Doctrine and Life – Questions of Our Time
We live in a changing and perilous time. Our doctrine and walk of faith are severely challenged by the three-fold enemy. Many questions arise. How can we keep faith and a good conscience and yet live in this present world? Starting this month, January 2018, this new feature entitled, Doctrine and Life, Questions of Our Time will appear each month. In it many timely topics which face the believer of today will be examined in the light of God’s written Word, long held understandings and through His Holy Spirit.
How Do I Know This Is God’s Kingdom?
God’s kingdom cannot be explained in a manner that satisfies the human mind. It is only understood by faith. It is a kingdom that cannot be seen. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you [among you]” (Luke 17:20-21). With eyes of faith, God’s children see this kingdom as Scripture describes it. It is the body of Christ, the golden candlestick, the sheepfold, the pillar and ground of truth, the mother of us all…
Jesus spoke of the kingdom in the parable of a treasure hidden in a field (Matt. 13:44). “The parable illustrates why the kingdom of God cannot be seen. It is like treasure buried in the dust and dirt of a field, hidden from man’s sight. It is certainly an apt picture. In this world God’s kingdom is hidden beneath the flaws and faults of believing people, people whom God has made from the dust of the earth” (The Treasure Hidden in a Field, LLC 2003).
Nonetheless, God reveals the beauty of this kingdom to the seeker to whom He grants His grace. The Ethiopian eunuch sat in his chariot reading the Prophet Isaiah. Philip came to him and asked him if he understands what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31). Philip, by believing his own sins forgiven through Christ, was a child of God. He was guided by the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to the eunuch who promised to believe upon the Son of God. Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Still today, salvation through Christ is proclaimed from God’s kingdom through the brothers and sisters of Philip, Christ’s own, who preach the forgiveness of sins in His name and blood.
The Gospel’s Power
Faith in the gospel of Christ preached from God’s kingdom has brought peace to my heart and has assured me that this is God’s kingdom. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). I see the power that the gospel carries in my endeavor of faith and in caring for my own marriage and family. It heals wounds and stills the heart. I need not look elsewhere when I have received such great treasure. I have the same conviction as Paul when he writes to the Romans, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
Once on a mission trip to Ecuador, I asked this question of a man who on an earlier trip had asked for and received the forgiveness of all of his sins. He said, “Now I have peace in my heart.” He had no need to search further. This man and others commented that this is not a faith of outward traditions and rituals, but faith of the heart. The difficult knots in human relations that the gospel has been able to untie has been truly amazing! Brothers on foreign trips have experienced this a countless number of times.
Known by Their Fruits
Jesus has said of His own that “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). When I look at the lives of my friends in faith, I see fruits of childlike faith, humbleness, sincerity, honesty, service, love, and a sincere desire to reach heaven. In spite of my own sinfulness, the fruits of faith I see in them assures me that this is God’s kingdom, this is the pathway to heaven.
Human Reason or the Bible
God’s kingdom is known by an essential principle for true and living faith, that is holding to the authority of Scripture. First of all, one must believe that the Holy Bible is God’s Word written by men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Secondly, our faith and doctrine must be based on God’s Word. There are many people and religions in this world who claim to hold to the Word as the highest authority, but believe and live contrary. The biblical teaching of marriage being a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman is one case in point. In the name of human love even the previously conservative, Bible-based churches and religious bodies are caving to human opinion and reason regarding marriage and other tenets of the Bible.
Seek First the Kingdom of God
Jesus teaches, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Then further He says that in order to find God’s kingdom, one must humble to the place of a child. “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15). A little child is helpless. God grants grace to the helpless who are burdened over their sin. He forgives sins through the preaching of the gospel by His followers from His kingdom (John 20:22,23).
Jesus also spoke of a little child being an example of the greatest in the kingdom. In a natural sense, a child believes and trusts in his mother. So also the believer trusts in the care of the congregation, our spiritual Mother. A child does not always understand, but trusts and obeys the voice of the mother, from which comes an immeasurable blessing, peace, and contentment.
The Gospel Brings Everlasting Peace
I have also been assured that I am in God’s kingdom when I have heard about and witnessed the last days and moments of life for both the believing and unbelieving. For example, a certain woman lived her whole adult life in unbelief. As she became older, she wondered what she can do with her sins which burdened her. Sin has consequence and brings sorrow and difficulty. She often prayed that she could be forgiven.Eventually illness brought death close to her door. She feared death. God’s children approached her. God had prepared the soil of her heart to receive the life-giving gospel. She believed it! She no longer feared death and passed from this life believing her sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood.
Another example is from the life of my own brother. He was a childhood believer, but was deceived by the enemy of the soul as a young man. He lived most of his life in unbelief. Sin brought sorrow and consequences in life. He said through most of his life that he cannot understand living faith and is secure where he is at. He built a foundation suitable to his own mind. He was no stranger to outward battle as a soldier and in many other challenges in life. When cancer struck, he took on that battle, too, with the same tenacity with which he faced other battles. However, a cure was not to be found, and he had to surrender to face death. Even in the last weeks of life, he wasn’t ready to let go of human reason and accept God’s grace which we offered. One day, he was sure he was going to die. In distress he reached out to his believing family, at first not being able to connect with anyone. Finally, when he reached his believing brother, there was no reasoning, no human foundations, only a plea for the life-giving gospel. He lost his battle with cancer and human reason, but heard the sweet message from God’s kingdom, “Believe all of your sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood,” through which he won the victory and went on to meet his Redeemer face to face. Faith was no longer needed. It had changed to seeing.