God makes certain great promises, and they are great promises, and we're going to see that God is someone you can absolutely, completely, trust and rely upon to keep His word.
Well, we all know that God is in charge of everything, don't we, in the world, and things happen in my life or in the church - I always try to keep the big picture in mind and keep things in proper perspective, that that God that George was talking about is very much alive - very aware of everything going on in the whole world, and every nation on earth; He‘s very aware of what's going on in our nation, and all of the nations of Israel. He's very aware of what is going on in His church, which is today not just the United Church of God, but God has people who is still faithful to Him, as we all know, in other groups and organizations as well around the world. And so God is fully aware of everything going on in His church on the face of the earth. And He's fully aware of everything going on in our individual lives, completely and totally.
So today, in my message, and George's sermonette was an excellent introduction, I'm going to talk about God's great promises, that God makes certain great promises, and they are great promises, and we're going to see that God is someone you can absolutely, completely, trust and rely upon to keep His word. Now most of us have had someone promise something to us and not keep that promise - we've had promises broken. We probably have broken promises, that maybe we have made to others. And the dictionary defines a promise as an oral or written agreement to do something - we agree to do something, we give our word, orally, or maybe in writing. But we also know, most of us, that broken promises cause disappointment, and distrust, and we've all experienced that as well. Maybe we have been the victim of broken promises; maybe we have broken promises to others, and it's caused disillusionment or distrust. We're human, we're imperfect - we all make mistakes. We see things from our perspective, each of us individually. We have different temperaments; different personalities; different backgrounds; different cultures - so many differences. And so we can see things from many different perspectives.
And so we're going to look today at the promises, some of the great promises of God - five of them that I'm going to focus on, and we'll see that we can trust God. And that's what gives us stability. No matter what we go through in the world, or in the church, or in our lives - no matter what we go through, we know we can trust God. And we're going to see that He always brings good out of everything. So before we look at those five great promises, first let's see that we can always count on God to keep His word; let's look at where He says that. We can trust Him, we can believe Him, we can know even when we don't understand, and when we are confused, we know He will keep His promises to us. Let's go to Hebrews, Chapter 6, to begin with - Hebrews, Chapter 6, Verses 11 through 18. And here is what it says, beginning in Verse 11:
Hebrews 6:11 Hebrews 6:11And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end:
American King James Version× And we desire that each of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
In other words, let up keep our faith and trust in God to the very end of our lives, whatever that may be for us.
Verse 12: And that you do not become sluggish, (or lazy it says in the margin, and I'm reading from the New King James Bible - that we're not to become lazy, or let down ) but that we imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (And we'll be looking at those in a moment.)
Verse 13: For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, (In other words, by My name, I will keep that promise.)
Verse 14: Saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you."
Verse 15: And so, after he (now we are referring to Abraham here) - after Abraham had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Verse 16: For men indeed swear by the greater, (that is, by the higher power) and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
When you gave your word - remember it used to be that way in our country, America. They didn't have contracts - they gave their word and they shook hands, and that meant something. A man would keep his word; that was a contract.
Verse 17: Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, (the margin here says - it's another rendering of that: the unchangeableness of His purpose, of the immutability of His counsel) - determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise - and we're part of those heirs - the unchangeableness of His purpose, He confirmed it by an oath, - and again, an alternate translation is: He guaranteed it - God guaranteed it by a promise. It goes on in Verse 18:
Verse 18: that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, (or comfort, as that is translated sometimes in other translations - that we might have strong comfort) who have fled for refuge (you know, for help, or protection, or strength, or encouragement) to lay hold of the hope set before us.
So, those two immutable things are, One: God made a promise; God has promised. And secondly: God cannot lie. It's His nature, His character; God is perfect, Holy and righteous. It's impossible for God to lie. So I think it's important to remember that as we go through His promises, because sometimes we wonder, what is God doing? Why is He allowing this; what is happening? Is God keeping His word to us?
So the first great promise that I want to bring out that God has made to us that is so important is this one:
Number one: He will always love us unconditionally. Now you stop and think about that. How important is that? Children growing up, the number one thing children need is love. When they grow up with that love, they grow up with security; they know mom and dad love them. They don't have a doubt, they don't worry, they're not abused, and they grow up secure and strong emotionally to deal with life because of that love. So love is critical, and this love that God tells us about doesn't depend upon how handsome we are, what our talents or abilities are, how intelligent we are, anything...it's an unconditional, faithful love - most of us know that. The Greek work, agape...it's a word that's coined in the New Testament that is talking about the faithful, dependable, trustworthy love of God, that is always for us; He's never against us - always for us. It takes awhile to understand and grasp that love of God.
Let's go to I John, Chapter 4. But it certainly changed my life when God first called me, fifty-one years ago for me - I didn't really grasp. My parents loved me, but they were human, they were not perfect, they made mistakes and I really didn't understand the depth of God's love for me. I John, Chapter 4, and we'll read Verses 8 through 10.
I John 4: 8 He who does not love does not know God...(and this is talking about this absolutely constant faithful, dependable, trustworthy love of God that is always there for us)...does not know God, for God is love.
This describes God's nature, His character, His everything - He's a Being, that more than anything else I think, when we meet Him we're just going to see that love radiating from His face, and His eyes, and His personality - we'll feel that love, that deep concern and care. It just is what He is. And Verse 9 says:
Verse 9: In this the love of God was manifested (or revealed) toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son (or, as it could be from the Greek, His uniquely born Son - no one has ever been like Jesus Christ, who He was, and how He became human) - God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (Really live)
Verse 10: In this is love, not that we loved God, (in other words, down in Verse 19 it says we love Him because He first loved us.) I think back, and I didn't really know God when He called me; I knew about Him. I didn't really love Him - I wanted to, but He loved me first, and gradually, because of His love, He taught me how to love Him back. And so, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (or the atonement, or the forgiveness) of all of our sins.
Wow! What a gift and a blessing to know that all of our sins, past, present, future can be forgiven when we repent and accept Christ, His Son, as our Savior. Drop down to Verse 16:
Verse 16: And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides ( in other words, he who lives in God's love) lives in God, and God lives in him.
And so, as we're all learning in our Christian lives, it's all about God, and it's all about being like God and growing to become more like Him, and it's transforming, no matter what a person's problems are in life. And all of us are fully aware, I've worked in the Focused Education Department of United from it's very inception, and helped develop that program...Dave Register's here - he's had a hand in that as well and fully understands these issues - but in the focused educational part of our educational programs, we're trying to learn how, and work with people, and have them help us to learn, whatever their issues may be, of dealing with people who struggle with homosexuality, or sexual abuse, or addictions, or any of those kind of things. And it's always, when they come to understand how much God loves them, no matter what their past or problems are, that healing really begins to take place. They begin to understand and comprehend the incredible depth and faithfulness of God's love for them personally and individually. And when they receive that from God, and then from other church members, that kind of love and acceptance, no matter what their past is, no matter what their problems, that's when they begin to find a home and security, and peace...they've found a home of love and acceptance. Not acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a child of God that God loves, that God has called, and that God is working with to bring healing in their lives. So this promise of God to always love us is amazing. Notice Verses 18 and 19:
Verse 18: There is no fear in love; - So as we grow in the love of God, this kind of love of God, there is no fear. We have concerns and worries at times, and anxieties, but as you grow in this love of God, you just know everything's going to be okay, even through the suffering and the pain and the trials - you just know it, because God is love, and you no longer have the wrong kind of fear - But perfect love - which means God's love, agape love - casts out fear, - so as we grow in the love of God, our fears and worries and anxieties...they begin to fade away and go away. And that's why we can do what George was saying and go to God in prayer, and knowing that this God of love is there, we cast our worries and burdens upon Him. And we don't walk and live a life of fear, no matter what we're going through - because fear involves torment. So, when we are immature in the love of God, we're going to be more tormented. Whenever, maybe, somebody attacks us, or accuses us, or you know, whatever goes on, but if you're filled with the love of God, you're not going to let anger, resentment, bitterness, hurt, pain or any of those things cause you to lash out at others. And we see a lot of that happening today, and I understand all of that - but God's perfect love casts out fear and torment from our lives. But he who fears has not been made perfect - or mature, it could be translated, in love. So it really is all about the love of God, because God is love.
There's one other incredible Scripture, (just one more - Romans 8), that is so amazing. Romans, Chapter 8, Verses 35 through 39, which reminds us of the power of God‘s love and how important it is, this promise. So Romans 8, Verses 35 through 39.
Romans 8:35 Romans 8:35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
American King James Version× Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Who, or what? Is there anything, brethren, is there anything that can separate us from God? Let's just see what Paul wrote: Shall tribulation, - what about our trials, any of the trials we have - distress, now we all have that - persecution, - maybe being personally persecuted for some reason or another - God allows that in our lives; Christ was persecuted; Paul was persecuted. How do we handle persecution? Do we persecute back? - or famine - what if we experience a lack of food at some time, or a loss of a job, or problems, or what the future may hold...he's saying, is that going to separate us from Christ? What about nakedness, - if you maybe lack clothing, or shelter, or whatever - will that do it? No, what about peril, or danger - what if danger comes? Or war: the sword? Somehow, will they do it? No!
Verse 36: As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." - And then he goes on:
Verse 37: Yet in all of these things we are more than conquerors - he says we're more than over comers - through Him who loved us. You know, because we know the love of God, we see what Christ did, how far He was willing to go, all the way, give your life no matter what, and Paul goes on and says:
Verse 38: I am persuaded - and he's totally convinced, there were no doubts, not even an inkling of a doubt in Paul's mind of God's love for him - that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities (and here the NIV translation says: demons) - demons? I mean, they're pretty powerful, we see that in the world today; we see them even at work in the church, trying to divide and destroy us. But, they're not more powerful than God, and when you know that, and trust that, you realize that they will ultimately fail in their purposes. And it says: nor powers (of any kind) - and notice this part, the last part of Verse 38 - nor things present, (nothing present that we're going through) nor anything to come, - nor anything that can come - nothing. There's nothing to be afraid of, or fear. God is never going to let anything separate us from Him. It goes on:
Verse 39: Nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, - in other words, nothing. There isn't anything that shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Wow! Nothing, you can relax! You can trust God's love for all mankind and for all of us. He will always love us unconditionally.
Let's look at the next great promise: He will be with us and strengthen us in all of our trials. We're going to see, He will allow us to have many, many trials in our lives - that's all to help us grow, but He will always strengthen us and help us. That's a promise; we know that. Many of you have been around a long time, so you know that. Let's look at Hebrews, Chapter 13 here, that He promises to be with us and strengthen us in all of our trials. Hebrews 13, and we'll be reading Verses 5 and 6:
Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version× Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, - God, Himself has said - "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Sometimes we might feel, emotionally, like "where is He; where is God", because He lets a trial go on and on in our lives, or in the church, that is hurting us, and hurting brethren, and hurting each other. But He Himself has said, "I will never forsake you, leave you nor forsake you", and here, of course, you can probably see from the Scriptures in the margin there, He's quoting what God said to Moses, and what God said to Joshua, "I will never leave you nor forsake you", and He didn't. And then in Verse 6:
Verse 6: So we may boldly say: (and then He quotes what God said to David, or what David said in a prayer about God): "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
So, that is so true isn't it? That's why you and I are here today, after our many decades in the church, because God has helped us and has been with us, and we've been through many, many, many things, in our personal lives and in the church over the years; many trials, many tests, and there will be many more. Notice I Corinthians 10:13 under this second great promise of God, that He will be with us, and strengthen us, and help us in all of our trials. I Corinthians, Chapter 10, Verse 13 where Paul wrote:
I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation (no trial) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; - everybody has serious trials and problems in life and in the world - but God is faithful - you know, when God calls someone to be a first fruit into His church now, He doesn't love us more than He loves other people, but we are special to Him; we're the first fruits. We're called to be in that first resurrection. He has a special plan and purpose for us, and so He works with us - God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, ... Isn't that a good promise, to know that? God knows what we are able to take, and I think most of us probably have been around long enough to know that God will take us, push us further sometimes in our trials, than we would push ourselves. But He'll let things happen in our lives that take us further in a test of our faith and character and the development of us spiritually than we might take ourselves, because we don't know what we're capable of - He does. And so He will allow many serious, challenging, difficult trials in our lives to help us grow, but not more than we are able to bear or deal with - but with the temptation (or trial) will make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
You know, with His help - if it's more than you can help, or bear, then God will provide release, or help, or someone, or He'll do it directly. And sometimes, I think we would all agree, that we have seen by experience, that sometimes God allows death to be the way of escape - I've seen that many times with His people at different ages, and under different circumstances. The best place of safety there is, as you all know, on the face of this earth, is in the grave. Once you're in the grave you're at peace and it doesn't matter what happens, it's not going to hurt you or affect you, and then you're going to be in the resurrection. But, God isn't through with us yet in this life, and we have severe trials that are very great, then He will send someone to comfort us, or He will send more of the help of His Holy Spirit - He can do so many different things to strengthen us so that we are not destroyed by that trial that we may be going through; God is faithful, right here it says.
Then one more Scripture on this, II Corinthians, Chapter 1. So we're looking at His second great promise that He will always be with us. No matter what trials He allows in our lives He will not give us more than we can bear, and He will strengthen us. His purpose is to make us stronger - stronger in character and stronger in faith, and you grow stronger, as you all know, by coming through trials and seeing the hand of God. So II Corinthians, Chapter 1, Verses 3 and 4.
II Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, - that's God the Father, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort -
Verse 4: who comforts us in all of our (trials or) tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, - so God helps us through our trials, and then we learn and we grow, and we grow stronger, and then we're able to help a brother or a sister - maybe newer or younger, struggling with something, because we've grown in faith and in trust in God, and we're able to comfort others. And then the last part of Verse 4, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
And so the Bible makes it very plain and clear that God will strengthen us in our trials; He'll comfort us. He's a God of mercy who loves to comfort. He has compassion and mercy and He's able to comfort us in so many different ways. You think of the ways, for a moment, in your trials and tests in life that God has sent His comfort, or encouragement, to you. It could be just directly from Him through His spirit, maybe while you were in prayer. Just all of a sudden you felt a release of worry and fear and tension. It works - prayer works, because there is a God. And when we go to God in faith and give our burdens to Him and ask for help or relief, we've all experienced that direct help where He just seems to relieve the agony of the heart, and the mind, and the worry and the doubt, and you just all of a sudden know everything's going to be okay. You don't know how, but you know it will.
So God can do it directly through His spirit; He can do it through the reading of His word, or hearing a sermonette like George's. I mean it just makes you realize the magnitude - we can't even truly comprehend the magnitude of God and His love, His capacity. But He's a Being of great love and mercy and compassion. And He can comfort us through His word as we read it ourselves, at home privately, or as we hear it spoken; it gives you comfort. You feel it - you feel His comfort because it's His spirit - it's His spirit that we all have, and so it's God who deserves the glory. He's given us the knowledge, the understanding, He's given us His word, He's given us His spirit, and so when we preach His words they have a spiritual affect. And so He can strengthen us through His word, and He can strengthen us and comfort us through the brethren. We all know that. There's nothing like when someone's hurting, sick, or has a serious problem, sometimes just go there and be with them. You can give a word of encouragement, but sometimes just touching them - just loving them, and caring, comforting them - just letting them know you love them. It's strengthening to them. Even in death, dignity in death, we're all aware of that, that sometimes just being there with them through their trial. And so God has done that for all of us I think, and sent others who've been around longer than we have, through many trials in life and in the church, who have a, maybe a greater depth of comprehension of God and how He works and what He's trying to accomplish in our lives. And they come along, and just the fact that they've been around for decade after decade after decade; they're not going anywhere. They're not going to leave God and His church and His work, you know, regardless of what happens organizationally within us - we've all been through this before.
What I'm saying is, you just know: "Okay, it's going to be okay." God's in charge - we don't know what He's doing, why it's going the way that it is for sure, but He will strengthen us and He will be with us. So, God sends us comfort in many different ways, so you know, we don't have to lie awake at night, sleepless and worrying. I have at times - I think we all would confess that! Very much at times, especially recently when I found out I was going to be President - I thought: "Uh-oh, it did happen, didn't it?" So, you know, it's a strange thing, I could have withdrawn my name early in the process, and maybe I should have, but LeeAnn and I talked it over and said, "Well, if I withdraw my name then I'm making the decision about what happens - if I leave it in, I'm hoping, or trusting, and letting God make the decision." So, that's what we did, and we left it in His hands and here we are! But, I just know, brethren, I don't have the answers to everything we're going through - obviously I don't. I don't know anybody that does - we'll yes I do! We all know somebody that has all of the answers!
Now let's look at the next promise; it's part of the answer. This next promise we're going to see in Scripture from God is that He will work out all things for good in our lives. That means in the church, as well. He will work out all things for good in our lives. Doesn't mean, as we all know - we understand Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×- that's the Scripture we're going to turn to next - that Scripture doesn't say that all things that happen to us are good. God does let hard things, bad things happen to good people; we know that. Look at Job's life. Job was a good man, a righteous man, and look at what happened to him. Wow! Unbelievable, what God allowed to happen in his life. I wonder what I would do if all my children were killed, all my possessions were gone, and everything; and lost everything. Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×- we all know that Scripture. Here's what it says - here's Paul again, this incredible man who grew so much:
Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version× We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We know it, he says - Paul didn't doubt, or wonder, or worry - he just knew it. That whatever God allowed to happen in his life was going to work out for good, for him, for the church, for the brethren - for his eternal life in the kingdom of God. He knew it; he didn't doubt it, even though I'm sure he didn't understand sometimes why God let him be beaten and shipwrecked and stoned to death, or it seems like he was, and resurrect him from the dead. But he knew - he just knew. And so the promise here is, (in different translations kind of word it in different ways a little bit), that whatever it is that happens in our lives, that all things...God will bring good out of it.
I want to give you the example, that's kind of an extreme example. Some of you...I don't know if you've heard this story before about some member of my congregation, when I was pasturing back in the Seattle area. He's been a quadriplegic, totally paralyzed from the neck down for twenty-five years...in the church, baptized member. How he got that way, he was a bachelor, living downtown Seattle in an apartment...he was walking through his room down the hall, got out of the elevator and a man passed him and that man turned around, pulled out a gun and shot him in the back. This was before he was in the church. And 911 was called and they got there quick and that saved his life, but he's been quadriplegic ever since. And I baptized Doug about twenty-five years ago. Then it was shortly after that (because Doug knew the truth of God from a teen-ager) when I met him again, he said, "Do you remember me, Mr. Luker?" And I said, "No." And he reminded me that I had first visited him when I was a pastor in the Bay area, in the sixties.
I first visited him when he was a teen-ager over in the Central Valley of California, and he said, "I've known the truth ever since - God called me and God opened my mind", and he said, "Mr. Luker I have not obeyed God - I‘ve done just about everything bad and wrong that you can do." And so Doug, you know...I mean he genuinely did it and he told me, and he's been this way, and if you can imagine...you think you got trouble, and many of you probably do have a lot of trouble and problems, but whenever I think how bad off I am...you know, if I think "Oh, woe is me", I think, what would it be like - what if God allowed me to be totally paralyzed from the neck down. What if He let that happen tomorrow, or today, and all of a sudden, got to get kept alive by a respirator - it's a machine that plugs into the wall that does the breathing that keeps him alive; every breath is because of a respirator. He used to come to church, and the nurses would bring him in the back, and they had a battery you know to get him from the car (a special van), and then they'd plug it in there and you'd hear that respirator in the back of the hall...(phew, phew, phew) - you know you'd hear that, everybody in the hall. And it was keeping him alive. And he could only say a word as the respirator gave him air and oxygen, so he could only speak very slowly, as you tried to talk with him.
But imagine, Doug can't feed himself; he can't go to the bathroom by himself; the nurses have to help him. They have to clean him up when he does. Can you imagine living like that for twenty-five years? That's what Doug has been doing in the church, as a baptized member. I don't know how he does it. His nurses say, "We don't know how he does it." And I asked Doug, "How do you do it, Doug - how do you everyday..." his mind is alert and just as intelligent as it was before, but he can't go anywhere or do anything on his own. He can't feed himself, can't go to the bathroom - his only hope is that new body, and the promise of God in the kingdom of God. And so I asked him about that, and he said...(this incredible attitude, I mean...amazing). He said, "Well, God saved my life by letting this happen to me, because He called me, and I knew He called me...I knew the truth, and I was not...I just hadn't repented. I wasn't giving my life to him. And He got my attention, and He saved my life spiritually" - is what he's talking about. Because he said, "I know God wants me to be in the first resurrection." And so, that's his goal. He can watch television, and we web-cast services back there, so he's got a big TV screen now that he can see services, and feel a part of things every Sabbath. But, just imagine, your worries and problems, and I know there are people with some very serious problems...I'm aware of that - many situations. But there seems to always be somebody with something worse, and I just imagine, "How would I handle it if this were the kind of trial that God allowed in my life, where I had my mind, and my intelligence and everything, that all of a sudden, I was totally paralyzed from the neck down."
Well, you might find it hard to believe, but Doug has told me...and I talk about him because he said, you know, in his halting way, "You can tell my story anywhere, anytime, anything you want...if my life can help encourage someone else, please share it." So that's what I do regarding Doug, because I think it's... it is an extreme example, and I know there are others in God's church, on this earth, who have situations similar to Doug's, and they're amazing people...they just take one day at a time, and that's what he says "I do, I don't worry about tomorrow - I don't worry about it - I've got to live today, and keep my mind on God, and listen to the right music, watch the right programs...". And he loves sports, and he has things that he enjoys doing. And members come to visit him, and you know, they gather around his wheel-chair and all of that, and so he has a lot of friends as well, in the church. But his hope is the kingdom of God, eternal life in the resurrection that is coming. So all things do work for the good. So, Hebrews, Chapter 12 - one more Scripture. Even in Doug's life, and you meet people with these incredible afflictions and trials and problems, instead of moaning and groaning and complaining, as they say, as Doug did, "God saved my life by letting this happen to me." Notice Hebrews, Chapter 12, Verses 9 and 11 where Paul is saying:
Hebrews 12:9 Hebrews 12:9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?
American King James Version× We have had human fathers who have corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
Verse 10: For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, (our fathers, physical fathers) but He (our God) for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
And so, whenever God deals with us, whatever He allows to happen, as severe as it might be with Doug, God's whole purpose is for our profit, eternally...eternally, not just here now for a few years, but eternally, and Doug believes that. And so for twenty-five years he's been a quadriplegic and is a member of God's church who is very, very faithful to God, and an inspiration to many of us back in our area.
So, one more of God's promises, promise number four that I want to bring out today - they're all important ones, this one certainly is one of the greatest and most important, is that He will give us eternal life. God is going to give eternal life to us; it's a gift. You know, we've all learned that it's important to obey God because we want to be like God, we want to have character like God. We want to live God's way of life; obey His law, not just in the letter, but in the spirit - obey God, but we know and we understand, all of us, that all of our efforts and desire to obey God doesn't earn us eternal life. There's no way, I've come to see and understand and believe, that there's nothing I can do to deserve or earn something beyond my comprehension, that a thousand years from today I'll be looking back - or a hundred years from today looking back - and what we're all worried about today, and it won't be a problem anymore.
And eternal life, when God grants us that gift and He gives us eternal life, and we are there, and we're like Him, exactly like Him, we're going to look back on this short physical life that He's given us, and all of our trials, and we'll say, "God, how did you do it?" I mean this gift that you've given me, this universe that's beyond our comprehension, and the glory, and being like Him, and feeling nothing but joy and energy and love and happiness, and understanding God and His purpose - way beyond what we understand today. And we look back on the, whatever number of years, a hundred years, if God gives somebody in this life, and you just shake your head, "God, how did you do it? My few years in the church and the trials that you put me through, and you give me this, forever, and ever and ever?" It's beyond our comprehension, and yet it's the promise of God.
Let's see James, Chapter 1 and Verse 12 (James, Chapter 1 and Verse 12). And here he says:
James 1:12 James 1:12Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
American King James Version× Blessed is the man (of course it means person, not just the man, but women too; blessed is the person, the human being) who endures temptation (or trials); for when he has been proved, - and that's what it's all about; God has to test us, He's got to prove us - we all know that, and that's a lifetime process of whatever our life He gives us, however many years He gives us, we can always grow, can't we? In greater love - we can
have more of God's love; we can grow and have more faith and trust in God; we can grow in wisdom; we can grow to be able to help other people. We can keep growing to do God‘s work - it's a lifetime thing, we all know that. So when he has been proved, during that lifetime that God gives us, he will receive the crown of life (eternal life) which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
It's a gift; we don't earn it, we don't deserve it, it's the gift of God, because we have given Him our life. We have repented; we have accepted Christ who pays the penalty of all of our sins, and we do our best to grow and become more like Him and like Jesus Christ. That's a lifetime progress of growth and maturity and becoming more like Jesus Christ, but we still always fall short - I think everyone of us here would admit that. We want to with our heart - it's like Paul wrote in Romans 7. Here was an incredible man, and he just described his struggle and battle with his human nature, and he said, "With my heart, and inside I love you, and I love your law, your righteous law, but I find that I'm still carnal." That's what I think part of this present test is about that we're all going through. It is so easy to become human and carnal, and maybe not back off and let God work it out in His own time and way. I know we all know that and believe that and trust that. It will work out, I just know it will and so do you - you know it will as well. We keep looking to Him and praying to Him and trusting in Him.
Notice Romans, Chapter 6, Verse 23, and this Scripture - Romans, Chapter 6, and this incredible promise that He's given us.
Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version× For the wages of sin is death, (or eternal death, you know, to those few, who after they have come to know God, and the truth of God, and been given that opportunity for salvation, who will not repent, God in His love and in His mercy, you know, just puts them to death eternally - that is merciful; puts them out of their misery, but notice) but the gift of God, (and here in the New King James Bible, it gives in the margin, it says: the free gift of God. You can translate it from the Greek as the free gift of God) is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And it's so hard for us, I think, to imagine and to visualize and to put everything into the future, look into the future, keep your eyes on the future, and whatever God allows in our personal lives and in the church, there's a reason for it. I mean, we all sin and make mistakes - I'll admit that before you myself. I'm sure I've already made mistakes as President; I don't doubt that. I don't want to, but I'm sure I have. And so I have to go to God everyday and ask for His strength and wisdom and help, discernment and good judgment, because things are complicated when you come to people and human beings, and issues, and you just say, "God, please guide us through this and help us all to learn and grow and end up together doing the work of God, and end up in your kingdom." We all know there's only going to be one bride of Christ - He's not going to marry that church over there, that group, and then He's going to have another wedding with this group of its people, and then another wedding, you know - there's only going to be one bride of Christ. And so, through everything we're going through, when it's all said and done at the end of this age, and the end of this life, everybody who's converted is going to be brought back together, as one bride, to marry Christ.
That's how I look at it in dealing with people, even though, even if we were to have irreconcilable differences, just want you all to know I have no...I don't have one shred of anger toward anybody, or resentment, or bitterness, or hard feelings - I really do not. I just don't. I love all my brothers in Christ, even sometimes when a little discipline is necessary. I've been disciplined...I think most of us have. I've been in the church long enough; I've worked with and around Mr. Armstrong a number of years, and believe me, he could correct, and he's corrected me very strongly and severely at times. And so, I think we've all learned those lessons over the years, that we all make mistakes - and keep that attitude, that acknowledgment of that in our lives, each of us. We may have deep feelings and deep convictions about things, and that's good - we should. And only God knows where we are, and why we are where we are, and our understanding of everything. And so it's that attitude and prayer - I always like to remember when I get up in the morning and pray, when I'm talking to God, I really like to stop and think: all my brothers and sisters in Christ around the earth - they're praying today too! To the same God; He looks down and He hears and sees all of us, and He hears and sees our heart and our attitude; He understands all the problems and issues a lot better than any of us do. "Help us, Father, help us all; guide us all." You know, "Guide us all through all of this because only You can send your Holy Spirit to work all this out, but help us not to hate one another." And of course, Christ talked about that. And so it's hard when that kind of thing happens, and it's hard for it not to happen sometimes when people are hurt, I know that.
But I'm focusing here on this incredible promise, that by keeping God's promise, the gift of eternal life, I just like to vision...who knows when Christ will come back. Maybe it's only twenty years, I don't know. Nobody knows for sure, do we? But we're getting closer, we know that. We're getting a lot closer to prophecies coming to pass; we see what's happening to our nation. We know we're getting closer to the end of the age and the return of Christ. It always helps us to think beyond, and look beyond, and look ahead, and realize there truly is coming a time when we'll look back and we'll understand and see what we were all supposed to learn through all of this - all of us.
So, thank God that eternal life is a gift, and a promise, to those that love Him, and those that endure the trials and the tests, and have been proven. It is a promise, and God will keep that promise, and someday we will enter His realm and see things completely different than we do today. What a blessing that will be!
And then the last promise - the last promise I want to talk about. You wonder, you know, after eternal life and being given eternal life and becoming like God, what else is left? Well, there's one more promise that comes after that, and it's this one: He will reward us according to our works. You know, once we're there...we're going to see that in Scripture...once we're there in God's kingdom, then it's a matter of "what are we going to do?" How are we going to serve during the Millennium, the thousand years? What job does God have for us? What duty, what responsibility? How are we going to serve? Well, we'll look at just a few Scriptures that show, it all depends upon what we do during this short time God has given us in this life. God is fair, God is just, and we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. And look at these Scriptures with me - God will be fair, and I expect to stand before Jesus Christ with all my brothers in Christ someday. We won't be standing..."well, get over on the side of Jesus, and I'm going to judge you, and tell you what you did wrong." Everybody's going to be on the same side waiting for Christ to look them in the eye, and He will, with those loving eyes, and He's going to say, "Denny, I want you to understand now, why I'm going to give you the job and duty and responsibility that I've got for you in My kingdom - I want you to understand why. We're going to talk about your life, what you did, what you didn't do; you're here now; my gift to you, eternal life, because you loved Me, and you didn't quit, you didn't give up, so now we're going to talk about your job, duty and responsibility in My kingdom and in My family."
Let's go to Matthew 16:27 Matthew 16:27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
American King James Version×first of all - Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 27, because we all want to serve with Jesus Christ in His kingdom. We're going to have duties and responsibilities and jobs, serving and helping others, and they're going to be different jobs and duties. But notice:
Matthew 16:27 Matthew 16:27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
American King James Version× "But the Son of man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."
Certainly He'll deal with this world in a certain way, but also, it's were going to see it applies to us who've been called by Him. Notice what Jesus said in Revelation 22, Verse 12. Here's what He said:
Revelation 22:12 Revelation 22:12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
American King James Version× "Behold, I am coming quickly - now what does that mean? George, wouldn't you stop and look back on your life and say, "Where did it go? How did it go by so fast?" As we get older I look back at me...I'm in my early 70's - wow! Where did it go? These fifty some years in the church. Time goes so quickly, and here we are. But when He comes, we're going to say, "Wow!" Certainly He's going to come like lightening, we know that as well, but it may have other meanings as well. But notice the main point here: "Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his works."
And so, I know that some day I'll stand before Jesus Christ, in His kingdom, having been changed, given eternal life, and He's going to explain to me, "Denny, let's look at your life - what you did, what you didn't do, how you overcame, how you grew, what difference you made in the minds of others, what service you gave to Me, what your talents and abilities are, how you developed them, how you grew" - and then He's going to say, "Here is My job for you, serving with me for a thousand years in My kingdom."
Let's for the final Scripture, go to I Corinthians, Chapter 15, Verse 58 - (I Corinthians, Chapter 15, Verse 58) - I love this Scripture. And remember it has to do with this last promise, and the Scriptures that He will reward us according to our works:
I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren , be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, - always; asking God to help us to be serving, and giving, and helping, and participating, and reaching others with the precious truth that He's given us - that's the work of the Lord. And notice what he adds: knowing - why should we do this? Why should we always be abounding in the work of the Lord, and steadfast, and immovable - knowing that your labor (your work) is not in vain in the Lord. That He's going to reward us according to our work.
So brethren, in closing, just as George said in his wonderful sermonette, always remember God's great promises, and keep your faith and trust in Him. God has promised, and God cannot lie!