Raise Your Hand – The Inevitable Penalty

choir
Raise Your Hand

God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. —John 3:17

The St. Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to make the choir their first priority and commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.

One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.

I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).

As members of Christ’s body on Earth, we should not fear admitting our wrongs but welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.

Lord, it’s our tendency to hide our sins and flaws. May we come to You in full honesty, understanding that we are loved and forgiven by You.

For further help in understanding the gift of forgiveness, read The Forgiveness of God at discoveryseries.org/q0602

We can’t put our sins behind us until we are ready to face them.

By Julie Ackerman Link

Cross on a Mountain
The Inevitable Penalty

You will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. —Matthew 5:26

There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it. God is determined to make you pure, holy, and right, and He will not allow you to escape from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit for even one moment. He urged you to come to judgment immediately when He convicted you, but you did not obey. Then the inevitable process began to work, bringing its inevitable penalty. Now you have been “thrown into prison, [and]…you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (5:25-26). Yet you ask, “Is this a God of mercy and love?” When seen from God’s perspective, it is a glorious ministry of love.

God is going to bring you out pure, spotless, and undefiled, but He wants you to recognize the nature you were exhibiting— the nature of demanding your right to yourself. The moment you are willing for God to change your nature, His recreating forces will begin to work. And the moment you realize that God’s purpose is to get you into the right relationship with Himself and then with others, He will reach to the very limits of the universe to help you take the right road. Decide to do it right now, saying, “Yes, Lord, I will write that letter,” or, “I will be reconciled to that person now.”

These sermons of Jesus Christ are meant for your will and your conscience, not for your head. If you dispute these verses from the Sermon on the Mount with your head, you will dull the appeal to your heart.

If you find yourself asking, “I wonder why I’m not growing spiritually with God?”— then ask yourself if you are paying your debts from God’s standpoint. Do now what you will have to do someday. Every moral question or call comes with an “ought” behind it— the knowledge of knowing what we ought to do.

by Oswald Chambers

When God Speaks – Graphic Truth

When God Speaks

1 Samuel 3:1-21

The story of Samuel and how he learned to recognize God’s voice provides an important lesson for all believers. The Bible tells us that in Samuel’s day, communication from the Lord—by word or vision—was rare (1 Samuel 3:1). At the same time, we are informed in verse 12 that God had been saying a lot to the priest Eli about his family and their evil conduct. It appears, however, that there had been very little listening.

Fortunately, young Samuel put an end to all that. At first he, too, was unable to recognize God’s voice. Even though he was immersed in religious activity, the Bible tells us that the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him (1 Samuel 3:7). When God first spoke to Samuel, the boy had to appeal to his religious superiors before he could understand what was going on.

What this suggests is that when we think we hear God’s voice, we shouldn’t hesitate to discuss it with our spiritual leaders or other mature Christians. Prayer and wise consultation of this sort can help recognize who really is speaking. The devil seeks to imitate the voice of God, so we must carefully discern the source of the message.

Once we hear from God and get our bearings spiritually, we must not shrink from testifying to what we heard. At first Samuel was fearful about sharing the message with Eli, but he finally did so. And remember, we should never ask God to speak if we are not prepared to act on the message we hear.


Graphic Truth

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet…. Revelation 12:1

Many of us grew up reading comic books and tossing them away, never realizing they’d become collectors’ items. One rare edition recently sold for $1.5 million. Nor has the industry declined. In recent years, comic books have given way to graphic novels—longer illustrated books done in the comic book style.

The book of Revelation isn’t comical and it’s not a novel, but it is graphic. Its pages contain graphic images that illustrate themselves in our minds—the beast, the dragon, the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet.” Revelation is drawn up as a series of panels and pictures that graphically reveal the future. Its symbolism is just as relevant and powerful today as when the apostle John gave it.

As you read Revelation, close your eyes and try to visualize its apocalyptic images. You may not comprehend every word, but the more we meditate on this book, the better we’ll understand it and the more excited we’ll become for the unfolding future God has in store for us.

Think of Revelation more as a picture than a puzzle. If you expect to figure out the book completely, you will probably be disappointed. If you expect to meet the glorified Christ in His Revelation, you will be deeply satisfied. Woodrow Kroll

Recommended Reading: Revelation 12:1-8

Light for Every Man

“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9)

The Bible clearly teaches that faith in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ is essential for salvation. Jesus Himself said: “I am the way . . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

This means that there is no salvation whatsoever in Islam or Buddhism, and certainly not in evolutionary humanism—or anything other than faith in Christ!

But what about the millions over the ages who have lived and died without ever hearing about Christ? Paul answers: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18). That is, they have heard! Our text reminds us that Jesus Christ is the true Light that has been sent to every man in the world. Paul was referring to the familiar 19th Psalm, which reminds us that God’s glory is declared by the heavens themselves.

Paul also stressed that even God’s “eternal power and Godhead” are “clearly seen” “from the creation of the world,” so that those who don’t see are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Thus, as Peter said, “in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). Although Christ has provided at least some light for “every man,” the tragedy is that “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). But for those like Cornelius (to whom Peter was sent with the gospel—Acts 10) who act on whatever light they have (in nature or conscience or any possible remnants of primeval truth in their native religion), God will send more light, for “he that doeth truth cometh to the light” (John 3:21). HMM

A Model for Other Churches

So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. —1 Thessalonians 1:7-8

I would like to see a church become so godly, so Spirit-filled that it would have a spiritual influence on all of the churches in the entire area. Paul told some of his people, “ye were ensamples to all that believe” and “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

It is entirely right that I should hope this of you. I could hope that we might become so Spirit-filled, walking with God, learning to worship, living so clean and so separated that everybody would know it, and the other churches in our area would be blessed on account of it….

There is no reason why we could not be a people so filled with the Spirit, so joyfully singing His praises and living so clean in our business and home and school that the people and other churches would know it and recognize it.

Please, Lord, enable us to be models of godliness, spirit-filled victory, joy and worship. Amen.

God Is Always at the Controls of the Universe

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…. Genesis 1:31

I do not know why God does some things, but I am convinced that nothing is accidental in His universe. In the creation chapters of Genesis there is a beautiful exercise in utility—God making an orderly world for a purpose, with everything having a reason for existence.

If I am allowed to go into a hospital operating room, I am completely ignorant about the uses for most of the strange and complex facilities. But the surgeon knows each one and none of those instruments is there by accident.

If I could step into the cab of one of the great, powerful diesel locomotives, I would be perplexed by the many buttons and handles and bars. I could wreck the whole thing in a few minutes. But the engineer knows—and he gets the proper results when he pushes the proper switches and the right buttons.

So, when God Almighty stepped into the cab of His locomotive, which we call the cosmos, He was at the controls and He has always pushed the right buttons.

Just because there are things in the universe beyond my human explanation does not allow me to accuse God of making a lot of unnecessary truck to clutter up the universe. God made everything for some purpose!

Warning in the Gospel

He that believeth not is condemned already. JOHN 3:18

When God warns a nation or a city, a church or a person, it is a grievous sin to ignore such warning. In conservative Christianity, we believe that the Christian message does indeed contain an element of alarm, but not all Christians believe this.

Some have been taught that the Christian gospel is “good news exclusively.” They believe that the only way to explain the full meaning of the Christian gospel is to quote one verse: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (see Acts 16:31).

“That is it! That is all there is to it,” they say.

They surely need to be reminded that in the use of language, it is impossible to make certain definite statements without bringing to mind that which is exactly opposite. So, when the Scriptures admonish us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, there comes to our mind the fact of mankind’s lost condition and the starkly plain message to those who do not believe: “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Lord, Your Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20) tells us to spread Your good news around the world. I pray especially for those involved in creative efforts to share the gospel in countries where preaching Christ is forbidden.