Legalism, or love?

I’ve had discussions with some of God’s children who seem to view service to God as burdensome. When we discuss scripture and I mention something that God expects of us, they turn the conversation to how they don’t want to live their life that way, under “bondage”. Often, the word “legalism” is used, the idea being that when someone advocates obedience to the instructions found in God’s word, it is supposedly legalistic. Such is a false notion that can be disproven by looking into the scriptures.

First, in John 14:15, our Lord himself said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This is the core point I’d like us to consider—obedience to God’s word is the definition of love, not legalism.

What, then, is legalism? Based on what I read in scripture, it’s a concept where people believe that following the law will bring them into good favor with God or make them more righteous. Sometimes it was not about obeying the law but rather appearing to follow it.

And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:39-42)

Here, we learn that the Pharisees cared so much about appearing to be righteous that they missed what is so critical—being righteous inside first. If we will work on being good within (i.e. having the right attitude from the heart), the outside will often take care of itself.

Watch someone clean a cup; they normally focus on the inside more than the outside. If one cleans the inside of a dish, the outside normally gets cleaned in the process with very little attention paid to it. Jesus teaches us the lesson in the scripture above that God’s children are the same way.

A wise minister once told me that legalists are full of rules for other people. Jesus spoke on that subject, as well.

And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46)

Are there people who follow God’s word simply from a self-righteous standpoint or who add to God’s word by making up rules for other people to follow? Certainly. But just because bad people do bad things doesn’t mean we can logically conclude that anyone who follows God’s word is always being legalistic.

Shouldn’t we all desire to grow and become mature in our walk with the Lord? The scriptures use the word “perfect” to describe such a state of being complete (lacking nothing from a spiritual standpoint).

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:4)

Some say that such a thing just isn’t possible because we are fallen, but scripture has a more positive outlook. While God’s word does make clear that we are sinners by nature, it also tells us how our Heavenly Father has given us a new nature.

We read in the second chapter of Ephesians how that we “were by nature the children of wrath” and we “were dead in sins”. The key word is “were”. As II Corinthians 5:17 states, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” How did we get “in Christ Jesus”? Scripture tells us that it’s 0% of us and 100% of God.

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus… (I Corinthians 1:30)

It makes sense that it had to be all of God since we were dead in our sins. But after he made us spiritually alive in Jesus Christ, we can now put off the old man and put on the new man.

Romans 6:4 says, “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” We must enter in at the strait gate and turn from the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).

It isn’t an impossible prospect. We read of a husband and wife who did this very thing.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:5-6)

Yes, it is impossible to do such a thing on our own. But the God of heaven is with us.

…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper… (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Not only does our Lord watch over us and guide us by his Spirit, but he has given us his word by which we can be instructed and reach this completeness (perfection) under consideration.

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. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

I must say as a point of clarification that I am not advocating that we follow the law in our present day. The law under consideration is the law that God gave to the nation Israel in the Old Testament day. It was given to them, not to Gentiles, and Christ fulfilled that law to a jot and to a tittle.

…ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

My point is less about the law and more about the commandments of God—his instructions and doctrine. All of God’s children are under an obligation to follow his word out of love for their Lord and Savior. My dear brothers and sisters, such a thing is not legalism; such a thing is love.

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. (John 14:21-24)

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Proof of election and particular redemption

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. (John 10:27-30)

To whom did Jesus give eternal life? John 10:27-28 says that he gives eternal life to his sheep. He also says that they—the same ones given eternal life—”shall never perish”.

Some say that God offered eternal life to all of humanity if they will just accept it. If the majority of the Christian world is right—if eternal life is truly offered to all, and all people are God’s sheep—then according to the scriptures all shall never perish. But the truth is that some shall perish, and a great multitude shall not. The conclusion we must make is that eternal life is not given to all. It is given to those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), given to him by the Father (John 6:39). Praise be to our merciful and gracious God!

Kept by God

I Corinthians 1:30 says of the Father, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus…” Are we in Christ because of a decision we made? No. It’s because of election.

If someone says this text applies to all men, then the logical conclusion one must make is that some will burn forever in the lake of fire while “in Christ Jesus”. That is a monstrosity. An opponent of the truth may further say that those who will suffer eternal torment somehow got out of Christ after being put in by the Father. If that be true, I would like to see the verse that tells how they got out after being put in.

The truth is, those in Christ are preserved there, kept by the power of God (Romans 8:35-39, Jude 1:1). In John 14:20, Jesus said he is in the Father. So, we are in Christ, and he is in the Father. How secure is our eternal life? Colossians 3:3 says, “your life is hid with Christ in God.” Sounds like a secure package to me.

Yes, it is possible to go astray to love and serve the things of this world more than God, but for that we will experience torment and problems in this life. As far as the world which is to come, the eternal life of the elect is as sure as if they were all already in Heaven. The gospel and our realization that Jesus is our Savior brings us joy and happiness in this life, but it does not bring eternal life. Only by Christ’s pure blood are we cleansed and made fit to be in God’s presence forever.

Imposters and Satan’s Tactics

It does us good now and then to consider a subject that may at first seem obvious, and to meditate on it for a moment. Often life keeps us so busy that we don’t stop to spend time thinking about some things that have great consequence in our life. It is a godly endeavor to consider for a few moments Satan’s devices and methods of attack, and I believe that after considering this initial lesson we can learn a further lesson from it. First we will examine a basic lesson about how Satan works, and we will follow that with a look at how he uses the same tactic in a slightly different way today.

Beginnings: Satan’s devices

…Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (II Corinthians 2:11)

When we consider the first time Satan comes upon the scene in scripture (in the garden of Eden), what was his attack method? Did he come around saying, “I am Satan! All hail the mighty Satan! Worship me!”? No. His approach was to mix truth with lies. He intertwined God’s word with falsities, appearing to quote what God had said while leaving things out and adding some to it.

Let us look closely at what God said and how Satan twisted it. What did God say to Adam?

…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17)

When Satan showed up, he deceived Eve. But what did Satan say specifically?

…And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1)

Is that what God said? It sounds similar, but by changing the wording, at least three important details are lost:

  1. God told them specifically of which tree they were not to eat;
  2. God told them what the consequences would be if they did eat of that tree;
  3. and God’s gift was free. Even though he was not obligated to provide Adam & Eve with any food, God through his grace provided them all of the other trees and allowed them to freely eat of them.

Deception occurred by leaving out details. God was very specific on purpose. In order to practice deception, Satan twisted what God had said.

What happened next?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:2-3)

We notice here that Eve added something which God did not say. God mentioned consequences for eating the fruit, but not for touching it.

Let us read on. What we see in the next portion is that Satan moves from simply twisting God’s words to directly contradicting them.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 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. (Genesis 3:4-5)

God said they would die; Satan said they would not. Satan has now introduced a direct contradiction to God’s word.

And we know what happened next.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)

Let’s get an overall view of what happened. Through a series of incremental baby steps, Satan led the woman sufficiently away from God to the point she made a decision to eat of the fruit, and to give it to her husband. (We fully recognize in light of I Timothy 2:14 that Adam himself was not deceived in the fall; he was responsible for what happened. However, that fact is not central to the point we are considering in our study.)

As the first step in Satan’s “baby step” approach, the word of God was slightly altered. Next, it was added to. Then, it was outright contradicted. By that time, the child of God had moved far enough away from the original words of the Lord to be deceived. Brothers and sisters, Satan used an effective tactic, and it still works against the children of God today.

Today: A written attack

What is different today about how Satan works? He still practices deception, yet something has changed. Adam and Eve had the verbal word of God, while we have God’s word in written form. If Satan’s attack was in verbal form in the garden where the word of God was given verbally, how does it stand to reason that his attack will be today when the word of God is written? Would Satan not recognize that the most effective attack he could make against the children of God today would be to twist God’s holy scriptures—the Bible—in order to lead us astray?

I’d like us to consider a vital question for a moment: What if Satan wrote a bible?

If Satan wrote a bible, his approach (just as in the garden of Eden) would not be to say, “All hail the mighty Satan! Fall down and worship me, for I am Satan your king!” No, dear ones; he is subtle and crafty. II Corinthians 11:14 says that he deceives us by transforming himself into an angel of light.

If Satan wrote a bible, his bible would appear at first glance to be the word of God, but instead it would be an imposter which would lead God’s poor little children astray.

Why do we see so many books on the market claiming to be the word of God today? Are they all the word of God? Are there that many different ways of saying the same truth, or could it be that there is one truth and there are many ways of twisting it into a lie? One of my favorite quotes is “Truth ain’t like a bunch of puppies running around and you get to pick your favorite.” Truth is truth. It is absolute.

Did you ever pay special attention to the oath taken by witnesses in court? They are asked to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” If we consider this court oath in detail for a quick moment, we might see that it is worded in a particular way for a very special reason.

In court, a witness who knows something but holds it back hasn’t told the truth. Deception can be practiced by purposely leaving things out. So, the oath given asks the witness to swear to tell the whole truth. Truth is complete, not partial.

Next, a witness who tells the whole truth but adds lies to it hasn’t actually told the truth either. Truth contains no lies. The oath says that the witness must tell nothing but the truth (i.e. not add anything to it).

The oath asked of witnesses in court says specifically to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” because truth by its very definition doesn’t have versions. By contrast, there are many different ways of deceiving; deception does have versions.

Truth may prove us to be absolutely wrong, and so in our human nature we sometimes don’t like truth. But there it is. Truth is truth. II Peter 3:16 speaks of those who wrest (twist) the scriptures unto their own destruction. Man by nature likes a “revised” word of God because it makes truth more palatable and gives him loopholes. Is this not the same error into which the Pharisees had fallen and of which our Lord continually warned us?

Though we are given a new nature when we are born from above, we still have our sinful nature with which to contend. [“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Galatians 5:17).] Like the Pharisees or any other human being, our flesh likes to get its way, and so our tendency is to shift things around (including God’s word) to ensure that we get our way. But throughout God’s word we see the concept of submission being taught. God expects us to submit to the authority of his word, whether we like what it says or not. We ought not search for a “version” of God’s word that suits our personal notions, but rather to take it as it is.

The table below shows various Bible verses from three “versions” claiming to be the word of God. Key differences are highlighted in red text. I present these verses for your consideration. Does one of the three versions stand above the others, magnifying our God and our Lord Jesus Christ and calling upon us to repent, while the others omit important doctrinal points?

King James Translation

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Matthew 9:13 for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

OMITTED

footnote casts doubt

Mark 10:24 how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
Luke 2:22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord
Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother… The child’s father and mother… His father and mother….
Luke 4:4 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Man does not live on bread alone. Man shall not live on bread alone.
Luke 4:8 Get thee behind me, Satan.

OMITTED

OMITTED

Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. He said to them, When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come… And He said to them, When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come…
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven. No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.
John 6:47 He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. He who believes has everlasting life. He who believes has eternal life.
John 7:8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come. Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.
John 8:9 And when they heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out. those who heard began to go away. when they heard it, they began to go out one by one.
John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me. We must do the work of him who sent me. We must work the works of Him who sent Me.
John 10:30 I and my Father are one I and the Father are one. I and the Father are one.
John 16:16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me. A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.
Acts 2:30 that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he would place one of his descendants on his throne. to seat one of his descendants upon his throne.
Acts 8:37 If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

OMITTED

footnote casts doubt (some editions just omit it)

Acts 23:9 …let us not fight against God.

OMITTED

OMITTED

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Romans 13:9 Thou shalt not bear false witness.

OMITTED

OMITTED

I Corinthians 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
Colossians 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I Timothy 3:16 God was manifest in the flesh. He appeared in a body. He who was revealed in the flesh.
I Peter 1:22 Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit. you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.
I John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
I John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. For there are three that testify: For there are three that testify:
Revelation 1:11 I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book… which said: “Write on a scroll… saying, “Write in a book…
Revelation 5:14 Four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. …the elders fell down and worshipped. …the elders fell down and worshipped.
Revelation 20:9 Fire came down from God out of heaven. Fire came down from heaven. Fire came down from heaven.
Revelation 21:24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. The nations will walk by its light. And the nations shall walk by its light.

Am I attacking the NIV and the NASB in particular? No. They, like almost all modern books claiming to be God’s word, come from corrupt manuscripts—lies that men have swallowed in the name of scholarship. The child of God is told that they are getting a “better version” that comes from “better manuscripts” and is “easier to understand”. But do we want lies that are easier to understand or truth for which we must dig and seek?

Who decided that reading the word of God should be easy anyway? Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”, not of them that look for shortcuts and loopholes to make it easier. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” A workman! Studying the scriptures is work. One has to wonder what God thinks of people who take something he said we need to work for, and try to make it into something that doesn’t need much work.

Why do I state that the manuscripts are corrupt from which the NIV, NASB, and others like them come? I could supply evidence here, but others have done more research and a better job of presenting it than I ever could. I recommend www.1611kingjamesbible.com/manuscripts.html as a starting point. The site presents what can be a confusing topic in a way that those of us who are new to it can understand.

Look into this subject, dear brothers and sisters. Do not simply take my word for it. It is easy to dismiss this without doing the research. Yet, II Corinthians 11:13 warns us about deceitful workers who purposely try to lead us astray. We must be on guard.

My uncle told me a story about a livestock show where sheep were being shown. The sheep weren’t smart enough to know where to go when it was time for them to be shown, so a trained goat would lead the sheep from pen to pen. It reminds me of what our Lord said in Luke 16:8… “for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Often, the children of this world (the goats) can be great intellectuals and lead us as the children of light (God’s sheep) in a wrong path if we are not cautious. Do not follow the crowd. Do not believe the lies.

Much more could be said, but perhaps enough has been presented to stir interest in studying this subject further.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you… (Matthew 7:7)

Public education, governments, and love of self

Let us look at some historic governmental documents and consider a path down which our society has gone.

“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” – Article 7, Section 1, State of Texas Constitution

What is the purpose of public education? According to our state constitution, it’s about preserving the liberties and rights of the people. This is in line with our nation’s Declaration of Independence which states that the very purpose of government itself is to secure our God-given rights:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” – Declaration of Independence

In contrast to these great governmental documents, it seems to me that the pursuit of education in modern society has grown to be about gaining knowledge or a diploma so that I can get a better job, make more money, and buy myself more “stuff”. What do we hear often? “Little Johnny, you need to get a college degree so you can get a good job and afford the things you want.” The focus has been taken off of educating oneself or one’s children in order to help preserve the liberties and rights of others. This world encourages me to have my potential future children get a bachelor’s or master’s degree so that they can ensure a prosperous future for themselves and their families. Can anyone see that the focus here is on self? “What can I get?” “How can I buy more?” “How can I have a nicer home and better car?” And instead of trusting God to provide what we need (as he told us plainly to do in his word), we are focusing on self-reliance. The focus isn’t on giving but on getting. Getting for self. Self. Self. Self.

Could it be that the corruption in our public school system is the same reason for corruption in politics and other areas of society? Could it be this love of self which has polluted so many things?

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” – II Timothy 3:1-2

This scripture goes on to list a host of other symptoms of a sick society, but it starts with love of self.

May we get our priorities in the proper order: Jesus, Others, Yourself, which brings true JOY. Right now, our society as a whole has YOJ, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. May we each as individuals seek our Lord wholeheartedly and seek to serve others, dying to self daily as scripture instructs us. To God be the glory!

The Weakest Link

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Mature Christians in the congregation—those who are more experienced and more learned in Bible doctrines—shouldn’t be upset with a preacher for preaching to the lambs of God (babes in Christ). They should be thankful that he is doing so. They should be thankful that he is strengthening those other links in the chain, because if the lambs aren’t growing in grace and knowledge of the Savior then our congregation is weaker than it could be or should be. Remember to prefer others before yourself.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” – Philippians 2:3

It is necessary that the minister of the word sometimes instruct the children and new converts. We will all be better off as they get stronger in the faith. Not only that, but the mature Christians need reminded of these things continually. The Apostle Peter wrote of the need to have our pure minds stirred up by hearing the same truth again and again.

“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance…” – II Peter 1:12-13

Let us be mindful of these things and support the gospel ministers.

Supposing him to have been in the company…

In the second chapter of Luke’s gospel account, we read of Joseph and Mary leaving Jesus behind in Jerusalem because they supposed that he was in their company (the group of folks traveling together). They travelled for a day, realized he wasn’t there, and then three days later they found him. What spiritual lessons can we learn from this account?

“And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” – Luke 2:43-46

The first thing we notice is that they went a day’s journey, but after they noticed he wasn’t with them it took them three days to find him. Brothers and sisters, whenever we depart from the Lord, it will usually take us more time and effort to get back to him than it took us to depart. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that sin easily besets us. Because of our depraved human nature, it is easy to pull away from God and difficult to find our way back.

Next, we consider the assumption that Joseph and Mary made about Jesus being with them. Many times we as God’s children make the same assumption (that Jesus is in our midst) just because we gather together in a building with the word “church”, “Jesus”, or “God” printed on the outside. You might be saying, “Wait; what about that scripture that says ‘where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them’?” Well, let’s read it carefully. (Before we try to figure out what the scriptures mean, we should check to see what they actually say.)

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20

We notice that he promises to be in the midst of his children when they are gathered together in his name. But we don’t always gather in his name. Sometimes we gather together because we’re looking forward to seeing folks in our church and visiting with them—kind of like a family reunion—but we don’t have the Lord as the foremost One on our minds and hearts. Colossians 1:18 tells us that Christ is to have the preeminence in all things. We shouldn’t gather together just because it’s Sunday morning at 10:30 (or whenever you meet) and it’s the regular routine, but we should gather because we want to see our Lord. Do we gather on Sunday morning because we love this organization called the church or because we love the Lord who built the church?

When we take our eyes off the Lord, we may eventually be surprised to look around and realize we left his side. Then, we struggle trying to get back to where we were when he was first and foremost in our life when we enjoyed sweet fellowship with him. Let us never assume that he’s in our company but to instead be diligent in seeking him daily. When we keep our eyes on him in everything we do, we will know he’s in our company as we behold his glory daily.