He would be brought up unto resurrection from the grave by the mighty hand of the Father. And then we read in the book of Hebrews, quoted above, that He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”
If you have faith in what the Heavenly Father has done; if you have faith in what your Savior, Jesus Christ, has done; and if you have faith in the understanding that you are walking in the path of righteousness with your Father and His Son, then you can rejoice that your faith has been founded in Jesus Christ and will be perfected in Him. In his letter to the Galatians (2:20) Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Wow!! This is heavy stuff!! But whoever said the Bible was light? These words of Paul are not things to be read over and forgotten – they are the truth of God and they are facts.
The good news here is that our Heavenly Father and His Son love us so much that “We have been given everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) Paul says as much in his letter to the Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
But you must take the next step. You must ponder, you must meditate upon whether you have received this calling (yes this calling, right here in the words of this article) and that you have prepared the soil of your heart so as to receive the seeds of the Gospel and to become one of the chosen ones of God. In Acts 2:38, Peter told us what to do, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Do you have the faith to take this step? “And with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Some might feel that the activity of having faith is as easy as falling off a log (I’ve never actually done that! – fallen off a log, that is!). We have been considering faith – the faith that Abraham had – and that it involves much more than just some mental exercise. It truly involves some kind of activity, just as Abraham’s faith did!
Ultimately, what are we looking for? As I see it, God has given us life so that we might begin a journey toward Him! A good word to use here would be “relationship.” God wants to have a relationship with His creation, yes, with His children. Isn’t that what we are looking for?
But one thing the scriptures teach us is that our God is Holy and we are not; and that presents a problem, because that which is unholy cannot draw near to that which is holy. This we know, for the scriptures also teach us that we need to be redeemed from our unholiness, our sinful nature. God, in His wisdom and understanding, has, from the foundation of the world, considered and provided for our needs in this case. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Whoever believes in Him” … Did you catch that? Faith or belief is involved here!
OK, so back to my question, ultimately, what are we looking for? In a word, we are looking for righteousness! It is righteousness that will bring us into a relationship with our Heavenly Father and because we have no righteousness of our own, we must be redeemed by Jesus Christ and so accept His righteousness through the blood of His sacrifice. Do you believe that Jesus’ blood imputes righteousness to you so that you might fellowship with the Father?
We have come a long way in just a short space; allow me to insert here a quote from my daughter, Cynthia Saladin, “If God is your God and you want fellowship with Him, the law is part and parcel of your relationship with Him. It defines what is acceptable conduct in His presence. The law is a reflection of the character of God.” I know I am prejudice toward my daughter but that statement says a mouthful!! Remember what James said, “Faith without works is dead.” A short perusal of the faith chapter in the book of Hebrews should give us understanding here, “By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did, and thereby was commended as a righteous man … By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family … By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going …by faith, Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, … because they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” (Hebrews 11:4-23) We could go on but I believe we see that each of these (and more) were commended for their faith by doing something.
Oh yes, faith is a huge subject – there is still more to come!!
“You have faith that there is one God. Good! But even the demons believe that and shudder.” (James 2:19) This is quite an interesting verse. And one that should make us stop and think about our belief system. There are many people in our society that say they believe in God, and they will even say that they believe in the God of the Bible. But this same Bible tells us that this kind of belief is no better than the belief of Satan and his minions.
In our previous article I mentioned that Jesus says in John 8:39, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Are you a child of Abraham? In Romans 4:11 we read, “So then, he (Abraham) is the father of all who believe …”; and again in Galatians 3:29 “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Well, only you can answer the question as to whether you are Abraham’s offspring or not, and only you can answer the question as to if you are doing the works that Abraham did.
Friends and brethren, this is an important discussion. We have been considering the scripture in Rev. 17:4 concerning the “called, the chosen and the faithful.” Each one of these concepts builds upon the next – for how can you be a chosen one of God if you have never been called and to whom are you to be faithful if God has not chosen you? Can you begin to grasp the depth of all this? Those who are “called, chosen and faithful” are those who will accompany our Savior in the last days as Satan is being defeated and Christ is beginning the process of setting up the Kingdom of God on this earth!!!
Let’s consider the word “faithful”. First, let’s notice it does not say “faithsome.”
OK, my computer is telling me that I just made that word up; but you get the point, our faith must be full and not just partial.
Remember the incident in Mark 9:14-28, where a certain man asked Jesus to cast a demon out of his son? The man’s words were, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus’ response was, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes. And immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief!’” Jesus cast the demon out of the child but the father’s reply is one that we all share: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Our God is loving and kind and merciful and full of grace toward His children, He does help our unbelief, but we must do as the father did and ask. This subject of faith is not an easy one. The word itself is tied in with the concept of obedience. In the book of Hebrews we see that when the Israelites sinned in the wilderness and refused to enter the promised land, they were punished for their unbelief: “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 because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18-19)
Oh yes – there is still more to come. We are just coming to the part where the rubber meets the road!!
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.
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.