Can you say with ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE, "I am NOW qualified for a place in God's Family?" NOTHING could be more important to you RIGHT NOW! It's the very reason for your existence! READ this article, and CHECK UP on yourself!
ARE YOU AFRAID to answer the question in the title of this article? Perhaps, if you DO answer it honestly with yourself, your answer would be something like this: "Well-ll-ll... no, not right NOW! I know I'm not as close to God as I should be — I know I need to study and PRAY more, and overcome more — but I'm working on it!" What a DISASTER! Will God accept such an answer! Will you make it into God's Kingdom if you meet with sudden unexpected death within MOMENTS from now?
You Need ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE!
You're HUMAN. Humans die. Even Christian humans die. Remember, brethren, the New Testament is a complete chronicle of the DEATH of the servants of God. The apostle Paul was inspired to write, "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8); and James asked, "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). Recently, we were stunned to hear of the sudden death of TWO of God's servants who occupied high positions in God's Work. If they could be taken by death — suddenly. unexpectedly, could YOU? At funeral services we're sobered. We pause, reflect, think deeply about ourselves, perhaps even make a few personal promises and resolutions. But then, as is characteristic of all human beings, we quickly hurry on into our daily routines of LIFE and living, and we FORGET what we promised ourselves. The resolve and fervor gradually wanes — we relax a little. But your life is held only by a very tenuous thread. It's a terrible TEMPORARY thing to you — and can be ended so VERY quickly!
You Need to Be Sure
KNOWING this — knowing the real TRUTH of God about the deadly seriousness of this temporary life — and the magnificent promise of the life to come — YOU DESPERATELY NEED TO BE SURE! Paul was! He was able (and the Holy Spirit inspired to him to say it, he wasn't "hoping" or "bragging" about himself!) to say HE KNEW a crown awaited him (II Tim. 4:8). He was POSITIVE! He was SURE! Are you? Frankly, brethren — many of you are playing a bizarre game of spiritual hide-and-seek, spiritual tag, spiritual guessing games! You're KIDDING yourselves — deceiving your own self! What causes much of the self-deception is surprising! You brethren have learned the TRUTH about the calling of God. You now KNOW Christ is not going to return "right now, tonight!" You know there is no EVER-BURNING hell fire. You know a certain amount of prophecy, of world conditions, and what must take place prior to Christ's return. And that's DANGEROUS KNOWLEDGE — dangerous if you begin to let down, drifting into a "wait-it-out" attitude — decide the end is STILL YEARS AWAY! Subconsciously, MANY brethren have decided, "I've got TIME to overcome this problem. I'll keep working on it — maybe I can overcome it next year, or the next!" But you DON'T HAVE TIME to wait until next year! NOW is the important time!
Commandment-Keeping NOT ENOUGH!
Some are already disqualifying! Unbelievably, some "in" God's Church are continually and KNOWINGLY breaking the commandments. They're giving in to minor temptations — stupidly hacking away at THEIR very foundation of eternal salvation — mutilating and destroying character! Could this be YOU? Is there no REALITY of God? — a God intimately aware of EVERY minute detail of your life! Surely you mast know God considers ALL our works! David said so in Psalm 33:15. Maybe you are deluding yourself. Many are. By their actions they are saying God is sloppy — that He is a liar. He won't keep His promises. But, He will! ALL OF THEM! The God who promised He would "break the pride of the power of Israel" for disobedience is keeping that promise RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES. This same God PROMISES through the apostle Paul that those who manifest the works of the flesh "... SHALL NOT inherit the Kingdom of God!" (Gal. 5:19-21.) God means what He says. You'd better stake your life on it! But we can get in a "rut" of commandment — keeping. We can delude ourselves all that is required of us is just to be careful. Just don't break one of the ten great commandments, then everything will be OK. Ask yourself, "Why do I keep the commandments?" The probable honest answer: "Because it is for my good." This is the total answer in so many cases. We keep the physical laws for our own good — like we keep traffic laws — so we won't smash ourselves into insensibility! Commandment-keeping is for our protection. It's a common-sense matter of self-preservation. We're afraid NOT to keep them! It's also a matter of convenience. We've renounced our old ways — some of them at least. We've given up our old companions — that is, most of them. We've informed our boss we're going to keep the Sabbath and antagonized husbands, wives and relatives by loudly proclaiming — in too many cases — points of God's truth and by showing our determination to obey God. We've made new friends — joined a new club. We like the companionship of God's people. It's all a very pleasurable experience — the Feasts, the Spokesman Club, the picnics, the beer, the sporting events. We like it here! Besides all that — there are enough floaters just like ourselves so that we don't feel too uncomfortable. No, brethren, your Bible clearly states commandment-keeping is not enough! READ IT! "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done ALL those things which are commanded you, say, We are UNPROFITABLE servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). Christ said to cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness! (Mat. 25:30.) This could be YOU! We profit by tithing. We are better off because we obey the laws of health. OUR children aren't as troublesome when taught obedience. WE have a better life! But it's NOT enough for eternal life! What, then, is ENOUGH?
God Wants US To KNOW!
Let's understand one thing. GOD IS FAIR! He called us to HIS Work. He tells us what our wages will be. He explains what He wants from us. He tells us, as any fair employer would, what the standards are. We don't have to guess! We do have promises. Paul said, "But if the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead [really] dwell in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead SHALL [an absolute promise) also quicken your mortal bodies..." (Rom. 8:11). He further stated: "Christ in you the hope of glory..." (Col. 1:27). What does this mean, "Christ in you"? Paul clearly explains in Romans 8:1 when he said, "There is therefore now NO condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh!" The ones who are STRIVING after the spiritual character of Christ and NOT seeking their own physical pleasure — they are the ones who are IN Christ! Maybe we do keep the physical part of God's laws. We're not stealing, committing adultery, murdering. But what about the spiritual sins — hatred, envy, irritability, jealousy? Are we guilty of these? Paul said, "I WARN you, as I have WARNED you before, that those who behave in such ways WILL NEVER INHERIT the kingdom of God!" (Gal. 5:19 New English Bible.) What about envy — are you totally free of it — ALWAYS? Do you ever cause any strife — with friends, relatives, or children? What about wrath do you ever express bad temper or irritability? OF COURSE YOU DO! None of us is totally free of guilt. Paul called these "works of the flesh." He stated further in Romans 8:8, "So then they that arc in the flesh CANNOT please God." God says this is A WAY OF DEATH! Yet because we are not totally free from some of these sins are we disqualified? Not necessarily, but we could be!
How Much is Required?
The BIG question is, "How much of Christ should there be "in" us — how MUCH of God's Spirit do we need? Can there be too little?' YES, INDEED! There can be TOO LITTLE of God's Spirit and not ENOUGH of Christ in us! The foolish virgins had too little oil. The oil mentioned in Matthew 25:8-11 is symbolic of God's Spirit! They were part of the Church — they were undefiled by the religions of this world (Rev. 14:4). When they were in trouble they turned to the members of God's Church for help — they knew where to go, where the answers were! When they couldn't help they turned in desperation and cried out, "Lord, LORD, open unto us!" Christ answered, "I KNOW YOU NOT!" If Christ were "in" them enough, He would have recognized them. Christ KNOWS His own! If they had been led enough by God's Spirit they would not have had to end up in the horror of tribulation and the very real possibility of being kept out of God's Family! Romans 8:14, 17 says, "For as many as are [right now) led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God... and if children then heirs... with Christ." Did you get that? Right NOW we can be qualified heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ! If, IF, IF we are led by God's Spirit. But like the foolish virgins do we have too little of God's Spirit? Sadly, we must admit we do not measure up to Christ. We fall far short. We fail miserably at times. RUT the task IS NOT HOPELESS! Here, however, comes the BIG difficulty. We see our weakness. We admit our faults. But we don't see any immediate penalty — God doesn't strike people dead who we KNOW are worthy of the death penalty. So, we say to ourselves, "God knows our frame. He knows we are but dust, that we are weak." Then we procrastinate. We excuse ourselves. We think we've got time. But some don't — they're DEAD! Their time was all used up. Do you want to gamble on how much time you have left? In this day of violence, tragic accidents and madness, gambling on tomorrow is like playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded. It's the road to sure destruction. To the Philadelphia Church Christ said, "Him that OVERCOMETH will I make a pillar in the temple of my God..." (Rev. 3:12). In seven other places in Revelation the word "overcometh" is used to designate a person who has qualified. It doesn't say to him who tries to overcome, but to him who DOES! Overcome what? Overcome the disqualifying deeds of the flesh — envy, jealousy, strife, wrath, etc.! How much must we overcome? God does not measure overcoming by any mathematical formula. But we are responsible according to the knowledge, time, ability and opportunity God has given us. An Ambassador College student, or a long-time Church member is going to be much more responsible for growth than newly baptized brethren who have no Church contact. Unto whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).
The Standard for Spiritual Success
But the standard is still absolute! We can KNOW! Peter said, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election SURE." When you're SURE, there is no guesswork. "For if ye do these things, YE SHALL NEVER FALL!" (II Peter 1:10.) Here is an inspired promise of success! What did he mean when he said, "if you do these things, you will NEVER fall?" THIS IS IMPORTANT! Peter had just briefly mentioned Gods tremendous promises of our fantastic future — of the glory we will share with Christ. Because of this tremendous heritage, he said, "For this very reason make every effort to supplement [add to) your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:5-8 R.S.V.). Peter was inspired to say, "if these are yours and ABOUND they will keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful!" That is EXACTLY what an unprofitable servant would be — ineffective and unfruitful! Considering the goal of eternal rulership with Jesus Christ, do we have any possible excuse for not ABOUNDING in spiritual attributes and good works? Of course not! Here then is the crucial point — would we succeed if we were suddenly given NO MORE TIME! We must be continually striving by hard, diligent effort to ADD those spiritual qualities we KNOW we lack. We must also be striving to ABOUND increasingly in ALL facets of God's nature. Sure we stumble at times. Certainly there will be times when we will not exercise perfect self-control nor show the right kind of brotherly affection. But those times of failure must be fewer and farther between if we are really qualifying! SUCCESS IS A MATTER OF CONTINUAL GROWTH! But that's not all. When we recognize these disqualifying shortcomings, we will battle against them with greater effort. We will come to abhor any of these attributes which could HURT the Work of Jesus Christ or His people. WE WILL CHANGE!
Are you more or less enthusiastic for God's Work than you were a year ago? Let's be SPECIFIC! There is nothing remotely as important as the Work of God. God is using HUMAN instrumentalities to do HIS WORK. HE HAS CALLED YOU! Do you feel more a part of this Work NOW than you did a year ago? If you are more a part of it, you're praying more for it. You'll he mote anxious for its success, and less anxious about your own! If you're not more fervent in prayer, if the overwhelming importance of this Work to the world is not greater and growing in your mind and effort — then YOU'RE IN TROUBLE! When is the last time you fasted for the Work — SPECIFICALLY? What about your personal life — your relationship with God? Is God more real to you now than a year ago — so you know when you pray, God is there listening? Yes or no? When you pray, are your prayers answered — I mean specific prayers you KNOW are God's will to answer? If your contact with God through Bible study is less and the Correspondence Course is no longer worthy of your time — WATCH OUT! You're disqualifying yourself! How can you possibly expect to be gaining more of God's Spirit without recognizing Him as the source and acknowledging Him in your prayer, and in feeding on His Word? "It is the Spirit that gives life... the WORDS that I have spoken to you are spirit and LIFE!" (John 6:63 R.S.V.) Since His words are spirit and life, then you would have to conclude that without them there is nothing but spiritual DEATH! And there will be NO OTHER POWER WHATSOEVER given us to help overcome the works of the flesh!
Are You Concerned for Your Nation?
Let's check ourselves further. What about your concern for the nations of Israel — your nation and its future? We seldom get our minds on the big picture. We say in effect by our unconcern, "WE HAVE OUR OWN PROBLEMS." Is this the attitude of Christ? Will Christ's Spirit in us produce this attitude? It will not! Christ looked over the city of Jerusalem and saw the agony, the misery, and the horror it faced throughout history! He said, "How oft would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Mat. 23:37 R.S.V.) This same Jesus Christ — the God of the Old Testament — inspired His servant with an end-time prophecy, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men THAT SIGH AND THAT CRY for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezek. 9:4). But notice the TREMENDOUS IMPORTANCE of having this qualifying mark that shows the same attitude Christ had toward Jerusalem. It is important to have this attitude — notice the answer. "Slay UTTERLY old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come NOT near ANY man upon whom is the mark!" (Verse 6.) In far too many cases we don't really have a concern for the world that Christ died for. The prophet Amos said in Chapter 6, verses 4-6 (R.S.V.), "WOE to those who lie on beds of ivory... eat lambs from the flock [those who live in a time of prosperity and have material blessings] BUT who are not grieved over the RUIN of Joseph!" In this day of false prosperity, of a world totally given over to unbelievable depravity and iniquity, our love and concern can grow cold. Christ said it would happen! (Mat. 24:12.) If you spent an adult lifetime in a world of murder, brutality and perversion, you're probably pretty calloused. You didn't have much natural affection to start with — were unconcerned about how wretched an effect sin is having on others. We don't see or care! Rather than being grieved, too many of us are quite capable of ENJOYING this world — its useless unprofitable pleasures, its off-color, sick humor and music! Is this serious? Christ said, "WOE unto you that laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:25). Is it wrong to laugh and to enjoy life? Most certainly not! Christ didn't expect anything but laughter when He changed water into wine at the wedding feast. But a wedding feast was a time to enjoy life — it was a clean and wholesome occasion. Joy is definitely one of the attributes of God's Spirit. But we are not going to be calloused to the horror that live, warm human beings — like ourselves — are going to face in the future just because they don't have God's truth. We are going to have a GROWING concern that God will give a greater and more dynamic witness to this world through His WORK! Our prayers are going to be directed to the end that God's will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10), so that friends, relatives, and maybe some of our own immediate family might have their minds open to God's truth!
Have You Concern for the Brethren?
Check yourselves on another point. Have you grown calloused to a member leaving God's Church? Or does it strike you with sadness and fear for them! Or do you say in your mind, "Well, that's tough luck. That's the way the old ball bounces." Does this really describe the way you feel about one of the saddest episodes in history — the eternal destruction of one who could have had eternal power and life as God! Do we fervently pray they will repent before it's too late? That God will cause circumstances to come about where they will see the error and realize the horror awaiting them? How about it — into which category do YOU fit? Can we have an unconcern about those who are missing out and still be "in" Christ? The answer should be obvious — No! Has our concern increased for those in God's Church? Christ said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Read Mat. 25:35-40). Hold it right there! Stop! How much more are you doing for the people in God's Church than you did a year ago? Christ clearly said with absolute positiveness, "Truly I say to YOU, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to ME. And they will go away into eternal punishment..." (Mat. 25:45-46 R.S.V.). Notice what He said to those qualified to inherit the Kingdom! "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me.... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto ME" (Mat. 25:35-40). The whole message is an attitude of deep concern for the people in God's Church. Those in God's Church who need the prayers, warmth of friendliness, encouragement, visiting, financial help, hospitality. How about it? Are you now showing more desire to help fellow members? Let's put it this way — do you go out of your way more now to seek the welfare of Church brethren than you did previously? God loves EVERY son He calls! Do you love them? Is this love GROWING? Christ gave up His life for them. We who have God's Spirit will also be giving up our life-time, energy, money — for them increasingly! That is — if we are qualifying!
Are You Ready Now for Christ's Return?
Paul said with positiveness he had kept the faith. He knew there WAS eternal life awaiting him! But not just for himself. NOTICE! "Henceforth there IS laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not TO ME ONLY, but unto ALL them also that love His appearing" (II Tim. 4:8). Would you love His appearing RIGHT NOW because WE HAVE QUALIFIED? Or does this thought strike you with fear as to its possibilities for yourself? Or does it even bother you? DO you have the spiritual courage to face this question HONESTLY? Could you look Christ in the eye and expect to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Mat. 25:21)? You could have this confidence! This confidence could be yours TODAY! All too many of us know we haven't measured up as we should. But WE CAN! How? Read I Corinthians 15:58! "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye STEADFAST, unmoveable, ALWAYS ABOUNDING in the WORK of the Lord, forasmuch as ye KNOW that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!" If we would thoroughly examine ourselves TODAY and determine by real action to CHANGE — begin to take ACTION on our knees before God, He will give us time. It might and probably will take a discouraging lifetime to overcome so many of our sins, faults and spiritual shortcomings. But it takes NO TIME AT ALL to start WORKING on them! We may never totally overcome, but that's no excuse for not putting out ALL effort — to labor! "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, AND DO MINISTER [as a CONTINUOUS WORK]" (Heb. 6:10). If you can't say you have grown and will continue to put forth ALL EFFORT to abound in the spiritual attributes — YOU'RE IN GRAVE DANGER!
Don't Be Spiritually Blind
Peter said, "He that lacks these things is BLIND and cannot see afar of..." (II Pet. 1:9). This blindness is the same word used to pinpoint one of the outstanding weaknesses of a whole Church era — people who are going to face the terrifying, frightening tribulation. This could be YOU! Why? Because YOU say in your complacency, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing! You don't realize "you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!" (Rev. 3:17.) You CAN get rid of this attitude! You've GOT to get rid of it! What is the solution? Start today, NOW', repenting of this complacency! Don't wait for tomorrow — and you'll be ready for the WORLD TOMORROW!