Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Come Unto Me"Turning the Heart to Christ

by Joseph Warren Grammer
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2002 Joseph Warren Grammer

ISBN: 0-7596-6477-3 (Hardback/dust cover)
ISBN: 0-7596-6476-5 (Paperback/perfect binding)

Cover art 2001 by A. D. Shaw


"Come Unto Me" - Introduction

The reason for presenting this book is to help others come unto Jesus Christ, and receive a personal witness that He lives—that He is the Great Jehovah, the Savior and Redeemer of the world who is coming again to redeem His people, to rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The book is directed at helping many refocus their spiritual commitment upon Jesus the Christ, assisting them in becoming more worthy disciples of the Master with a greater conversion to His name and teachings. The book also addresses what is expected of those who covenant and commit their life to Christ.

To develop as a true Christian you must constantly ask yourself, "Why do I want to be a disciple of Christ?" "What does my Father in Heaven require of me?" "What examples did Jesus Christ set for me to follow?" "What is required of me after I commit my life to the Savior?" "And am I willing to pay the price to obtain His approval?" It is easy to do what everyone else does, but is that what pleases God? And is that what you really want?

When you begin to feel a need for a closer relationship with God, your mind and heart become stirred. Your old formulas for living no longer seem valid, and you start to have trouble with your current way of life. The growing knowledge you start to receive from teachers, books, scriptures, and the Spirit is like parts of a jigsaw puzzle. At first you know the parts are valuable, but you don’t always know what to do with them. Then, one day things begin to fit, and you discover where the odd pieces belong. That is why only one reading of a good book is not enough, as only one reading of the scriptures is not enough. It must be read and reread until you fully understand what the author is trying to say. Many skim over a lot of important ideas, thinking that they have read them before. They may have, but did they understand them? Did they really consider and ponder them?

This book is not for the nominal churchgoer but for the honest in heart who yearns for true Christian meaning in his life. Real Christianity, in the full sense of the meaning, is a twenty-four hour a day, 365-day a year commitment. Anything less than this is not true Christianity, but only perfunctory religious adherence. God has His ways, which are usually different from ours. Hopefully, these chapters will help the reader understand and begin implementing the Lord’s way to come unto Him for true meaning in life. It is hoped that what is presented is a start in opening up spiritual horizons for the reader in his relationship with his Savior. In presenting this book it is also my hope to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ our Redeemer, exalt His holy name, and in some small way, help bring our Father’s children back to Him.

We are at the end of the "last days." We are now living at that great day which ancient prophets have looked forward to with faith, the day the earth will be cleansed, the day of the Lord’s wrath, and the day of His coming in glory and the setting of things in their proper order. We haven’t the time to procrastinate any longer. We have to get on with our relationship with God in a meaningful way. We have to truly turn our hearts toward Christ. Therefore, I feel that the subject-matter of this book, and other books with the same theme, is of the utmost importance right now—today.

While reading through the chapters that follow, you are invited to use your scriptures in following the biblical references cited for a fuller understanding of that which is presented.

I have only tried to present that which I felt impressed to write as the Spirit of the Lord dictated. However, I know that I am not always in tune with that Spirit as I would like. Consequently, I do not claim infallibility in anything I do, for I am only a man and still fall into some of those pits that are dug by the adversary. Therefore, I would hope that the reader will glean from these chapters what he or she feels impressed by the Spirit to receive and, in a spirit of kindness, dismiss the remainder.

— Joseph Warren Grammer

NOTE: The reader will notice that Chapters 2 and 5 are not included. Those chapters have been edited and enlarged, and added to the book, Truth Eternal: Answers to Life’s Greatest Question. Chapter 2 and 5 become Chapters 7 and 8, respectfully for that book. Please refer to that book for these chapters.

CHAPTER 1: The Crowning Event

To help us have a fuller understanding of the love of Jesus Christ, let’s begin this chapter with a review of the climactic events of His temporal existence. Pondering the earthly life and character of Jesus, we must not overlook the fact that He was not only divine, He was also human. In His heart rested a deep and abiding love for a world of lost brothers and sisters. His willingness to be approachable and publicly associated with known sinners, and to share the shame of their iniquity, shows the unmeasured charity and condescension which He showed toward all. Never was He known to turn a deaf ear to a plea for relief of anguish, pain or suffering.

Our Savior was born of a mortal mother and an Immortal Father. (Luke 1:26-35.) That birth gave Him the weaknesses of human mortality but the attributes of God. He could choose which of these two attributes He would exercise during His earthly ministry as He worked out His own salvation, as each of us must do. He had the option of exercising His agency, or free will, by making choices. The fact that He made choices throughout His life here in this wicked world is amply attested to in scripture.

The climax of the Masters’s perfect life came in the garden of Gethsemane, and from there to His being proven on Calvary’s hill. As we learn of this willing sacrifice in the garden and upon the cross, we find the world’s supreme example of unwavering devotion to the Father’s will. Obedience to His Father’s wish was His only desire, and salvation for His Father’s children His only concern.

The Upper Room
After leaving the upper room on the night of His betrayal, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, located across the brook Kedron, and at the foot of Mount Olivet. The evening preceding the crucifixion, Gethsemane became the scene of the beginning of our Savior’s agony for the sins of all mankind.

While in Gethsemane, the scriptures point out, Jesus was accompanied by three of His most trusted friends, Peter, James, and John. He said to them, "... sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.... My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me." (Matt. 26:36-38; Mark 14:32-34.) Then, as the record indicates, He "went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed." (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35.)

Let’s ask, why did He fall on his face? Was it because He was overwhelmed with the realization of the great commission He took upon Himself to be the one and only Messiah, the Savior of the world? (Isa. 43:3, 11.) Was our Lord "wrestling" within Himself? Was He weak because of the stress of trying to conform His will to the will of the Father? On this point the scriptures are not clear. It is unfortunate, though, that many of us do not allow Our Savior enough credit for being mortal, and for having human feelings as mortals have. Yes, our Lord did have mortal weaknesses, but He never gave in to those that were sinful as we often do. (Heb. 4:15.)

As we recall the event, the scriptures say that Jesus prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:37; Mark 14:36.) It was as if He was saying, "I know what has to be done, but is there another way?" Perhaps, as with Abraham and Isaac, the Father had another option. Nevertheless, if there was no other way, He was willing to do His Father’s will.

The Savior was not trying to shirk His duty. He knew full well what it was. He knew that besides Him there was to be no other savior. It was a hard task He took upon Himself. First and foremost, though, Jesus was more desirous of the divine plan than serving His own interests. He was willing to suffer, if need be, for those who could not save themselves. The love of Christ was so great that He chose to sacrifice His pleasures for our eternal joy.

The scriptures continue the story by saying that the Master went to His disciples whom He left to watch: "... and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:40-45; Mark 14:37-38; Luke 22:39-46.) The scriptures attest to the fact that He did this three times.

Perhaps what Jesus was trying to share with His disciples was that He had to go through something that they could not comprehend. Possibly it was His spirit that was willing, and indeed, it was His flesh that was weak. He had a choice to make: His Godly spirit was willing to follow the plan, but His mortal body, subject to infirmities, was weak.

The agony of Jesus started in the garden. We are told that He began to be "sorrowful and very heavy." He told His disciples, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." (Matt. 26:37-38; Mark 14:33-34.) However, Luke records a more complete account of what took place. "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44.)

Why was He sorrowful even unto death? Was it because He knew that the next day He would be crucified? No! It was because He knew He had to suffer for the sins of all of the Father’s children, and that His suffering was to start in that Garden — alone. The agony He endured in Gethsemane, in solitude, would later be crowned by His suffering and death on the cross, which would then be observed by the world.

Jesus had a choice to make: His Godly spirit was willing to follow the plan, but His mortal body, subject to infirmities, was weak. What our Redeemer experienced in the garden when He bled at every pore we may never know, at least in this mortal life. And the suffering He endured at this time we cannot now comprehend. Rest assured, however, that His suffering was such that no one who has ever lived on this earth, or who ever will live on this earth, has, or will, suffer to the extent that Jesus suffered.

It has always been believed that Jesus made an atonement for sin while on the cross. This is partly true. That is where the atonement culminated. However, with all due respect to the cross and its tremendous importance, most of Christendom has overlooked the relevance of the previous garden scene and its unparalleled significance. Here is where the Son of God began the atonement of spilling His blood for the sins of the world.

The anguish that our Redeemer underwent was of such magnitude that the suffering caused the greatest of all to tremble because of pain and bleed at every pore. Suffering both body and spirit, His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44.)

God uses a lot of symbolism in teaching His people, as the Bible clearly shows when we read through it. The name, Gethsemane, means "oil-press." The garden could have been named after an olive press that was kept there for the extracting of oil from the olives grown in the area. Olives were placed in soft wicker baskets that were then squeezed in a screw-press. As the press was turned, hundreds of pounds of pressure were exerted to force the oil out of the olives, which oil flowed into crocks.

Try to recall, which may be difficult to do, all the pain, suffering, and agony you have so far experienced in your life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — all of it. For some that’s quite a lot. Place all that pain inside you at one time. Can you imagine the agony? Now take all the pain that all the members of your family have experienced, or ever will experience, and place those pains inside of you also. Consider all the pain everyone in your city, state, country, and even the world has experienced, and also receive those pains at the same time. We cannot even begin to comprehend all of that pain at once. Yet Jesus did. It was so great that He appealed to the Father, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." He didn’t ask it just once, He asked it three times. Nevertheless, He knew it was His offering that was necessary. There was to be no other way. The pressure within Him was so enormous that some of His capillaries probably burst, and blood oozed and dripped to the ground. As stated before, man cannot comprehend the agony Jesus must have suffered for all the world’s sin.

We must remember, the Master was not forced, but He chose, by means of His free will, to atone for the sins of the world. Sins have been and are being committed. Justice must be satisfied and penalties paid, and our benevolent Benefactor chose to pay those penalties for all of mankind. The overwhelming weight of this single act has never been known by mortal man, other than our Lord and Savior, Himself.

Jesus grappled with the choice to be made, and His mind was probably open in remembrance of the faith of past disciples. From the beginning of time, those disciples trusted in His coming atonement and made their choices to follow Him — sacrificing their lives for righteousness’ sake. It is likely that He reflected back many hundreds of years when the Prophet Isaiah received the words of the Lord: "For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy one of Israel, thy Savior ... I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior." (Isa. 43:3, 11.) With confidence, with hope, with adoration, with expectation, those past prophets and faithful saints looked forward to the coming of their Messiah. Our Savior knew it. Could He let them down? No, He could not!

There are those who suffer such torture of body and mind that they actually give up struggling and die. As we try to imagine torment, sorrow, pain and anguish of all types, the pain that Jesus endured in that Garden was still the greatest of all. With crushing blows from the world of sin, He could have shrunk and died, but He did not. He knew it was not to be finished in that manner, so He endured it.

The great Messianic prophet, Isaiah, spoke prophetically for our coming Redeemer. While in Gethsemane, alone, as His disciples slept, Jesus says, "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and there blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment." (Isa. 63:3.) "...And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44.)

While going through the abuses of being slapped in the face, odiously spit upon, mocked with repulsive words and treacherous accusations at illegal trials, scourged with a whip wherein strands were woven with sharp pieces of metal and broken bone until His back was raw, having a crown of thorns pressed into His brow (Matt. 26:67-68, 27:26; Mark 14:65, 15:15; Luke 22:63-65; John 19:1), the Master, with His Godlike powers, could have destroyed the whole lot of them. To Pilate He proclaimed, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." (John 19:11.) Nevertheless, as the God He was, Jesus suffered it in meekness and lowliness of heart. He accepted the long and arduous journey to the mount of Golgotha with a crown of needle-like thorns pressed into His brow, resulting in punctures and gashes from which seeped and dripped more of His priceless blood. There, on Golgotha, with few words, He preached His second, and greatest, sermon on the mount.

The Crowning Event
Without deviation of duty, our Savior painfully hung on the cross with metal spikes driven mercilessly into His hands and feet by blows from a large steel hammer, and had His parched and tender lips saturated with bitter vinegar and gall. As He thus hung upon that wooden tree, He raised His precious head toward His Heavenly Father and fervently pleaded for His brutal slayers, saying with all the love, forgiveness and meekness that only a God could summon: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34.) Even in the last moments of mortal life, racked with agony and pain, our benevolent exemplar was filled with great charity and an unfailing sense of forgiveness.

One of the thieves which was crucified along side of Him mockingly said, "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." (Matt. 27:38; Luke 23:39.) Our Master, with the power of God, could have gotten Himself down and shown to those wicked persecutors who He really was; for as He said to the accusing Jews, "... I lay down my life ... No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." (John 10:17-18.) However, if Jesus had saved Himself, would He have been any better than they? Therefore, having no personal pride, He meekly subordinated Himself to the will of the Father and the eternal hope of His Father’s children. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)

Then, "when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour." (Mark 15:33.)

Something happened at this time that had not happened before. The Only Begotten was left to finish His work alone, without any spiritual support. Even in the garden of Gethsemane an angel strengthened Him. (Luke 22:43.) However, here there was none to lend support as He writhed in agony upon that terrible cross. Even the Father removed Himself from His Son.

In agony, and in anguish of soul, as though in shock and surprise, Jesus anxiously cried out through quivering lips with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34.) Of all the friends that have forsaken Him and denied Him, now His closest friend, God the Father, was also gone from Him.

Jesus was left alone for the first time to see what He would do. He was left to His own will. Would He get Himself down from the cross of pain and death? Would He stay and finish the work His Father sent Him to do? The Son of God had a choice to make. He had His free will to exercise. Like the rest of mankind, He was no different; He had to also be proven in all things. He had to discover for Himself that of which He was made.

God never bestows great blessings upon His people without providing heavy trials in order to prove them — to prove those individuals to see if they will keep their covenants with Him and keep in remembrance what He has done for them. For this express purpose, the Father withdrew His spirit from the Son at the time of Jesus’ greatest need. Jesus had been with his Father, talked with Him, dwelt in His bosom, knew all about heaven and about creating the earth, about the transgression of man, what was needed to ransom the sinner, and recognized that He was the only one who was to redeem mankind, and the earth itself, from all sin. The light, knowledge, power, and glory with which He was clothed exceeded that of all others. Consequently, at the very moment, at the very hour when the time came for Him to offer the supreme sacrifice, the Father withdrew Himself — withdrew His Spirit so Jesus would have to endure His trials alone. All was withdrawn from him. He pled with the Father not to forsake Him. Even so, He had to experience His trials just as we experience ours. He had to suffer what we suffer, that He might be a God of understanding, of compassion, of mercy, of grace, of love.

Without any heavenly comfort or support, but with all the individual strength His tortured body could muster, and His eternal spirit summon, the Master wrestled again within Himself. He chose to tread the wine-press alone. Eventually, with torn flesh and broken heart, our beloved Master finished the work of the Father. It is written: "Jesus cried with a loud voice ... It is finished ... Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Then bowing the head, He "gave up the ghost." (Matt. 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19.)

So as we rightfully worship and praise Him for His agonizing sacrifice on the cross, let us not forget His matchless agony in the garden. Let us praise Him for His gracious and unparalleled sorrow in Gethsemane where He also spilt great drops of blood for you and for me.

CHAPTER 2: The Great Intercessor

We are not perfect as Jesus was perfect, therefore, we cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven on our own. The Apostle Paul said, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Because Adam partook of the forbidden fruit it was appointed unto all men that they should die. Consequently, man was cut off both temporally and spiritually from God’s presence. Therefore, as the spirit never dies, and the fall had brought upon all mankind both a spiritual and temporal death (spiritually cut off from the presence of God, and dying physically) it was necessary that man be reclaimed from both deaths, the physical death as well as the spiritual. This reclamation was brought about in and through Jesus Christ; and the situation brings us to a question that bothers many people: Why must one person suffer for the sins of another in order to reclaim that individual? Perhaps this chapter might help answer that question.

For that understanding we must first accept that there is a universal law that says that when a law is broken, be it a natural law or manmade law, there is a consequence, be that consequence good or bad. When a law is broken a penalty is attached, and that penalty must be paid. Justice must be satisfied. Justice must claim the lawbreaker and execute the law and the punishment. Therefore, broken laws must be satisfied with a punishment. Justice demands payment, and because of man’s disobedience there was no way to reclaim him from his fallen state. He was in the grasp of justice — the justice of God which relegated man to be cut off from His presence forever. Therefore, a plan had to be devised whereby man could be redeemed from the fall. The plan would require a way to pay justice her lawful dues. It would also require an atoning sacrifice by one who had not sinned to appease the demands of justice.

As many know, a covenant is a contract — a contract of performance which involves two or more parties. The old Feudal system, during the dark and middle ages, was one of agreement between differing parties — one party being the sovereign ruler, or overlord, and the other being the vassal, slave, or follower. The sovereign-lord and the vassal made agreements that the vassal would perform in a certain manner for favors such as food, housing, protection, etc., that could be offered by the overlord.

A vassal does not necessarily have to be a slave or servant to the sovereign-lord; he could simply be subject to the him, or merely a follower of the same. God’s form of government for His kingdom is actually a feudal system, and it works because there is only one Sovereign Lord who can justly administer the system. During the old Feudal system, long ago, Satan used the weakness of carnal man to administer an unjust system; that old devil creating a counterfeit of God’s holy order.

But like God’s holy order, it also had accountability. When a vassal did wrong, not only did that servant have to pay for that wrong in some way, but his sovereign-lord was also responsible to the one above him to whom he was subject, and he had to make an accounting for the actions of those under him.

In the military there is a supreme commander, then others who fall under his command. The soldier in the field is to follow his file leader, and so it is with the order of heaven. Jesus does what the Father commands and what the Father has done, and we do what Jesus commands and what He has done. Jesus Christ is our file leader, our direct link to the Father. He pleads our case before the Father’s throne. The Mediator doesn’t stand and plead between man and Himself. God, our Heavenly Father, is real.

Under God’s divine plan, Jesus has sworn an oath that when we keep our covenants with Him, He is under obligation to accept and deliver us. Christ is accountable to the Father, who is His Sovereign. We are accountable to Christ as our Sovereign.

Because of our sins we are unclean and have disqualified ourselves from being able to pay the entire price for those sins. But because of our covenant with Jesus Christ, and because He is our Sovereign Lord, He took the full measure of responsibility upon Himself for us, even though He, personally, was not accountable for those transgressions.

Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, was a foreshadowing type of the sacrifice the Father was willing to make by offering His Son. In like manner, the Father gave us His only begotten son. Our Savior meekly took the necessary punishment upon Himself in the garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary, paying the price and atoning for that which we could not. In this way, we vassal-servants who have been faithful to Jesus secure salvation because our Overlord, Christ, honors His part of the covenant.

The word "atonement" in the Old Testament is taken from the Hebrew word, kaphar (kaw-far), which means to cover, appease, cancel, cleanse, forgive, mercy, pardon, purge away, or to reconcile. In the New Testament it is taken from the Greek word, katallage (kat-al-lag-ay’), meaning "restoration to the divine," and "reconciliation." Atonement does not mean "at-one-ment," as many want to believe. Some try to be cleaver when they dissect the word and think it means at-one-ment, meaning to be "one" with Jesus Christ. As important as becoming one with the Father and the Son truly is, the word atonement actually means to cover, cancel, cleanse, forgive, pardon, and reconcile the sinner. And although this purging and reconciliation is necessary to become one with our Lord, the word still does not mean "at-one-ment." The precious blood of Jesus was shed to cover our sins and wash them away, cleansing us of the disability of sin’s effect. Because of His blood we are forgiven and redeemed of God, being reconciled and restored unto the Father. The Sovereign-Lord vassal-servant relationship indeed works when there is truly a just King.

Jesus the Mediator
To enter into God’s glory, though, we must take upon us His name, keep His commandments, be willing to sacrifice as He sacrificed, and in meekness, endure all things until the end. There is something else that is needed besides such commitments, however. Even after all of this, because we are unclean, we still cannot enter the Father’s kingdom. Since we cannot go to the Father we need something more; and that something more is Jesus Christ, the only one who can do this. He will intercede for us. He is the great Mediator in our behalf so we "might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Heb. 9:15.)

The reason He can intercede is because He is the only perfect and "unspotted" one, and is the only clean one who can go before God the Father. He will appear before the throne of God, our Eternal Father, and in our behalf plead our case for us. He is the Counselor, and the only Counselor, who can represent us before the throne of Father in the courts of heaven. There is none other greater than He. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, saying, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:5-6.)

As stated earlier, when a law is broken, a penalty is attached, and that penalty must be paid. Justice must be satisfied. When there are laws, there is usually a punishment for the breaking of those laws. Justice demands the payment and executes the law, and the law inflicts the punishment upon the one breaking the law. Broken laws must be satisfied with a punishment; and our Savior meekly took that punishment upon Himself for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary. Perhaps a parable can help us understand how the atonement and mediation work.

There was once a man who incurred a great debt, which he was confident he could pay back in due time. However, the time quickly arrived when the debt was due, but the debtor was unable to prepare himself for its payment. The agreement demanded payment in full, or the debtor could be thrown into prison by the creditor and his property confiscated in lieu of the debt.

The debtor, not being able to pay the debt, pleaded to his creditor: "Could you give mercy and extend the agreement until I pull a few things together. Times have been hard."

But the creditor demanded, "It is just that you pay according to the agreement, for mercy only serves the debtor while I’m still holding the bag. Besides, you know the terms and had ample time to make payment."

There they were arguing with each other, one pleading for mercy while the other goes without justice, and the other demanding justice while the debtor goes without mercy. Justice had the edge because it had the agreement. Mercy, on the other hand, was not written into that agreement.

Now the debtor had an acquaintance who learned of his friend’s predicament. He knew the debtor quite well, and knew him to be a good man although quite incompetent at times. The acquaintance stood before the creditor as a mediator and said, "I’ll pay this man’s debts if you promise not to throw him into prison or confiscate his property. You get your money, the demands for justice will be satisfied, and his request for mercy will be granted."

"I’ll accept your offer," the creditor said. "Besides, if he goes to prison, it really does me no good, and his property isn’t worth the amount owed to me anyway. I will be satisfied."

The friend asked the debtor, "When I pay for your debt, will you agree to have me for your new creditor? Now you must realize that if you accept the offer you will be serving a new master, and there will be new terms required. You must repent of your attitude concerning many things, but I will teach you how. Rest assured, the terms will be worth it and I will provide a way for you. You will find peace and joy, for I will also be your friend."

The debtor, full of gratitude, humbly accepted his friend’s offer.

So there it was: the debtor’s friend paid the price, redeeming the debtor from the demands of justice while, at the same time, mercy was extended.

Our Savior, being the only Mediator between the Father and His children, explains to the Father the faithfulness of His children in keeping their covenants and that He, Jesus Christ, has paid the price for the violation of God’s laws; He became the surety, the one liable to pay the debt or obligation of another. "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament." (Heb. 7:22.) So, at this time, the Lord petitions the Father because of His faithful followers. The blood of the Son was shed that the demands of justice could be met, thereby glorifying the Father by providing a proxy for His fallen children. Jesus paid the price for sin, and His merciful grace satisfies the demands of justice.

Once the demands of justice are met and the law satisfied, the sinner (the one indebted to the lawful demands of justice) has the choice of accepting that payment in his behalf through repentance and making a new covenant, or he can choose not to accept that gift. Upon repentance, the mercy and grace of Christ claim the penitent. Our Redeemer then becomes the sinner’s advocate before the throne of God the Father. Writing to the Hebrews, Paul said, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:25.) So we come to understand that Jesus exists to be the mediator and make intercession for those who come to God through Him.

God’s mercy comes because of the atonement, and His grace claims the repentant. When justice exercises all its demands, mercy claims only the truly humble and sorrowful. If the grace of Christ did not claim the repentant, justice would execute the law and inflict the punishment upon the sinner. Mercy cannot rob justice, so a payment plan had to be devised for all those who could not pay. Jesus came to earth and sinlessly fulfilled His calling by suffering for all the sins of mankind in a way that no mortal can comprehend. He paid the price for sin and satisfied the law by meeting the demands of justice. Now the rest is up to us. Will we humbly accept His gift and agree to follow the Still Small Voice of a new and benevolent Master? Or, will we remain a slave to personal pride, the dictates of man, and the sin-filled ways of the world?

CHAPTER 3: True Faith Brings the Miracle

The scriptures are full of examples of those who had great faith in Jesus and in His plan of redemption. We know that, through faith, great miracles, signs, and wonders are brought forth. It is by faith that mysteries are revealed and angels appear. The Apostle Paul teaches us that by faith, "the worlds were framed by the word of God," and that, "... without faith it is impossible to please him ..." (Heb. 11:3, 6.) Indeed, there isn’t anything we can do without faith, but with faith we can do marvelous things. The late Ezra Taft Benson, gave us some important insights into the principle of faith. In one of his inspirational books we read, "Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does." (Come Unto Christ, p. 132.)

"Complete reliance!" That is what we need to prove—to prove if we will depend completely on God for all our needs, and upon the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. We can believe and trust that He has all power, all intelligence, all love, and that He can solve our problems. We do not need to run off and seek the wisdom of men for help, knowledge or affection, and to assist us in finding solutions to our predicaments. We have Jesus. He has all the answers.

Faith Unto Repentance
In Acts 20:21 Paul testifies that we are to have "... repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And to the Hebrews he wrote, "... let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God." (Heb. 6:1.) As we read other scriptures pertaining to the topic at hand, we find that there is a close link between both of the principles of faith and repentance. Actually, for repentance to be truly effective and complete, faith must come first.

Those who have learned how the mind works know that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time. This is true when it comes to repentance. When we repent, we have to turn from the things we need to change and go in the other direction. When we give something up it leaves a vacuum, and the space that is empty cannot stay in that condition; something must rush into that void to fill it. If the void is not filled with something positive, we might slip back into our old ways, and maybe deeper the next time. Therefore, we must replace the "sin repented of" with something more appropriate. This is where the Savior comes in. Jesus has the power to do that—to fill the void in our lives with something better than that which we gave up. Some of those things that may need to be replaced could be particular attitudes, possessions, behaviors, or habits. Even some personal relationships might need to be repented of and removed from our lives—particularly if those relationships are not in harmony with one another in God.

When we have a broken-down car in a one-car garage, it doesn’t leave room for a better car, does it? We must remove the old car first to make room for a better one. When our minds are full of evil and unrighteous thoughts, we must empty our minds of those thinking patterns to make room for more appropriate and righteous thoughts. Likewise, we cannot have two opposite behavior patterns at the same time. When we behave in righteous ways, it doesn’t leave room for unrighteous behavior. Therefore, we can always think good thoughts, be engaged in good causes, be in proper surroundings, and always associate with appropriate people, unless we are otherwise sent to teach. When something of little value is taking up a given space, there is no room left for anything better that could occupy that same space. When we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually release those things that need releasing, it leaves room for something better to enter our lives.

Likewise, we cannot throw something away and wish we still had it; that is a false faith. We cannot stop smoking, for example, and inwardly still wish for a cigarette. We also cannot give up an inappropriate relationship with someone and expect a better relationship to come along, especially if we still desire the companionship of that inappropriate person. When there is no room to receive, nothing better will be coming. We must repent, release, make room for the future good, and have faith that it is coming. Will it come? Yes, it will. It will when we truly have the faith to repent, and have the faith that Jesus will make up the difference. Then, and only then, does the Lord know we are sincere in needing something better in our lives. He then can, and will, provide that better thing.

True faith is when we really believe that the grace of Christ fills that emptiness for us. To come to such a personal resolve and make such critical choices takes faith. It may be a challenge to get our life spiritually right with God, but we can do it. The Savior needs to know that our repentance is genuine and comes from within, not just from without, and so do we. Therefore, we can have faith to let things go that clutter up our spiritual lives, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may appear. We can have faith that God has the knowledge and power to put something better in the place of what we have given up, or released. The words of the resurrected Christ to Thomas can apply to all of us in this effort: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29.) Then, and only then, can we truly repent, have hope, be blessed, and healed, for such is the promise of Jesus.

The Positive Concept of Repentance
The bible reveals that, "... all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23.) Therefore, all of us must repent. When we are keeping the commandments and honoring our covenants, there is little left of which to repent. However, there is still sin because we are not perfect. When it is discovered that there needs to be repentance, we turn altogether from the sin, still looking upward with a hope in Christ. We repent with remorse because of true sorrow, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Repentance has a very positive application in our lives when we sincerely desire to come unto Jesus Christ. For the sincere disciple of Christ, repentance is a temporary process, not an ongoing one. The righteous will repent then turn their energies to keeping the commandments and honoring the covenants they made with God. They will not dwell on their past sins, causing themselves to slip back into those old ones. They look forward and upward not backwards and downward.

We can look at keeping the commandments and repenting in two different lights: (1) We keep commandments because of love, repent because of love, and look forward to the promise. (2) We keep commandments because of fear, repent because of fear, being fearful of condemnation. Keeping the commandments and repenting, because of love, is a positive force that brings spiritual and temporal gains of great eternal significance. Keeping the commandments and repenting, because of fear, is negative and little is gained of eternal value, if anything is gained at all.

Just repenting is not enough, for the atheist, pagan, infidel, or the heathen can repent from doing wrong, but does that mean he has turned his life over to Christ? No, for the devils have their religion too, and we can be assured they are quite active in it, and, of course, they have not turned to Christ.

There are also those who do not truly want to repent, and so may only show outward signs of repentance. For such people a renewed activity in church, or the attendance at a counseling session, serves them very well, but that doesn’t mean they have taken Christ into their lives. Repentance is a negative when performed by those who feign Christianity, but still cleave to their desires while pretending to repent. They repent with reluctance because, deep within, they still wish for the old ways and lack the faith to trust in Christ to provide a better way through grace. When this occurs, the individual is always in the process of having to repent because he has not learned to keep the commandments with love. His life is an ongoing struggle against itself.

The loving disciple, on the other hand, will not worry about repenting because he is too busy keeping covenants; he keeps his covenants, he doesn’t keep repenting. Though there may be need for repentance, his life is devoted to obedience instead of fear and regret. Knowing that Jesus paid the price, he has no need to punish himself for his past misdeeds. He doesn’t have to keep beating himself. Trusting that the debt is satisfied in Jesus, he moves forward toward the Divine Light. He trusts that Jesus will make up any difference that may be lacking in his life. Thus, being full of faith, or faith-full in Christ, he moves upward and onward.

The Lack of Faith Is Sin
If we really examine the word faith we find it means "trust." We simply trust what the Lord has said. That’s it! He says it, and we trust Him because He cannot lie. It’s as simple as that.

A very powerful and straightforward statement about faith can be found in the words of Paul. To the Romans he said, "... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23.) What this is telling us is that if we do not have faith in Jesus Christ, or trust Him, we are sinful. In other words, if faith is not found in us, then sin is found in us. This is in harmony with the concept that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time.

We know that down through history many faithful followers of God have turned their lives over to His care and keeping. One of the first we read about is Abel. Making reference to this faithful son of Adam, Paul wrote, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts ..." (Heb. 11:4.) Abel was found to have faith in God. Cain, on the other hand, exhibited no faith, or had a faith based on false principles. Consequently, Abel received a testimony that he was found "righteous," while Cain received only a cursing. Through faith Abel sacrificed his will to that of the Father, believing that through the coming Messiah he would obtain eternal life. Cain could not show faith in God because he did not possess such faith. Sin, therefore, was found in Cain because proper faith did not exist. Cain was sinful, or full of sin.

Faith is what we hope for but do not see at that moment, and we usually do not get a witness until after our faith has been tried. We all go through the trial of faith until we arrive at that point at which we have the power of God in our prayers. Therefore, we do not doubt just because we have not seen the miracle first. The miracle is there, but just hasn’t been manifest yet.

To receive the gift of hope a price must be paid. That price is the trial or test of faith. A skeptic says, "I’ll believe it when I see it." The optimist says, "I’ll see it when I believe it." The skeptic has it backwards: he is not willing to pay the price before receiving the merchandise. The believer, on the other hand, knows that belief and obedience precede the miracle of the blessing.

Having Faith In Christ
Peter, head of the Church in ancient times, adds his words: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Pet. 5:6-7.) The Psalmist wrote, "Trust in the Lord, and do good ... and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart ... trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass ... And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday." (Psalm 37:3-6.)

I want to share a true story with you of a man named Bob who had a wife and three children. There was a time when they wanted to move to another part of the country. After making arrangements as to where they would go, and involving other people on the other end, they were informed by God that they were to stay where they were to serve Him in a special way. This they happily did without complaint.

Three years went by, and now Bob had another addition to the family. Bob also worked for a very large corporation that had offices in every state. While visiting the area where they previously were planning to move, he thought he would put in an application for transfer. Upon praying about it he received a witness, a strong and sure voice to his mind that said, "Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All the doors will be opened up to you." A warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks as he gratefully received the message.

The next day Bob thought, "Was that from God, or was that just a figment of my imagination?" So he prayed about it again. This time he received the same response from that still small, but sure, voice: "Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All the doors will be opened up to you." The same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks as before.

The day following Bob said to himself, "Wow! That was wonderful. I want to ask that question again. So he did. And as the same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks, the same Voice said, "Why do you keep asking, I’ve told you twice." Bob never asked again, for he got the message. When he arrived home he told his wife that they were moving.

"Moving to where?" she asked.

Bob said, "I don’t know."

"But where will you work, and where will we live?" she asked again.

"All I know," Bob replied, "is that God promised that He will open up the doors and make a way.

Bob put in for a transfer. A month later he received a reply from the office where they wanted to move that said there were no vacancies, but also said, "Good luck in finding a transfer to another office." Bob decided that God wasn’t through with them where they were, but he was puzzled about the spiritual response he received saying that all doors would be opened for a move.

A month later his supervisor called him and told him that his transfer had come through, and that he had two and a half weeks to get things in order and move two thousand miles across country to start work in the office to which he applied.

Two days after arriving in their new town they found a house that had been empty for three months because the seller could not find the right buyer for it. The seller said he knew it was for someone special. He told Bob, "When I first saw you, I knew you were the one for which God was saving the house.

Time and space don’t permit the telling of the miracle after miracle that transpired as the Lord opened up the doors, one after another, for Bob and his family as He promised.

Bob wanted to know why the Lord had blessed them as He did. It was revealed to him that, even though they wanted to move three years earlier, it was because they were willing to stay where they were and graciously serve when called that they were blessed.

Many do not have the faith that God will bless them, so they try and bless themselves. Such self-blessings are always short lived, and not everlasting. We must repent and have the faith to give up that which holds us back—doubt. We don’t need to flounder around in life, as some do, because we can have the faith to call upon the name of Jesus for a blessing, and, therefore, have hope in Christ. Paul tells the Galatians that the promises of Jesus only come through faith in Him. He said, "... the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Gal. 3:22.)

What is this "promise by faith" given to those who believe? We know from scripture that all of us are sinful. Jesus, however, has promised us Eternal Life when we believe in Him and exercise faith in His ability to save us from our sins. To exercise faith sufficient to bring salvation requires obedience to His commandments, total submission to His will, and the trust to give Him control of our lives. His promise comes only through the exercising of proper and sufficient faith in His ability to bless and save. Of all mankind, Jesus displayed the supreme example of humility, meekness and confidence. It is Jesus Christ who is the focus of our faith, our trust, our love, and our complete devotion.

CHAPTER 4: A Perfect Brightness of Hope

From Webster’s dictionary we learn that hope is a "belief, desire, trust, promise, or aspiration." Among other righteous attributes, we are to have hope to receive eternal life. How do we have hope? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:1-2.)

Hope by Way of Faith
Paul said that we become justified in Christ by way of faith, and because of faith we can have hope. We learned in a previous chapter that faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. (See James 2:14-22.) To the Galatians Paul wrote, "for we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness of faith." (Gal. 5:5.) Here we learn that the hope of righteousness comes by faith, or in other words, by the exercise of our faith. That means doing something. There is hope when we are actively engaged in a righteous cause, and exercising our faith in righteousness.

We must exercise faith before there can be any hope. Yet, without hope there will be little incentive to exercise any faith. There is a close inter-working of these two principles. Can we hope for the Lord to bless us when we are not obedient? No, we cannot! If we try to exercise faith when we know we have been amiss in our duties before God, our faith will not be true; it will not be based on the knowledge of worthiness. Such faith is a false faith, and our hope is in vain.

We can have a hope through faith unto salvation, for faith is not having a perfect knowledge of everything. When we have faith we hope for things which are not seen, but yet are true. Hope comes by faith, and it becomes an anchor to the soul which helps make us sure and steadfast to glorify God.

What is it we hope for? We have hope through the atonement of Christ, His redeeming blood, and the power of His resurrection. We hope to be raised up unto eternal life and saved in our Father’s kingdom, through Christ Jesus. Therefore, when we have faith we also have hope, for without faith there cannot be any hope. We have faith and hope when our heart is true with God, if not, our faith and hope are in vain.

When we are obedient and have done all we can in the area where we need spiritual intervention, then we have hope. When we have been faithful and our prayer is offered, and we know that God knows we have been faithful, then we can ask in faith, knowing where we stand before the Lord; we can have confidence that He will provide.

Without true humility, faith and confidence, there cannot be hope, which comes when we know that we are right before God, and when we are right with God, we are teachable, repentant, and submissive. With that hope comes confidence, the confidence to ask of God and know that the prayer will be answered. This is mighty prayer. It is the prayer of confidence—confidence that waxes strong before the Lord.

Confidence means to be sure, or have assurance. It is a feeling of certainty. Confidence is strength. It is based upon the sure knowledge a person has of knowing where he stands before God—the confidence that he is performing to the best of his ability, and he knows the Lord knows it. Thus, he approaches God with clean hands, having faith like unto the prophets of old that worked mighty miracles.

We can have this confidence, this perfect brightness of hope, but we cannot have it without faith unto repentance. When our faith to repent is weak, our hope is gone, and so is our confidence. When we have no hope nor confidence, our faith to petition the Lord for needed blessings is also weak. One of the keys then, is to have the intent of our heart pure before God, and to know where we stand before Him. We will then have that perfect brightness of hope and the confidence to call down the powers of Heaven. We can then express gratitude for the blessings that will be coming because they already exist, but they only have not been manifested yet.

A Parable on Faith and Hope
At this point, let us study a simple parable that might teach us something about desire, belief, faith, hope and confidence.

There once was a man who had an old car that didn’t run, and for a long time the car sat abandoned under a big oak tree behind the man’s barn. For a while the man got along fine without the car, but circumstances told him that he needed one. However, there were no other cars to be had, except the abandoned one under the tree. His needs dictated a suspicion that perhaps if worked on, the car might run and be of service to him. Believing this he set to work.

The man knew nothing about cars, so he inquired of the auto manufacturer. Whereupon the manufacturer sent a repair manual and informed the man where he could go to receive the help he needed to get the car running. Upon study, inquiry and examination, the man discovered that nothing more was required than simply putting in gasoline, changing the oil, checking the wires, installing a new battery, tuning it up with new points and plugs, and adjusting the carburetor.

The man was obedient to the instructions given and so proceeded, but not being familiar with mechanical things, the tasks were real trials to him as he made mistake after mistake until he finished the job. However, he completed those procedures, and because he believed what he studied and learned from those who knew, he then had the faith to test the car, so he put the key into the ignition hoping it would start.

As he sat in the driver’s seat, he thought about what had been done to that point: He needed the car to run so he studied the situation, conversed with those who knew, learned where the weaknesses were and what work needed to be done to correct them. He faithfully did his work as instructed and sat hoping it would start. Because of his belief and diligence he had confidence that it would start, so he turned the key in the ignition. After a few strange and unfamiliar sounds the car threw off some black pollution and then ran as the man had hoped for.

In this parable we find there is a sequence of important attributes. By simple analysis one can see more clearly what might be required to receive gifts and blessings from God. First: One must have a belief. Belief is always based on a desire or need. If one does not have a desire, he has no need to establish a belief. Second: Belief must be turned into positive action toward obtaining the objective. In other words, repentance and obedience to required commandments and laws. However, before one can be obedient, he must know to what principles he must adhere. Third: Upon investigation through Bible study and personal communication with The Father, one will learn the principles to which he must become obedient. Fourth: Because of obedience to principles, or positive action toward the desired objective, faith is developed. Faith, if it has not works, is of no value. Therefore, faith is belief coupled with positive action. Though this action may not be easy and may try one to the utmost, yet it is an essential ingredient to the formula to receive the miracle. Fifth: Faith now being established through the trial of faith, one can have hope. He can now approach his God without shame, but with confidence, waxing strong in his petitions before the Lord. Sixth: With sufficient confidence, the positive spiritual energy generated brings forth the gifts and miracles of God.

Of course these six steps are not intended to be a formula, but are offered only as concepts and ideas. The principles of the gospel are eternal. Concepts are only guides that may be helpful to the true seeker which, in themselves, may not be inclusive or even necessary for the individual.

Whatever It Takes
We need to prove complete reliance upon Jesus Christ for all of our needs. He is our Master and Redeemer, and He possesses a fulness of justice, mercy, charity and grace. We are to believe, trusting that He has all power, intelligence and wisdom. He helps us solve our problems without our need to rush off seeking answers to our problems from the men of the world. We can arrive at this faith, but we will have to focus our attention upon Christ and the glorious work of the Father.

The Bible teaches the importance of focus. One particular evening, the ship that the disciples of Jesus were in was tossed by waves in the midst of the sea. Jesus went to them, walking on the water. Peter, seeing Jesus walking on the water, asked if he could go to Him in like manner—walking on the water also. At first, Peter was successful, but because of the "boisterous" wind he became afraid. Jesus had to stretch forth His hand to catch Peter before he sank. The Lord said unto Peter, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt. 14:22-33.)

Peter had lost his focus. He became more concerned with the turbulence around him than the safety of his Master. He began to focus upon himself and his own ability to survive, rather than trusting in the Lord’s protecting care. He had apparently forgotten that Jesus had, just a short time before, fed over five thousand people with only five loaves and two fishes. Peter lost focus, and he lost faith.

With faith and trust in Christ, focusing on His loving grace, we go where we have never gone before, and do that which we have never dreamed of doing. It is God’s power in and through us, for His work and glory, that we focus on, not on our own puny ability for our own selfish ends.

Whatever it takes, get it right! Whatever it takes, we must get it right before God. It doesn’t matter what cost, embarrassment, or price, we must get it right. It may take personal hurt, loss, humiliation, or shame to arrive at that point of getting it right. It takes spiritual courage to "lay all the cards on the table" before God—and sometimes man—openly and fearlessly to get it right. It takes faith. It takes faith that the grace of Christ will intercede, provide forgiveness, and make up any difference. It takes faith that Jesus will provide something better than that which we have kept inside, hidden in sorrow and remorse. What a struggle, to lay them all out on the altar—even the smallest of guilts—sacrificing them before the Lord so we can cleanse our lives and stand before Him unashamed. There is nothing this world can offer that matches such peace of soul. John once wrote, "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (1 John 3:21-22.)

There is one thing it takes to get it right, and have the confidence and faith that doesn’t waver, and that one thing is love. One will have to like what he sees about Jesus Christ, what he hears, what he feels, and have a desire to nurture those seeds. It will take a love for truth and light, a love for purity of heart, and a love for mankind. It will take a pure desire to love the Lord and have a reckless faith in His all-enveloping grace and atoning blood. Then, with the perfect faith and love of Christ, one will be purely motivated and get it right before God, and wax strong in the presence of the Lord.

A Hope for Salvation
There is a misunderstood statement by the Apostle Paul that many Christians use to justify their belief that they are saved. To the Romans, Paul wrote, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10:9.) Based upon this scripture, we often hear Christians say that they are "saved." This statement can be both true and not true at the same time. I don’t mean to confuse you here, so please let me clarify myself.

Confessing that Jesus is Lord is at the beginning of the journey, it is not the end. Confessing must come first before anything else can take place. If confessing is all that we do, we will come up short, for Jesus also gave commandments which we must obey AFTER we confess that He is the Christ. With this confession, we can then have a hope in Jesus.

Why are we told to hope if we are saved now? If we are saved now we don’t need to hope for salvation any more because we already have it. It’s like hoping to graduate from college after we have already done so and received our diploma. It doesn’t make sense to keep hoping. It’s already an accomplished fact, so what is there left to hope for?

Actually, salvation is at the end of the journey, not at the beginning. Jesus taught us by saying, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matt. 24:13.) Mark records: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Mark 13:13.)

"Endure unto the end"? What does that mean? It implies that if we do not finish the race, as did Paul, we will not receive the crown. To Timothy Paul wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness...." (2 Tim. 4:7-8.) A Webster’s dictionary gives the meaning of the word henceforth as: "from this time onward; from now on." Paul had to endure to the end and finish his race. He had to endure by keeping the faith. He did not count himself saved until after his work was done, and done faithfully. Jesus spoke very plainly, and Paul knew it. Only he who endures to the end will be saved—not saved before he endures, but after he endures.

There are those who believe that once they are saved they are always saved. This is not altogether true. The Bible tells us that it is possible to fall from grace. Paul wrote the Galatians, saying, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free..." (Gal. 5:1.) Why should they have to worry about standing fast if they are already saved and set free by grace? Paul went on to say, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (v. 4.) He was trying to explain to them that the law will not save, but only grace saves. He said that when they rely on the law, they have fallen from grace. How can someone fall from where they were not, in the first place? If they were not in His grace, they could not have fallen from grace. They first must have been in His grace before it was possible to fall from grace. You see, they were to do what Jesus said they must do, that is, endure unto the end to be saved.

Let’s take one more statement by Paul on this subject. He wrote to the Romans: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid." (Rom. 6:1-2.) Grace cannot be where there is sin. When we slip we sin, as all do because we are not perfect as Christ was perfect. When we continue in sin we will not have His grace to save us. In such cases we fall from grace. It is only through our constant faith in Christ, continued repentance, endurance to the end in patience, and trust in His grace and redeeming love that we are saved.

Salvation is at the end of the journey, even though we might say we are saved now. The reason we can say that we are saved, as though it is now, is because of our hope in Christ that our salvation is assured when we remain true to Him. It is a looking forward to that day that will surely come because we have been faithful and have endured patiently to the end. It is hope in Him because He has made a promise of salvation to us upon our faithfulness, and He cannot break a promise.

Let’s take an example: Job, looking forward to the physical resurrection as though it was a foregone conclusion, said, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (Job 19:26.) In a way, Job was saying that he was already saved, because he knew that the Messiah would come and fulfill His mission and not falter. He had the faith, and trusted in the words of God. Likewise, we say that we are saved by faith, knowing that Jesus has already finished His work, but the actual diploma is not presented, or the crown is not bestowed, until after we have finished our course. Under the right conditions, we can say that we are saved. Salvation exists, but it just hasn’t been manifested yet.

Philosophies which say that we do not have to endure to the end to be saved, or that once saved we are always saved, I’m sorry to say, are a lazy man’s gospel. Such erroneous beliefs please slothful, neglectful, and lackadaisical people. It’s comfortable to them because it denies their responsibility in their own salvation. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said, "... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12.) Here, again, we have Paul speaking of having to "work" to be saved. We are to keep working at it, enduring to the end in faith and love, keeping an eye single to God’s glory and the blessing of His children, and not sitting back for a free ride just because we once did something good.

Jesus endured to the end of His trial, and He requires no less of us. We need to keep all of this in perspective, however. Even though we endure to the end before we are actually saved, that endurance will not be enough to save us. No matter how good we are, how hard we work, or how long we endure, it will not be enough. It is only by the grace of Christ Jesus that we are saved.

A Hope in Christ
Perhaps this discussion can be brought to a close by offering a few more introspective questions we can ask ourselves. "Have I truly been spiritually born again of God—not just baptized by water into some organized church, but born again?" "Have I experienced a mighty change in my heart?" "Can others see God’s image in my countenance, and does the light and love of Jesus radiate from my face?" "Have I consciously, purposely, knowingly, and with full intent accepted Christ into my life as my Savior, and the only way back to the Father?" "Am I willing to give everything I have, and ever hope to have, to Him, to bring glory and honor to His name?" "Am I enduring in patience unto the end of my time here in this world, with love and an eye single to God’s glory?" "Would my actions and way of life provide enough evidence to condemn me in a court of law as being a true Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ?" When there is that evidence, there is hope. The Lord taught that "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is heaven." (Matt. 7:21.)

We will not be able to abide the Kingdom of Heaven just because we profess or claim that Jesus is the Christ, for the devils also believe He is the Christ. We will only achieve that Kingdom when we do the Father’s will, which is much more than a simple verbal utterance. Jesus did not say only to confess His name, but He plainly said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) This simple commandment encompasses all the others.

To effectively embark on a journey as a disciple of Christ, we must first have hope in Jesus. We are never deserving of God’s grace, but He gives it anyway. We all have offended and neglected the Lord. All have sinned, causing Him to suffer great agony, shedding His blood in the garden and on the cross of Calvary, but He loves and forgives us anyway. Being unclean, we are not able to return to the Father. However, our hope comes when we give our life to Christ, faithfully keeping those covenants. When we consecrate all we have unto Jesus, He goes before the Father and intercedes in our behalf. Knowing this provides the joy of hope.

A perfect brightness of hope helps us rejoice in adversity. There may be serious persecution for those who give their lives to Christ, but the Savior said, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matt. 5:12.) We rejoice in songs of praise as Paul and Silas did after they were thrust into prison and had their feet locked in stocks. (Acts 16:19-27.) When we covenant to give our life to Christ, we have hope and the joy to declare with the psalmist, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." (Psalm 68:19.) "I will extol thee, my God, O King; and I will bless thy name forever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;..." (Psalm 145:1-3.)

CHAPTER 6: The First and Greatest Commandment

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans and said, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,..." (Rom. 1:18.) The same Paul wrote to Titus and said that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness. (Titus 2:11-12.) The original word for ungodliness is asebeia (as-eb’-I-ah), meaning impiety, irreverent, and wickedness. To deny ungodliness means that we must do just the opposite, that is, accept the virtue of godliness.

Instead of focusing on the negatives aspects of repenting, we focus on integrating into our lives the positive virtues of God. When we are doing good, there is no room for evil. The repenting, or doing away with ungodliness, automatically takes care of itself. What is our reward if we do this? Our reward is that we "become sanctified in Christ," receive a "remission of [our] sins," and become "holy, without spot."

Peter said, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." Then he gave a list of attributes such as diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; after which, he added, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:4-8.)

An attribute that we must possess if we are to partake of the "divine nature" of Christ is to possess the characteristic of "godliness." One way we do this is to deny ourselves all ungodliness. All of this is done by the "grace of God," as we have learned. Grace is that unearned gift, that which we cannot obtain for ourselves. Before we can claim that grace, though, we must show forth sincere desire and true intent with faith in Christ, that this endowment is of specific worth. Therefore, we deny ourselves all ungodliness, and love God with all of our heart, might, mind, soul and strength. When we do that, we will be true to the first and greatest commandment.

The Greatest Commandment
Once there was a Pharisee who tried to trick Jesus by asking, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered him, saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38.)

In Mark we read that a scribe asked Jesus which is the "first commandment of all," and Jesus responded with, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30.)

Luke records that a certain lawyer tempted Jesus by asking, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus replied, "... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27.)

This commandment was not new when Jesus lived in mortality. As Jehovah of the Old Testament the Lord gave ancient Israel a similar commandment. Through Moses He proclaims, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deut. 6:5.)

As we consider these attributes together, we could say that there are four that we must demonstrate to become sanctified by the grace of Christ. We are to serve Him with all of our heart, might, mind, strength, and soul. As we study these four attributes, we find that the definitions of one may be similar to another.

The Hebrew word for heart is lebab (lay-bawb’), meaning courage and understanding; the Greek word is kardia (kar-dee’-ah), meaning feelings, thoughts, and so forth. The Hebrew word for might is me‘od (meh-ode’), which means, diligently, wholly, speedily, and the like. The Greek word for mind is dianoia (dee-an’-oy-ah), meaning deep thought, imagination and understanding. The Greek word for strength is ischus (is-khoos’), meaning forcefulness, might and power. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh (neh’-fesh), meaning vitality; the Greek word is psuche (psoo-khay’), meaning vitality and life.

There are other scriptures we could quote that contain one or more of these attributes, which time and space do not permit. It is sufficient only to say that God requires us to serve Him with all of our courage, forcefulness, power, strength, understanding, feelings, thoughts, and imagination. We are to serve Him diligently with all of our ability, and do it speedily, or now, with all of our vitality, life, and whole being. A couple of good examples from the Bible are Moses and the Apostle Paul. They seemed to have exhibited all of these qualities. That’s pretty comprehensive service for us to consider.

An Eye Single to the Glory of God
We must put the first commandment first. We are to follow the admonition found in Proverbs. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:5-6.)

Time can go by quickly when we are anxiously engaged in the Lord’s work with all our heart, might, mind, strength and soul. When we are ready to commit all we have, time in the Lord’s service doesn’t drag along. This is especially true when we are focused on the work of Jesus Christ, which is due to our faith. How time goes by while in His service is a gauge of how we are doing as a servant of God, and how our spiritual attitude is developing.

There are many churchgoers who take their faith casually, and who often give lip service rather than service from the heart. This is partly because all are on differing planes of understanding. The Lord is usually patient with us as we grow and progress in Christ, but as He said in Genesis 6:3, "... My spirit shall not always strive with man..." However, a pure attitude and a single-minded relationship with the Savior are paramount when we want to be true disciples.

Church membership means that a person has his or her name officially listed on the membership records of a church, but the Lord looks at members of His church quite differently. Those who really belong to His church are those who have repented and turned their hearts totally over to Him. True church membership involves far more than simply being a member on the records of an organized religion. As important as some may be, all the ordinances and rituals in the world will not suffice, for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. When we truly seek to put away sin, we first look to Him who is the Author of our salvation. We have an eye single to the praise and glorification of His holy name.

When we are not singly serving God, we are serving someone else, or some "thing" else. Because of pride, that "someone" is usually ourselves, and that "thing" is often some possession or position. It is interesting to realize that when we serve other entities, and not God, it is usually because of some personal selfish reason. That is pride, which is serving ourselves instead of serving the Lord.

The opposite of having an eye single to the glory of God is seeking our own glory. While walking the shores of Galilee the Savior taught, "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." (John 7:18.)

Man cannot serve God and the world, or ourselves, simultaneously. The scriptures tell us that "No man can serve two masters ... Ye cannot serve God and mammon," "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation," and that "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." However, it also says, "... if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt. 6:24; 12:25; James 1:8; Matt. 6:22.)

Jesus said, "I receive not honour from men." (John 5:41.) One of our biggest challenges is not to seek honor from others. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10.) The Savior’s example is, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30.) We are instructed by the Lord to turn our thoughts, minds, and service over to Him, and seek for no honor or glory from the world.

The Christian glories not in himself, but glories in that which God commands. Wherever we go is in the name of the Lord, everything we do is in His name, all of our thoughts are directed unto God, and the affections of the heart are always towards Him. Satan knows that when we seek for the honors of man, we lose our focus of Christ. Many are called into the service of God because they have the proper focus.

The Treasure Is the Key
Many want to please others and be accepted by them, and the fear of rejection may, at times, be greater than their love for God. The Lord, however, expects our thoughts and affections to be upon Him, and on no one else or anything else. To have an eye single to the glory of God is to have a love for God that is greater than any other love. The first and great commandment teaches, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." At another time Jesus simply said, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:21.) So, there is a question we might ask ourselves: What do we love most?

A treasure is simply that which we treasure most. To the extent that we treasure other things, people, or activities more than we treasure our covenants with the Lord and our devotion to Him, to that same degree our hearts will not be upon Him. We have a tendency to serve those we love the most, those we give first consideration for our affection and desires. This helps us indicate where our allegiance and loyalty are. We cannot help but serve that which we love and consider first. Where we direct our passions and expectations, discloses where our fidelity remains.

In considering these most important thoughts, we must do some personal and honest soul searching. What do we really treasure most in our hearts? In seeking for the answer, we must become aware and consider where we put our energy, how we use our time, what we buy with our money, where we direct our interest, and so forth.

By focusing upon the pure love of Jesus, more than upon the crude and base things, or immoral thoughts and acts, we will truly know what we treasure most. We will know what our treasure is when we mostly pursue the Kingdom of God, and the things that do not corrupt, instead of our houses, cars, boats, or any other personal and material objects. We know where our treasure lies when we spend our energy seeking the treasures of eternal life, instead of the pursuit of money, sports, pleasure, and entertainment. When we direct more of our interest toward Jesus Christ, who has all charity, compassion, forgiveness, knowledge and light, than we do toward family, friends and associates, then again, we know where our heart truly is, and thus where our treasure is. Our heart will be upon God and godly things. But if we focus more of our attention and desires upon crude and base things; more upon immoral thoughts and acts; more upon money, houses, or other material objects; more upon sports and various forms of recreation and entertainment; or even more upon family, friends or associates than we do upon Jesus Christ, then we know where our treasure really is, and thus our hearts. These things then become our gods—false gods.

As a Man Thinketh
In Proverbs we read, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7.) We do not think with our hearts, we think with our minds. We previously read: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." That means that where our treasure is, there will our "mind" be also. For the most part, we focus our mind on that which we love. By so doing, we choose that which we love. Love is equated with the heart so it is said that man "thinketh in his heart." In reality, we choose our treasure by permitting our minds to think in that direction, and our hearts love it. We treasure up in our hearts, or our minds, the things most dear to us. Those things are what motivate us and help us choose where we go, what we receive, and what type of beings we will become.

We often receive things that we do not pray for. Some may wonder why they have received certain troubles in life when they have not desired them, or certain blessings in life when they have not prayed for them. In too many cases the answer is that our mind and thinking may have been focused on that particular thing, person, place, or condition.

Perhaps a personal example can illustrate. I enjoy fine music and many years ago I wanted a compact disc (CD) player, notwithstanding large phonograph and cassette tape collections I already had. On occasion someone would leave theirs with me, which I used. Due to the high cost of one of the finer CD players at the time, though, I figured that I would not purchase one, at least for quite a while. However, I kept the thought of one foremost in my mind. Even though I couldn’t play them on anything, I still purchased a few CD’s with the hope of someday owning a player.

A time came when I had the opportunity to share some of my talents and services with a friend of the family at no cost. The friend, not having discussed the CD player issue with me, and to my utter surprise, gave me a player in appreciation for my help. For me, this item was a want and not a need, and I didn’t even pray for it. I felt there were other things more important to be considered and prayed for. The CD player was gratefully accepted. However, I realized from whom this gracious gift really came.

One day, while I was resting and listening as my new CD player produced lovely music, I wondered why the Lord blessed me with such a temporal gift when I felt I was in need of more spiritual blessings. Through the Spirit, then, the thought came forcefully to me that it was a desire of the heart. It was where I often and unknowingly focused much of my attention. Although I did not pray for it, having more important needs, that energy still reached up to the heavens and a desire of my heart was realized. In other words, the dominant thought of my mind came to pass.

Now there is no inherent evil in a compact disc player. In this case it was a blessing and perhaps a reward for unselfish service. However, the point to be made here is that we often focus our attention on more than that which is godlike, and we reap the results. When someone is serving on a mission in some far off and remote country, and his or her mind is not focused on the work, being on other concerns than the Lord, the mission could end as an unfortunate and sad experience. It is the same with marriages, employment, schooling, and so forth. If our attention is not focused on the important task and object at hand, unexpected disasters could result.

In the great intercessory prayer that Jesus offered, He expressed His feelings about His beloved disciples. He prayed, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21.) To be one with God we serve Him. To serve Him is to know Him, for how can we know and serve the Lord when He is a stranger to us and far from our thoughts and heart? To increase in the spiritual endowments of God we become one with the Lord and fully turn to Him. When we cleave unto Christ, with full purpose of heart, we can increase in the knowledge of God, in the spirit of revelation, in the gift of prophecy, and in visions and dreams.

To be sanctified, our purpose is single with the purpose of Jesus Christ. We follow Him wholeheartedly, without hypocrisy and deception. This is the single intent of our repenting from all sin, and turning our hearts to Jesus Christ. The power is in us, along with the gift of grace, not to fall. When we intentionally stay focused upon God, we will not become focused upon the adversary’s plan. A house divided against itself cannot stand, nor can we serve two masters at the same time. We can receive Christ by choice, or Satan by default.

Having No Other Gods
Our treasure is what we think about—what we ponder and see in our mind’s eye. It is where we focus our attention with our mind. There are times when we may not even be aware of this focus, thinking that we love God and are mostly serving Him. It is possible to go through the religious rituals of "duty," while, at the same time, desiring something altogether different. If the outward appearance is contrary to our inner, central and true focus, we "deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 Jn. 1:8.)

What do you think about when you don’t have to think? Have you ever thought of that? When you can honestly answer that question you will then know where your focus is, and where your heart will be. If it isn’t with Jesus Christ, then you will know where your heart truly is.

The Apostle Paul said that we are not to be "unequally yoked together," but instead, "be of the same mind," that we become "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," and that we become "like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (2 Cor. 6:14; Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 1:10, Philip. 2:2.) These statements cannot only be applied to social relationships but inner, or personal, relationships as well. When our mind is one with the Lord’s, and when our loyalties are not divided, we have an eye single to God’s glory, and we do not become "lukewarm." (Rev. 3:16.)

The mind is conditioned by what is put into it—such things as movies and television watched, books read, music listened to, and people with whom we associate. All types of input help condition the mind, and we need to be conscious of how we train our thought patterns. An act is a direct response to thinking, and we become what we mostly think about. When we think worldly, we become like the world. When we think Godly, we become more like God. Though we may be in the world, we do not have to be of the world. It is important to put off all ungodliness of mind, all evil or unclean thinking, and even all casual acceptance or tolerance for things that are slightly off color. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to the realization of that mind set. Anciently the Lord said, "... come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:4.)

Whatever one’s treasure is becomes their idol, because it is what they "idolize" most, but many people do not look at it this way. Many consider an idol to be something such as a golden statue, or image, that represents a God and is worshiped as divine. However, an idol can be where one’s attention is focused most of the time.

What does it means to "idolize" another person? How does that fit in with the first commandment when one venerates, reverences, glorifies and even "worships the ground" someone "walks on"? Many idolize movie stars, singing stars, athletic stars, and political stars, and some wrestle other fans for coveted autographs. When these things are the center focus, true commitment to the Lord is not there. Maybe it would be well to ponder what it means to be an idolatrous people.

When one desires to serve and worship the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, strength and soul, and only has an eye single to His glory and praise, then he will have a basis for a belief which eventually leads to the working of great miracles in his life. Jesus is to be our role model and our hero. Only with an eye (mind’s eye) single to His glory and not to our own praise, or praise for someone else, can we unselfishly serve Him.

A Christian has the faith and remembers that Jesus is the only worthwhile treasure. They do not lay up for themselves "treasures upon earth," but lay up for themselves "treasures in heaven." For where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. If, therefore, our mind’s eye is single to His glory, our whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:19-23.) When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ instead of man, or the things of man, when we treasure Him above all else, then we will move toward that mighty faith that brings light, which light is the miracle of the fulness of the Glory of God. Then we shall not be "barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We shall be "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4-8) which is the greatest treasure and miracle of all.

Loving God
We need to love God enough to trust that His love and grace are sufficient to bless us far more than we could bless ourselves. Jesus teaches us how to love God. He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) Keeping the commandments, and honoring our covenants, show that we love Him, and our love will grow as we continue to faithfully obey His will. Love teaches us what to do. The worldly man, or the flesh, is an enemy to God. Therefore, we must yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the flesh and become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

One way to put off the flesh is by covenant. God’s people are a covenant people. They always have been. God gave Israel commandments from Sinai because they would not keep the covenants of their forefathers, such as Abraham, made with God. The covenants that God wants us to make with Him automatically include all the commandments. Therefore, we do not need to worry about keeping commandments when we make covenants with Him and faithfully honor those covenants. Covenants are sacred, and God greatly blesses and gives special endowments to those who freely covenant with Him and unflinchingly keep those covenants. Once we know the true nature of God it becomes much easier to covenant with Him.

Anyone can keep a commandment, or God would not give the commandment in the first place. He does not expect us to do something that is beyond our ability, or beyond that which He has endowed us. Therefore, He will not ask us to do anything that is beyond our capability. Therefore, when the Lord commands, we can obey, when we choose to do so. However, it seems that few can make and faithfully keep covenants. Keeping commandments is one thing, but making covenants and keeping them is another.

The way that we become purified and sanctified through the blood of Christ is by way of covenant, not just by keeping commandments. To prove we are willing to put God first, above all else, we consecrate our lives wholly unto Him. This is done by making covenants. Then, and only then, can we have hope of salvation. In the final scheme of things, we will find that all who inherit the Father’s kingdom are those who covenant and give their lives totally to Christ. Paul taught, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth...." (Rom. 1:16.)

True conversion, with a testimony, involves a sincere desire to consecrate all things to God. It involves devoted faith in the Lord, love for our neighbor, sincere and complete repentance, a desire to sacrifice all upon the altar, keeping an eye single to the glory of God, and endurance to the end. When these things are achieved, we will not have to be concerned about being worthy, because worthiness will be the result of a natural process. We must understand that many people can become worthy of certain things because of obedience to laws and rules, but not be truly converted to righteousness. One can put down the right answers to a college exam, but are they converted to those concepts, or are they only jumping through the hoops, so to speak? When we are found worthy, which is determined by compliance to rules and guidelines, conversion to righteousness is only implied. Worthiness can be shallow, while conversion has depth.

The way we truly become clean, pure, sanctified, and receive an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, is to faithfully keep the first and great commandment of loving God. The depth of our conversion is measured by how much we are willing to sacrifice for Him and consecrate to Him, which signifies how much we love Him. As we consider this, we may be concerned about how others view us. The true disciple understands, however, that it isn’t so important to know who loves us, as it is to understand who we love.

Our Only Treasure
An act is a direct response to thinking, and we become what we mostly think about. When we think worldly thoughts, we become like the world. When we think Godly thoughts, we become more like God. Though we may be in the world, we do not have to be of the world. It is important to put off all ungodliness of mind, all evil or unclean thinking, and even all casual acceptance or tolerance for things that are slightly off color. If we do not, it will inevitably lead to the realization of a worldly mind set. Anciently God said, "... come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:4.)

Through Moses the Lord commanded, "Thou shalt have NO other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3.) When we set other people up as heroes and we choose them instead of Jesus Christ, we honor them more than Jesus and are setting up false gods. When we allow other activities to take the place of worshiping and praising the only true God, those activities then become false gods. When we let the words of any other person take precedent over the whisperings of the Spirit, we are esteeming that person more than God and he or she becomes a false god.

When one desires to serve and worship the Lord with all his might, mind and strength, and only has an eye single to His glory, then he will have a basis for a belief which eventually leads to the working of great miracles in his life. Jesus is to be our role model and our hero. Only with an eye (mind’s eye) single to the glory of God and not to our own praise, or praise for someone else, can we unselfishly serve Him.

We must have faith and remember that Jesus is the only worthwhile treasure. We are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. For where our treasures are, there will our hearts be also. If, therefore, our mind’s eye is single to His glory, our whole body shall be full of light. (Matt. 6:19-23.)

When our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of man or the things of this world, when we treasure Him above all, then we will move toward that mighty faith that brings light, which light is the miracle of the fulness of God’s Glory. We shall not be "barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We shall be full of the pure love of Christ, and "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4-8) which is the greatest treasure and miracle of all.

Because of the great value that our Father in Heaven places upon all of His children, and because He loves us, He "... gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us His most prized possession. Are we to love Him any less?