Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6   by   Larry W Peebles   August 25, 2017   17.32

It was another typical workday.  The line formed at my office door early in the morning, and continued non-stop until late afternoon.  I was the Division President of a national home building company, and one-by-one the front-line operations managers of the Division came to talk with me.  They might have questions regarding customers.  They might have unusual problems regarding construction.  They might want to discuss strategy regarding sales.  They might have a new solution, and were just looking for someone to listen.  In between these meetings, I had to take calls from my boss, and of course home office.  These calls usually dealt with high level corporate plans or directives.  The call might involve an update on Division performance versus budget, something the stock analysts were always interested in knowing.  By late afternoon, the calls and line at my door had diminished, and I could actually begin to work on some of my own individual responsibilities or assignments.  This would mean I could not finish before 6-7 pm, which would be another 10 hour day.

We set operating policies for the Division that covered 98% of the problems and questions that arose.  We met face to face to resolve any other issues that did not fit the guidelines.  We were entrusted to set the policies, and we were responsible to deal with the exceptions.  These meetings were vital for a number of reasons.  First, we talked until we agreed on the solution.  Second, I knew what was happening in the Division, and knew where we were having problems.  Third, once the issue was resolved, we were all moving forward again in unity.  Fourth, everyone involved had input.  Although my separate responsibilities had to step back until another’s problems were resolved, I never considered this an undue burden.  One of my major responsibilities was to serve the other members of the team in this fashion.  General Bruce C. Clarke, USA, Ret., said “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above you and below you.  It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.”  A good leader in the military is interested in serving those above and below in rank, and puts that as a priority above self.

I did not realize it at the time, but the Bible has a name for this—it is called servanthood.  Servanthood is the gift of doing for others, sometimes to the exclusion of meeting personal needs.  True leadership is servanthood, and the greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ.  In only three years, He reintroduced and reconciled mankind to their loving Creator God, using only twelve disciples.  He did so in a way that would never fade away.  More books have been written, songs sung, pictures painted, and thoughts discussed concerning Jesus than anyone else in human history.  He changed the world forever.  He solved problems, connected with people, sought high-level commitments, wisely communicated, and passionately inspired like no other leader has ever done before or since.

Servanthood is an attitude exemplified by Christ “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7)  Speaking of rank, Jesus also said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)  The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love.  If we want to minister to God, or minister in the name of Jesus to others, we must take on the role and attitude of a servant.  Jesus said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)  All believers are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore we are all called to be servants for the glory of God.

Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others.  “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  (2 Corinthians 4:5)  Our servanthood or acts of service are not based on obligation, duty or habit.  If they are, they become mindless, meaningless, and resentful.  Rather, they are genuinely based on love and gratitude for the love and grace of God, who He is, and what He has done for us.  Acts of service are not to be confused with “works”, which cannot save us.  True faith in Jesus will both save us and produce action in the form of service to others (James 2:17), but the action of service is produced out of the overflow of the believer’s heart.  1 Peter 4:10 says- “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

My wife and I attend a small non-denominational Pentecostal church in the Atlanta area.  We have attended several very good churches in the past, and I do not want to get into comparing churches because each has its own gifts, strengths and purpose.  Although this is not its only strength, our current church may be the strongest we have ever seen in the area of servanthood.  The attitude of servanthood is led by the Pastor, who sets the example by serving in so many ways.  He has an amazing gift of music and worship, and serves by sharing that gift each week as he leads the congregation into true worship of the Lord.  He also has a practical gift of helping others who need a hand, and the church has seen that multiply into a body of believers that are continually helping each other.  This might involve moving someone from one location to another, lending or buying cars, lending or giving money, and renting or giving an extra room or basement to someone in need.  Members of the body are willing to serve with not-so-light construction remodeling work, car repairs, computer repairs, and baby-sitting, just to name a few.  There a number of well qualified Bible teachers in the body, and they serve by teaching the Word of God in a variety of settings such as small groups and one-on-one. No church is perfect, but this church does a commendable job of serving one another to meet the needs of the body of Christ.  I know of no one who keeps track of how much they have served, nor who expects anything in return.  The attitude throughout the church is if one sees another in need, make an attempt to meet it.  Everyone can do something.  Everyone can lead by serving.

 

I conclude with these three Scriptures on servanthood:

  1. Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
  2. Matthew 20:26- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
  3. John 15:12-13- “My command is this: Love each other as I loved you. Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for one’s friends.”

The greatest leader the world has ever seen is Jesus, and He set the example as a servant/leader.  Servanthood may not be the first quality the world thinks of when naming characteristics of great leaders.  Jesus made it clear that this should be our mindset.  The prophet Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Restoration Kay Keith Peebles


The transformation was amazing. I loved refinishing antique furniture. My husband’s uncle taught us how to refinish furniture when we were newly married. He had made a business of furniture restoration and wanted to pass his knowledge on to us. We learned how to turn tired or damaged furniture into beautiful new treasures. I was able to find many wonderful pieces for pennies on the dollar at garage sales, and restore them into beautiful treasures for our home and for others.
One of my projects was a solid wood golden oak pedestal dining table from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It was round, seating 4-6 people but had two extensions which enabled it to seat eight to ten people. It was shrouded in 5 layers of paint varying from grey, white and tan to bright green. I bought it for $10 at a neighbor’s garage sale. I knew what was beneath the ugly exterior and offered additional money for the table but she refused to charge more than $10. Many people may have overlooked that table unable to see its true beauty and lasting value. The golden oak, which is a hard wood, will last for centuries if cared for properly.
Restoration was a four stage process which began with a caustic paint stripper. The liquid stripper would cut through multiple layers of old paint or varnish. Thick gloves were needed to protect the hands while goggles protected the eyes from splatters. Accidental encounters with the skin would cause intense burning and require a trip to the sink to wash off the fiery goo. The paint stripper would seep into cracks and crevices of the carved detailed areas which made removing it easier and more effective. It was exciting to see the beautiful grains and the color of the pure wood reappear before my eyes.
The second stage was sanding. A good sanding ensured a smooth finished surface upon which the stain would be applied. Some pieces required a rough sanding at first, to level out chipped or scarred places causing them to almost disappear. Fine sandpaper was used to smooth and polish the top layer. The ugly nicks became beautiful. Stage three was staining. The purpose of restoration was to bring the broken or damaged furniture back to its original state. Staining made the wood grain pop with color and restored its beauty. The furniture piece came back to life! There was some oil in the stain which would penetrate below the surface reviving the dry neglected wood. The fourth and final step was hand rubbing tung oil over the entire piece for a smooth semi-gloss or satin finish. The hand rubbing would generate heat which caused the oil to penetrate into the wood grain. Several coats were applied for healing and protection of the wood. It would then harden to shield the furniture from damage and give it a deep sheen. Once restored, the furniture was worthy of being displayed in a prominent place. We used that table for many years and eventually sold it for much more that I had paid when I purchased it.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commandment forbidding them to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, they caused destruction in the earth, the plant and animal kingdoms, and everything living. Satan, who had deceived them, was given the right to have the dominion over the earth which God had given to Adam and Eve. The curses of sin and death were activated and have since had a terrible effect on every living thing. The nature and heart of mankind became sinful and as a result, every human being that has lived on earth became broken or damaged and in need of restoration. Jesus came to restore everything back to its original state as God created it. Restoration began with His ministry on earth and has continued as mankind repented of their sins and believed in the power of His death and resurrection. Believers have been set free from the laws of sin and death and God’s restoration is available to all who will seek Him. When the Lord returns at the end of the age, He will restore everything completely.

Physical and emotional abuse, sickness and disease, immorality, fear and depression are a few of the consequences the choices of sinful man have caused. God’s love found a way to restore all who would come to Him and allow Him to heal their wounds. Isaiah Chapter 61 explains the plan of God to send the Restorer Jesus to His people. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, and to proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance and retribution of our God, to comfort all who mourn…(to give) the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a disheartened spirit…” Isaiah 61:1-3. (See entire Chapter). Emphasis mine.
How does the Lord heal and restore us and what is our responsibility in the process? Once we are born again into the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the restoration process begins. Those who earnestly seek the Lord’s presence and willingly submit to the Lord’s discipline and cleansing process will experience the Fire of God. This Holy heat is what the Apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost. “And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each of them.” Acts 2:3. Jesus charged them to wait there and pray until the Holy Spirit came. Like the piece of furniture that was restored, we can do nothing but seek Him and surrender, allowing the Holy Spirit to come and transform our lives into the likeness of Christ.
The men and women in the Upper Room were totally changed, transformed by the fire of God. Fire burns off the useless, damaged surface debris while it cleanses and purifies from decay and bacteria. The Fire of God has the same effect on the heart and mind of man. It exposes and burns off our sin while giving us the desire and the empowerment to be holy. The Lord first appeared to Moses as a burning bush, and to the Israelites as a mountain of fire. (See Deuteronomy 4:9-13). “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined and will test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will hear and answer them. I will say, The Lord is my God.” Zechariah 13:9. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the priests, the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord offerings of righteousness.” Malachi 3:2-3. The fire of God is connected to His holiness. Fire at its hottest point burns a blue-white flame and purifies everything in its path. We must not be afraid of the fire of God. His fire comes to purify our hearts and make us more like Him. We need to run to His fire and ask Him to purify our hearts. What isn’t purified will be judged, but those who allow the Lord to cleanse and purify them will have pure hearts. It is the pure in heart that will see God. (See Matthew 5:8).
The Lord places us in the church, which is the body of Christ, where we can be sanded and smoothed by “rubbing against” our brothers and sisters in the Lord. “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend [to show rage or worthy purpose].” Proverbs 27:17. We need each other. Our brother or sister in the Lord may be the very one the Lord uses to bring us our breakthrough! We need the correction of the body of Christ and we need the intercession of our fellow believers to make it through. We also need their encouragement when we become weary and tired of the journey. “Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].” Galatians 6:2. The Lord uses our fellow believers to “sand off” our rough edges making us smooth.
When we are in the transformation process, the Lord put’s His “mark” on us figuratively and literally. “Mark the blameless man and behold the upright, for there is a happy end for the man of peace.” Psalms 37:37. This “mark” means to observe or take notice of the man who is blameless. There is something observable about his actions and attitudes that indicate His love and obedience to the Lord. “And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the midst of it…but do not touch or go near anyone on whom is the mark. Begin at My sanctuary…” Ezekiel 9:4, 6. The Lord puts His mark or impression of Himself upon those who seek Him and uphold His righteousness. We not only become like Him, we become one with Him. (See John 17). The stain applied to the piece of furniture causes one to notice the beauty within. The mark of God on the righteous causes others to see the beauty of the presence of the Lord in those who love and obey Him.
The oil of the Holy Spirit restores and protects the believer from the attacks of the enemy. It penetrates below the surface sealing and bonding to the faithful of God. It makes them resilient to attack and strong enough to persevere through the challenges of life. It ensures victory. Everyone who is broken can come to the Restorer and be made whole again. Every ugly sin and the scars it leaves can be healed and made beautiful. The Lord has promised beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for the Spirit of heaviness and a double portion for all that was lost. There is no need to fear His restoration process because His goal is to make us new again. Restoration is an act of love and mercy. Restoration is vital to the body of Christ. We become made new in the likeness of His image. Wholeness comes through Restoration.

I AM, Part 2 by Larry W. Peebles

I AM, Part 2   by   Larry W Peebles   August 11, 2017   17.30

In Part 1 (July 28, 2017), I examined God’s answer when Moses asked God His name (“Who shall I say sent me?”).  “I AM” was the answer, which reveals a lot about God, the eternal and unchanging One– the all-powerful God of the universe who always was, is, and will be.  This question was asked before Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt on a journey which became known as the Exodus.  The final plague which convinced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity was the death angel which took the lives of the Egyptian first born males.  For the Israelite households who had the blood of a lamb smeared above the door, death was spared.  This event where the Israelites were not only spared death, but passed through the door from bondage into freedom became known as Passover.  While on the Exodus, Israel was led by a pillar of fire by night (light) to show the way.  They were fed supernaturally for the 40 years of the Exodus with bread from Heaven called manna.  Part 1 concluded by studying the words of Jesus some 1400 years later when he came to the children of Israel and revealed His identity.  In the Book of John, He said I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, and I AM the door.  He spoke volumes about who He was by demonstrating that He was a concealed yet active part of the stories and celebrations that had been passed down through the culture for generations concerning what God had done for Israel during the Exodus.  He did not say He was symbolic of the door, or that He provided the light or the bread.  He said He was (I AM—still is) the bread, the light, and the door.

Now in Part 2 of this series, we will look at the final four “I AM” statements of Jesus, all from the Book of John:

  1. John 10:11- “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The blood on the Passover door was symbolic of His blood that would be shed on the cross.  Regarding a good shepherd, He goes on to say He is not a hired shepherd, but is the owner of the sheep, which results in a higher level of care (v.12).  He will not run away when the wolf attacks (v.13).  In v. 14 He said- “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  In v.16 He said- “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (Judaism).  I must bring them also.” (Insert mine.)  This is an obvious reference to the expansion of the Christian faith to the Gentiles because He goes on to say “They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock, and one shepherd.” (v.16)  He is a good shepherd, willing to die for His sheep, but all of God’s people will have one shepherd in this glimpse of the future worldwide church.

Psalm 23 paints a beautiful picture of the Lord as our shepherd.  The shepherd was a widely used metaphor for a king, so when King David wrote this Psalm, he was acknowledging the Lord as his King/Shepherd.  Without quoting the Psalm (although I encourage reading it), David says there is not a time the sheep are in want, because the  shepherd gives them rest in green pastures, and leads them to quiet, peaceful water where they are restored.  The sheep do not fear their enemies because the shepherd protects them.  They feel goodness and love from the shepherd, so they are nurtured into their full potential.  The sheep want nothing except to be in the presence of their shepherd.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

  1. John 11:25-26- “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus makes it clear in this statement that he is the Lord over life and death itself.  He was present at Creation, and everything was created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16).  He is the Lord and Giver of life.  Our physical bodies will wear out and die, but we are spiritual beings created in His image, so that our spirit-man lives eternally.  If our natural lives are lived in and with Jesus, we live eternally with him in Heaven.

Jesus made this statement to Martha, whose brother Lazarus lay dead for four days.  To show His complete power over life and death, Jesus then resurrected Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb after four days of decomposing.  If He can resurrect a decomposed body, He can resurrect anyone or anything from the dead.  I have personally seen Him resurrect dead marriages, and lives lost to drugs, alcohol and pornography.  I have even seen Him resurrect demon-possessed lives that appeared to be in Satan’s full grasp and control.  He can not only come in to rescue and resurrect the spiritually and physically dead to life, but when those lives commit to follow Him, they need never fear death again.

  1. John 14:6- “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice He did not say He would show us the way, tell us the truth, and give us life.  He said I AM the way, the truth, and the life.  There are many religions on the earth seeking “the way”, but there is no way to come to the true Father God, and receive eternal life in heaven except by coming through Jesus.  He is the only way to eternal life, and the only source of victory in this present life.  Regarding truth, philosophers through the ages have discussed and debated the concept of truth—what is truth?  Truth is not a concept—it is the person of Jesus.  We also know throughout history, groups of people have searched for the meaning of life.  Why do I exist, and what is the purpose of life?  Is there an after-life?   Jesus answered all of these deeply controversial questions in two short sentences.  He is the way through this life and into the life eternal.  He holds the power over life and death.  All truth is embodied in the person of Jesus, and those who abide in Him will know the truth.  The Bible says it is the knowledge of the truth (Jesus) that sets us free (John 8:32).  Jesus asked His own disciples to believe this powerful and sweeping statement “on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11)—I AM (He is) the way, the truth, and the life.
  2. John 15:1- “I AM the true vine.” In this seventh and last I AM statement, Jesus refers to the vine, an Old Testament symbol of Israel. He is saying that out of all the history of Israel, and the writings of Moses, the kings, and the prophets, and out of all their encounters with God who chose Israel as His people, Jesus is the main point or objective.  Everything focuses on Jesus, and it is all by and for Him.  He is at the center of where God had led these people.  He then made a number of statements concerning the vine.  In verse 1 and 2, Jesus said His Father is the gardener, cutting off branches that bear no fruit, and pruning productive branches to bear even more fruit.  Verse 4 says “no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  Verse 5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  If we remain in Jesus, we bear much fruit.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  If we bear much fruit, we show ourselves to be His disciples (v.8).  Finally (v.7)-“If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory.”

This gives a clear picture of how unsuccessful we will be if we try to live and do anything apart from Jesus.  Our lives and devotion are to be so intertwined in and with Him that we are a branch of His vine.  We flourish and are fruitful because of Him, and without Him we are like a dead branch cut off the vine.  There is no life support tied to anything other than Jesus.  However, a life tied in to the vine of Jesus is unbelievably rich and productive, full of purpose and satisfaction because it is then Him living in and through us.

In summary, John 20:31 – “But these (words of the Book of John) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  (Insert mine.)  John’s purpose was to convince the unbeliever of who Jesus was, and so he captured all seven of the “I AM” statements of Jesus to cement the explanation.  God began the explanation of “I AM” to Moses, and Jesus finished the explanation in the Book of John.  He went on to say “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30), and “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

When Jesus walked in Galilee, He told the people quite a lot about Himself.  He then proved His incredible statements with signs and wonders.  Today people still ask “Who is Jesus?”  The “I AM” statements recorded in the Book of John the disciple still provide the answer—“I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, and the true vine.

MY PASSPORT Kay K. Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

The warning was stern, “Don’t let anyone take your passport out of your presence!”  We were preparing for our first mission trip to Kenya and our pastor was counselling us on do’s and don’ts regarding travel to other countries.  He emphatically explained to us that we must never let any official take our passport and leave the room without us.  We came very close to that scenario happening to us in Lagos, Nigeria on a lay-over from Nairobi to Atlanta.  We had to run to keep up with the airport authority who had taken our passports and began to move to another location.  Since then, I have made a practice of carrying extra copies of my passport before embarking on an out of the country trip, in the event mine was ever lost or stolen.

My passport is a document that identifies who I am and where I abide.  The U.S. Government records all my personal identification information and guarantees my citizenship in the U.S.  My citizenship in the United States of America is assured to foreign governments by the seal our government has imprinted on my passport.  My picture is on my passport thus anyone examining my credentials can clearly see it belongs to me.  Each nation I attempt to enter will first confirm my identity and then stamp their seal on my passport when they accept my entrance.  I am also required to fill out a form that acknowledges the dates I arrive and my departure as well as where I will be temporarily residing while in their nation.  My passport subsequently becomes a record of my travels.  One can get a good idea where I have been and what I have been doing during my life by looking at the stamps on my passport. It guarantees my entrance back into the United States upon my return from travels.  It is a proven document that affirms the nation or “kingdom” in which I habitually dwell.

There have been instances when people have attempted to deceive a nation by using a counterfeit passport.  They may have gained entrance into a foreign country if they had access to a good forgery, but it would never work for someone trying to enter the gates of heaven.  All true believers have a “passport” record in heaven which is called the Book of Life.  The Lord keeps an on-going record of those who have put their faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus pledging their citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  The first mention of this book which records the generations of the faithful is in Genesis 5:1.  “This is the book (the written record, the history) of the generations of the offspring of Adam.  When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”

The Bible mentions the Book of Moses, the Book of the Law and the Book of Life to name a few.  It was important to the Lord to have a book (record) of the generations that have lived on the earth.  Exodus 32:31-33 explains, “So Moses returned to the Lord, and said, Oh, these people have sinned a great sin and have made themselves gods of gold!  Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray You, out of Your book which You have written!  But the Lord said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him [not you] out of My book.”  AMPV.

Daniel saw the vision of the last days.  He wrote, “At that time Michael (Archangel) will arise–the great Prince, defender of your people.  That will be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.  When that time comes, your own people will be spared—all those whose names are found written in the Book (of Life).”  Daniel 12:1.  NJB.  (Emphasis mine.)  This Book of Life (our passport to heaven) is mentioned several times in the New Testament.  Paul writes to the Philippian church, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the Book of Life.”  Philippians 4:3.  NKJV.

I personally believe the Book of Acts is still being written through our lives.  The Bible could not contain all the testimonies the original Apostles accomplished in their generation.  Since then, others have followed in their footsteps continuing to preach and teach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  It is of utmost importance for the present-day church to preach the same Gospel of the Kingdom that Christ taught.  The Biblical truths from Genesis to Revelation are imperative teachings in order for the church to be the authentic Church that represents the Lord and His Kingdom.  Otherwise, those believing in a false form of Christianity are simply a counterfeit and no counterfeits will gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  (See also Revelation 20:12-15.)

The Apostle John was invited to heaven to see the end of the age, in order to warn the succeeding generations of the importance of persevering to the end.  He saw the Lord in His resurrected form and wrote down the Lord’s instructions for the church.  Revelation 3:2-6 expounds upon our need to hold tightly to the truth of the Gospel.  It urges us to persevere through the onslaught of deception, immorality and complacency which constantly attacks a believer’s faith in the Lord.

“Rouse yourselves and keep awake, and strengthen and invigorate what remains and is on the point of dying; for I have not found a thing that you have done [any work of yours] meeting the requirement of My God or perfect in His sight.  So call to mind the lessons you received and heard; continually lay them to heart and obey them, and repent.  In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  Yet you still have a few [persons’] names in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, and they are worthy and deserving.  Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels.  He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).”  AMPV.  (See also Psalm 69:28, Revelation 21:25-27).

The Lord charged His church with a very sobering statement!  He declared that God has established a standard to which our “works” must conform and we have the obligation to “obey” the lessons He taught about the Kingdom.  If not, our name can be blotted out of the Book of Life.  He also said, however, that there are those who have kept the faith and are worthy and deserving.  He promised them He would openly confess them before His Father and His angels in heaven.  What about grace?  Aren’t we saved by grace?  Yes we are, but His grace is not a license to keep on sinning as the world sins.  If the deeds of the church are the same as the world and continue unchanged, then the church has believed a false gospel.  God’s grace is given to all who repent of their sins and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Grace, however, is not only our covering of righteousness, it is also the empowerment by the Holy Spirit to obtain victory over our sins.  His grace enables us to consecrate our lives completely to the Lord.  He expects us to become holy as He is holy.  “[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel], But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44-45)…You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ.”  1 Peter 1:14-19.  Emphasis mine.  AMPV.

John 10:28 says no one can “snatch” us out of the Lord’s hand but it does not mean that we can’t choose to neglect the Gospel teaching and live the way we desire.  When one rejects Gospel truths, they reject the Lord Himself.  Esau surrendered his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew.  (See Genesis 25:29-34, Hebrews 12:16.)  Verse 34 declares, “Thus Esau scorned his birthright as beneath his notice.”  Hebrews 12:17 declares, “For you understand that later on, when he wanted [to regain title to] his inheritance of the blessing, he was rejected (disqualified and set aside), for he could find no opportunity to repair by repentance [what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made], although he sought for it carefully with [bitter] tears.”  See Genesis 37:30-40.  AMPV.  We could never earn our salvation but we do have the ability to forfeit our inheritance in the Kingdom.

Our “work” is to surrender our will, our very lives to Him, allowing Him to work in us and through us whatever He desires.  “Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.  Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace…”  Hebrews 12:14-17.  (See entire chapter).  AMPV.  When our works of surrender cause us to completely consecrate ourselves to the Lord, we will bear the fruit of righteousness and our name will be permanently etched in the Book of Life.  John 17:22-24 is part of Jesus’ prayer to His Father just before His death on the cross.  “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me…”.

I close with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church.  “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”  Ephesians 1:18-21.  NKJV.     Our salvation is not achieved by our works but His grace does not cover our negligence in regard to the Gospel.  The only place of safety is to live in Him, and He in us.  Our passion must be to know Him and to be known by Him.  Our “passport” to glory will be secured by our dwelling in Him.