The Book of Life

“Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

This unambiguous statement was written by John as a description of what God was revealing to him. The purpose of the occasion was that John record this for people to read, understand, believe and act upon. If the statement is not true then God is a deceiver and not to be trusted. No wonder John wrote at the beginning of this book, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Since the lake of fire is the destiny of all whose names are not in the Book of Life and only those whose names are in this Book will enter the new creation (Revelation 21:27) it is a matter of highest priority and greatest urgency for every person to be sure their name is in that Book.

In John 3:18 we read, “He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Twice in this verse it says that the dividing factor is faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s name is written in the “books” as condemned but upon exercising faith in Jesus Christ one’s name is written in the Book of Life. Jesus called this being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Condemnation is God’s sentence upon sin and since condemnation came when Adam sinned we are all born in sin and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all are condemned and God’s wrath abides on us. However, the one who believes is no longer condemned because he has trusted that Jesus Christ died for his sin (John 3:36; Romans 5:8; 8:1). This is the reason Jesus came (John 3:17).

Only in Jesus Christ can condemnation for sin be removed because He bore the sentence for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness of sin and deliverance from wrath is only through Jesus Christ who died in our place (Hebrews 9:22, 26-28).

Anyone who denies this truth reveals that their name is not yet in the Book of Life. Their destiny is the lake of fire but that is not God’s desired destiny for anyone. Jesus bore the sin of everyone so that all might be saved but only those who believe Him will have their names written in the Book of Life.

Again I write, this is of the highest priority and the most urgent concern to anyone who is not assured that their name is written in the Book of Life.

Stewards of Grace

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. … that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 4:10,11

It has been said that each person should find out what they love doing and then find someone to pay them to do it. From a worldly perspective that seems like a good idea. For the Christian it is a little different. We are to discover what spiritual gifting God has given us and then develop it by use. In doing this we will discover that we love expressing the gift given and in the process bring glory to God. That doesn’t mean it will be without cost and hardship.

I have been asked by family members what I would like as a birthday gift and then they may choose from the items mentioned. The Bible reveals that we don’t get that choice. Each one’s spiritual gifting is at the sovereign will of God. Keep in mind that it is a gift not a reward.

Peter, the last New Testament writer to mention spiritual gifting writes that spiritual gifting is for the benefit of the whole body of Christ. Each one is to “minister it to one another.” Such gifting is not for the purpose of boasting in ourselves. That is pride and we know the origin of pride (Ezekiel 28). Spiritual gifting is not a reward for service but it is divine ability in stewardship to serve others. We will give account at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) as to how faithfully we performed this stewardship.

Spiritual gifting is an expression of the Divine attributes of Jesus Christ and leave no room for pride or boasting on our part. The exercise of spiritual gifting is all to the glory of God. As Paul wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Paul and the other apostles all had spiritual gifting but exercised them for the benefit of the church and not for personal benefit. Often they paid a considerable price to enact this stewardship.

Peter writes, “… be clothed with humility” followed by, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:5, 6). If anyone boasts with regard to spiritual gifting it reveals that they are out of fellowship with Jesus Christ and speaking on behalf of Satan. Of all people, Peter knew what it was to be humbled by God and he became a good steward of the grace gift that God had given to the church through him.

Interest Bearing

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit …”

“Let each of you look out … for the interests of others” Philippians 2:3, 4

The first part of this quote is a description of the character of our world. What we observe is a society that manipulates people, their environment and circumstances for their own personal gain and advancement. Paul makes it clear that this attitude has no place in the Christian life.

Paul exhorts Christians to take an active interest in the welfare (physical and spiritual) of others and gives three examples in this chapter of this principle in action: Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Among the saddest words in the Bible must be Paul’s lament, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Jesus Christ” (v 21). He is writing this of Christians. His experience was that most Christians were living as the world lives, being ambitious for advancement in the world. Paul’s sorrow was that many of the Christians with Him were immersed in the worldly culture around them instead of being immersed in Jesus Christ.

In contrast Epaphroditus had so given himself to ministry that he had become sick. Perhaps in attempting to make up for the lack of other Christians he had overdone it. That is a picture we see frequently in the church. A few give themselves in sacrificial service while the majority care primarily for their own interests.

In Galatians Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2), and also, “For each one shall bear his own load” (6:5). Those who do minister need to be careful that they are not taken advantage of, too much, for too long; otherwise, they may come to a point where they cannot minister at all.

Those who minister need to be careful not to exceed the burden they should carry for another because it may be a burden God has given the other person to achieve His purpose in their lives. In our willingness to serve, we may actually hinder the work of God.

Evidence that Christians are seeking their own interests and not those of others may be seen in the way they evaluate a church. Quite often a church is evaluated on the basis of whether our needs are or will be met. We would do much better to evaluate a church based on prayerful consideration as to whether Christ would have us minister to others in that church. It is not my need that is under consideration, but the need of others.

A New Creation

“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Jesus” Galatians 6:12

Paul had already addressed the matter of allowing false teachers to seduce Christians into falsely representing Christ and the Gospel. There were Jews who tried to compel Gentile Christians to be circumcised and live under the Mosaic Law. Even Peter had been persuaded to compromise under pressure from the Jews (2:11-14). Peter’s compromise led to Barnabas and other believing Jews also playing the hypocrite with him (2:13).

In the verse quoted above we note that the reason for their compromise was to avoid some degree of persecution. Peter, Barnabas and other Christians had buckled under the pressure of those who wanted to bring them under the bondage of the law and thus they falsely represented Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Much of this letter of Paul addresses this false teaching (i.e. 2:16-17; 3:24-25).

In the closing words of his letter Paul exhorts Christians to resist being drawn or seduced into coming under the bondage of the law. The enemies of Christ and the Gospel will employ the threat of or actual persecution in an attempt to persuade us to revert to their carnal way of thinking. The ways that Satan uses to achieve this have not changed. He will undermine the validity of key parts of the Bible or try and discredit those who proclaim the Gospel. This he had achieved with Peter and Barnabas until Paul rebuked them. Trying to appease those who proclaim a bondage type of gospel is not an act of Christian love because it communicates a false gospel that cannot save. Many who profess to be Christians are still deceived into believing that belonging to a particular religious order or living a humanly imposed moral standard or ritualised life will give them entrance to heaven. Paul puts those notions to death by saying that none of these have any bearing on where we spend eternity. In Adam we inherit sin and death. What we need is a new heredity. That is only possible in Christ and Paul writes that it will take an act of the Creator (6:15).

In Christ Christians are free from the requirements of the law because Jesus Christ fulfilled those requirements on our behalf. However that does not mean we should indulge the carnal nature. Having been created new in the likeness of Christ we will want to live as He lived expressing the new nature we have in Him.

In the Potter’s Hand

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 4:11

There is sometimes talk about spiritual gifts that goes beyond what Jesus and the New Testament writers intended. Peter sums up all the spiritual gifts into two categories – preaching/teaching God’s word and serving by ministering to other needs of His people. These two areas of gifting provide earthly and spiritual sustenance and care for God’s people. Peter writes that the purpose of exercising these gifts is that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ because His nature and some of His attributes will be seen in His people.

Our fallen nature is deceitful beyond our understanding and ability to discern without the Holy Spirit searching our hearts by way the God’s word. From time to time we will realise that we are using God’s gracious blessings to bring glory to ourselves and not to Him.

We want to feel good about ourselves so we will attribute the good that we have done to ourselves instead of to God’s working power in us. We want others to think well of us so we accept their praise as if the good they have noticed originated from ourselves and not from Christ (Colossians 1:27). We may even want to garner praise from God for some good that we have done but Jesus reminds us that without Him we can do nothing of value to God or His kingdom (John 15:5).

We may seek positions and roles that we think are likely to gain God’s or other people’s praise but none of that will glorify Jesus Christ if our motive is selfish. Even in public prayer we can be guilty of speaking to be heard by people or to gain God’s praise for what we think is a wonderful prayer rather than desiring that the name of Jesus be lifted up and glorified in the earth.

We pray to be used by God but we need to search our hearts to ensure that such prayers are not selfish; to be recognised as a ‘godly’ person, a rung in the ladder above others. We may seek to be one piece of pottery while the Potter would make us for another purpose and place. We can glorify Him best when we are where He wants us to be doing what He wants us to do.

The overriding principle is stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Do all to the glory of God.” We will do well to keep checking our motive when praying, sharing the Gospel and serving other saints. Why we do what we do is more important that what we actually do.  Paul also wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The Slain Lamb on the Throne

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; For You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” Revelation 5:9

It may seem strange that a slain Lamb would rule the earth. However, to the one who knows that Lamb it is no mystery. The risen Lamb is the only One worthy to open the scrolls that initiate God’s righteous judgement on the world and then to rule the world.

Mankind judged the Lamb as unworthy of headship and worship and crucified Him. That very act revealed that mankind is unworthy of the Lamb. The Lamb alone is worthy to judge the world and rule it. The Lamb shed His own blood for the sin of all mankind but just as most rejected Him at His first coming most still reject Him now. It is by their rejection of Him that people unwittingly judge themselves as unworthy of Him.

Those who have received the gift of eternal life have already judged themselves as unworthy, accepted the only remedy for sin and received the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). They trust the risen Lamb for forgiveness and cleansing (John 1:29) and they boast in nothing and no one else (Galatians 6:14). Their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This book is mentioned at least seven times in the book of Revelation. Those whose names are in this book have received eternal life (Revelation 21:27). Only they are washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 1:5).

There are only three references to Jesus being King in Revelation; two of them as King of kings and Lord of lords. There are twenty six references to Him being the Lamb. As typified in Genesis 22 and in the Passover Lamb, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1 John 2:2). This is God’s last revelation to us and the focus is on the cross of Jesus Christ. The obvious invitation is to come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing while we may.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When we agree with God that we are sinners and have sinned, declaring our unworthiness to enter His presence, He is justified in forgiving us because Jesus Christ shed His blood for our sin.

It may seem strange to a lost world to have a slain Lamb ruling but to the redeemed He is the only One worthy to do so. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). He is the risen Lamb of God for whom we eagerly await. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Faithful Witness

“When that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the lord or the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Each generation is born in sin and must come to faith in Christ or there will be a speedy turning away from knowing the Lord toward the world’s religions. This is evidenced in the book of Judges as well as in our modern world.

The attractions of the world’s religions are that they appeal to comfort, greed and pride (1 John 2:16). True Christianity often results in tribulation in this world and produces sacrifice and humility in the Christian as exemplified in Jesus Christ.

The experience of the church is not unlike the experience of Israel. Many parents are grieved because their children do not come to know the Lord and walk with Him. There may be several reasons why children do not choose to follow Jesus but in the verse quoted above the reason given is that the new generation did not know the history of God’s dealing with the nation. This is much more than just academic knowledge of history. It also includes acknowledging God’s hand in history.

In earlier years I attended churches where people regularly stood before the congregation and shared how they came to faith in Jesus Christ or some experience in their life where the Lord had intervened. This does not seem to be happening as often these days. So children may not hear of the ways in which the Lord has changed lives in earlier generations.

A biography or autobiography by someone not known personally are helpful but can only go so far. If our children have only known us as Christians we need to explain to them that it was not always so and share our spiritual path. A niece of mine was reluctant to accept that in my youth I was extremely selfish and self-centred because she has only known me as a Christian. From that point I was able to explain that it is Jesus Christ who is making a change in me. It helps her to understand why I follow Jesus.

As we read the earlier books in the Bible regarding Israel’s departure from Egypt and arrival in Canaan we observe many events and practices designed to teach and remind the people of how they made that journey. How will the next generation in our churches come to faith if they do not hear the testimony of previous generations? Yes, we share the Gospel of Christ with them but our own personal testimony will give great weight and help make it personal.

Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:5). It is a church family responsibility and privilege to share testimony to the next generation, confirming the parents’ testimony, so that they may choose to follow Jesus. The faithful witness of parents and other Christians, of both the Gospel and personal testimony, will go a long way in helping a child choose Christ.