The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 4, 2011

1) The Responsibility of Listening (R.J. Evans)
2) Self Control (Bill Hall)
3) Jerusalem (part 2 of 2) (Tom Edwards)


The Responsibility of Listening
by R.J. Evans

Some people will listen to the word of God up to a point.  In Acts 22, Paul defended himself in Jerusalem.  The Jews listened to Paul concerning his birth (v. 3), education (v. 3), zeal towards the law (vv. 3-5); they even listened to the facts concerning his conversion to Christ (vv. 6-16).  But, when Paul mentioned the Gentiles, a group of people they hated -- that did it!  (Acts 22:21)  Their prejudices were so blinding that they would hear Paul no more.  What Paul said in verse 21 "turned them off" immediately.  "And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!'" (Acts 22:22)

The Athenians listened to Paul in Acts 17:22-31.  But, "when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, 'We will hear you again on this matter'" (Acts 17:32).  

The above examples are of people in New Testament times who listened "up to a point."  Likewise, it is not uncommon to encounter the same today with those of the denominational world.  For example, they may be quite interested, listening well to Bible teaching concerning faith, repentance, etc., until it is pointed out that baptism is essential to salvation (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Though the teaching is sound and scriptural -- they are "turned off" immediately.  They want to hear no more of it!

It must also be pointed out that some members of the Lord's church listen in the same way.  They like the preacher and what he says just fine until he begins to "step on their toes."  After that, they don't hear a word he says.  

The only remedy for one's "listening up to a point" is for the individual to cultivate a genuine desire for and love of the truth.  We must be as the Bereans -- "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).  How dangerous it is when one does not have a genuine love for the truth (2 Thes. 2:10).  If we listen only up to a point, we will fall short of what God desires of us.  We must listen all the way through -- then obey all of the Lord's commands given to us (Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).  Are you "turned off" by God's truth?  Just how willing are you to listen to the "whole counsel of God"? (Acts 20:27).  

As listeners to God's word, may we all seek to be like Cornelius and his household -- "Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God" (Acts 10:33).  Their main objective was to hear the word of God.  When the preacher takes his place in the pulpit, as a listener, are you truly concerned with hearing God's word?  The preacher will have to give an account for what he says; and you, the listener, will have to give an account for how you listen.  Someone once said: "I have a task and that is talking to you.  You have a task of listening to me.  I hope you do not finish before I do."  In most cases, when the listener stops listening to a scriptural sermon before it is completed, the problem does not lie with the preacher, but rather, with the heart of the one who has stopped listening.  May we all realize the importance of listening to God's word.  

-- Via the Southside News & Notes (Gonzales, Louisiana)


Self Control
by Bill Hall

What is the value of self-control? Self-control is that which enables us to hold our tongues when we are tempted to viciously put someone in his place once and for all; or when we know a juicy bit of gossip that would be entertaining to the group and would turn us into the "life of the party"; or when an occasion almost demands that we betray a confidence that must not be betrayed under any circumstances.  

Self-control is that which enables us to control our passions when another is provoking us to anger; that keeps the clinched fists in the pockets when the agitator is only half our size; that keeps the lips sealed when another is railing and swearing at us. Self-control is that which enables us to be like our Lord "who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:23).  

Self-control is that which enables us to maintain purity of heart and to thrust out evil thoughts before they can take root; that enables us to place the best possible construction on another person's actions when unproven rumors could easily destroy our confidence in him; that helps us to maintain a cheerful disposition when everything around us has turned sour. Self-control is that which enables us to love the unlovable and to hate that which the world loves.  

Self-control is that which enables us to rule our appetites; to say "no" when our lusts would lead us to sin or when that which is harmful to our health is placed before us. Self-control is that which enables the smoker to put down his cigarettes and the alcoholic to put down his drink and never return to it. Self-control is that which enables us to rule rather than to be enslaved.  

The Bible does not glorify the indifferent and impassive. It is not our goal to be uncaring. To be like Paul, we must be able to have our spirit stirred within us when we are surrounded by evil (Acts 17:16). To be like our Lord, we must sometimes feel anger when surrounded by hypocritical self-righteousness (Mark 3:5); we must even react with occasional outbursts of goodness on occasions, as when the Lord cleansed the temple (John 2:13-17).  But, all such outbursts must be tempered with self-control, that in our anger we "do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26).  God does not view our uncontrolled actions with amusement. Our temper tantrums and harsh, unbridled words are soul threatening, a potential bar to the abundant entrance into the Lord's everlasting kingdom (II Peter 1:5-11). We must not minimize the danger. We must not surrender to this evil.  

What is the value of self-control? It is one of the qualities that enable us to go to heaven. The possessor of it is rich indeed.  

-- Via The Beacon (November 29, 2011)


(part 2 of 2)

by Tom Edwards

With regard to its terrain, Jerusalem was known as a mountain city.  According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, "It stands on the edge of one of the highest table-lands in Palestine, and is surrounded on the south-eastern, the southern, and the western sides by deep and precipitous ravines."  Compare, for instance, Psalm 48:1,2: "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain.  Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King."  Though it was literally only a section of Jerusalem that David had rebuilt, the term "Zion" also came to be used to stand for all of Jerusalem; and then, even more importantly in a spiritual sense as that place where God figuratively dwelt (in the Most Holy Place of the temple).  In the New Testament, Mount Zion is, therefore, used symbolically to refer to the church (Heb. 12:22); and the church is also referred to as God's "house" (1 Tim. 3:15) and His "temple" in which He dwells (1 Cor. 3:16,17).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary points out that Jerusalem is situated 32 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, 18 miles from the Jordan River, 20 from Hebron, 36 from Samaria, and 3,700 feet above the Dead Sea, which another source shows to be 1,292 feet below the Mediterranean. The NW part of the city is 2,581 feet above sea level, while the Mount of Olives is 2,700 feet above it.  The descent to Jericho, which is 13 miles away, is 3,624 feet lower than Olivet and 900 feet below sea level.  So though Jerusalem is high in elevation, it also has mountains rising around it.  The Psalmist speaks of this, too, in Psalm 125:2, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever."

The city rose to its greatest glory during the period of Solomon, which began around 950 B.C.  He not only built the first temple there, but also did much to greatly strengthen and beautify Jerusalem.  In just the temple alone, 183,300 workers (including the overseers) are mentioned in 1 Kings 5:13-16.  These are shown as 30,000 forced laborers, 80,000 hewers of stone in the mountains, 70,000 transporters (of those stones), and 3,300 chief deputies who served as overseers.  Even with all of these people -- and many who were highly skilled (1 Chron. 22:15) -- it still required 7.5 years to complete the temple (1 Kings 6:1,38). 

But what really exalted this city was God who made His name to dwell there (Deut. 16:11-16; 2 Chron. 6:5,6).   The Bible often refers to the temple in Jerusalem as being "the house of the Lord" (e.g., 1 Kings 7:48); and it appears that the Hebrew people would face it (from wherever they would be) when going to God in prayer (1 Kings 8:33-38).   

During the period of the Divided Kingdom, which lasted about 200 years, Jerusalem was the capital of just the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin (and of those Levites who had returned to Judah after seeing how corruptly Jeroboam was running the northern kingdom of Israel).  It was then often a difficult time and referred to as "one of the darkest periods of Old Testament history."  The southern and northern kingdoms spent part of that time warring with each other.  Judah also had trouble with other kingdoms, such as the Assyrians, the Egyptians, and the Babylonians who led the people of Jerusalem (as well as Judah) into a 70-year captivity (from 606 to 536 B.C.), just as God had foretold (2 Kings 24:11-17; Jer. 29:10). 

The Medes and the Persians brought Babylon's 70-year reign to an end and became the next world-ruling empire until 331 B.C. In 536 B.C., Cyrus, the king of Persia, issued the decree that allowed the Jews, many of whom were born in the captivity, to go to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3). On their arrival, they found the city in need of great repair.  For the temple had been destroyed, as well as the wall around the city, portions of the city, and other communities in the surrounding area.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah speak of this period.  Not only was it a time for a restoration of these physical structures, but also a time of spiritual restoration in getting back to the right ways of the Lord.  As the people heard the reading of the Law, they were intent on carrying out God's instructions.  Corresponding with this, God declares through Zechariah: "Thus says the LORD, 'I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain'" (Zech. 8:3).  

In 331 B.C., Greece (and Macedonia) became the next world-ruling empire, due to the conquests of Alexander the Great.  That rule went on until 167 B.C., when Rome became the next kingdom that ruled the world and continued to do so a few hundred years in an undivided state.  It would also be, however, during that Roman Period, in which the God of heaven would establish His kingdom on earth, which was prophesied in Daniel 2:36-45 and seen fulfilled in Acts 2 when the church first came into existence -- and which took place in the city of Jerusalem.

Ancient Jerusalem was not always the city that God wanted it to be; and as a result, it often suffered consequences; and though many people place great significance on physical Jerusalem today, the Bible speaks of a Jerusalem that is far superior to that.  For example: "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.  But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Gal. 4:25,26).  Sinai was where the Law was given -- and the Law of Moses represents bondage because the remission of sins could not be obtained by it.  It simply pointed out of man's sins and his need for a Savior. 

But the Christian today is seen in connection with "the Jerusalem above" -- for it represents freedom.  Corresponding to this, the Hebrew writer states: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24).  So the church of the Lord is "the heavenly Jerusalem," which will have its ultimate fulfillment in heaven itself.

John writes, "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them'" (Rev. 21:2,3). That "the holy city, new Jerusalem" is shown as "coming down out of heaven" figuratively expresses that its nature and origin are of heaven.  This certainly corresponds with Jesus' statement in Matthew 16:18 that "I will build My church."   Not only did Jesus build it, but He is also the only foundation of it (1 Cor. 3:11); and when the church is metaphorically referred to as a "body," Jesus is spoken of as being the "head" of it (Col. 1:18).  It is the gospel (which comes from God in heaven) by which Christ builds His church today.  So the church's origin truly is from heaven; and when adhering to the gospel, the church's nature will be heavenly (cf. Eph. 2:5-7).  

So it is the spiritual Jerusalem that we emphasize today.  May we, therefore, who are the people of God continue to conduct ourselves in a manner that is befitting God's heavenly city.  For we are already citizens of it (Phil. 3:20) and being faithful unto death is necessary for our admission into the eternal abode of that city in heaven's glory (Rev. 2:10; 3:12).  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)