Have You Prepared to Meet God?

My wife, Sandy, and I took her parents to Scotland on vacation while we were living in England. When it started to get dark one evening, we had to look for a hotel along the road. We passed some black-painted wrought iron gate with a sign over it saying, Black Barony Hotel. We couldn’t see the buildings from the gate, so we decided to check it out. Because of the time of day, and the wrought iron gates, we started to joke among the four of us, saying that we were going to the tower of terror and that it would probably be a haunted castle. The road kept winding around through trees, giving us more time to imagine what this place was going to be like! We wondered if they might have a butler who looked like “Igor” from the movie Young Frankenstein. I pictured Marty Feldman’s face greeting us at the door.

As we came through the trees, sure enough it was a castle—a very large castle without a single car in the parking lot! As we got out of the car, a man with a severe hunchback approached us from the door. He actually did have one wandering eye as well, though he looked nothing like Marty Feldman. To cap it off, over the door were these words in large letters; Prepare to Meet Your God, Amos 4:12, words found in Scripture. It gets better! The man who met us at the door told us that we were the only people that were staying in the hotel that night; 75 other rooms were empty. Evidently, they had a tour party that had cancelled at the last minute! Sandy and I slept that night in a four-poster bed in which King James had once slept. (Yes, THAT King James, as in the King James Bible.) This was a claim to fame for the hotel. It was a terrible bed, by the way, with a big dip in the middle. I am sure it could not have been the same mattress, but it felt like it could have been around since the 1600s! We found out later that the Bible verse above the door was for soldiers that had used the hotel to stay while they were training for war to prepare them to face eternity if they were lost in battle.

It is a good thing to prepare now to meet your God on that day. That sign stuck in my mind: “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” Over the next three or four days, we will look at preparing for death and judgment and how it will affect each one of us. We may not want to think of that time, but Scripture tells us that we will all need to give an account at the end of our lives when God determines that our time has come.

Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).

Death is a subject that most people try to avoid. J. Kirby Anderson got it right when he said, “Death is the most universal and most democratic of all human functions. It strikes people at any time with little respect for age, class, creed, or color.”[1] Death has a 100% success rate, and yet the majority of people still refuse to discuss or think about the topic. Woody Allen’s often-quoted remark is, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

As much as we try to avoid it, death does not go away. All of us must face it without exception. It does not matter how much money you have, or what kind of insurance you carry. It is simply a matter of time. None of us knows how much time is ahead for us. The remarkable thing about it is that, even though we know we cannot escape it, many of us will do anything to avoid thinking about it, and many people will do little to prepare for it. An article in the Boston Globe some while ago listed the well-known people that had died in that particular year, saying that they had gone to join “the great majority.” Death, we might say, is the great certainty, and those who have died are the great majority.

An epitaph on a tombstone reads, “Stop, as you pass by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now you will surely be, so prepare yourself to follow me!” One person scrawled underneath, “To follow you, I’m not content until I know the way you went!” The passerby was right. It’s important to know where one is going at death, but when we are pointed in the right direction, we should prepare ourselves for what lies beyond. We’ll carry on this thought tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

[1] J. Kirby Anderson, Life, Death and Beyond (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p.9.

Who Are Those Who Have Been Bought by God?

The Book of Revelation is a book in the Bible devoted to future things that God gave the apostle John. John is taken outside of regular time to a time yet future to us. He sees things that “must soon take place” on earth (Revelation 1:1). He sees the Lord Jesus Christ as a Lamb, “looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne” (Revelation 5:6). He is the only one that is worthy to open a scroll sealed with seven seals. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the scroll represents but theologians and scholars believe that the scroll is the title deed to planet earth. When the Lord Jesus comes forward and takes the scroll from God the Father, seated on the throne of heaven, a song of praise to the Lord Jesus is sung by those that are there:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10 Emphasis mine).

We are told of two things. 1) The Lord Jesus Christ, represented as a Lamb, has purchased people with His blood. 2) These people are from every tribe, language, people and nation. Let’s look at the first thought. The Bible says,

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7-9).

No man can buy another out from under the curse of sin that pervades the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ was the only one who could pay the ransom price to deliver us from Satan’s slave market. Eternal justice has placed a penalty on anyone who sins—the penalty is death (Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23). Not just physical death, but separation from God for eternity. The whole of mankind, because of our sin, is seen to be in Satan’s slave market of sin. There is only one way out—God Himself would take the guilty person’s fate upon Himself. God came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to pay the price of death as the just payment for our sin. With His blood He has purchased a people to Himself.

Let’s now look at our second thought, who are the people whom He has purchased? Are they only from the West? No! They are from every nation, tribe and language on Earth! You that are reading this in India, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and China—you, along with all nations, are the ones that He has purchased to Himself. Do you have a God like that? One that will come and take the worst that Satan and fallen humanity can throw at Him and still love us enough to cry from the cross with His last breath—“It is finished” (John 19:30). This English phrase in the original Greek language of the New Testament is the word tetelestai. It literally means, “paid in full.” Do you realize that full payment for the deeds of your sin was fully paid nearly two thousand years ago? The God of heaven loves you so much that He came and paid the ransom price for you. Do you believe this? Believing requires you to turn from everything displeasing the One who has paid the price of buying you out from Satan’s dominion (Colossians 1:13). Repent (turn from your sin to following Christ) and believe the Good news of your being purchased from Satan. I look forward to seeing you when our Lord Jesus comes for His purchased possession! Keith Thomas

Who Will Pay Your Debt of Sin?

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul uses the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus? Keith Thomas

The Main Thing Must be the Main Thing

I have spent a lot of time at sea being a commercial fisherman in my younger years. When you are out there in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the Dover straits of England, you get to see all kinds of boats and ships designed for all kinds of jobs. But for us as fishermen, our purpose was to catch fish. It could have been easy to waste time doing all kinds of things out at sea that we were not designed for. Now that God has called me to work on His net, I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I invested myself doing things that wasted a lot of time, energy and money. The main thing must be the main thing! What is the main thing the church of Jesus Christ is called to spend herself on? Paul says that it is the gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ, when it is presented correctly and believed, brings about a radical change in the very core being of the believer. Paul, in the passage above, called it the power of God. Without this encounter with Christ, there is no change within:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Every effort of the Church is to preach the gospel to bring about this change in the hearts of people all over this world. Some people believe that if they work hard at reforming their lives and live like a Christian, that is being a Christian. Let me tell you something important: You cannot become a Christian by living the Christian life. To live the Christian life, you have to have the Spirit of Christ living in you. He is the only One that can live the Christian life. Here is how Merrill Tenney put it,

“Christianity is not a system of philosophy, nor a ritual, nor a code of laws; it is the impartation of a divine vitality. Without the way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing, without the life there is no living.”[1]

You must have Christ in you, living and seated on the throne room of the temple of your life. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

We can help feed people, we can teach them to have better marriages, we can bring them into community with others, but if we do not help them to see that they need the main thing—to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), all our efforts are for nothing. The main thing is to help each person we can to be born-again of the Spirit and living the life of Christ. This is not the job of the professionals or the gifted leaders; it is the job of all that name the name of Christ. I am convinced that if we can help each Christian to learn how to share the gospel, a revival will break out that will be world wide.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).

As Christians, we should be ready and prepared at any time to share the essence of what the gospel is, and how the person interested can know peace with God through what Christ has done for them.

Keith Thomas

[1] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948) Pages 215-216.

Step by Step Vision

We are continuing to think on the life and call of Abraham. When God originally spoke of the step of faith that He was requiring of Abram, He gave large brush strokes on the canvas of the vision. The initial call in Ur of the Chaldeans was to get up and leave the area that is now in South East Iraq. They travelled northwest following the Euphrates river until they came to Harran, a city in Northwest Mesopotamia, now Iraq. The distance to Haran was about 2000 miles. We don’t know how long they stopped in Haran but this was where Abram’s father Terah, died. Abram was seventy-five years old when God spoke to him to leave Harran and go the 800 miles further to the land He would show him. Imagine being seventy-five years old and God speaking to you to leave the comfort of Haran to go to Canaan. Most of us just want the comforts of home at that age.

It is natural for us to want to know the details of the vision before we take the first step, but that is not the way God leads. If God would show you the end at the beginning, you may not be ready for it, or it may scare you, causing you to drift along the path rather than being propelled by faith. God gives us just enough vision to propel us forward. A boat can never be steered when it is drifting. It is only as it is going through the water that it can be easily steered by a small rudder. Begin to step out in faith and allow God to operate the steering mechanism of your life. Remember Psalm 119:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Where does the Lord shine His light? He shines the light of revelation, His Word, on where the next step is, at the feet. We don’t see far ahead, just the next step. You just have to trust Him for the next step.

Only when Abram arrives in Canaan does God give more specifics concerning the future (Genesis 12:7), specifically that to his offspring God would give the land that Abram was walking on. He was told that God would make a great nation from his seed and that He would bless him and make his name great, and that those who bless him and his descendants, will be blessed in return. We are also told that those who curse his descendants will themselves be cursed of God. We should be careful about our attitude towards the Jewish people for the Lord says that He, “has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). We might not agree with all the policies of the government of Israel, but the people of Israel and the seed of Abraham are precious to God. His Word is eternal, and He still stands by it. We are called to bless those whom God is blessing and the faith of Abraham is what we Gentiles have been rooted into: do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:18).

Can you look back and see that God has grown your faith step by step? I’ll bet that there are things you are doing now which you never dreamed of doing in your younger years.

Keith Thomas