Joy of the Gospel

November 18, 2023

The Mystery of God

In Revelation 10:6 we see a phrase: "that there should be time no longer." This has been translated as "not yet." Or, it is also understood to mean "should not yet be" on earth. But what is this time it refers to? Some believe this time refers to another verse in Revelation 16:17, where it reads, "And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done.'" That is to say, it is finished. These words, of course, are the same words uttered before Jesus died (John 19:30). This "time" also refers to a passage where the prophet Daniel writes, "And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (Daniel 12:7).

This time is also referred to as the mystery of God, the secret of God. The apostle Paul mentions the mystery of God (Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25-26), and he refers to it as being revealed "by the scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). But it is in Ephesians, where the apostle Paul is more explicit in his enunciation of the mystery. The apostle Paul says the mystery is "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" and this is "the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:6,9).

Jesus makes it clear what this mystery is to his disciples after he resurrected from the dead. The explanation of this mystery is recorded in Luke 12. After Jesus explains to his disciples how Scripture foretold that Christ must suffer death and be resurrected from the dead, he says this: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his [Jesus Christ's] name among all nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (Luke 12:47).

Now, what does this mystery tell us today? Well, we must first ask ourselves, why would there be another need for an additional mystery? One mystery revealed to us, especially if it is the mystery of God Almighty, should be enough to satisfy our spiritual needs. Thus, one should not attempt to create another derivative mystery, which lacks the power and meaning of the mystery at hand. Still, we can gain from an understanding from the pattern of this wonderful mystery: that the salvation of God through Jesus Christ is for all people; there is no one left out. Likewise, perhaps, we can learn to not keep people out of opportunities, privileges, rights, etc. that were meant for everyone. Indeed, the mystery of God is not primarily a socio-economic statement. However, such a statement, this idea that God does not discriminate against who gets his salvation, invites us all to see that things beforehand thought to be only for one group of people are actually—when revealed—for all people. Such a revelation may have to come from external spiritual and psychological help.

Furthermore, it is the grace—the grace of God—that is extended in an unconditional movement toward our souls. Of course, there is a conditional "counter movement" we must make to accept God's movement towards us. Still, the first move (even the move toward humanity by Jesus Christ) did not require a prior move toward God. That is to say, "God loved us because he loved us." We cannot logically say, "God loved us because we loved him." Indeed, Jesus was sent to humanity on the basis of the former "love statement." With that said, if we look at the unconditional movement of God's love, grace, and salvation toward us, what does or should this prompt in our souls? What is God prompting us to do? What type of move, without a "preconditioned" ploy, should we make toward others who should have the same opportunities, privileges, and rights as those who already enjoy these things?

November 10, 2023

His Yoke Is Easy

Of course, Jesus says, "My yoke is easy" (Matthew 11:30). But why does his yoke not always feel easy? It may come from not understanding what is really being said in this passage. Indeed, dying and going through persecution and challenges do not seem easy. Still, let us look at the passage more closely. First, yoke, here, means servitude. Scripture is not talking about an actual yoke. It is talking about a posture of service towards Jesus Christ. Taking on the yoke of Jesus Christ is doing what he commands us to do. Second, "easy," here means to be mild, pleasant, or manageable. The latter definition may serve us better here. Nonetheless, all three meanings are important. I believe we understand this statement better when we compare the yoke of Jesus to the yoke of the Pharisees. When Jesus said these words, Pharisees were making it hard for people to be "holy." This "holiness" was, of course, the self-justification of works instead of faith. Therefore, the Pharisees had a bunch of ordinances, customs, and laws other than the more important laws of showing mercy and loving our neighbors. It was in this context (this sense of comparison) that Jesus says my yoke is easy. In other words, Scripture could be saying, "Following Jesus is way easier than following some man-made way of doing things." Or, "It is easier to follow Jesus than to follow what the preacher on the TV says to do." Or, "Follow Jesus instead of 'fill in the blank.'" When Jesus says that his yoke is easy, it feels as if he is inviting us to make him not only number one in command, but the only one in command regarding our spiritual salvation. If we do this, it appears that our spiritual journey will be easier. Of course, this does not mean we will have it "easy," in the sense of this physical world. Trials, persecution, and death will still occur. But we can be sure that the road to our salvation will be clear and straightforward.

November 4, 2023

Love, No Fear

You may have heard someone say that fear is the opposite of love. This belief usually comes from a passage in the Bible. It reads, "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). This belief may also come from the words of the apostle, John. It reads, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..." (1 John 4:18). Now, fear may or may not be the opposite of love. But let us just say it is. How would fear be the opposite of love? Well, if love is, as we said before, obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ, fear would have to be its opposite. What would fear be here? It would be disobedience. Yet, how can we equate fear with disobedience? Well, if we think that the commands of Jesus Christ take courage, it might be easier to understand the relationship between fear and love. Jesus loved God so much that he obeyed him, even when it meant dying on the cross. Did dying on the cross take courage? I think any rational human would agree that to die on the cross willingly would require a lot of courage. Likewise, when Jesus Christ commands us to do things, it takes courage. But if we really love him, we disregard the consequences, even if the consequence is death. So, fear has no place in such a love as this, a place of perfect love.

November 3, 2023

What Does It Mean to Love God?

The apostle John says "God is love" (1 John 4:16). And some of us may now that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Some of us may ask ourselves how can we return the love of God. Well, the love that God requires and wants from us differs from an earthly love. The love God wants requires action. The apostle John says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (John 5:3). The apostle John also says, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment" (2 John 1:6). In other words, following the commandments of God shows that we love him. Saying that we love him or showing it through our emotions is not the only way we express that we love God. We express our love for God by doing what he tells us to do. We love through obedience. The apostle John warns us that some may try to trick us, that Jesus Christ did not come to earth in human form (2 John 1:7). But why would he make this warning? The idea of Jesus not coming to earth in human form makes it easier for some people to disregard living a human life in subjection to the rules of God. That is to say, some might say, "If Jesus did not live a human life and follow the commandments of God, why should I?" But this is the very argument that people cannot logically say; Jesus came to earth and suffered in his humanity just like us and was obedient to death, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15; Philippians 2:8). Thus, living a life free from sin is fathomable. It is possible. Do not let others deceive you. Since Jesus came to earth and died for our sins, we are also dead to sin. Therefore, let us take off the old self and put on our new church clothes, so to speak.

November 2, 2023

Asking For Things

Today, we have a number of people who claim we should just claim things to have them. They say we should claim cars, houses, publishing deals, jobs, relationships, health, etc. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things in moderation. There is nothing wrong with believing God can provide these things. However, we should not confuse our will with the will of God. The physical things, especially when they are earthly (serve no spiritual ends), are not always what is in the will of God. God usually focuses on the spiritual side of life. To be sure, God never intended for us to be poor. But God is the same Jesus who said, "The poor you will always have with you..." (Matthew 26:11). Yet what does he say next? "But you will not always have me" (Matthew 26:11). This statement stresses that we are at our poorest when we do not have Jesus. In other words, Jesus highlights a deeper sense of poverty we can have. On the contrary, when we have Jesus, we are rich. Thus, physical things should not seem so important when we truly have Jesus. It is in this relationship, this space, that it is easier to pray according to the will of God, seeking the things he wants. And we can be glad knowing that Scripture is explicit in saying if we ask for something according to the will of God, we will receive it (1 John 5:14-15; James 4:3; Matthew 7:7-8; Psalm 37:4). This does not mean we will get everything we ask that seems like the will of God. Sometimes we do not know what the will of God is. But we have a hint or idea of what his will is. We know that the will of God is righteous. Therefore, we should pray righteous and earnest prayers, as the apostle James beckons us to do (James 5:16-17). Furthermore, we can have comfort in that when we ask for something and we receive it, that we actually asked something according to the will of God. Thus, do not stop asking God for things. Those who ask will receive. But remember to ask for the best things, things according to his will.

November 1, 2023

Trying the Spirits

"Beloved, believe not every spirit but try the spirits" (1 John 4:1-2). Everyone who says they are from God are not always from God. Also, we should not always believe people when they say they are speaking the words of God. We must, according to the apostle John, test and scrutinize every spirit. This "spirit" is the manifested spirit, so to speak, of an individual. This spirit can be godly or demonic. One sign the apostle John gives us to distinguish a godly spirit is its confession of the arrival of Jesus Christ. This arrival is in human form. Now, in what way can a person say that Jesus Christ did not come to earth in human form? Simply, all people who say Jesus was a real person but deny his Christhood oppose this godly spirit. The apostle John calls this spirit the antichrist. Confessing the Christhood in human form is the crux of the apostle John's statement. Of course, historical evidence does not allow many rational people to deny outright the existence of Jesus as a real person. But such historical evidence does not necessarily stop some people from denying Jesus' Christhood-his Messianic identity. Therefore, the antichrist is someone who detests not the existence of Jesus, but, more so, his Messianic character. Such antichrists deny that Jesus Christ, the human, has come and can save us all. With this said, we must think about what acknowledging Jesus' Christhood looks like?