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The Christadelphian | July 2017

In the magazine this month:

A sample article from this edition:

Sunday Morning

“They shall be mine, says the Lord”

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16)

The prophet Malachi has been contrasting those who did not think about the goodness of God as shown in His name in Exodus 34:6,7, and those who did. They complained about the tedious worship of God, the continual sacrifices and tithes for which they saw no benefit, and they said, “It is useless to serve God” (3:14). [1] Then there were those whose spiritual insight was enhanced by their thinking about the name of God; His mercy and grace, longsuffering and goodness and His forgiveness. They encouraged each other in these things and could see past the trials and difficulties they experienced in this life. Their vision was of a wonderful fulfilment of God’s promises made to their forefathers. These are the kind of people God wants to inherit the promises.

How well are we doing in meditating on the name of the Lord? How well are we doing in encouraging others in our most holy faith? What do we talk about when we are with brothers and sisters? Is it about the mundane matters of everyday life, or is it with words of encouragement, to build up and to comfort? It is the same God who is listening to us today. He is still writing in the book of remembrance. The days are few before the book will be completed with the return of our Lord.

“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11,12)

Whatever we do and say is all known to God and will determine our eternal welfare.

God’s jewels

“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, on the day that I make them my jewels and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” (Malachi 3:17)

The word “jewels” is used in Ecclesiastes of “the special treasures of kings” (2:8). Have you thought of yourself as a jewel or gemstone? What would you be? Maybe an emerald, a sapphire or a diamond, a ruby or an amethyst? They are all beautiful, particularly when seen at the jewellers. How they sparkle under the light! Of course they are not found in this condition. They need to go through a refining process in order to look so good. Minerals are formed by heat and pressure in the earth. Once mined, they need to have earth’s remnants and impurities removed. The jeweller can then remove the rough corners and cut the gem into shape. Finally, when polished, he can display the gemstone under the light in his store.

This is a good parable of how God selects and purifies us to become a jewel that He can use in His kingdom.

“The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:2,3)

Like gold, we are purified in the fire of tribulation:

“[You] who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:5-7)

Peter has in mind here the testing of the faith of Shadrach, Meshech and Abed-Nego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:8-25). It is important to remember that God is with us when we are tested, just as the angel was with them in the furnace. The early followers of Jesus had trials like we do. They lived lives of service and sacrifice. The Apostle Paul warned them saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). God does not leave us alone when we are tested, and “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Living a Christian life in a hostile world is not easy. Pressures come from all quarters to conform to the society of this world, to be like everyone else, to go down the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). Following Jesus means having our sight fixed steadfastly on his imminent return and coming kingdom:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Heat and pressure are applied to create a jewel for God. He has seen something in us that He can shape to become a special treasure for Himself. He can turn something from the earth into something beautiful for His use. The shaping of a jewel is sometimes drastic as the rough corners and edges are removed and the gem is smoothed.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest his correction; for whom the LORD loves he corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11,12)

The Apostle Paul picks this up:

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Pressures to conform to this world are around us all the time. Our mission is to deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow the Lord (Matthew 16:24).

Sadly, we all give way to the flesh. We put aside the cross from following the Lord and go down the wrong path. We don’t mean to go the wrong way, but the flesh is strong and we give in to temptation. Fortunately, we have a merciful God who will forgive us when we fail Him if we confess our failings and seek His forgiveness. We must examine our lives and confess where we have strayed from the narrow way of service to our God. It does not matter what we have done wrong; if we return to God and plead for forgiveness, He is able to forgive us and lift the burden of sin.

God’s forgiveness

Jesus told his disciples a parable about a father who had two sons. The younger of the sons asked for his share of his inheritance. Shortly after receiving his share, he left the family home and journeyed to a far country where he wasted all that his father had given him. Today, as back then, people can squander wealth in gambling, drinking, immorality and partying; so-called ‘having a good time’! Out of money and his friends gone, ‘What can I do?’ he thought to himself. Eventually he came to his senses and thought about home and his father. No doubt he thought about what he had done and realised how stupid he had been. ‘I’m going home to apologize to my father and see if he has a job for me.’

“When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:20-24)

The Father has compassion on us if we seek Him and confess our waywardness. The prodigal son had totally lost sight of where he was going in life. He wanted to enjoy himself and all that he did was to that end. The love of the father was not with him there; the love of self was his only consideration. A life of sacrifice and commitment were not in his thoughts but rather a seeking after what this world has to offer. It took him some time before he realised that the pleasures of this world are transient and soon pass away. Those who continue along this path end only in destruction:

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

The Father is always looking for us to return to the family home. The prodigal son had wasted what his father had given him, and yet his father was always hopeful he would return, and so kept looking for him every day. He loved his son, recognised he had lost his way in life, and was eager to see him come home. He was lost, but now found. It is the same with us today as we come back to God and the family home. Our God is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. He is looking for you today.

“Everyone who is godly shall pray to you in a time when you may be found … you are my hiding place; you shall preserve me from trouble; you shall surround me with songs of deliverance … Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.” (Psalm 32:6,7,10)

Because of this mercy and goodness of God we are able to exclaim:

“Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” (verse 11)

John in his first letter tells us that “now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (3:2).

If we want to be a jewel when Jesus returns, we need to encourage each other in our faith and help each other on our journey to God’s kingdom. We need to endure the chastening of the Lord, the refining of our faith, and we need to avoid the pressures of society to conform to its influences, which will cause us to leave the ways of God. We need God’s mercy and forgiveness as we now come to remember our Lord, who gave everything that we might have this wonderful hope of eternal life, as a shining jewel in the crown of glory in the hand of the LORD:

“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, on the day that I make them my jewels.” (Malachi 3:17)

Terry Fern

[1] All quotations are from the NKJV.

 

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