What it Takes to Become a Judge in God’s Kingdom

 

 

Did you know that your future as a son or daughter of God is to become a judge in God’s kingdom? [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

Several Bible scriptures promise – and God’s word is sure! – that the “saints” or the people of God will rule with Jesus Christ on this earth as “kings and priests” after He returns here to set up God’s everlasting kingdom.  See:  Daniel 7:26-27; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:3-10; and 20:6.

Psalms 96:13 and 98:9 assert that the LORD – Jesus Christ – “is coming to judge the earth,” and that with righteousness, truth, and equity.  Isaiah 2:2, 4 also affirms that “in the latter days” – soon in our times – the LORD will rule over all the earth and “He shall judge between the nations and rebuke many people.”

Unlike in most of today’s democratic nations, where there is a so-called “division of powers” – where the executive branch is separate from and does not interfere with the work of the legislative (or law-making) branch and the judicial branch – Christ and His glorified saints will be both kings and judges over people and nations. An example of this is Israel’s King Solomon and his famous judgment over two women who each claimed to be the mother of the surviving baby, after the other baby had died (1 Kings 3:16-28).

What it takes to be a judge

What, then, does being a judge require?  A look at this world’s judiciary system can give us helpful insights and tips. You may check these links:  https://learn.org/articles/Judge_Become_a_Judge_in_5_Steps.htm and https://www.lawyersweeklyjobs.com/what-are-the-qualifications-for-becoming-a-judge>.

Judges are assigned to preside over a court of law.  Here they hear arguments and evidence in cases brought up to the court.  They may need to perform legal research before issuing any ruling.  This is to ensure that the law of the land has been followed during court proceedings and that the court procedures are followed.  Judges rule on the admissibility (or credibility) of evidence or testimony and may provide instructions to the jury when necessary.  Judges are also involved in sentencing those convicted of a crime.

As such most countries require that a judge attend a government-accredited law school.  After obtaining the degree of JD (Juris Doctor) or LLB (Bachelor of Law), one has to pass the bar exam in order to become a licensed lawyer.  In addition, one has to have practiced as attorney for some period, in order to experience how courts of law operate.

A judge thus has to have basic knowledge of the country’s criminal law (which defines what acts or deeds are considered criminal), and its penal code (prescription of penalty for particular crimes).

The requirement for becoming a judge in God’s kingdom isn’t too different.  One has to have a good knowledge and understanding of God’s moral law – God’s commandments, statutes, and ordinances.  One also has to know God’s judgment for transgression of His law – which is what sin or iniquity is (1 John 3:4, KJV).

God’s law is contained in what the Jews call their Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament of the Holy Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – also called the “Pentateuch”). God’s law is elaborated on in the rest of the Bible – both the Old Testament and the New.  [See:  The Law of Christ.]

God’s judgments are specified in Exodus 21-22, and are also proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets and demonstrated or alluded to in the “writings” (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and the narrative books – from Joshua to Esther).  Jesus Christ Himself made many pronouncements against sinners and urged them all to repent or else perish (Luke 13, 5).  Revelation 20:8 is Jesus’ testimony about the destruction of all unrepentant sinners and wicked people in the “lake of fire” or the “second death.”

The apostle Paul admonished the brethren in Corinth to bring disputes among themselves to those in the Church of God who could judge over their case instead of resorting to the courts of the land which were administered by unbelievers or non-Christians.  He told the Corinthian Christians that they were, ultimately, to judge even the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

This being the case, it behooves all Christians to be well acquainted with God’s laws and judgments.  While God has promised to write His law in our hearts (Hebrews 8:7-11; 10:16), it might help further if we followed what God required the kings of Israel to do.  Deuteronomy 17:18-19 commands that the king write a copy of the book of God’s law and read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the LORD  and carefully observe His law and statutes.

We can never over-learn God’s law in its depth and breadth (Psalm 36:6; 119:96; Romans 11:33)!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
18122021

Humans: What, Who Are We, Really?

 

On 02 November 2020 I published on this website the article titled “Should Everyone Be Allowed to Be Who They Are?” In this present article I would like to expand on who we really are as human beings.

The theory of evolution proposes that man is but the highest development in an evolutionary process, whereby “lower” forms of life “evolved” over a period of hundreds or thousands of years into higher, more advanced life forms – animals – ending with the evolution of man at the apex.

The theory of evolution does not attribute the existence or emergence of man to some divine power or process, as the story of man’s creation tells us (Genesis 1-3). Thus evolutionists do not believe that man should be beholden to a divine entity or “God” who expects or commands that man behave in certain ways as that God prescribes.

The apostle Paul wrote about where such a Godless belief leads to, ultimately, in Romans 1:20-31 (NKJV) –

For since the creation of the world His [God’s] attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, In the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature [Lesbianism]. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful [homosexuality or homosexual acts], and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul plainly says that the belief in evolution [which is also atheism] ultimately leads to the jettisoning of moral standards and to gross immorality, and consequently to death or perdition” (Romans 6:23).

God’s word – the Holy Bible – teaches that God created man in His own image, in His “likeness” (Genesis 1:26). We humans were created as being of the same “kind” [or genre] as God is. Genesis 1:20-25 gives examples of “kinds” of living creatures – sea creatures (fish), birds, cattle, and creeping things.

Clearly, then, God made mankind after the God kind – not the animal-kind, as evolutionists teach. Man is no high-end animal! But God reveals that we humans are presently but a physical likeness or appearance of God. In John 3:6 Jesus explained that “That which is born of the flesh [as man is] is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jesus clarified that “God is Spirit…” (John 4:24)

In that profound conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus told him that he – as all of us do – needed to be “born again” in order to see [enter or be in] the kingdom of God (Verse 3).

In the famous “memory verse” (John 3:16), Jesus said: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus as also the ‘Son of Man’ who would be lifted up as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness (Verse 14) – referring to Christ’s crucifixion or death as a payment or ransom to redeem or free mankind from the penalty of death for sin], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Having everlasting life is what seeing [or being in] God’s kingdom means, and that through a change from our earthly, mortal human frame to a spiritual, immortal frame, through a resurrection at Christ’s return to earth to claim all kingdoms for Himself and His chosen ones, the “saints” (Revelation 16:15; 20:6).

Paul magnificently explained this in his famous “Resurrection Chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15. He summarized this transformation in Verses 50-54 –

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

How can we attain to such a wondrous resurrection? Paul desired to attain to that resurrection (Philippians 3:10). And he explained how he could attain it (Verses 8-11) —

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that
I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection; and the fellowship of His sufferings: being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.

That was quite a list! Let’s break it down to more specifics.

1) The knowledge of Christ. What does it mean to “know Christ?” 1 John 2:3-4 says, “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Jesus also said that, at His return to claim His own chosen ones, He will say to many: “I never knew you!” and tell them to depart or go away from Him as those who “practice lawlessness” [Greek, anomian] (Matthew 7:23, NKJV). [See: “I Never Knew You!” and A Great Omission in Doing the “Great Commission.”] Twice Jesus said that if we really love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:21, 23). [See: The Law of Christ and Moses and Jesus – Are They Contraries?]

2) Righteousness through faith in Christ. Of our own selves, we humans are not righteous, for we all sin (Romans 6:23) and are thus “unrighteous.” In order to make us righteous or “just” [“justified”] we need to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin, which is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV) – and this only through the blood of Jesus [the “Lamb of God,” John 1:3), whose death at Calvary’s cross pays the ransom that redeems us from death [see: The Ransomed of the LORD]. Through belief or faith in the power of Christ’s death to cleanse us of sin we thus become “righteous” or “just.” We are “justified” by our faith as Father Abraham was (Romans 4:2-6).

With such faith we have the “hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Of that glory Paul wrote (Philippians 3:20-21):

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself, by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself.

As explained earlier, that will take place at Christ’s return, when He will resurrect the dead saints or change the living ones from mortal to immortal, having everlasting life.

3) Being conformed to Christ’s death. Paul also taught that at baptism after true repentance of our sins, we symbolically put to death our “old man” – our old sinful selves – so that, just as Jesus died and rose again to glorious life after three days and nights in the grave, so we true Christians come up from the water of baptism to a new life – a life that is righteous and acceptable to God.

Whereas we used to practice unrighteousness or sin, we now strive to live a righteous life, a life obedient to the laws and commandments of God [see, for example, Luke 1:6; see also: Saved for Good Works]. That is possible only through the help of God’s Holy Spirit, which God gives after baptism (Acts 2:38). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]

Partaking of the “divine nature”

The apostle Peter wrote that as Christians we are “partakers of the divine nature” by having escaped the corruption where this lustful and sinful world used to hold us in its sway (2 Peter 1:4).

Through the resurrection to glory at Christ’s return, we His true followers will receive the full “divine nature” of God. We will then become full-fledged members of God’s divine family as God’s very own children! As such, we will then become perfect as God is perfect. We, like God, will not sin anymore (1 John 3:9).

Thus will David’s psalm about the true value of man be fulfilled (Psalm 8:3-8) –

When I consider Your [God’s] heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars. Which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen – even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.

Hebrews 2:5-8 qualifies this psalm by saying that, for now, we do not see all things put under man. Not until Jesus returns to bring us to glory and rule the nations and the vast universe with Him. Then we will become fully the brothers and sisters of Christ – the divine and glorious children of God (Verses 10-11)! [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

For a comprehensive treatment of the glorious future of mankind, see this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to Mr. Armstrong’s book titled The Incredible Human Potential.

I hope and pray that you who are reading this article will find yourself being told by Jesus at His return: “Welcome to God’s family!”

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
26112021

“Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds…”

Jesus said: “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2). Some consider this one of the hardest sayings of Jesus Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees were esteemed by most Jews in that day as the paragon or epitome of spirituality or religiousness. How could anyone surpass their high achievement and status?

Understanding what Jesus meant

We can understand the seemingly impossible dictum of Christ when we take The Whole Counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in His word.

The apostle Paul described himself as a rising “star” among his contemporary Pharisees (Galatians 1:14), and “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:6).

Not having received God’s Spirit before his conversion to the Christian faith, Paul obeyed God’s law by the letter of the law, not by the Spirit of the law. After he was converted and ordained a minister of Christ’s gospel, Paul became a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for, he said, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

How does the letter of the law kill? Paul went on to explain the difference between Christ’s ministry and that of Moses. He called the latter “the ministry of death (Verse 7). And that is because, according to the letter of the law under Moses’ ministry, a sinner or transgressor of the law received the death penalty. In contrast, Paul described the ministry of Christ as “the ministry of righteousness” (Verse 8), and the “ministry of reconciliation” (Verse 18).

Reconciliation means being restored to a right relationship with God. Isaiah 59:2 declares: “But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear…” We are reconciled to God through Christ’s supreme sacrifice of Himself on Calvary’s cross, whereby we are redeemed from sin’s death penalty, thus forgiving and cleansing us of sin—making us “righteous” and able to obey God’s law (Luke 1:8) through His Spirit (Romans 8:7-11). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, God’s Spirit and Obedience, and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

Thus Christ’s ministry of the Spirit is a ministry of LIFE! Jesus said that the words He spoke during His earthly ministry were “Spirit and life” (John 6:63).

Obedience by the letter versus by the Spirit

Jesus showed the example of obedience by the letter, such as when a man does not actually or literally commit adultery with a woman who is not his own wife, but he could commit adultery in his mind and heart by lusting after a woman who is not one’s wife (Matthew 5:237-28).

God is interested in what’s inside our minds and hearts, and will judge us accordingly [“I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10)].

The righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees exhibited was merely outward; inwardly – in their heart and mind or spirit – they were “full of lawlessness and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). [See: Hypocrisy: Why God So Hates It!]

Paul said: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all, and in all who believe (Romans 3:21-22).

That is how we are able to exceed the merely outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. This is one of the things impossible with men but fully possible with God! Unless we have such righteousness through faith in Christ, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven! [See: Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible? and “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
20102021

“Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds…”

“Jesus said: “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2). Some consider this one of the hardest sayings of Jesus Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees were esteemed by most Jews in that day as the paragon or epitome of spirituality or religiousness. How could anyone surpass their high achievement and status?

Understanding what Jesus meant

We can understand the seemingly impossible dictum of Christ when we take The Whole Counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in His word.

The apostle Paul described himself as a rising “star” among his contemporary Pharisees (Galatians 1:14), and “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:6).
Not having received God’s Spirit before his conversion to the Christian faith, Paul obeyed God’s law by the letter of the law, not by the Spirit of the law. After he was converted and ordained a minister of Christ’s gospel, Paul became a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for, he said, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

How does the letter of the law kill? Paul went on to explain the difference between Christ’s ministry and that of Moses. He called the latter “the ministry of death (Verse 7). And that is because, according to the letter of the law under Moses’ ministry, a sinner or transgressor of the law received the death penalty. In contrast, Paul described the ministry of Christ as “the ministry of righteousness” (Verse 8), and the “ministry of reconciliation” (Verse 18).

Reconciliation means being restored to a right relationship with God. Isaiah 59:2 declares: “But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear…” We are reconciled to God through Christ’s supreme sacrifice of Himself on Calvary’s cross, whereby we are redeemed from sin’s death penalty, thus forgiving and cleansing us of sin—making us “righteous” and able to obey God’s law (Luke 1:8) through His Spirit (Romans 8:7-11). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, God’s Spirit and Obedience, and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

Thus Christ’s ministry of the Spirit is a ministry of LIFE! Jesus said that the word He spoke during His earthly ministry were “Spirit and life” (John 6:63).

Obedience by the letter versus by the Spirit

Jesus showed the example of obedience by the letter, such as when a man does not actually or literally commit adultery with a woman who is not his own wife, but he could commit adultery in his mind and heart by lusting after a woman who is not one’s wife (Matthew 5:237-28).

God is interested in what’s inside our minds and hearts, and will judge us accordingly [“I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10)].

The righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees exhibited was merely outward; inwardly – in their heart and mind or spirit – they were “full of lawlessness and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). [See: Hypocrisy: Why God So Hates It!]

Paul said: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21).

That is how we are able to exceed the merely outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. This is one of the things impossible with men but fully possible with God! Unless we have such righteousness through faith in Christ, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven! [See: Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible? and “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
20102021

Hypocrisy: Why God So Hates It

 

Among the most searing words Jesus Christ spoke during His earthly ministry were those addressed to and against hypocrites. In Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 He condemned three instances and forms of hypocrisy: 1) doing charitable acts and announcing them to other people, 2) praying publicly to show one’s piety to other men, and 3) fasting and making it obvious to others in order to gain their approval and praise.

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus condemned those who judged others for their sins while being blind to their own sins. In particular Jesus condemned the Pharisees, Sadduccees and scribes or teachers of the law among the Jews of His day.

In Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus condemned as hypocrites a group of these Jewish leaders who asked Him for a sign that He was indeed the prophesied Messiah. Actually Jesus had done many miraculous deeds in their midst, but they did not believe these and felt these were not enough signs; they wanted more.

Matthew 23 contains Jesus’ several direct condemnations of the scribes and Pharisees for what they were doing to be seen by men, their desire to be exalted by and among men (Verses 1-2). In Verses 13-36 Jesus pronounced woe on the scribes and Pharisees for their blindness and failure to acknowledge their own failings and their lack of understanding of what really matters to God.

But why the divine indignation?

When we come right down to it, God primarily desires “truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6) – in our hearts and minds. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). [See: True Worship.]

As God, Jesus searches the minds and hearts of everyone (Revelation 2:23). He knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21). A man after God’s own heart, Israel’s King David affirmed that God knows our every thought even before we express it in words or actions (Psalm 139:1-4; compare with Isaiah 66:18). And what does God see in our hearts? Isaiah 59:7 declares that man’s thoughts are often “thoughts of iniquity” – sin, or disobedience to God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV). [See: The Problem of Sin, Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

Jesus stressed the importance of our being clean in our inside – our hearts and minds – first. He told the scribes and Pharisees: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, [so] that the inside of them may be clean also (Matthew 23:25-26). He compared them to “Whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones.”

The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “hypocrisy” as “a pretending to be what one is not, and to feel what one does not feel; esp. a pretense of virtue, piety, etc.” It is basically the discrepancy between one’s outer appearance or show, and what’s really going on in one’s mind and heart. Hypocrisy, then, is essentially living a lie!

Hypocrisy is thus the opposite of God’s nature as a God of truth – a God who does not lie, cannot lie, and will not ever lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). In contrast Jesus called God’s chief enemy, Satan the devil, the “father” of all lies and liars (John 8:44).

Among the things God hates the most – abominations to Him – are a “false witness” and a “lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16-17, 19). He will condemn to the lake of fire or the “second death” all unrepentant liars and “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie” (Revelation 21:8; 22:15). Jesus also declared that the portion of hypocrites is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51) – prior to their being cast into the unextinguished fire of hell and their everlasting condemnation.

Therefore, it behooves all who want to inherit everlasting life in God’s eternal kingdom and Paradise to seek to “do God’s commandments” and keep oneself clean from sorcery, sexual immorality, idolatry and, yes, lies and hypocrisy (Revelation 22:14-15). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, Being and Doing, and Saved for Good Works.]

May God help us to become perfect both in our inward and outward lives! [See: Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible? and “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
11082021

On the Rebelliousness of Man

 

While doing my daily cover-to-cover reading of the Bible recently, I reached Jeremiah 41-45. [By the way, this is my second round of reading this year, using different Bible versions – something you might try also, if you are not already doing it.] I was deeply struck by the mindless rebelliousness of the Jews who heard the prophet Jeremiah’s God-sent warning message to them.

How could they have not believed the prophet’s warning against them taking refuge in Egypt from the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s impending destruction of Jerusalem? Why did they insist on going to Egypt anyway – to their own doom? Why did they refuse to stay put in Jerusalem, and they would have remained untouched by the king there, as Jeremiah had assured?

This got me to thinking about this quirk of the human heart and attitude. Let me unpack it here; hopefully we can learn some lessons to help us chart a brighter course for our lives.

What makes the decision of this group of Jews ironic is that they had told Jeremiah that, yes, they were going to do as he had declared to them. But some rogue ringleaders among them persuaded them from their original decision and led them to disobey Jeremiah’s warning. Thus they all fled to Egypt. But there Nebuchadnezzar caught up with them and devastated them along with Egypt. Only a small remnant survived among the Jews along with Jeremiah.

We see this pattern in the actions of the children of Israel and of Judah.

After Moses had given God’s commandments to the children of Israel, and the people entered into a covenant with their God at Sinai, they said they were going to keep their part of the covenant (Exodus 24:3-8).

But not too long after this, the people of Israel forgot their promise to their God. Exodus 32 chronicles the infamous “golden calf” incident involving no less than their high priest Aaron, Moses’ elder brother. Notice how some rogues also incited the people to commit their blatant idolatry.

All through the history of the nation Israel, we find the people to have been hard-headed and hard-hearted in their disobedience to their God. God called them a “stiff-necked” people (Exodus 32:9;33:3, 5; 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, 213; 10:16; 2 Chronicles 30:8). The first Christian martyr Stephen echoed this in his condemnation of the Jews who – until then – refused to listen to his God’s Spirit-inspired testimony (Acts 7:51).

The remedy?

For physical stiff-neck woes there are a number of remedies that therapists can apply. But for spiritual stiff-neck, what’s the remedy?

A stiff-necked attitude stems from a hard heart – the inner soul and spirit of man, Jeremiah 17:9 gives this “diagnosis”: “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

One who truly yearns for the remedy for spiritual stiff-neckedness will thus need to seek a change of heart.

But how? Jeremiah 10:23 asserts that “…the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”

The “man after God’s own heart” David (1 Samuel 2:23; Acts 13:22) prayed, in deep repentance for his double sin of adultery and murder, to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

A contemporary praise or prayer song asks:

Change my heart, O God;
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God;
Make me more like You!
You are the Potter;
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray.

No less than a spiritual heart “transplant” is needed in the case of a stiff or hard heart!

God promised to stiff-necked Israel that one day that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh [a soft, yielded and submissive heart]. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God’s Spirit essential

God’s Holy Spirit is thus essential in helping man to obey God’s law. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

God’s Spirit will help us understand both the “goodness and severity” of God (Romans 11:22). God’s righteousness calls for severe punishment for sin not repented of (Romans 2:5-9). Revelation 21:8 shows how God will vent His wrath on such sinners. This should lead a person who values his life and eternity to a healthy fear of God. And we can ask God to put such fear in our heart (Psalm 86:11; Jeremiah 32:39-40). [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

Isaiah 66:2 promises, “But on this one I will look [regard]: on him who is poor [lowly, humble] and of a contrite [repentant, sorrowful] heart, and who trembles at My word.”

Such fear should cause one to think twice or more about transgressing any of God’s laws, which is what sinning is. Sin is an affront to God’s very character and purposes as revealed in God’s law and word. If we truly love God we will obey His law (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:2).

Like soft clay rid of hard lumps, we should be yielded and pliable to the molding in the hands of our great Master Potter. [See: https:www.herbert-armstrong,org, click ENTER HERE, select “Good News (1951-1989),” click 1980-1989, and scroll down to the issue of Oct-Nov 1980, for the article titled “Lessons From the Master Potter.”]

An old hymn prayerfully asks:

Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way.
Thou art the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mould me and make me after Thy will.
Here I am waiting, yielded and still.

Moses told the people of Israel while the armies of Egypt’s Pharaoh were hotly pursuing them: Do not be afraid. Stand still. And see the salvation of the LORD. Which He will accomplish for you today….The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14). Amen!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
22072021

“His Judgment Cometh Nigh”

These are words embroidered on a wall frame by the wife of the religious but corrupt warden of a jail in the movie “Shawshank Redemption,” which I believe many of you have watched. The frame with the dire words hung in the office of the warden, to whom the words came true. It happened after the authorities got wind of his sheenanigans and came to arrest him. But before they could get to him, however, he had shot himself in the head.

 

While the movie story was but fictional, the framed words come right out of the Bible. Joel 2:1 [KJV, throughout] says: “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.”

 

Psalm 98:8-9 declares: “Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the LORD: for He cometh to judge the earth with righteousness; He shall judge the world, and all the people with equity.

 

Psalm 147:15 describes God’s word or truth as running “very swiftly.” “Doomsday” preachers have long warned the world about God’s imminent judgment on earth’s inhabitants, but since until now that day hasn’t come, many scoffers doubt if it is ever coming.

 

The apostle Peter wrote: “Knowing this first that there shall come in the last days [our times today!] scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep [died] all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:4-4).

 

Peter then went on to explain that God’s sense of time is vastly different from that of man. What men consider God’s slowness in acting, what to them seems like God taking a thousand years, is to God but one day (Verse 8). That God is simply giving sinful mankind some slack so they could repent and be saved, not perish (Verse 9).

 

This is the same call to repentance that God’s prophets of old had preached, the same message Jesus preached, and the same message His true servants have preached down through the centuries up to today (Micah 6:8; Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38-39).

 

As God’s servant I also earnestly ask you, dear readers, to examine yourselves – see where you have run afoul of God’s perfect law – where you have sinned – and sincerely repent of those sins! God so graciously gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so we can have forgiveness – pardon for our sins – in exchange of His life-blood shed on Calvary’s cross, so we don’t have to die but have everlasting life at His soon return. This way we can have boldness and confidence in the day of His coming and Judgment! [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, Transgressions Under the First Covenant, Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time? and “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
12052021

Mind Control

 

Recently I had an interesting chat with my eldest daughter, who lives in Norway.  She mentioned about “algorithm” and how the social media outlets are able to track down the users’ choice of sites to visit.  In the process managers of the outlets are able to train the mind of their “clients” to look for and find similar sites.  The result: the clients or visitors become “hooked” or addicted to those sites.

The information that the algorithm gathers then becomes “fodder” to sell to sites – and here’s where this kind of surveillance brings in money to the people or company that has control of the mechanism of algorithms, which are the soul of computers and what is called AI – “Artificial Intelligence,” a prime example being robots.

We live in an age where, through these man-made gadgets and devices, some people or group of people is able to control what goes on in the minds of unwary social media users.

The plain fact is that all this is a sinister, diabolical scheme which Satan, the “god” of this world, is foisting upon an unsuspecting mankind in order to deceive everyone and hold them under his evil sway (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9; 1 John 5:19, NKJV).

In 2 Timothy 2:26, the apostle Paul gives us an insight into Satan’s ploy: the devil has set up snares or traps all over the place [and aren’t there ever a host of them on the internet and the worldwide web!], by which he takes people captive to do his will!  Satan uses coercion and subtle entanglements that play upon the human lust (James 1:14, etc.). In this way Satan is able to set up strongholds in the minds of men (2 Corinthians 10:4) – indeed a strong hold or control over those minds!

No wonder our world today is in such a mess and a living hell!   Jesus predicted about our times today:  “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will turn cold (Matthew 24:12).  Instead, unnatural “love” [lust!] has become rampant (Romans 1:24-32)! True indeed that Satan has oppressed many people – through social media and in the hands of wicked rulers of this world.

In fact, Satan will use two human instruments to enforce his will and thus oppress helpless mankind in the coming years!

Revelation 13 exposes these two powerful human beings as the “beast” (a military leader) and a “false prophet” (a religious or church leader).  They will have such great power as to be able to control the movement and economic activities of people all over the world (Verses 16-17)!  Some have speculated if this “mark of the beast” might be some kind of computer microchip imbedded in the hand and forehead of the subject people.  Without it no one could buy or sell anything.  [For a Biblical exposition of what this “mark” might be, see:  https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklets titled “Who Is the Beast?” and “What Is the Mark of the Beast?”]

Among other things, Jesus came to heal all those oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).  Jesus is ever alive today, and He is able to free people from the devil’s oppression as they come to Him!  As He alluded to His role as the prophesied Messiah, He seeks to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:16-21).

Revelation 17 details about how at His return to earth Jesus, the “Lamb of God,” will make war with the “beast” and the “false prophet” and overcome them.  He will then take control over all the kingdoms of this world and rule them in righteousness with His glorified saints (Revelation 11:15; 19:16; 5:10; 20:6).  He will destroy with the fire of His brightness all His enemies — those who oppose His truth and righteousness, and who are destroying the earth and humanity through wickedness and immorality (Isaiah 66:14-16; Revelation 11:16-18).

Jesus’ Spirit of freedom

Unlike how Satan controls human minds by oppression and coercion, Jesus gives His Spirit as a liberating power.  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  That Spirit does not coerce or force a Christian in such a way that he loses control of his mind or will.  1 Corinthians 14:31 shows that “the spirits of the prophets [who speak under the guidance of God’s Spirit (2 Peter 1:21)] are subject to the prophets.”  In other words, A Christian has full control of his mind even as he obeys God’s will.  [See:  What Is This Thing Called “Will?”]  In fact, one of the facets of the “fruit” of the Spirit of God is “self-control” (Galatians 5:22, NKJV).

It is through that Spirit that we are able to avoid or suppress evil thoughts, and think pure, holy thoughts instead.  We are thus able to obey God and have the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5).  [See:  God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]  All this to make us perfect and fit for God’s kingdom [see:  Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible?]

This is not to say that social media have no place for a Christian.  Christ is also using the social media to spread the true gospel message, such as this website you are reading right now!  In fact, it may be through the social media or satellite broadcasting that God’s end-time “two witnesses” will be heard simultaneously worldwide (Revelation 11). Who knows how Christ might use “sanitized” social media to reeducate all of mankind When He Rules the World?  Only the true and pure knowledge of God will fill the earth then (Isaiah 11:9) — nothing to destroy the mind and morals of everyone, as today’s social media do!

May you use your Christian liberty to avoid the pitfalls of today’s social media, and benefit from those sites that promote truth, righteousness and Godliness! And as God’s people celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this May 16th, may you be blessed with joy and a deeper understanding of and obedience to God’s will through His Spirit!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
07052021