“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
Paul knew the need for the brethren at Thessalonica, as well as everywhere else, to know the truth about those who died in the Lord. They needed comfort and those words would bring it (cf. 1 Thess. 4:18). There are multiple references where the emphasis of not leaving people ignorant is found (cf. Rom. 1:13; 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 2 Peter 3:8). While some may declare, “ignorance is bliss,” such is not the case in the important matters of life. Consider three products that come from an ignorance of the truth.
It Produces a Life Foreign to the Life of God. Paul wrote to the Ephesian brethren, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:17-18). Sin makes one vain, darkened, alienated and hardened so that such ignorance separates man from the life that God wants him to have. If a man dies in his sins, he is eternally lost (cf. John 8:21). If a man lives unto sin, his life is a continual struggle of bondage and following a path toward death (cf. Rom. 6:6, 12, 16-17, 20-21, 23). Yea, he is living in death while he lives (cf. Eph. 2:1; 1 Tim. 5:6). God who gave life knows what is best for man. Walking with God is indeed the greatest blessing of life now and the life to come later. This is one of the reasons why God gave his word to mankind in the Bible.
It Produces a Life Following the Lusts of the Flesh. Peter wrote, “As obedience children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Ignorance causes man to follow the lusts of his own heart and mind. While he is foreign to the ways of God, he is well acquainted with the ways of the world. Peter continued to address this mindset, where he wrote, “For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). The holiness of God (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16) coupled with being a holy nation (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) demands holy living. Ignorance of that truth only makes life fall into the pattern of the world around him. Study carefully the lives of people who live in ignorance of the Bible and see how sin destroys.
It Produces a Life Failing to Have True Righteousness. Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3). Peter stated to certain hearers in Jerusalem concerning the death of Jesus, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). Paul realized that his former actions and beliefs concerning Jesus were out of ignorance (cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). True righteousness does not come accidentally or haphazardly. It comes through submitting to the will of God (cf. Rom. 10:3).
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Ps. 127:3).
When God created marriage and the home, he designed that a heritage would arise through it for future generations. The next psalm shows that such blessings extend to “thy children’s children” (Ps. 128:6). March 8, 2017 saw a new addition come into the home of Brex and Hannah Fuller and a further expansion of the Fuller and Clark homes. Braxton, this writing is for you and your generation. As the Bible addresses passing on the truth from generation to generation (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:1-6), so it is with this article. While you are not able to understand it now, if the Lord wills, you will have such opportunities. Consider three things of importance for you to understand and appreciate.
Faith, Hope and Love. The foundation of a godly life is in the qualities of faith, hope and love. The apostle Paul wrote of the brethren, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thess. 1:3). You must learn to live by faith (cf. Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:38-39); hold to your hope in Christ (cf. Heb. 6:18-19) and love God with all your being and loving your neighbor as yourself (cf. Matt. 22:37-39). These will keep you on the right path where success is found.
Family and Loved Ones. Braxton, God blessed you with a family that will nurture you in the way of the Lord. Your father and mother loved you before you were born. They are committed to see to your best interest. Your extended family of the Fullers and Clarks has been strong in the Lord for generations. Look to the guidance that they will teach you in the fear of God and be blessed in so doing (cf. Prov. 2:1-9). You will find yourself surrounded by loving friends that will encourage you to be your best. Walk with wise men and be wise (cf. Prov. 13:20).
Focus and Loyalty. While you will have many great influences around you, you must ultimately learn to focus on the good and be loyal to what you learn from the Bible. You must grow up being responsible for your own thoughts and actions (cf. Rom. 14:12). The wise man Solomon tried so many things of this world only to learn from experience that the world’s standards bring vanity to life (cf. Eccl. 12:8). There is only one focus for living this life on earth. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). Being single-minded in your focus and loyal to God will bring marvelous blessings. You will find that living the godly life will not be easy (cf. Matt. 7:14). However, you will find that God is with you every step of the way (cf. Heb. 13:5-6). Be a bright and shining light before your fellowman, especially your generation. Righteous leadership is a rare quality in this world. You must learn to take your place and walk in the steps of the Lord. We have prayed for you and will always pray for you to be what God wants you to become. Never forget where you came from and where you are going. We will always love and encourage you.
“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Eze. 33:31).
The Lord was letting Ezekiel know how the hearing of his words by the people was truly being perceived. Outwardly, it appeared that genuine hearing was taking place, but inwardly, the words were falling on materialistic hearts. Jesus would address such hearers in Luke 8:14. How anyone hears the word of God has everything to do with bearing of great fruit or lack thereof. Consider three ways how listening to the word of God can take place.
To Gainsay the Message. People who are steadfast in unbelief of the truth can listen to preaching and teaching but with an ear to find fault. This is how the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees often heard Jesus. All four gospel accounts reveal such kind of hearing (cf. Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; Mark 10:2; 12:15; Luke 11:16; 20:23; John 8:6). The apostles also faced a similar type of hearer (cf. Acts 13:8, 45; 22:21-22). As long as the words harmonize with what one already believes to be true, hearing tends to be supportive. However, if truth is given that shows the person must make the necessary changes to be right with God, it is not uncommon for a preacher or teacher to hear, “Well, you have quit preaching and gone to meddling.” It is possible for people to visit an assembly and sit to be critical of everything said and done to seek to justify themselves in their own beliefs and practices. Such is tragic for such hearer who will give account (cf. Rom. 14:12).
To “Get Through It”. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:2-3). Is it possible that some today are simply enduring the preaching and teaching? The Old Testament prophet Amos repeated the words of certain people in his day, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?” (Amos 8:5). The law and the prophets were publicly read every sabbath day (cf. Acts 13:27; 15:21). However, “going through the motion” was often the practice of hearing it, for “their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). Amos was told to tell the people who cared little if anything for the word of God, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Such is equally as tragic as the gainsaying hearer.
To Gladly Apply. Luke wrote of those devout Jews who heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). This is one of many such examples in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 4:4; 8:6; 18:8). The Lord is looking for the diligent, cheerful hearer. While some would not hear this way, such did not stop those who would. Thanks be to God for such.
“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32).
These words are the last words of the father to the older son in the parable. The father in the parable could easily be viewed as the Father in heaven. While there are no other words from the older son, it is fitting that the father had the last word. Too often people want to tell God how things are or how they ought to be. God the Father knows perfectly how to rule and will do so in keeping with all of his attributes. Consider some other examples where God has the last word and the practical application that comes from it.
Human Suffering. Job stated after hearing the Lord, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5). Again, “I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). It is interesting that the next verse states, “And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (Job 42:7). The Lord tells them to offer sacrifices in keeping with His divine instructions, which was followed without comment on their part (cf. Job 42:8-9). Humanity does not have the full answer for human suffering. While sin brought suffering of all kinds, not all suffering is due to personal sin. Suffering draws man to God, the source of help and comfort. God has the final word on the tough questions.
Humbling the Mentality of Self-Interest. The Lord said to Jonah, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11). This is how the book ends with God having the last word. Jonah wanted God to utterly destroy the people of Nineveh. He was especially angry when they repented at his preaching and God spared them. Attitudes that are not in keeping with the mind and will of God must have a word from the Lord. The Lord God can humble like no other. When attitude problems arise in any situation, the word of the Lord is the approach.
Heavenly Judgment. Jesus stated, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23). The Lord will have the last word in the judgment. All the doctrines of men and the comments of human thinking will not change the word of God. Jesus stated, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Jesus concludes the sermon of Matthew 5-7 with the emphasis of man continuing to hear his sayings and keep on doing them. Some may start and not finish. It is how one finishes that makes all the difference. God’s word will stand.