God's Ordained Means for Obtaining Knowledge of Eternal Life, #768
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (JOH 17:3).
It is true that we are saved by grace "through sanctification of the Spirit," but the gospel call leaves us responsible to use Gods ordained means. We do not want to hide behind the secret will of God. We read in DEU 29:29 that "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." The Lord is telling us that our salvation is not merited by our keeping His will, but the secret will of God is for the Lord. He has revealed unto us His revealed will, and that must be what we govern our lives by.
2TH 2:13-14 says, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." The work of sanctification is the birth channel through which the Lord will save us. We are called, we are chosen, but it is unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. This is how we come to this saving knowledge of Christ. We are called unto sanctification. We are called unto belief of the truth. The revealed will of God is that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We may not govern our lives by the secret will of God and say, Well it has to be given and it is all of grace.
Gods ordained means of obtaining the knowledge directly connected with eternal life is an intimate relationship. I was reading the newspaper and it had a whole page of singles looking for a partners and describing themselves. The women told what their pleasures were, what they were like and what they were looking for in a man. On the other side were the men telling who they were, what they stood for, and what they were looking for in a wife. That may seem like a far-out illustration, but let me explain. In the Word of God we see the Lord soliciting you and me to be His Bride, and He tells us exactly what He is looking for. He wants humility. He wants self-sacrificial love.
We can say, Well it has to be given. But do not forget, we are called unto sanctification. ROM 8:29-30 says, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." He called us unto sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. This does not leave man without responsibility. The revealed will of God is that it is your responsibility. The secret will of God is that He by grace works that divine influence upon your heart and makes you willing. That is what we need to pray for. The Lord has His stages through which He brings us to justification. The Lord never works justification in anybodys heart while they continue in sin.
The Lords ordained means is shown in ROM 10:13-15, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Some have said that unless you have a church that sends you out to preach, you cannot go. I do not see it written there. The Lord sends His servants out to preach, and no man can bar that. No man can send you out to preach if the Lord has not given you a call. The Lord gives the call, and the Lord sends, and the Lord blesses the preaching. Certainly it is not out of order for the church to send a man out to preach, but that is not the man that the Lord is talking about in His Word. The Lord sends out His ministers. Many are sent out by men, or we will say, by a local assembly, who were never sent out by the Lord. Also, vice versa. Some have had to go out and preach who did not have a church to send them. The Lord is not bound. He has His means that He normally uses, but He is not bound.
When I had to go out and preach, it came to me so clearly how Moses had ordained seventy elders, but two in the camp were prophesying whom Moses had not ordained, and Joshua came and told Moses. Moses said, If they have the Spirit do not stand in their way. The Lord has His ordinary way, and He has His exceptional way.
We are not to neglect Gods ordained means of coming to the knowledge of "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." The ordained means is through the preaching of the gospel. The Lord has saved some who were not brought under the proclamation of the Word in an organized church. The Lord can save me at home. Many times I have struggled through the week over a problem; then I come into the house of God on His day, and it is made plain. That is His ordinary way. I have also had times when I came out of the house of God as empty as when I came in. Then I went home and the Lord gave me a blessing. This, however, is not an encouragement to stay home. We must be careful that we do not idolize people or that we do not idolize means or that we do not idolize gifts. The Lord is not bound. It is the Spirit of the Lord that accompanies the Word that gives the blessing. We are not to neglect His ordained means. We are not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. However, if we leave the house of God as empty as when we came, that does not mean that we can blame the preacher or the Lord.
Once, we had a communion service, and the Lord blessed me so abundantly in the gathering of the flock for that service. Then when we got to the service itself, it seemed as if it was as empty as could be. This was a puzzle to me. Then I was in an assembly in Iowa, and they had the Lords Supper, and the pastor in giving the invitation pointed out, We do not always all have our blessing at the table. He said that quite often he has his blessing in the preparation for it. That was such a confirmation to me to see that just because I did not get the blessing where I thought it would be did not mean that the Lord did not bless.
We have a tendency to idolize the ordinance and our eyes are taken off the Person of Christ. The bottom line is that the worship of Christ is the object of our worship. We look to the Person of Christ for a blessing, not the man in the pulpit, not the ordinance, not the means, not the gift. Many times they are blessed, but the Person of Christ must be the object of our adoration. When we start to admire anything that is outside of the Person of Christ, the Lord is so capable of leaving that so empty.
HEB 10:23-25 says, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." The Lord has ordained the assembling of ourselves together. It is for more than just coming together to be edified. We must come together for more than just what we can receive. We can become so selfish that all we want to do is go to heaven rather than to suffer in this life to glorify Christ. We want to come to church so we can be blessed. We should come together to minister to the needs of others and to provoke them to love and to good works. Exhortation does not only come from the pulpit. We must be a hand and a foot to each other. We cannot say that all the responsibility for edifying lies on the head of one person. A pastor is just as needful for exhortation as any member in the church. When a pastor cannot be exhorted by the least child in the assembly, then the pastor is proud. We all need exhortation. We all need reproof, and it must be received as well as given in love.
We must exhort one another not to forsake assembling together, with encouragement to seek the knowledge spoken of in our text. We need to kindle the fires that generate love. ISA 2:3 says, "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." We must encourage each other, to get others to come to church, to speak with them about the wonderful things we find there.
We come to that knowledge by observing to do what the Lord says in His Word. Gods ordained way must be pursued with delight. Have you ever heard little children say, "Do we have to go to church today?" Why do we go to church? Is it a duty or are we there out of delight because we enjoy being in the assembly of the people of God and we enjoy the administration of the Word and we enjoy the Lords presence? We should look forward to the day that the Lord has made for the purpose of worship. The knowledge referenced in our text is an intimate relationship, which demands our chief pleasure.
JER 3:1-3 says, "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another mans, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whores forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed."
The Lord laid that scripture on my heart years ago, and I spent a couple of weeks trying to picture what that meant. My crop was burning up, and I could see that our nation and our community were wicked. I could justify the Lord in this because I was in the community. Then I took this chapter and started researching it again, and I got to verses 13-14: "Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you."
Then it started coming closer to home. We are not talking about the sins of the nation. We are not talking about the sins of the community. When the Lord laid that on my heart, I did not see the sins of the people. I saw that it was my sin. What I had done in the way of adultery was that my heart went out to that big crop I was going to get. I was looking at all that was going to be mine, and the Lord showed me that I was committing spiritual adultery. The crop and all that I was going to have stood between the Lord and me. This was such a loving reproof. I pictured a man going down the aisle with his bride and her heart going out to different ones in the pews, looking at them while she was going down the aisle with her husband to be. How would the man feel toward her?
The Lord showed me that I had spotted my wedding garment by idolizing spiritual adultery with the things of this world. Then I realized that my neighbors crop burning up was because of my sin. All of a sudden my delight was not in the things of this life. I saw that my delight had to be in serving the Lord and that Christ had to be my first love. As the Lord leads us in the Way and to love the Lord Jesus Christ, we come to the point that everything that could ever stand between us and Him, gets cultivated out. In the farming process, we use weeding material to weed out all that is not productive wheat. The Lord weeded this thing out of my life and made Christ first.
PSA 1:1-2 says, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." Now the word of God becomes precious.
As a publisher it would be a contradiction for me to tell you not to read anything but the Bible. I spend all my time that I am not studying for sermons, on publishing material to get the gospel out. Good books can help us to rightly understand the Word of God, however beware not to settle for a small stream, but use it to lead you to the fountain head. Anything we read other than the Bible should lead us to the Bible. It should lead us to a greater understanding of the Bible. We do not worship the author of the book. Our chief time and chief study should be spent in the Word of God.
2TI 3:14-17 says, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." I have read many books, and have had many books read to me, but from a child I knew the Holy Scriptures. That is the center. All of the reading we do should lead us into the Scriptures and a fuller understanding of them. The books are not an end in themselves.
I read an article by Spurgeon. He said that the Word of God is pure and as soon as it starts to flow through this wooden trough it is no more pure. He is wrongly saying that that stream is not pure any more after it has left the Fountain.
The knowledge, that is, the intimate relationship with the Father "and Jesus Christ, whom [He] hast sent" is not obtained by a mere intellectual knowledge from the written Word. We can be led back into the Word and still have nothing but an intellectual knowledge of the Word. We do not get this knowledge spoken of in our text merely by reading the Word. We can be so blind by our own prejudices and the old commandments of men that we have been brought up into, that as we read the Word, we read all of this into it that we pollute the Word to such an extent that it is no longer clean. This is a dangerous scenario.
We can be so blinded by our old prejudices and opinions from our upbringing that we might rightly say with the disciples of our Lord as we see in LUK 24:32, "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" The disciples had had the religion of the scribes and Pharisees instilled in them. They were looking for an earthly kingdom of Christ, and everything they read in the Scriptures had to be read into that thought. We can read so much into the Word of God that we can make it a lie. The letter of the Word alone is not sufficient.
To come to the full knowledge of the Truth we must enter upon our Scriptural study with a prayerful heart and an open mind for the Truth. I am from a background that had a lot of traditional teaching, but I had to be able to put all of that on the shelf and come before the Lord with an open mind and ask, What does the Word of the Lord say, even though it said the exact opposite of what I had been taught? Now we start to understand how we study the Wordwith a prayerful heart and an open mind.
PSA 119:18 says, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." David, the man after Gods own heart, said this. He was not a novice. When we study the Word of God we must have an open mind and a hunger and thirst after Christ that He might reveal unto us the truth of the Scriptures.
To see wondrous things out of Gods law we must have an open mind to receive and a desire to know what is pleasing unto God so we can do it. ACT 16:14 says, "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Lydia was not a heathen. We must come into our study with a hunger for God to open our hearts and for Him to reveal unto us what the Word of God says. Attended unto in the original means observed to do. When we rightly understand the Word of God we do what it says.
We do not need a checklist of experiences. I have heard people take this verse and say all kinds of things that Lydia experienced. They are adding to the Word of God. I have many rich experiences, but if I was to stand here and tell you that those experiences are the basis on which I have the hope of the foundation for my salvation, I am wrong. The Word of God tells me how I gauge that. I have read John, written by the Apostle John. He had more experiences that any man that I had ever heard of. He was on the Mount of Transfiguration. He lay in the Saviours breast at supper. On the isle of Patmos he had a revelation of Jesus Christ. He said, And by this ye shall know, if you love me, keep my commandments.
As the Lord works grace and I grow in grace, that becomes my evidence that I have the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart that I have His grace in my soul. It is not the rich experiences that I have that lay claim to salvation. I am not saying that I despise experiences. I have had many rich experiences, but they are not the foundation. Christ and His Word are the foundation of our hope.
We must earnestly beg for the Lord to open our hearts to rightly understand the truth of His Word. Christs disciples did not rightly understand until their hearts were opened for the Truth on the day of Pentecost. They were still looking for an earthly kingdom when Christ was taken up into heaven. They did not understand because of a preconceived notion of what they thought was going to happen.
LUK 24:45-47 says, "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." All of a sudden look what happened to the whole religion of those disciples. Instead of serving for honor in an earthly kingdom they became preachers of repentance and righteousness for the remission of sins. This was totally opposite to what they had been dreaming of in their minds. We need to understand that the Word of God is our authority, and we need our hearts opened to understand it.
We can come to a certain level of understanding and think that we have come to a plateau and that that is where we are going to stay. I have been on a few of those, and then we fall off the end of a cliff. Then we realize that we have to start all over. Then we have to come before the Lord and say, Open my heart, open my understanding, open the Word of God so that we can again get back on track.
When we rightly understanding that repentance goes before remission of sin, we must plead for cleansing from our carnal affections. You and I by nature have carnal affections. We are attached to the filthy things of this world. Then the Lord brings in affliction to cut off that carnal affection. That is how Christ works grace in us. MAT 5:8 says, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." How do we come to purity in heart? He cuts off those things that stand between Him and His Bride.
Where our Saviour says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" in MAT 5:10, we may not forget that the strong man Satan is armed with deceit. He has gone out to deceive since the beginning of time, and do not think that he is any different today. The Lord Jesus speaks of having bound the strong man and having disarmed him. One of the greatest armors he has to be disarmed of is deceit. MAT 24:24 says, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." He will counterfeit Christ so closely that it is only those with whom Christ has intervened who will discern the difference. It is not possible to deceive the very elect. There are so many preachers of Christ, but it is not the Christ of the Bible.
Private interpretations of Scriptures abound in our day as Christ prophesied. Therefore we are admonished in 2TI 3:12-14, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." One indelible mark on those who will live godly is persecution. They will suffer persecution because He knows that they are a people he cannot deceive. Do not forget that the Word of God must be our source of information.
One of the signs of the times is a craze for new light. Some churches are always talking about some new light they have received. 2TI 3:5-7 says, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." They are still living in the lusts of their sins. They have never learned the need of repentance before remission.
There is a great distinction between new light and greater light. We must pray for greater light, but not for new light. Be careful for this thing they call new light. In these days there is a craze for knowledge as we read in DAN 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."
This can be a great snare. Satan promised our first parents new light or an increase in knowledge. Eve knew God, but now she would learn something new. GEN 3:5 says, "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
The Apostle Paul warned against this trap of the devil in 2CO 11:2-3, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." The serpent beguiled Eve by getting her to think she could find some new light. There is a difference between growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and trying to come up with some new thing. She was going to learn something that God had forbidden. There is such a simplicity in the gospel, but we can fabricate religion that makes it so complicated.
Satan not only goes about as a roaring lion, but he and his ministers go out as ministers of righteousness to deceive. Many of the ministers in the pulpit today are ministers of the devil. They go out as ministers of righteousness to deceive, and they would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.
2CO 11:13-15 says, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." The word apostles means ones sent. They are going out as if they were sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach, but they have a gospel without repentance. Satan can use half a truth. What Satan says can be totally true, but it is only half of the truth. We can have a gospel that tells us all about the blood of Christ, all about how Christs blood justifies, all about how Christ reconciles with the Father and have a religion that is all for justification and not preach repentance. We can have a religion without preaching that He has come to give repentance unto remission of sins. That is the commission of the apostles. Any person who is sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach is going to preach repentance for remission of sins. If that half of the gospel is missing, it is the gospel of Satan, even though whatever he says may be true.
Here is an illustration. I sat in a courtroom and I watched as an attorney interrogated a certified public accountant under oath. He asked, what does that entry say? He replied that it says that that corporation paid Ralph Bouma $35,000 for custom farming in the year 1967. His next question was, now then if that were added (he did not say it was) to a normal operation would that not have been a waste of money? And the answer was yes. What he said was true, but what he did not say is that that was the only cost of operation, which meant that they had operated for less than one third of a normal cost. What they had done as superior management came before the court as a waste of money by taking two truths out of context.
That is how Satans gospel deceives. What he says may be true, and he can take the Word of God and substantiate it, but it is only half a truth. Christ did come. Christs atonement does appease the Fathers wrath upon sin. The sent apostle preaches repentance for the remission of sins. When you lose track of that you can have a church full of people who think they are saved and there is not a grain of repentance in the whole building.
What does the Christ say constitutes salvation? This is life eternal that they might know thee, that intimate relationship, that coming to sanctification, that repentance for remission of sins. We follow the pattern that Christ has set forth. It is so important to understand that as we grow in grace, our knowledge grows in degrees. We learn more about the love of Christ rather than learning new truths. All of our religion and all of our study and all of our hope must be based on the simplicity of Jesus Christ. We become aware of doctrines or commandments of men under which we have been deceived, and come to the truth, however, our knowledge of the truth grows in measure rather than in new objects.
PRO 4:14-18 says, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." It is not new light, but the light we have continues to get brighter.
Growing in the knowledge "of the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] hast sent" leads to clearer discernment between good and evil. HEB 5:14 says, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." It is not that we learn some new doctrine that makes us some great theologian. No, we become more founded on the truth of what is pleasing to the Lord and what is displeasing.
The fundamental truths of Scripture are clear and certain. They do not leave us in the dark. The way into reconciliation with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ whom He has sent is through faith unto humble obedience to the law of love.
EPH 2:8-10 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." It is not on account of good works, but it is unto good works.
These fundamental truths must be entertained without doubt or hesitancy. It is dangerous to build when your foundation stones lay loose. 1CO 16:13-14 says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity."
Doing all your things with charity is the highest command in the law of love. It is one of the fundamental truths from the Word of God with which we must guard against our evil nature. 1CO 13:3-7 says, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Charity is to see every person in the best possible light, even those who come against us. We must be able to see whatever good is in them. Charity properly defined is the law of loveloving God with your heart, your soul and your mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself.
These fundamental truths are the first Satan will attack, because they reveal the very character of God. He will try to fill your heart with bitterness and hatred, because he knows that hatred and Christ cannot dwell in the same heart. If he can undermine these things, he can undermine your hope. He tries to make it so you have lost your security and where you are wavering in the wind. 1JO 2:5-6 says, "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." If you see that the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, and that your desire is to do as He commands, that your desire is to walk as He walked, that is the grace of God that gave you that desire.
The truths that lead us into holiness, godliness, and repentance are the ones that are missing in Satans gospel. If you go into a church and those are not being preached, go out the back door as quickly as you came in the front door.
Our Saviour said in conclusion or in summary of His Sermon on the Mount in MAT 7:21-25, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." When you take that word do out of your gospel, you beware, because Satans apostles go out as the apostles of Christ, and they have only one thing missing in their gospel, and that is the word do.
Christ leaves this on record as our best evidence of knowing "the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] hast sent." MAT 7:26-27 says, "And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
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