feast: Where Do We Fit?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 01-Oct-12; Sermon #FT12-01-PM; 88 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that the times we are about to go through will be unparalleled history, suggests that we need to keep our vision before us. We have the obligation to be loyal to Jesus Christ. We cannot, as our forebears did on the Sinai, harden our necks in disbelief and disobedience as a result of flagging faith. Our forebears were charged with enthusiasm as they left Egypt, but their faith ultimately waned. Our current day fellowship faced a similar attenuation of faith, leading to a precarious decline in membership. We have an obligation to place our faith in a Living Being. Christ is not going to draw back from us, but we might allow something to come between us and our High Priest. The people of Hebrews, like us, were living in an end time, prior to the destruction of the temple. For the recipients of Hebrews and for us, faith is a use it or lose it proposition. God sought us out; we didn't find Him by our seeking. What God has given us He has given to very few people. Humility must be at the foundation in the relationship between us and Jesus Christ. The church exists solely because what God has purposed and done, not because anything we have done. When pride exists within us, God can do nothing with us. God dwells with those who exhibit contrite and humble hearts. In His spiritual creation, God has demonstrated extraordinary planning and foresight, planning and caring for the destinations of billions of individuals. With God, nothing happens randomly; even mistakes we have made can work for our ultimate good. As God's called-out ones, we are special.
This morning we heard a number of things from Richard regarding that period of time where Jesus said "he that endures to the end shall be saved." Endurance is certainly something that we are being given occasion to understand, it is something that we are going to have to do.
Richard also added to that sermon Jeremiah 31:7, pertaining to a context which is pointing to the same period of time that Matthew 24 does. "Alas for that day is great so that none is like it." At no other time in the history of mankind is mankind ever going to go through what lies ahead in the not-too-distant future.
Considering how bad it is going to be, and I am sure that by the time his sermon was over you were hoping that somehow or another you are going escape this, and maybe you or I will not have to go through it. We can never count on that entirely. It does tell us in the Old Testament that perhaps the Lord may save you, or hide you. It is not something that is absolutely certain for any particular individual.
Considering how bad it is going to be, what do we have to help keep our vision of the future alive? People endure some very difficult circumstances because something greater and more important to them motivates them to pay whatever price may be put upon them by that circumstance. Whether it is mental, emotional, or physical pain, they somehow find the way to fight their way through.
God promises deliverance for some, but not for all. He lays upon all of us, though—whether we are those who might be set aside for a period of grace, we might say, or whether we have to go through it—the responsibility to, by faith, be loyal to that great Person. Pay attention to that. We have to be loyal to a person, and that Person of course is Jesus Christ, and by extension the Father as well. By faith we have to be loyal to a great Person, and His great cause.
We can look back to the Israelites of old, and receive clear evidence of why so few from that group that first came out of Egypt under Moses failed to make it into the Promised Land as settlers.
We are going to begin in Hebrew 3, where we are given an overview by the apostle Paul.
Hebrews 3:12-14 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily while it is called “Today”, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.
Hebrews 3:18-19 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Like the apostle Paul, we too are looking back at the critical events that occurred during that forty year period. Paul was doing it from the first century AD. We are doing it now from the twenty-first century, but we are looking back on the same events. Paul was closer to it, time-wise, and I am sure because of his familiarity with the Old Testament and the history of Israel, he probably felt it a great deal more deeply than we do, because we can kind of detach ourselves from it. Paul was looking back on the lives and deaths of people that maybe were his near ancestors.
So what we see here in this look back by the apostle Paul is a summary of why those who did not make it, failed. In a word, their faith broke down. Now Jesus asks us in Luke 18:8, when He returns will He find faith on earth?
From our personal experiences, I believe that we find that our individual faith is not a static condition. Rather, it intensifies or diminishes depending upon the circumstance that we are experiencing in life. Now, should it not be on a gradually rising level of influence in our life? That is, our faith and influence on our life, especially when we are in a period of time when we can begin to see prophecy actually being fulfilled.
There may have been hundreds of different circumstances and acts scattered among the millions of Israelites who did not make it. However, in an overall sense, those who did not make it did so because somehow in some way their faith broke, and that resulted in disobedience, so God allowed them to die.
We will look at this a little bit further back, to the events as it was actually happening, in the book of Numbers, where Moses wrote.
Numbers 33:3 They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians.
I read that because I wanted you to see that all of these people who failed to reach the Promised Land left Egypt with excitement of being free. “We are free! The chains of our slavery have been thrown off, and we are on our way!” So they left fully charged, full of energy, joy, and with confidence about the future, looking forward to the Promised Land. But along the way, many things happened that dimmed their hopeful expectations. The visions of a better tomorrow gradually faded, and their willingness to continue on, in faith, waned.
It can happen to us. Virtually every adult in this auditorium, who spent years in the Worldwide Church of God, has marveled at how many seemingly have dropped away into spiritual nothingness. Where are they? They seemed at one time to be vibrant members of the congregation that you were a part of. They were in Spokesman's Club, and they gave speeches, they gave sermonettes, some of those people were even pastors and evangelists. Something happened, and they are no longer with the body of the church of God. They did not have to have an office, but it happened to so many.
At one time the Worldwide Church of God had over 140,000 people attending the Feast of Tabernacles. I would guess that right now those who have remained faithful, is somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe thirty thousand people who are still with the scattered churches of God. I am just guessing. I do not really know for sure if that figure is actually accurate.
Those people had a time of bold confidence about their future. What happened? One thing we know for sure is that God did not let them down. It is impossible for God to lie. His promises are absolutely sure, and He promised those people, just as He has promised to you and me, that He would supply all of their needs, even as He promised to do so through Jesus Christ. Now we will turn back to the New Testament, to the book of Colossians where there is very pointed exclamations here from the apostle Paul.
Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled [the letter went to Gentile people in the congregation; they had been at times alienated from God, but through Jesus Christ they were reconciled] in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul is not saying this as a threat to you and me. He is saying it rather as a reality that we must accept as something that we face, something which we must work on. Faith is not a static “thing.” Faith is a concept that motivates us through trust in God that we can continue on.
This reality is that we have a responsibility to fulfill that is part of the covenant that we made with God at baptism. And all those who do fulfill this responsibility do so by faith.
Now the phrase there in verse 23, “the hope of the gospel”, should remind us of one of the major concepts of our calling. If you will, jump from there to chapter 2. Here comes a bit of advice, with a sense of urgency from the apostle Paul, after he said, “And if you continue”.
Colossians 2:6-7 As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, [conduct your life in Him being loyal and faithful to Him] rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Those who really do have the hope of the gospel, and know what that hope is, those people, if they believe it and are confident in it, are going to work to be rooted and established in Jesus Christ, to be loyal to Him, growing and overcoming.
One part of the answer is clear as to why some seem to fail. Something broke down in the minds of those who failed, because they stopped doing their part in maintaining the soundness of faith with which they came out of Egypt. Their faith was in a living dynamic personality. Not just a thing, a living being who has feelings, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and is working to save us—our High Priest.
That relationship has to be real to us. He is a real, living, Person who cares, who is sympathetic, who is kind, and encouraging, and helpful, and He loves us. Our relationship is with a Being. Now please turn to Hebrews 10. A little bit later in the book of Hebrews, writing to the same people, the apostle Paul, says this,
Hebrew 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:35-38 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith. But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
Is Christ going to draw back from us? He who died for us!? We are the ones who draw back away from the relationship, because somehow or another we enable something to come between us and this living Personality, and the relationship begins to dissolve. Never let that thought pass from your mind that you are dealing with a living being whose job from the Father is to save us, and He is serious about it. He died! He is that serious.
Paul puts in a note of encouragement, but we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
The people to whom Hebrews was written were like us, living in an end time. It was not the end but they were living just prior to the destruction and sacking of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. Understand this: the Temple was the symbol of their relationship with Christ. It should have represented to them nearness to God, nearness, being close to this living Being. Remember, God was in the Temple, as it were, symbolically. So when they went to the Temple they were near to God. So they could look at the Temple as a symbol of their nearness to God.
We do not have that. The nearness is in our mind, our hearts, our thoughts that we have of about who it is that created us, and is saving us, who died for us, and we worship. The destruction of that Temple signals to us that the relationship with God was over. He was no longer there, symbolically. 70 AD was the end of the Temple-centered worship, and the end of Judah as a nation as well. Their faith was not completely gone, but their spirituality was indeed waning. That is the people to whom Paul was writing. All they had left were fading memories of what had been.
Now when we fellowship together, what do we talk of? I think in many cases we are afraid to speak of spiritual things, perhaps out of fear of exposure of how little we know, or being accused possibly of being a know-it-all, or perhaps we do not want to appear to be too religious, or striving to be a teacher. We almost invariably fall back on subjects that are probably entirely physical.
Somehow, brethren, we have to get over these fears, because it hinders us from being more tightly bonded. Maybe we can open a discussion by asking a question or two, touching on some spiritual principle that appears in a news event. The other day I read to you from Ecclesiastes 1:3, how Solomon, who was certainly a man looking for profit, said life is not worth living unless there is profit involved in it. Why do something in which nothing is to be gained?
There are endless distractions that can easily capture our time and attention, but there is a reality we touched on earlier this year as we were going through Ecclesiastes that I believe needs reinforcing and to do it often. Why? Because faith is not a static factor in life that remains constant, at the same level, and it must be kept alive and built upon in order to be keeping on, producing motivation, thoughtful appreciation, and thanksgiving to God for the gifts with which He has blessed us. Brethren, faith is a use it or lose it factor.
Now we will go back to the Old Testament again, to the book of Deuteronomy. God is speaking and He is addressing through Moses to the Israelitish people, and I think most of you know that the book of Deuteronomy was written in the last month that Moses was alive. So this is addressed then to those people who are just about ready to go into the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples. But because the Lord loves you, [I want you to notice these things because this is our God saying this; we were chosen because He loves us and wants to have a relationship with us, He sought us out] and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
What this paragraph does is that it clearly establishes the parameters of the relationship that God had with Israel. He wanted them to clearly understand that the relationship with Him—all their present liberties, their knowledge, their wisdom, and their power that would be built up—existed solely because of what He had done.
In order for the creation God is accomplishing in us to be enhanced in our minds and to steadily grow, there must already be a solid foundation to build upon, a foundation containing an attitude that begins the mutual working together toward the same goal.
There is a particular reason that I have gone through Deuteronomy 7, because as we are going to see, it applies to us every bit as much as it applied to Israel. There is something here that is very important and I just gave you the major portion of it. He sought us out. Nobody would ever find God unless He revealed Himself, even though they read the Bible from beginning to end. He is the one who has to opens the mind for a relationship to begin, to be established, and to continue on.
This is really what I am getting at in the sermon here. We need to understand that He loves us, and you do not want to doubt that—ever! Everything that is built from the relationship is because of what He did, and we yield a little bit, to be conformed to what He wants.
Where do we begin this foundation? It is with an attitude. Once we begin to know this, an attitude of humility begins based in appreciation of the truth of what we really are to Him, and what He has done to establish the relationship. We are to Him a special treasure. What He has done for us, He has done to very few people. That is humbling when we really begin to process what is occurring.
Do you not respond best to those that you love, and at the same time know that they love you too? That is a recipe for a good relationship. It is hard to respond to someone distant, someone distracted and vague in a relationship. But we are a special treasure to Him.
I Corinthians 1:25-29 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For [conjunction word; it is tying what follows to what was just stated] you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. [Moses said almost the same thing in Deuteronomy 7, when he said that the special treasure was chosen by God not because of anything about them was valuable. They were people just like you and me.] But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, [the reason to be humbled:] that no flesh should glory in His presence.
Humility absolutely must be at the foundation of the relationship between us and Christ. Everything we are and everything that we become is because He chose to reveal Himself to those who are weak and base, rather than with the mighty. He chose us. He did that purposely so it would provide a good foundation for humility.
I Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, along with righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
He is speaking there of those qualities, those acts, that He will perform in our behalf, and which will grow within us because of the relationship, and always that those who are in the relationship will be humbled before Him knowing that what is accomplished in us has begun and continues because of Him. That must be part of the relationship.
We are a special treasure, but it is not because of anything inherent within us. So what we are looking at here is the New Testament church equivalent of what Deuteronomy 7 says in regards to the God-Israel relationship. It is interesting that Paul was inspired to make this statement in the epistle to the Corinthians, because this epistle reveals that this congregation’s members had a very high level of pride as revealed by the way they treated each other.
This we must know: The church and the totality of its membership—and I mean totality, throughout the ages—exists solely because of what God has purposed and done. What this means is that we are neither valueless nor useless, but He makes sure that we understand individually, and as a family of converted people, that any spiritual growth in us is attributed to Christ as He becomes for us wisdom from God, along with righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
This understanding, along with humilit,y is the foundation of the relationship, and it must be stated by God and believed by us, because humanly we are so capable of pride in ourselves it is incredible.
Why does God want to get rid of this pride right from the beginning of the relationship? Because pride is destructive of the relationship with God because where pride exists, so does resistance against God's creative spiritual activities. If I can put it bluntly, He can do nothing with us. So despite what we are, His feelings for us are intensely positive because He is so capable.
Now we will go back further in time than Deuteronomy 7, which took us to lay a foundation for a truth and then on to I Corinthians 1, that is so mindboggling that it, if meditated upon, has the power to give us such a vision as to keep us on track and truly appreciative of what we have been given. And it should be for every one of us personally truly good news, but I have to admit to you it is very difficult to grasp, and it is something that requires a great deal of meditation.
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with Him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
“I dwell,” God says, “in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit.” Can you begin to see just a little crack as to why He so hates pride? He says He dwells with those people who are humble before Him.
We know that we are mortal beings in whom time is limited. Does He not show in these verses, simply by what He said, a relationship with those who are of a contrite spirit? And where is God? What is He doing here? He is telling us that He carries us in His thoughts wherever He is. And He dwells in eternity in a high and holy place. We are in His heart, and you cannot get any closer to someone than their heart.
God is eternal, immortal, ever-living, but on the other hand this should be humbling too. We only have so much time. Even though we are given seventy or eighty years, as we age we have a strong impression that the time has gone by so fast. Though our life may have been crowded with events, there is still far more that we would like to do, and we know time is running out. With God, this great Being, time never runs out. There is so much to do and He carries us in His heart! Do we carry Him with us, wherever we go?
This gets down to the nitty-gritty of why those Israelites failed. They did not see God. They did not carry Him within their hearts. He was not in their minds all the time, as a Being with which they had a relationship, the Being that made everything, the Being to whom time, in a sense, means nothing.
So what we see in this verse is a magnificent self-disclosure of how monumentally, immeasurably great He is compared to anything that He has created, and this is the One with whom we have to do. The gap between mortal man and the immortal God is so great that it cannot be measured in ordinary terms. So Isaiah has chosen to describe that gap in terms of time—our seventy to eighty years as compared to His eternity—and He is saying whenever time has existed, He has already existed, and He will continue to exist.
Our frailty is so limited as compared to His mighty power, which is eternal and yet we are to Him a precious jewel. That is awesome! He is the King of ages upon ages, and it was during these ages of time that He made His plans to share what He is and what He has created with us.
In great condescension He has taken us into consideration to be part of His Family and to actually be in His image, and in even greater condescension in the person of Jesus Christ, He came into our very limited world to be the means by which His purpose will be successfully completed. All of this took a great deal of time and planning, because God does nothing randomly.
Isaiah 46:8-10 Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient time things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’
Think of it, brethren. His pleasure was to call you, that was His counsel to Himself. "I want that one, and I am going to do something with that person." Brethren, what is expressed in these three or four verses here is really impossible to understand; how that anybody, under any circumstance, thousands of years ago, could know the end from the beginning, before it even started.
He knew at that time how many people were going to be born on planet earth—fifty billion, sixty billion, seventy billion. That is what the demographers say. A shallow person would simply accept what God says there without really thinking it through as deeply as he might. Maybe that person would say to himself, Well, God can do anything, and then simply drop the thought, but God knows the end from the beginning! That is truly a grand statement, and He is speaking of His purpose, and the concepts involved in this purpose are huge, truly huge.
A thinking person must take into consideration how many different personalities might be involved in God's project, beginning with Adam and Eve. And one must consider when they are the ones being born, would come on the scene, fifty, seventy billion people, and throughout period of time since Adam and Eve, they have lived in settings as simplistic as what we might consider Adam and Eve lived in, with the garden of Eden.
On the other hand, the other end of the extreme, there would be the kind of world into which we were born, that has all the complexity of the electronics age, and nuclear power, and so forth, and billions of people getting ready to make war with one another.
One has to take into consideration just what it is that God is accomplishing in this spiritual creation. Is God merely operating things by the seat of His pants? Is He playing it by ear? Or does He have a well organized purpose and a plan in operation? You know He has a plan and He has a purpose. When men build a house even men have a plan, but how much more complex is what God is doing in building a family, than in building a house.
When a person builds a house, he goes to a draftsman, and the draftsman draws up a plan. In that plan there are all kinds of instructions that are given to the builders who are going to be actually constructing what is made, so all kinds of measurements have go into this operation and all kinds of time has to be coordinated so that all of the craftsman who are working on this operation do not run into one another.
So what do people do? They go to an architect or an engineer, and they draw up a plan. A step by step plan that is timed and things are going to be done within a certain time. If God did not do this, if men did not do this, there would be absolute chaos.
One would have to take into consideration how difficult it is get us, human beings, to listen and submit to His creative powers when we have free moral agency capable of horrific rebellions. One has to think of the huge nations of people and relations between each other and with other nations. One has to think of the earth and all of the laws, forces, and energies involved in making it a fit example of His handiwork, as well as His making it a beautiful and a fit place for man and God's creative efforts.
Let this one bounce around: One has to think about how many choices would be available for billions of people to make. One has to think of the efforts of Satan, the avowed enemy of God and man, and all the sneaky deceptions he is committing against man and God to hinder him—that is, man—from being created in God's image.
The sum of this would be I want you to think about the many challenges to God's power and creativity, the purpose that He began six thousand years ago, with Adam and Eve. He knew the end from the beginning.
Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
If that is not humbling...brethren, we are only as valuable as many sparrows! What I want you to think of right here and now is, God is so aware of what is going on, when a sparrow was offered on the altar to Him, He did not forget it! He was aware that it was being done, even a sparrow, it did not slip out of His mind, and He did not overlook it.
II Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Hebrew 4:12-14 For the word of God [in this case I am using the interpretation of the personality, Jesus Christ] living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Seeing then that we have great High Priest who has passed through the heavens Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Now if He is aware to the extent that even tiny sparrows given in an offering are marked in His mind, then His attention is surely greater than that given a sparrow, to those whom He has not chosen for salvation at this time, who then is watching over them? He is. He is not only watching over His children who have His Spirit.
Did you notice in II Peter? He is not willing that any should perish, and He means there, any. He means the unconverted, which means then in the carrying out of His responsibility in overseeing this great and awesome purpose that He is working out, He has to be sure that He does not allow the hearts and minds of even the unconverted to become so hardened they cannot repent because He wants them to repent.
He has to be careful they do not reach that point of being unable to turn away from sin. This is mindboggling, brethren, and this is the one who loves us, the one to whom we are a special treasure.
As we are going through this, now we are beginning to see that He is even overseeing the unconverted. He even oversees sparrows! But the important point for us to realize is that we are in a special category of all people who have ever lived, in the eyes and heart, in the mind of this great Creator. We are special! Incidentally, the title of this sermon is “Where Do We Fit?” Where we fit is awesome!
Do we appreciate it? If we appreciate it, we are well on our way to really fearing Him, and that means reverencing Him, respecting Him for what He is. So Hebrew 4:13 clearly tells us that no creature is hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. He is overseeing and preparing lives, not only ours, but the unconverted too, so that when their time comes they will be ready to repent.
The detail and powers required for such a concentrated effort is impossible for us to comprehend, and yet He says that He knows the end from the beginning. The planning must have been enormous in terms of detail and the effort to keep on top of all that is going on for six thousand years to this point in time.
Let us narrow this operation down to where we might be able to see it more personally, because I believe that it becomes even more astounding and at the same time even more humbling, when it comes down to little ol' you and me. Now we will move on to a very important scripture.
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
This verse is virtually ignored by the world. They approach evangelism and one’s calling as though God just flips a switch randomly as one hears the gospel that is attracting a person’s attention. It is as though there is little if any planning and organization motivating the calling.
Remember I said, with God nothing happens randomly, everything is planned. That does not mean that every choice that we make is something that is forced upon us. God has enough going in His purpose that allows us to make bad decisions from which He, working His creative powers, in His love is able to make corrections in our heart and mind, as long as there is humility with which He can work, and that we will submit to His efforts to turn us around from a bad decision that we have made, a bad judgment that we have put into our lives.
You can see that in the lives of some of the great men and women of the past. David made some horrible mistakes, committed adultery and sent a man to his death, yet God had enough within Him to get David turned around. Actually, in a way, through Nathan with a story that really hit David right where it hurt, and he repented, and he was cleansed.
God in His purpose allows us the freedom to make rotten mistakes and decisions. We are going to pay for it, because He does not force those things on us, we of our own free will do those things, but in His love and mercy and His creative powers and the way He can work on our mind, He can get us to turn around so that we are going in the right direction again. It is part of His grace.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
What this verse does is it takes one’s calling actually one step higher, directly to the sovereign God. You see in verse 44, Jesus did not mention the sovereign God, rather He showed that He was a major figure in the calling. In verse 37, He takes it one step higher, to the Father. What this does is that it carries with it some of the sense of predestination. It was already in the Father’s mind.
The Great Creator is working through His direct representative Jesus Christ, guiding those He wants in His Kingdom to the Savior for salvation. Jesus is not working alone, He is working with the Father and between the two of them they are coordinating what is going on.
II Peter 1:10-11 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In three verses we have seen forms of the Greek word klesis, the word translated "call," which is actually is more closely related to the English word “invitation.” We are called, that is the general term, but really, more formally, we have been invited. Now "invitation" gives the sense of deliberate forethought on the part of the one extending the invitation. This becomes clearer when one understands one is being invited to be part of a wedding—the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Is it a common practice for a bride and groom to merely go out on the street and make a loud announcement to all within shouting distance inviting people randomly to their wedding? No. God does not do things randomly. He invites people purposely to the wedding of His Son.
That is why Jesus showed two are involved in our calling. Not that Jesus' participation in it is to give approval to the Father, but rather it does show that they are working together, and they are in agreement. They are one with what is going on.
The Father and Son, just like a human marriage, husband and wife, or the future husband and wife, carefully go over a listing of people, selecting those they want to attend and then personally invite them. I hope you are getting the sense of this. There is forethought before we are called.
When we are called, they are sure we can make it. He is not willing that any should perish, so He is calling those that He feels will be humble enough to yield to Him and the Son to allow them through their creative efforts to recreate themselves in the ones being called.
God is very positive you can make it. He has not called us to failure at all. Please turn to John 6. We will make this even more positive so that you are filled with confidence that God can get you all the way through your pilgrimage, even though there are times that are going to be tough and we want to give up. Do not do it!
John 6:44 No one can come to Me [Jesus says] unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Notice how positive that is, no ifs, ands, or buts. "I am going to raise him up at the last day." Notice the words “draws him.” This is a very forceful, strong verb. In this verse it indicates being pulled in an inward divinely-generated impulse. I mean, it is almost like God is dragging us toward Him, because the calling is powerful enough to attract our attention.
The verb indicates vigorous purposeful action, but that action is not necessarily violent. A place where the exact same verb is used is in John 18:14, where Peter drew the sword out of its scabbard. Did Peter not purposely pull it out of the scabbard? That is what it is saying in John 6:44. That God's calling of each one of us, individually, was like pulling a sword out of a scabbard. It was done on purpose, and it was done with strength, but it was not done violently.
This is confidence-building if we are willing to think about it. God does nothing randomly; it is purposeful because He does not want to lose anybody. Those that He truly calls can make it! They will be humble enough to yield to Him.
There are other scriptures that show the same thing:
John 6:70 Jesus answered them, ”Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
John 13:18 "I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’"
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."
Even as the drawing of the person or drawing of the sword from the scabbard indicates something intentionally, deliberately, purposely done, so does Jesus’ choosing of the disciples and apostles do the same thing. It was purposely, deliberately done. God called them, and Jesus chose from among those that were called the ones that would be the apostles.
I am sure that it was not done randomly at all. He evaluated them, judged them by their character, by their minds and attitudes, and He knew who He wanted to do those things. Again you have to apply this to yourself. We are here as a part of the body of Jesus Christ. We were not randomly called. He called you and me to fill a position in the church, and over beyond that, in the Kingdom of God. It extends that far.
God knows the end from the beginning. He is already preparing for you to fulfill a position of responsibility in the Kingdom of God. This is what Jesus says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”
Are you willing to humble yourself before this One who loves you so intensely that you are to Him a special treasure, and you are a special treasure because He evaluated you even before He called you? He has been working with you to prepare you to be in the Kingdom of God, so that you can fulfill a position under Him in His government—in the Kingdom of God.
God knows the end from the beginning.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Are you beginning to relate to this verse? God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. We have not all taken care of them, maybe not paid attention to them, but we are on our way, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
Think of this in relation to the fact that He knows the end from the beginning. When a builder builds a building and he completes the plan that he is going to follow in order to make progress on the building of that building and complete it, even before he starts, the plans should be finished.
The builder, the engineer, the architect—they know man apes God as much as we possibly can. We make plans before we start on a project, and we have that plan in our minds or it is on a piece of paper, it is on a blueprint that we are going to follow, and so in that sense when we are doing something like that we are following what God did, and we know the end from the beginning.
Perhaps you can understand it in that perspective—that man is actually imitating God. The only difference is that God's plan is so much bigger, and so much more complex, and He is working with parts that rebel against Him, that make bad mistakes, that sin, and He has to be adjusting as He goes along.
Ephesians 1:4-9 Just as He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will.
Brethren, you are having a small part of this mystery explained to you.
Ephesians 1:9-10 Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are in earth.
Jesus Christ is going to be the one that is used to pull everything together and put everything in its place. He is going to complete the plan. That is His job, His responsibility. This is why I emphasized at the beginning: Do you realize that you are dealing with a living Being? And that it is His job from God to bring this plan to completion?
What it says in Colossians is going to be fulfilled, that all things were created by and for Him, and you are part of that. This thing is big enough to humble us, if you will just stop to think about it. That humility is necessary for a good relationship, and if humility is there we will cooperate with God, because we appreciate Him so much.
I could go further with this, but I will at least give you some ideas as to where a more complete telling of this can be sought and understood. Because God even shows us His involvement from thousands of years ago in the lives of people who are, for most us in this room, our direct ancestors simply because they were Israelites.
He begins with Abraham. Who gave Abraham an heir? God did. Until God did what He did, Sarah could not produce a child. That is done by God to show us something. In the line of people that God chose, commentators call it the holy line that really in one sense culminated in Christ. But it really did not culminate in Christ because it goes on to this day.
God shows He gives us plenty of evidence to understand that God is the one who added Isaac to the picture, and then He shows us that it was God who added Jacob and Esau to the picture. God did it. He shows us that it was God who gave the twelve children, plus Dinah, to Jacob. God added each and every one of them. God did it. He is setting a pattern so that we can understand.
God knew from the beginning that Jacob was going to have twelve sons, and those twelve sons were going to produce the twelve tribes of Israel. So all along the line God has been putting Himself into this picture so that we will understand that He is creating something that is very close to Him, and that is a family of individuals that culminates, first of all, in Jesus Christ but it does not really culminate there because you see it in the book of Revelation. The twelve tribes of Israel are still being mentioned.
The 144,000 are in all likelihood from those twelve tribes, but they are not all Israelites There are Gentiles involved in it now because God started adding Gentiles into the mix as well. You see that in Ephesians 2. As God continues to expand this out so that we understand how all of this is planned and is going to culminate very soon, but not completely over, with the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of another part of God's plan.
We can show you in Galatians 4:4 where God had a plan for the exact time that Jesus Christ would be born, and when time ran out, Jesus Christ was born. Please turn to I Corinthians 12. Because we fit into this, and this is an important chapter in this regard.
I Corinthians 12:1-11 now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all theses things distributing to each one individually as He wills.
This chapter is showing that God is custom-fitting each person into the body of Jesus Christ and into God's family Kingdom. Each and every person is custom-fitted. Each and every person is given the gifts that he needs to fulfill his responsibilities within the church, and we do not need to stop thinking there. It carries right on into the Kingdom of God.
In verse 3, it is essentially saying Christ is now our leader and we must follow His direction and purpose, otherwise we are cursing Him because our conduct is not matching His leadership and He is our commander so we can no longer act upon impulse. Remember, God never does anything randomly, and this is a purpose or characteristic of God that He wants us to learn.
In verses 4-10, it provides a general listing of gifts given by Christ, so that we might function as Christ intends within God's family, church, Kingdom. Using them correctly is not something that we are skilled at, and the gifts are given but they must but used and practiced so that we become skilled and the body functions then as God intends.
In verse 11, it becomes important to our understanding that God distributes the gifts as He wills. He is designing the body of Jesus Christ and fitting us with our gifts, given by Him, within it so that body functions as He wants it to function. We might say He is making it into a smooth running machine, but it is more complex than that because it is not a machine, it is people with human nature.
Again we get back to the need for humility, and to learn how to use the gifts that are given. So the gifts are specifically given for the purpose of God's development of each person individually, and the church and family as a whole, this is why we have to love one another, and love the church. God has not called each of us to be nothing more than a yellow pencil.
I Corinthians 12:13-14 For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
I Corinthians 12:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. [Another way of saying it is, just as He designed it.]
I Corinthians 12:27-30 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
Is that not the way in your body? Every part of the body functions for that which it is designed. The hand does not talk, the feet cannot hear, and we can go on and on. The eyes see. That is way God wants the body to function as each person learns his part within the body and then begins to carry it out in love.
Long before we were born, God was planning and preparing for you specifically. It was He who caused our birth, it was He who personally called us, none of us was an off-the-cuff, last second decision. It is He who placed us in the church; it is He who is personally preparing and placing each of us within His church and personal family, and preparing for a place in His Kingdom. Now keep this in mind as we close with an incredible truth in Luke 10.
Luke 10:20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, [meaning the demons] but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
Do you realize what Jesus just said to them? That God is so confident that He can accomplish His purpose for each of these men, that their names where already written in the Book of Life, and what He has done for them He has already done for us. He knows the end from the beginning because He thought up the end, and everything that leads to the end.
He has the power and the love to bring it to pass, even as He planned. We are not a yellow pencil. We are not merely a faceless person in a crowd. We are very special to Him! We are a prized possession, a personal treasure, one of the many special jewels He is collecting to be part of His Family.
So brethren, as we keep this Feast, allow this to inspire you, and carry this inspiration right on through the trouble that is coming. I am sure that with this thought in mind you will endure to the end.