Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris] God in His Word says He has enemies and He has friends. Where do you fall?You may think you know God and are His friend, but He may still say to you, “I never knew you.” How would you feel if God said that to you? I don't think you would be too happy. I know I wouldn't.Getting to the answer of these questions can be a challenge. But you can find the answer. Join us on Beyond Today to help find the answer to: “Are You Fighting Against God?”[Announcer] Join our host, Darris on Beyond Today ![Darris] One of the scariest statements in the Bible comes near the close of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. He says this to anyone who desires to follow Him as a disciple.“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. ×).I never knew you! I don't know about you, but when I read this statement I find it quite sobering. It makes me look deep inside and ask whether Christ might say that to me. I follow Christ and call myself a Christian and I sure don't want Him to look me in the eyes and say those words.Yet, when I read the Bible I see that this is a thought repeated in several places. Which tells me the question we are asking today, “Are You Fighting Against God?” is a good question to ask.Calling ourselves Christian, or a believer in God or a good, spiritual person is not enough. Jesus says in that day people will say they have prophesied in His name. They will say they have cast out demons. They will say they have done many wonders in His name. They have performed miraculous works that would appear to be of God - even miracles similar to what Jesus and the apostles performed! Yet, they are a group that Jesus says He doesn't know.Could you be fighting against God? Could you be doing works in Jesus' name - well intentioned - but not be known by the Lord Himself? It's a real serious question. And it's one that I have thought about in my own life. Let's find out. And let's see what we can do to make sure we're not in that category.First, let's look at another dramatic example.In the book of Revelation it shows us a prophetic image of armies gathering to fight Jesus Christ at His second coming. Let's read it:“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty… And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16 12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. ×).Now in chapter 19 of Revelation we also see more details. It reads this way:“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, 'Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.' And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Revelation 19:17-19 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the middle of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God; 18 That you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. ×).What does this mean? How could men gather to fight God? It is one of the most puzzling scenes in the Bible. Yet, there it is.Who makes up this army? Who is this that fights Jesus Christ? The only way that you and I can avoid being in this army is by not fighting against God now.Here's the answer. This army is made up of people like Christ mentioned in Matthew 7, those to whom Christ says, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”Here's another question. Will you be in this army? Could you find yourself fighting against Christ at His second coming? Now ask yourself: Am I practicing lawlessness today?But you might say, “I worship God. I love Jesus. I am a good person.” That's right, you do. There are many good people who would not even place themselves in this story as people, someone who fights against God. I know people just like you—good people who do many good works.I have friends, I have close family. They've spent many decades year after year, as good god-fearing people and they do many good works. They are missionaries. They're helpers. They're faithful church goers. I respect them highly.But Christ's own words compel every one of us to look deeper into what He is really saying to us. He is telling us that we can be good people and miss something.What might we be missing?In the New Testament there is another story. It is a story of a man who thought that he was the friend of God, but one day he discovered he wasn't.There once was a man, he was confronted by God. And God asked him this question, “Why are you persecuting me?”This man was religious - fervently religious. He went to church every week.He knew the Bible thoroughly. He could quote it verbatim. But one day he was confronted by God with the hard reality that all he had done was considered “against God.” He was struck with blindness for three days. And that was a graphic example of just how spiritually blind he really was.This man was the apostle Paul and his story is told in the book of Acts 9 where he is struck down on the road while traveling to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus Christ. Paul was confronted with a frightening reality. He was fighting against God, not people that he just disagreed with.In Paul's case, he was a very religious man. He was appalled at this group of upstarts who were organizing around the idea that a man killed like a criminal had been raised from the dead. The idea so shocked and upset his view of God and his world it was incomprehensible to him. He lashed out and he persecuted this group.Paul was fighting against God. Could you be fighting against God? Think about it for a moment.This is more than an ancient story. It's a story that applies to us today in our world. You and I need to see ourselves in this very story of Paul.The battle against God in the time of the end, it begins with the social issues that war against the sensibilities of God. We are seeing the seeds of how the armies will fight against Christ. Those seeds are beginning now with the large rocks of social issues in our world today, as well as in the smaller matters in our lives that do not align with God. A careless attitude toward God, neglect of a solid religious life - that's the start. Do you think that you would be in this army who will be found fighting against Christ?Think about it!You have armies. Armies full of people deceived by influential political and religious leaders.You have the story of Paul, the apostle. Could it be that we are like Paul? Paul was actually arresting and persecuting people whom he perceived as a threat to his view of God.To look at our society today, religious, or spiritual people, all having their view of God. A Christian, a Christian has a specific view. Muslims, they too have a view of Allah and what Allah expects of them in today's world. Hindus, Buddhists, they view life and the spirit world completely different, in a different way than Christians do. You know even agnostics and atheists have a view of God. It is sometimes quizzical, skeptical - wondering why God allows evil and human suffering. Sometimes their view is formed in anger as a result of the abuses made in the name of God and religion.Everyone has a view of God even if it is to ignore, defy or deny Him!And you? Even though you attend a Christian church, could you be one who is an enemy of God, fighting against God today, in your own life? Christ said to keep the commandments, do you?Again, the apostle he found himself blinded by his encounter with God. But when he got up off the ground he opened his eyes but could see no one and he remained that way for three days. Paul's blindness was a type of the spiritual blindness that he had when he persecuted God. Spiritual blindness is what happens when people try to be religious without knowing the true God, even when that true God, when He stands in front of them.The story of Paul is very sobering. Paul was a super devout man, and by his own description he was “without blame.” “Without blame” in observing his religious faith. If Paul could be wrong in how he worshipped the one true God then how important is it that you and I, that we examine ourselves? Are you a friend of God or an enemy of God? Remember there is a group of people to whom Jesus will say: “I never knew you.”In a few moments, we'll discuss specific instances as to how this question could be applied to you but first let's consider another biblical example.Jesus Christ came as God in the flesh. The religious leaders in Jerusalem did not recognize who He was nor did they believe His teaching. The conflict came to a confrontation when Christ lit into them with a tongue lashing like nothing they had ever heard. He said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in.×).These teachers were blind guides who were leading others away from God rather than to Him. Christ spared no words and let them know they were fighting against the Father.His words did not change them since they later conspired to put Him to death. But the exchange of words serves to wake us to the possibility that we can think we serve God and do His will when in reality we miss the boat.If God had enemies like the Pharisees and like Paul, and there will be enemies in the future, then how does He define an enemy? And how do we avoid being an enemy and put ourselves on the path to becoming a friend, one to whom Christ will one day say, “well done”!In today's program there is one question that we want to challenge you with, are you a friend of God or an enemy of God? So to help you answer this we are offering a free Bible study aid titled: Who is God? Do you think you know God? Don't just assume the answer is yes - you may not. There may be more for you to learn.I will tell you more about this free Bible study aid, Who Is God? in a moment. But, you can call and order it at any time at the number on your screen or go to our website.Let's consider more examples of fighting against God, and note how we can get caught up in it if we're really not careful.I have been talking about the apostle Paul and how he was challenged by God because he was fighting God. The encounter deeply impacted the rest of Paul's life. From this event he learned that mankind has a fundamental problem. And he wrote about it in a letter to the church at Rome. Look at what he said:“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” (Romans 1:28-31 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: ×). This is a powerful statement that should make each of us stop and think!Paul then includes a list of behaviors. He mentions sexual immorality, wickedness and murder - all big ticket sins - sins that you would expect to be included on such a “top ten” list of sins. Sins you say that aren't a part of your life.But wait!He also mentions deceit and evil-mindedness, backbiters. He says pride is a problem, too. Boasting and disobedient to parents. He talks about not able to forgive or to show mercy.Paul is unsparing in this list. He compiles human mistakes that reflect to one degree or the other the human problem of not retaining God in our hearts and minds on a daily basis. Such behaviors wear down a relationship with God. These “little ticket sins” can be just as devastating to our relationship with God as the “big-ticket” ones. Sin is sin and it takes an enormous toll!Paul came to see this was at the heart of his problem with God and he had to make changes.He writes this here in Romans to identify the problem. He concludes by saying if we practice or approve of such things we “are deserving of death.” We cannot excuse ourselves. We can't pass this off. Here is a passage of deep truth that requires us to act. We cannot ignore this.What Paul writes here in Romans tells us the reason there is an end-time army that gathers to fight Christ at His coming. Because man “does not like to retain God in their knowledge” there develops an animosity to God that distorts His true image. Mankind cannot recognize God because of sin.Sin, personal acts of lawlessness, lawless transgression of God's revealed way of life, that keeps a world in darkness today and will cause nations to rise in defiance when Christ appears in glory. Again I ask, will you be found in this end-time army? Are you already in this army?So we don't want to be an enemy of God. But what does a friend of God look like?We have an example in the Bible that can tell us. It is the story of the man named, Abraham.In the book of James we read this: “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.×).Wow! Wouldn't you want to be called a “friend of God”? I would! Let's explore what it takes to be a friend of God.Abraham is one of those misunderstood peoples in the Bible. Most of the modern efforts to tell his story focus on his near sacrifice of his son, Isaac. But this event is only part of the larger story of how Abraham became the friend of God. Abraham was a man of deep faith who believed God and acted on what God revealed to him in every part of his life.Abraham was a man told by God to start a journey to a new land and leave his past behind in search of a new life. God said “Get out of your country from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.” The Bible tells us “Abram departed.” (Genesis 12:1-4 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you: 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. ×) What would you have done with that request?Abraham listened to God. By leaving his home to go to the land God promised, Abraham began to demonstrate faith, the active living faith that it takes to become a friend of God. He went out into an unknown world and he did things not done by people in his day.He pulled away from the familiar religious teachings of his time. Abraham obeyed a God no one seemed to know, nor wanted to know. Abraham began to believe and do things to worship God that others did not. He started to get to know God by living the right way of life - God's way.You see, by living God's way, you get to know Him more. By getting to know Him more, it becomes so clear. The way of life God produces has so many blessings, so much more peace of mind, so much more of an abundant life. You start asking yourself, “Why doesn't everybody do this?”Like a child that begins his life by obeying his dad and then grows into an adult who calls his dad a friend - that's how your friendship with God begins. The more you live God's way, the more you want to do it, and all the pulls of sin begin to melt away. You become a more mature Christian; a true friend of God's.And that my friends is how you and I come to know God. By doing what He says. When we live this way, we become His friend and not His enemy. And we experience life as God lives and intends it to be lived.So again, are you a friend of God or an enemy of God?Abraham was a man who became God's friend by listening to God and doing what He said to do. What is this internal compass and how does it apply to us today? It is a firm intent to know the true God and His Son whom He sent - Jesus Christ.We did an earlier Beyond Today program entitled: “Whatever Happened To Sin? ” In that program, I took you through a survey of some of today's social problems and I demonstrated with a boat's keel that you have to develop in life a firm set of principles to live by. That without those principles, or laws, we'll not recognize sin in our world and we will drift morally.The Ten Commandments of God - they are the best starting place for coming to know God, and becoming a friend of God and not an enemy of God. But it takes more. It takes a deep-felt desire to know God and to know Jesus Christ. And this is the starting point for the kind of faith held by Abraham, the friend of God.In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes his world of the first century as one full of the same kind of problems of unbelief that we see in ours. Immorality, murder, and lying are among a long list of social problems that he identifies. He says because people “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” that He gave the society over to such evils (Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;×).Retaining God in our knowledge - that's what we are talking about. That's the key to living faith that makes us a friend of God.Don't forget about the army that will fight against Christ. Again I ask, will you be in it, standing against your Savior? If you and I don't keep God at the center of our lives right now, we could find ourselves as His enemy.We are really without excuse. And I think that in our modern world where we understand far more of what is behind the universe, we are without excuse. Through modern science, man has discovered the miraculous complexity of an interdependent world that is unique in all the universe. Earth and its complex web of life is not by accident. Our earth is positioned at the right place in the universe with the exact distance from its sun, a star in itself with the right mass and energy, and with precise revolutions and rotations to allow the delicate life to exist and to thrive.We know all this, and we know more, as we peer not only into the depths of the universe but into the micro aspects of inner space. The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.×) and our vast scientific knowledge today helps us build rather than destroy faith - if we look at creation to see and understand the great and mighty hand of the God of Abraham.We can know God and we can become a friend of God just like Abraham. God wants to make you His friend - all we have to do is stop fighting against Him.What's your excuse? What are you waiting for?God can take someone like the apostle Paul who was unknowingly against Him and He can turn him into a true disciple. He can take you, turn your life around and make you into one of His disciples. The choice is yours. Will you consider that you don't know, fully know and understand God as a Father, and the “only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent”?Could you unknowingly be fighting against God? It's possible and likely that you are in some unknown ways in your life. I was recently confronted with the reality that I was fighting with God, and I did not like the thought. Here's what happened. I had given a sermon before a group, and afterwards a person approached me with a matter that had been on his mind about something that is an everyday action in life. And he pointed out how this action touched on our attitude and our approach toward God as our Father.Listening to him that day I realized that I was guilty of the same behavior he described and I felt a little uncomfortable. Well, I felt really uncomfortable. I had to ask myself, “am I fighting against God?” And the uncomfortable answer was “yes” - I could be resisting God in areas of my life. I need to often ask myself the same question. None of us, you see, can really escape this question.And here again is the question: Are you fighting against God? Don't assume you're not! It takes more than belief to be a friend of God. It takes belief and faith with action. Works of righteousness based on God's perfect law of liberty. Yes, good works in service to people and causes that are needed but if this is done apart from the full acceptance of the grace of God in faith and righteous conduct, then it could fall into the category of those who claim to do many good deeds in God's name but will be told “I never knew you.”The end-time army that fights against God will never ask themselves these hard questions. They will never look into themselves and compare their life choices with God's Word. They will go with the flow of society and end up on the wrong side of that battle.The truth about God can only be understood through the pages of the Bible. Our free study aid, Who Is God? will make this Scripture and all these scriptures come alive to you! This study aid will help you center your beliefs on the unshakable and marvelous truths of the Bible. Call: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv to request your copy of: Who is God? When you order our free Bible study aid, Who Is God? we're going to also send you a free subscription to our bi-monthly magazine, The Good News . The Good News is filled with articles on subjects that will help you better comprehend the Bible's critical messages to you and to all humanity. The Good News will also help you sort through the conflicting messages of our modern society. It provides understanding, hope and inspiration to live a life that is pleasing to Jesus Christ.To order The Good News and our study aid, Who Is God? call: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or, write to us at the address shown on your screen. Of course, you can always read, Who Is God? and The Good News online right now at BeyondToday.tv . [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].All of our publications are offered free of charge as an educational service. Be sure to call or write to us. We're looking forward to hearing from you.And, the United Church of God has hundreds of Sabbath-keeping congregations meeting on Saturday across the United States and around the world. Go to BeyondToday.tv - click on the “Contact” tab to find a congregation near you . Call one of our pastors and share your story with him.We also invite you to join us every other Wednesday night for live Beyond Today Bible studies on topics that are vital to your Christian growth. Simply click on the “Live Bible study” link on our website at BeyondToday.tv and tune into our live webcast. You can also view archives of previous Bible studies we've done there.So are you a friend of God or an enemy of God? It really is the critical question before you. The Bible shows that an army will gather to fight Jesus Christ at His second coming. Who will be in this army? What do the people look like?They look like you and me. If we don't consider our life and answer the question of being a friend or an enemy of God, we could be found to be fighting against God.Are you a friend of God or an enemy of God?Every person is one or the other. Which will you choose to be?Thanks for watching. Please tune in again next week. For Beyond Today , I'm Darris McNeely.[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !