The Greatness of God’s Plan

 

 

The Greatness of God’s Plan

Richard Hollerman

Would you agree with me that most people become overly concerned about other people, circumstances, and events in their daily lives—but that this has almost no consequence for eternity? We are concerned about earthly matters, but matters of eternity just pass us by. To use Paul’s words, we are too occupied with “things which are seen” and fail to focus on “things which are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). We are immersed with “the things that are on earth” and not dominated by “the things above” (Colossians 3:2). We just aren’t that interested in matters of God and heaven!

It would seem that many people are concerned about getting the best bargain at the supermarket, or getting the best grade possible in a college class, or making sure that they buy the latest fashion piece. Others are overly concerned about the score of the football game, the price of gasoline, or the race to tune into a favorite TV show. But all of this will one day pass away, won’t it? John reminds us that “the world is passing away” but “the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). Where is your focus?

Instead of being dominated by the world, why aren’t we more interested in learning the truth of God and the basic teaching of the Bible? Why aren’t we more concerned about discovering God’s will for our life, or memorizing and quoting Scriptural passages, or praying to God the Father, or meeting with other believers? Why are some people more concerned about the here and now than they are about fulfilling the Great Commission as well as living a life that is sold out to Christ?

As I pondered these matters while driving along one day, I had to think that the message of the Lord in the Bible is literally filled with many life-changing truths that God wants to use to shake us up and put us on a different path. He wants us to have a completely different focus and mindset than what we’ve had in the past. He longs for us to have a spiritual and eternal focus! What are some of the priority truths of God—those truths that He would recognize as outstanding and “great”?

        1.   The Bible is the Greatest Revelation

If we only realized that the Bible that most of us own is our greatest personal possession! Most people have a Bible of some kind, but they generally allow it to lie in some inconspicuous place or on a shelf without being touched.  Regretfully, people seldom read it, even more seldom study it, and fail to recognize that it is like a roadmap to take us on a journey from earth to heaven!

The Lord Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Paul also speaks of the importance of the written revelation of God in the Scriptures. As he writes to his young friend, Timothy, Paul says, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Do you and I regard the Bible in this way? The apostle then says that the written Scriptures are inspired of God and profitable “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (vv. 16-17). The Bible teaches us what is right and wrong. It reproves us when we have failed the Lord. It corrects us when our behavior and attitudes are not pleasing to God. And it trains us to be righteous in spirit and body.

Do we really value God’s Word in this way? We should “delight” in God’s word (Psalm 119:16, 92), “love” His word (v. 97), and find His word to be “sweet” to our taste (v. 103). It is our light (v. 105) and because of it, we “hate every false way” (v. 104). When we love God’s Word, we will “mediate” on it “day and night” (1:2). We have been given a wonderful gift from God our Creator, so let’s not fail to “eat” His word daily and grow in our knowledge of Him! You will never enter the gates of the heavenly city if you neglect God’s truth contained in His Word!

 

2.   Eternity is of Greatest Duration

Jesus said that those in sin “will go away into eternal punishment,” but “the righteous will [go] into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Eternal punishment and eternal blessedness, both of these facts are overwhelming and utterly shattering to our complacency! You will live forever! I will live forever! Our family and friends will live forever! But how little interest we have in preparing for this inevitable reality.

Someone has likened eternity to a tiny bird that picks up a grain of sand from the Atlantic beach and flies with it to the moon. A thousand years later, the bird returns and picks up another grain of sand and takes it to the moon. How long will it take  the bird to transport all of the sand from the Atlantic Ocean to the moon? Then how long would it take it to move the entire Pacific Ocean shorelines to the moon? How long would it take the bird to remove the entire earth and take it to the moon? Whatever the answer, eternity will just be beginning!

I read of a man who put a large sign on his office wall that simply stated, “Eternity!” He allowed this simple word to influence his life and all he did. If we somehow had a glimpse of the fact of eternity (either eternal life or eternal punishment), surely it would change our life dramatically!  We do have a glimpse of both of these destinies if we are willing to read and believe the truths of Scripture.

        3.   Sin is the Greatest Evil

We tend to take sin for granted and think little of it. Somehow, it is so commonplace that we are not grieved, disturbed, or troubled by the existence of this violation of God’s will, God’s nature, and God’s plans.  In reality, sin is rebellion or high treason against God and His Law. Scripture says that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and “all unrighteousness is sin” (5:17).  We sin when we fail to do good (James 4:17) or when we do something we think may be wrong (Romans 14:23). When we sin—even a “little” sin—we are guilty of a horrible evil and offense against God.

Sin is so serious because it is committed against God, the greatest Being in the universe, our very Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, the just Law-giver and Judge! When we fail to have an accurate view of the true and living God, we will fail to see sin in its real nature.  Paul speaks of sin being “utterly sinful” (Romans 7:13). David had a true view of sin when he wrote, “My iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weight too much for me” (Psalm 38:4). Your sins and mine are too “heavy” for us to bear, thus we need some divine solution to this tragedy of sin. 

We have committed more sin than any of us imagine.  Paul wrote, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). David also recognized the extensiveness of sin in his life: “My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; they are more numerous than the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me” (Psalm 40:12). (Most people have about 100,000 hairs on the head, so that would be numerous sins in our life.) We need to recognize the problem of sin if we hope to overcome this dread foe! We must come to hate, despise, fear, and escape sin’s guilt and sin’s clutches.

       4.   God’s Wrath is His Greatest Response to Sin

As we’ve said, we tend to take sin for granted and fail to recognize how dreadful is this enemy of our soul. But God doesn’t overlook sin. He doesn’t close His eyes to it. He surely doesn’t’ forgive it! Sin, in all of its various forms, in all of its heinousness, brings forth God’s response of holy anger.  The Bible calls this wrath. Paul explained this connection at Romans 1:18: “The wrath [or anger] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Some people just think that God is “disappointed” when someone sins or is merely “displeased” with our sin. Instead, our holy and righteous God is a God of justice whose righteous response toward sin is that of holy wrath! He responds in this way since all sin is a violation of God’s righteous and loving character.

Much is said in Scripture about this holy wrath of a holy God. Paul explains,  “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). When someone refuses to repent, God is “storing up” His wrath. But be sure of this, that the burning wrath of God will one day be poured out on those who remain in their unforgiven sin! The wrath of God will be poured out on those in sin with the result that those with unforgiven sin will experience the eternal torment of the Lord (Revelation 14:10-11).

        5.   Hell is the Greatest Condemnation

Since God is holy and righteous, He cannot pretend that we humans have not sinned. Instead, He has chosen to create a place called Hell for those people who remain unforgiven. Originally “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), hell is the place where the vast majority of people will be consigned because of their sin.

Jesus asked certain hypocritical, religious sinners of His day, “How will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). None could escape—unless they were willing to find forgiveness from God. The same is true for us. Unless we “flee from the wrath to come” (3:7), we will inevitably face an eternal hell from which there is no escape!

What is this dreadful place? Eternal punishment will be in a place called gehenna or “hell” of “the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 18:9). It is a place of fire (Matthew 5:22), a place where both soul and body will go (Matthew 5:29-30; 10:28), a place described as “a furnace of fire” (13:50), and a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (13:42, 50; 25:30),

We also read of “the eternal fire” (18:8; 25:41). It will be a place called “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30). Hades is similar to hell and it is a place of “torment” and “agony” (Luke 16:23, 24, 25), where there is no hope—forever (vv. 24-31). This future punishment is called “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46) and “eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Hell will be a place where God’s wrath is poured out on the unrepentant (John 3:36; Romans 1:18) and even now those in sin are “storing up wrath” for the “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). 

None of us would want to go to such an eternal destination, but sadly, most people go through life with an attitude of unconcern, unaware of the fact that the vast majority will have this as their everlasting destiny. Many are on the “broad way” that “leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). Please don’t complacently go your way without finding deliverance from this dreadful place!

       6.   To lose One’s Soul is the Greatest Loss

Do we go beyond the superficial and remember how vital it is that we somehow escape the destiny of the lost?  This short life is the only opportunity that we have, but we so often just while away our time with inconsequential time-wasters and without taking seriously Paul’s command, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b). If we fail to come to Christ now—in this life—we have lost it for all eternity! This is a sober reality that we need to let sink into our consciousness. Once this life is past, we’ve lost all opportunity forever!

Our Lord Jesus knew what eternity past was like and what eternity future will be. He was in a position—as both God and man—to give us the warning that we need to shake us out of our complacency with the truth of eternity. He declared: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Mark 8:35-37). Jesus said that if we wish to save our life, we will lose it—for all eternity! If we lose our life through sacrificial service to Christ, we will save it.  If we gain the “whole world” but lose our soul, we gain nothing but a few short years of pleasure (which are not really pleasurable).

Christ Jesus also said, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25; cf. Luke 14:26). Does our desire for God and our craving for eternity with Him so captivate us that our life here on earth seems like “hatred” in comparison? We are yet dwelling in “the land of the living” but it may be better to call this “the land of the dead”—the spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). If we die without Christ, we will lose out forever and ever. Let’s realize this now, while we have time to change our destiny, and let us repent and seek God’s mercy while we may!

        7.   Death is the Greatest Enemy

We are aware that Satan is the fearful enemy of our soul, one who seeks to destroy us and lead us astray (1 Peter 5:8-9). It might also be said that sin is the enemy that has brought us such disastrous results (Genesis 3:31). But what did sin bring? 

If there had been no sin, there would be no death since death is the result of human sin.  Paul explains, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). In another place, we read, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Death to the human race came through the original sin of Adam in the beginning (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:19). Beyond this, our personal sin brings spiritual death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:22-23).

Since creation, every single person has died physically (except Enoch and Elijah) and most have died spiritually through personal sin (Romans 6:23; James 1:15; 5:20). But there is a day coming when sin and death will be removed. Paul writes, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is the “last enemy” but one day “death is swallowed up in victory”—a victory that is ours if we are in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54, cf. vv. 55-57; Romans 5:21).

       8.   Eternal Separation from God is the Greatest Punishment

We have seen above that death awaits the one who dies in his sins (Romans 6:23), but God’s holy and just punishment of death may be described in various ways. Each of these pictures or descriptions is awesome to contemplate. We need to realize the full extent of God’s retribution while we can do something to change our destiny, by the grace of God.

Sin is a dreadful foe that separates sinful man from a holy God.  We read, “Your iniquities [sins] have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2a). We are “alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). So sin creates a barrier between a sinful person and a holy God.

In this hopeless and helpless future state, those being judged will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God” and will “be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” and “they have no rest day and night” (v. 11). Hell is likewise described as “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8; cf. 20:14-15).

One of the most horrible aspects of this place of future punishment is that God will not be there!  Jesus will say to those who fail to do the will of the Father, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:41; Luke 14:27-28). Sadly, unforgiven sinners will be separated “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). We just can’t comprehend the awfulness of eternal punishment that will be inflicted on unrepentant sinners! How vital it is that we come to Christ now, that we may escape this coming destiny.

        9.   Christ’s Incarnation is the Greatest Miracle

There are many miracles mentioned in Scripture and all of them are filled with significance, but surely Christ’s enfleshment is among the greatest of them. Do we ever ponder, with utter amazement, this unique miracle? Do we become so accustomed to Christ’s coming as a baby that we cease to wonder about such an incredible event!

Jesus Christ experienced “glory” along with the Father before the creation of the world (John 17:5; cf. v. 24). We read this of the Lord Jesus even when He was existing in the form of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-2). Are we sure this was Jesus Christ? John answers, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Christ, God’s Son, was in spirit form before He came to this earth. But then, at a point of time, Christ was “incarnated” (enfleshed) in the womb of Mary! While continuing to be God, he also became man. This is why we often hear the term, the “God-Man.”  Nine months later, after Christ’s conception, Mary the virgin gave birth to Jesus, the one who was both deity and humanity, both divine and human.

Paul explains even further: “[Christ], although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). In another place, we read that Jesus “was revealed in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). It was essential that Christ be fully human, fully flesh, but also fully God, so that He could give Himself as an offering for sin on the cross. The Hebrew writer adds this: “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He [Christ] Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14; cf. v. 17). The one who confesses Jesus as coming in the flesh is from God, whereas the “antichrist” is the one who denies this incarnation experience (1 John 4:1-3; cf. 2:22-24; 2 John 7-11). Indeed, Christ’s incarnation (enfleshment) is absolutely essential to His saving work on the cross!

       10. Christ’s Death is the Greatest Sacrifice

It has been said that the death of Jesus our Lord on the cross is the central fact of all history. Without this great act of redeeming love, we would remain lost in our sins and would face an eternity without God in the horrible place called hell. But Jesus came to die on the cross to deliver us from this punishment that looms before us all!  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). But how was He to do this? Christ said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). How could He do this?

Paul explains that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Sin brings spiritual death to all of us, but Christ came into the world to save us by dying for us!  Christ “died for our sins” by becoming “sin on our behalf” (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). We are able to say that Christ “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).  He took on Himself our sin and died for those sins. “The LORD has caused the iniquity [sin] of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6). Peter must refer to this passage when he writes, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24a).  He also explains that “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (3:18a). Our deliverance from sin depends on this unique, unrepeatable once-for-all sacrifice!

Let’s summarize.  Jesus was willing to come to this earth by assuming a human body, so that He might be both divine and human, both God and man (John 1:1-5, 14; Philippians 2:5-11). Being in the flesh enabled Jesus to sacrifice Himself on the cross for us and for our sins (Hebrews 10:5-7; 2:14, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:3). He died for us by dying for our sins. Christ was willing to lay down His life and die on our behalf, which enables the Father to commute our sentence of death and allow us to go free (providing we are willing to accept what He has done for us). Surely, this is the greatest sacrifice ever offered! It effectively fulfilled all of the Old Testament sacrifices since He offered the one perfect sacrifice for all time!

        11. Christ’s Resurrection is the Greatest Victory

Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but he also was raised from the dead after three days.  Christ declared, “I lay it [Christ’s life] down on My own initiative. I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). It is as though the death of Christ was validated or accepted by the Father when He raised Christ from the dead. This is why Christ’s death and resurrection was a two-part message to those who were lost.  Paul brought this out: “He who was delivered over [in death] because of our transgressions, and was raised [from the dead] because of our justification” (Romans 4:25).

Paul also said, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The apostle went on to show the crucial nature of Christ’s resurrection.  If Jesus had not been raised, our faith would be in vain (v. 14), we would be false witnesses (v. 15), and we would still be in our sins (v. 17). Those who die in Christ would perish and not live (v. 18), and all hope for the future would be lost (v. 19).

But then Paul expresses the victory we have through the resurrection of the Lord: “Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are sleep [who are dead]” (v. 20). Finally, he writes, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (v. 22). Since Jesus was raised, we also will be raised from the dead when Christ returns in power and glory (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). As He said, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). Indeed, Christ’s resurrection settles the sin problem that His death came to solve. Let us rejoice since He is alive! It is no wonder that Paul could exclaim, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57)!

        12. Salvation is the Greatest Gift

We know that in one sense, Christ is the greatest “gift” from God the Father (John 3:16). But another way of looking at this is that through Christ, God offers us the wonderful gift of salvation.  We don’t appreciate this as we should. In fact, if we overlook Christ and his salvation, we overlook the greatest blessing in life and eternity.

The “gift” of salvation is mentioned in Ephesians 2:8: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Salvation is the “gift of God” and is offered to all who would freely take it!  Eternal life is a related gift from God: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Instead of receiving death that we deserve, we receive eternal life that we don’t deserve! Even “the gift of righteousness” will be ours through the “abundance of grace” from God (Romans 5:17).

The Holy Spirit is another of God’s gifts to us. Peter spoke to those who recognized their lost condition on the day of Pentecost. Notice carefully his response: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). When one repents of his sins and is baptized [immersed in water] in Christ’s name, he will be forgiven and receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. However Scripture describes it, salvation is God’s wonderful gift that comes to us through Jesus Christ! It’s the greatest gift you could receive!

           13. Failing to Come to Christ is the Greatest Failure

If someone offered you a gift of $1,000,000, wouldn’t it be strange for you to neglect claiming the gift?  God has offered to you and me a gift of greater value than a small sum of money. As we noticed above, the Lord offers us wondrous gifts of eternal life, the Holy Spirit, and salvation. Salvation has already been bought and paid for by Jesus Christ through His redeeming death on the cross. Thus all that remains is for one to claim the gift.  Paul explains, “As sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21). We don’t need to spiritually die; we can receive eternal life in Christ Jesus.

One of the chief reasons why people don’t find salvation through Christ is the fact that the gift is offered conditionally. That is, the reception and experience of eternal life comes to one on the condition of his acceptance. Suppose a millionaire offers you $1,000,000. He gives you a check for this amount so that you know it is freely given. But you must receive the check, you must take it to the bank, you must sign the check, and then you must accept the cash. This response is not an effort to “work” for the gift, but only to receive the gift and possess it. Likewise, when we receive salvation from God, we don’t earn this gift but we do need to receive it. As Paul said, we must “receive” reconciliation to God if we hope to experience it (Romans 5:11).

Although God freely offers salvation, the vast majority of people neglect this offer. They refuse to surrender to God through Christ Jesus, thus they fail to receive the greatest offer of salvation and eternal life. How foolish, how utterly foolish!

       14. Living for Jesus Now is the Greatest Privilege and Obligation

A million years from now, all of us will realize that we had the blessed opportunity to live each day on earth in a saving relationship with God and with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, in prayer to God His Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). To “know” God and to “know” Jesus Christ is to have eternal life. Do we experience this personal, saving, and life-giving knowledge of the Lord?

Do you live each day with the conscious knowledge that God is with you?  Do you enjoy this blessed fellowship each day of your life—twenty-four hours in a day?  We should be able to say with Paul, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We should also sincerely say that “Christ . . . is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Paul could say, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Who or what is your life? Do we live for sports, music, TV, sex, education, travel, cars, money, or material goods? These things will pass away (1 John 2:15-17), but our relationship with God is meant to last forever—from this life to the next. We can only live for Jesus on earth this life if we do so now—before we die. On the other side, we will have wished that we had fully and completely surrendered all to God and found the delight of His saving presence wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing. How could we “neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3a)!

       15. Sharing Jesus Christ with Others is the Greatest Commission

A “commission” is “an authoritative order, charge, or direction” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary). When Jesus left this earth to return back to God His Father, He gave this commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Notice the elements of this crucial charge. It is based on Christ’s universal authority (v. 18). Basically, the command is to make “disciples” of people from all nations. A disciple is a “learner,” an “adherent,” or a “follower” of the Lord Jesus. How do we do this? The Greek indicates that these disciples are made by baptizing them and by teaching them (vv. 19-20). And what should we teach these ones coming to Jesus? All that Jesus had commanded the apostles is what we are to teach (and this would include all that Jesus taught the apostles and New Testament writers after Jesus departed from them, Acts 1:3). Jesus promises to be “with” us all through this age until He returns.

Christ also gave a commission in Mark 16:15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Here we have the opportunity and command to share the “good news” (gospel) of Jesus Christ with everyone on earth. The one who will believe this gospel and be baptized will be saved, whereas the one who rejects the message in unbelief will be condemned. In a similar way, Jesus says that “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).

These commissions (or forms of one general commission) show that now—at the present time—we are to be busy following the final command of the Lord, given  before He ascended back to the Father in heaven. These are the “marching orders” for His soldiers as they live on earth during this age. Are we fulfilling Christ’s will in this matter? Do we take this as an essential statement of His desire for His followers who remain on earth until He returns in the clouds for His own (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)?

Now is the time to do something to fulfill this privilege of being His representatives on earth, for we don’t know how much time we have left before He comes in flaming fire to render judgment on those who do not know God or obey the gospel of Christ Jesus and when he arrives to be glorified by all who belong to Him and are waiting for Him (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Besides this, we don’t know when our life on earth will cease by death and thereby end all opportunity to live for Christ here.

        16. Love for God and Others is the Greatest Virtue

We realize that God’s love for us is a great demonstration of His peerless character. Thus we read, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So basic is the love of God to His character that we read, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). The result of God’s love for us and of His choice of us is that we can be His children: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1; cf. Ephesians 1:4-5; 2:4; 3:17-19; Titus 3:4).

Besides God’s love for us, let’s consider our love for God and others! The Lord Jesus said that the “foremost” or greatest command of God can be summed up with these words: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The second command is similar: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 31).

Again and again, Jesus and the apostles spoke of the special love that brothers and sisters would have toward each other, a love that partakes of the same intensity that Jesus had for us when He suffered and died for us. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34; cf. v. 35; 15:12; 1 John 4:7-5:3). It is entirely fitting for us to say that love is the greatest virtue! Let us determine to allow the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of love in our lives (Galatians 5:22).

        17. Sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the Greatest Joys and Blessings of life

We know that in this fallen world of apostasy, true unity with other believers seems to be elusive. Wherever we look, professing Christians are living apathetic lives or even outright sinful lives. Hypocrisy and heresy seem to be on every hand. Many of us despair of finding true saints, ones who know God personally and savingly, ones who walk in truth, love, and righteousness. But when we do have a taste of such spiritual unity and fellowship, this is one of the sweetest experiences here on earth as we await Christ’s glorious coming.

The Lord Jesus prayed for true spiritual unity of His followers (John 17:8-23). He prayed for those who believe in Christ through the apostles’ word, “that they may all be one” even as Christ and the Father were and are one (John 17:21). He went on to say, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (v. 23a). Paul knew the value of this practical unity: “I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). He urges the Ephesians to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (3:3-6). In a world of religious division, strive, animosity, selfishness, and sectarianism, God wants a people who know Him and who experience a unity of life and faith.

We can see why David could exclaim, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). John also rejoiced in true children of God: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4; cf. v. 12; 2 John 4). Paul the apostle said that he would be “filled with joy” in fellowship with Timothy (2 Timothy 1:4) and John also said that his joy would “be made complete” with his fellow believers (1 John 1:4). In many different ways, the New Testament writers emphasize the importance of believers being in full unity in Christ by the Spirit and finding sweet joy in such an experience. Is this a passion that you have in your heart?

        18. Entering the Kingdom of God in the Heavenly City is the Greatest Promise and Hope

Again and again, our Savior promised that the Kingdom of God would be given to those who followed Him and served God the Father. He said that the poor in spirit would receive the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness will be given the kingdom of heaven (v. 11). Again and again we notice that the kingdom of God will be the eternal reward for those faithful to the Lord (cf. Matthew 19:23-24; 25:31-34, 46).

There are many descriptions given of the coming eternal state of blessedness, fulfillment, and joy. This coming destiny will provide “eternal life”—a life that will never end and a new quality of life, the very life of God (cf. Matthew 19:23-24; 25:46). We may enjoy a taste of eternal life right now (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 11:25-26), but this will be given in its fullness when Christ returns in glory. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

God promises the blessings of the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, and the new heavens and new earth to those who are faithful until death (Revelation 2:10-11; 21:1-2). This glorious place is called “the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7; cf. Luke 23:43), and Paradise is a Persian word meaning “beautiful garden.” This is something for which to look forward! It is also called the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). This is a place where there will no longer be death, mourning, crying, or pain, “for the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (v. 4; 7:14). In this beautiful and delightful place we will partake of “springs of the water of life” (Revelation 7:17; 21:6; 22:1) and “the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7; 22:2).

Most of all, we can forever be with God Himself (Revelation 21:3) and with the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; cf. Revelation 22:3-4). The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8; cf. Hebrews 12:14). God will say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Don’t you wish to be in an eternal place where all things have been made “new”! All sin will be eliminated—forever (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15). It will be a place of righteousness, purity, holiness and great blessing (2 Peter 3:13). By God’s grace, all of this will be given to one who has come to God through Jesus Christ!

The Greatest Plan of the Ages

We have noticed eighteen of the “greatest” events, greatest obligations, and greatest blessings in God’s marvelous plan of the ages. Has this truth touched your heart and are you convicted of your own need to live in light of eternity?

In order to respond to the Lord and partake of the rich blessings which can only be experienced in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), we need to make sure of our own relationship with Him. It would be a shame for you to discover too late that you have been deceived about these spiritual realities!  It would be a tragedy for you to discover too late that you merely thought you were saved but never truly came to Christ through a genuine experience of the new birth!

Scripture warns, “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7a). We also read, “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Corinthians 3:18a). Jesus further cautions us, “See to it that no one misleads you. . . . Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4, 11).

You and I need to be doubly sure of our own salvation and of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ His Son. As Paul urged, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a). We must not simply assume that all is well and that our spiritual condition is secure.

Salvation and eternal life are gifts that come to us freely from God, apart from our own worth, merit, or desert.  We can’t deserve eternal life. We can only accept it! We “receive” salvation and can’t “achieve” salvation. But how do we receive this freely-offered gift of salvation and eternal life?

Scripture says that the “gift” of eternal life comes to one who will believe in Christ as the only God-given Son of God: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Thus, we must “believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16b). Furthermore, God grants “the repentance that leads to life”—eternal life (Acts 11:18b). The key is “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Thus, repentance that is coupled with faith is essential to receive the free gift of eternal life. This repentant faith is expressed in baptism, for when one is raised from the waters of baptism, he walks “in newness of life” or begins to live a new life that is eternal (Romans 6:3; cf. Colossians 2:12-13). Consequently, eternal life is a gift given to one who responds to Christ in saving faith.

What about the “gift” of salvation? This too calls for the response of faith in Christ, for Scripture says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Repentance is also related to receiving this gift, for a repentant faith is essential. Paul refers to a “repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This believing repentance is expressed in baptism as well.  Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a; cf. 1 Peter 3:21).

And then there is the “gift” of the Holy Spirit.  Paul tells us that we “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14b). When we believe, we are “sealed in Him [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). As we noticed earlier, this gift of the Spirit comes to one who responds in faith and baptism: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39). A baptism that expresses a repentant faith is thus important when we seek the Holy Spirit as God’s gracious gift.

We could further look at the forgiveness of sins which is a “gift” from the Lord, even though that term isn’t used in this regard.  Peter says that “everyone who believes in Him [Christ] receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). But this forgiveness comes as a result of repentance as well. Jesus said that “repentance for forgiveness of sins” would be proclaimed in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47). This same apostle also declared, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19; cf. 5:31). Thus, the gift of God’s forgiveness is a conditional promise. As we noticed earlier, forgiveness comes to one who repents of his sins and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38).

The sinner’s response to God in Christ is a unified one. There are various elements to this response but they all relate to the sin-bearing and risen Lord and Savior. Will you humble yourself and come with a repentant faith to God and thus receive the gifts of eternal life, forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the Holy Spirit? These blessings only come when we turn to Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Will you come today? No excuse is justified. No delay is reasonable. After death, all will be lost and it will be too late (Hebrews 9:27). “Now is the “acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

The “Greatest” Truth and Experience of Life

We have covered many truths as we examined one scripture after another. Indeed, we are living with the truth of God as revealed in His Word, and in this word we read of the greatest truths imaginable. We’ve noticed the greatest revelation in the Bible, the greatest evil being sin, the greatest condemnation, the greatest miracle, and the greatest sacrifice. On and on we noticed how God deals with superlatives.

Can you now see that life is filled with tremendous truths that should make a profound and lasting effect on our life?  How can we go through life as we always have lived without being touched by the truths contained in our little discussion! These facts should show us that we can’t just continue with “life as normal,” a life that devolves into complacency and sameness. Rather, as we consider these amazing and shocking truths, our heart should be moved to live in faith, to live with passion, and to live with action! 

Will you and I take this message of “greatness” and allow it to change our heart now and for eternity? Let us launch out into the deep now that our life will be what God has always wanted!

 

Comments are closed.