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December 30, 2018 The Life of God

 

Scripture reading: Revelation 22:1-2; Ephesians 3:8-19.

 

Every person has one of two destinies. There are only two. One destiny is the lake of fire. Places of torment, after this life is over, are referenced over 40 times in the Bible. One description is in Revelation 21:8:

 

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”[1]

 

Who ends up in the lake of fire? The cowardly. The New Jerusalem is no place for cowards. The new heavens and the new earth are for the valiant and the brave. Who ends up in the lake of fire? The unbelieving. Unbelief is a sin. Not only is it a sin, but it is a great sin. Charles Spurgeon, that great and anointed Baptist preacher of the 1800’s once preached a powerful sermon entitled, The Sin of Unbelief. In it he said:

 

And first the sin of unbelief will appear to be extremely heinous when we remember that it is the parent of every other iniquity. There is no crime which unbelief will not beget. I think that the fall of man is very much owing to it. It was in this point that the devil tempted Eve. He said to her, "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" He whispered and insinuated a doubt, "Yea, hath God said so?" as much as to say, "Are you quite sure he said so?" It was by means of unbelief—that thin part of the wedge—that the other sin entered; curiosity and the rest followed; she touched the fruit, and destruction came into this world. Since that time, unbelief has been the prolific parent of all guilt.[2]

 

And, he would go on to say:

 

…unbelief in the Christian is of the self-same nature as unbelief in the sinner. It is not the same in its final issue, for it will be pardoned in the Christian; yea it is pardoned: it was laid upon the scapegoat's head of old: it was blotted out and atoned for; but it is of the same sinful nature. In fact, if there can be one sin more heinous than the unbelief of a sinner, it is the unbelief of a saint. For a saint to doubt God's word—for a saint to distrust God after innumerable instances of his love, after ten thousand proofs of his mercy, exceeds everything. In a saint, moreover, unbelief is the root of other sins.[3]

 

The unbelieving will be in the lake of fire. If you are among that number then cast aside your unbelief and believe (John 20:27) for, if anyone was ever trustworthy in the history of the world, it is Jesus of Nazareth! He calls you to believe!

 

The abominable will be in the lake of fire. Some versions have “detestable” (e.g., ESV) and some have “vile” (e.g., NIV). It is the same word used in Titus 1:16.

 

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. [4]

 

The apostle Paul is describing those who believe in God as far as his existence is concerned (“They profess to know God…”), but who do not trust him. They deny him by the way they live. They are detestable. They are detestable because they are disobedient! Oh! Obedience matters!

 

Murderers will be in the lake of fire. “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone, preacher.” You haven’t? Are you sure about that? Abortion is murder. If you ever participated in one, even by providing so-called moral support for one, then you have. But do you recall the words of Jesus:

 

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.[5]

 

Jesus is revealing the true meaning of the law and he says that the purpose of the fifth commandment is not merely to forbid physical murder. It is to prohibit anger. I ask again, have you violated the fifth commandment?

 

Immoral persons will be in the lake of fire. This refers to sexual immorality. Many versions have “fornicators” (ASV, Darby, RSV, NRSV, Orthodox Jewish Bible, Wycliffe). You understand what a fornicator is, do you not? It is someone who has sex outside of marriage. The Passion Translation has “perverts.” That would include same-sex immorality as well as any other form of sexual perversion. Today’s society wants to defend perversion but God says that all practitioners will end up in the lake of fire – that would include those who do not practice but only defend the practice. By defending perversion they become detestable and abominable.

 

Sorcerers will be in the lake of fire. This refers to those who practice magic arts. This means seeking power or control through would-be spiritual means. Some versions have “witchcraft.” Witchcraft is not an innocent religious expression.

 

Idolaters shall be in the lake of fire. Those who worship anything other than the true and living God will be there.

 

Liars will be in the lake of fire. Have you lied? You may have avoided some of these sins. But almost all of us have been cowardly, have been angry, have lied. It is true that all deserve the lake of fire. But God in his great mercy sent the Lord Jesus Christ, so that those who place their faith in him would be forgiven of these sins and all sins. Have you come to the Lord Jesus in faith and repentance? If you have not, do not let this hour pass without doing so. He is our only hope. Yet, he is a certain hope to all who trust him!

 

There are only two destinies. One is the lake of fire. The other is the new heavens and the new earth where the new city of God will be. The last chapter of the Bible gives us a vision of that blessed place. We read that there was the river of the water of life. It is bright as crystal! Missouri has large rivers. But they are always muddy. Some places, like Hawaii and Washington State (we have lived in both places for a number of years), have rivers that are crystal clear. You can see the bottom of the rivers even when they are six feet deep or more. This river in the New Jerusalem is clear and it flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Jesus is on the throne!). This is another way of saying that life flows from God!

 

What is life? In verse 2 we see that the tree of life, lost when the Garden of Eden was forbidden to man and then later destroyed, spans the river. This shows that the tree of life is just the life of God made available to man. But the life of God is just God Himself!

 

Man has a great need. He needs life! Even before man fell he needed life. This is why God placed the tree of life in the midst of the garden. He placed it in the middle of the garden so that Adam and Eve would partake of it. They never partook of it. Instead, they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Once they ate of that tree they knew good and evil without God having to tell them. Not only did they gain this knowledge but their very natures were corrupted so that they had a desire for the evil.[6] This is man’s condition today. Every person knows good and evil – the business man in the city, the gang member, to the dweller in the deepest jungle apart from civilization. They all know good and evil yet they choose the evil so very often. Therefore, every person is without excuse on the day of judgment.

 

Even though man has the knowledge of good and evil, God has also given us his word, the Holy Scriptures, to make it even more plain. The righteous desire to know God’s will. The rebellious avoid God’s word. How often you read and study God’s word is a measuring rod of the rebellion that remains in your heart. We need to be like David who loved God’s law. We need to be like Jeremiah who ate God’s words (Jer. 15:16). Jesus fed upon the words of the Father (John 4:32-34). His words are good for food (John 6:57 & 63)!

 

Even before the fall man needed life. How much more do we need it since the fall!

 

We need God’s life because our own life is low, weak, and easily discouraged.

 

Our life is low. I mean that we have the same kind of life as the animals. He created man on the sixth day – the same day that he created livestock and creeping things. We have more in common with cows than we do with God. Cows need to eat and we need to eat. Cows drink their mother’s milk when young and we need our mother’s milk when we are young. We have more in common with spiders than we do with God. Spiders need to eat and we need to eat. Spiders need oxygen and we need oxygen.

 

We are different than all the other animals because we were made in the image of God and they were not. This means that we have a mind and a will and an ability to reflect on who we are and on eternity. The animals do not do this. More than this we have a human spirit which is like God’s spirit (except that it is dead because of sin until God regenerates us). Still, our life is low, like the animals.

 

Our life is weak. Our life is fragile. In about 40 days we will die without food. In about 4 days we will die without water. In about 40 minutes we will die if exposed to frigid temperatures, especially frigid water. In less than 4 minutes we will die without air. Our life is weak.

 

We are easily discouraged. We can be on top of the world. Then it only takes one or two disappointing circumstances and we are miserable. This is why we are advised to encourage one another time and time again.[7]

 

Our life is short. Even if by reason of good health we are only here for 80 years or so. That is so very short. And, it seems that the closer we get to that mark the faster time seems to go by. When I was a young teenager it seemed to take a long time for me to reach 16. I looked forward to that age because then I could drive. But it seemed to take a long time to reach it. Our 20’s seem to go by at a normal pace, but when you look back on those years, where did they go? The 30’s went by a little faster. After 40 it is as if you are on a speed train. The years go by faster than we could have imagined.

 

God’s life is eternal.

 

Our life is low, weak, easily discouraged, and short. How we need the life of God!

 

Not only do we need the life of God, but this was God’s eternal purpose all along. He desired and planned to dispense his very Self into us.

 

This is the economy of God! His economy, his household administration, is to impart Himself into us! This is more than just a means to an end. It is the very purpose we were created – to contain God’s life! To be one with the living and loving God! We read in the Scriptures that we were created to glorify God. This is so true. But these two things are one. The only way that we can glorify God is to be filled with him. And, to be filled with him is the way to glorify him because only his life brings him glory. Christ is the only Person who is acceptable to God and satisfies the Father because Christ was and is filled with the fullness of God (Col 1:19).

 

And, this is how we can most please God – by being filled with Him!

 

What happens when we receive God’s life? Many wonderful things happen. I wish to display only three of them.

 

In John chapter one we read this:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.[8]

 

The Word which is Christ was life. This life was light. This is the first thing. Christ, who is God, is life and his life gives light.

 

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.[9]

 

Christ is the true light and he shines for those who know him. You must know Christ to receive his light. Light enables us to see. Light in the Bible most often refers to moral clarity. Darkness means moral corruption. Man is in darkness. He cannot see well the moral degeneracy that defines him. Christ’s life brings sight to our moral blindness. When a person receives Christ he receives the ability to see.

 

The second thing that we receive when we receive the life of Christ is grace.

 

4 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.[10]

 

What is grace? Grace as a simple definition is just the favor of God, undeserved. But the issue of grace is enjoyment. The words in the original language for enjoyment and grace are almost the same. They share a common root. The word for enjoyment, or joy, is chara. The word for grace is charis. Indeed, this is our experience. When the grace of God comes to us we experience enjoyment. But God’s life is just God Himself, so grace is nothing less that God being enjoyed!

 

Do you see why we desperately need God’s life? Because we desperately need happiness! Happiness (or joy, I make no distinction) is very strange in this way. When you seek happiness you don’t get it. (Or, if you do get it, it is only briefly held. It goes away.) When you seek God you get happiness and so much more!

 

When we receive Christ’s life we receive grace, which is God enjoyed.

 

The third thing that we receive is truth. Lies are everywhere. Sometimes we realize that we even live a lie. We need truth. The word for truth, alatheia, can also mean “reality.” The Recovery Version translates it that way.

 

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ.” (RV; John 1:17)

 

When you receive the life of Christ you receive reality. You see things as they really are. Your eyes are opened. You see God as he really is.

 

What a wonderful and magnificent gift it is to receive God’s life!

 

How can we receive it? That answer depends upon whether we have come to Christ for salvation. For those who have not, you must know that your sin prevents God from giving you his life. God hates sin. Your sin must be taken away before the Lord can dwell within you.

 

The Son of God came to the earth to pay the penalty for your sin. You must trust in Him. Believing, that is, trusting in his sacrifice upon the cross for your sins, and turning away from them (repenting) brings forgiveness. You trust in him, also, to guide your life. You bow the knee to Jesus as your loving Lord.

 

For those who are Christians, did you know that you can live your life apart from Christ? This is why the New Testament writers constantly encouraged their readers to walk in the spirit where the Spirit of Christ has come to dwell. To “walk” is just another way of saying “live according to.” We must live according to the life that is Christ. We do this by turning to our spirit and receiving his life-supply. The words that Christ has spoken are the conduit of his life. Be filled with his words and be filled with his Spirit!

 

The new year is almost upon us. Make this a year that will not be wasted. Commit to live in his words and to live by his life.

 

I encourage you to read through the entire Bible in 2019. If you read five chapters per day you will do it. The entire Bible are the words of Christ and his words are life.

 

Prepare yourself for your destiny.

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Re 21:8). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-sin-of-unbelief#flipbook/

[3] Ibid

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Tt 1:15–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:21–22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Romans 5:12, 18-19a; 7:18-20; 8:5a, 7-8; Eph 2:1-3; Gal 5:19-21.

[7] Col. 2:2; 4:8; I Thes 2:11; 5:11, 14; Titus 2:4; Hebrews 3:13; 6:18; 10:25; Romans 1:12; 15:4; Phil 2:19; I Sam 23:16.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:9–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:14–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.