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God's Only Law Chapter 4

Are We Sheep or Goats?

 

God’s plan is brilliant. He gives each of us the freedom to choose our future. If we choose eternity with God, this life will be about introducing people to Jesus. Following Him brings us a life full of peace and joy despite the pain and suffering we will experience along the way. The pain and suffering of this world cannot be compared to the peace and joy that God’s love offers, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18). If we deny Him and choose to live without His law of love as though we have only this life, that is what we will get, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matt. 6:5). Notice He said, “They have their reward,” and that reward will be this life only. The majority of the pain and suffering of this life is caused by people choosing to remain separated from God, and ironically, we create most of our own pain and suffering. No one lies to us more than we do, and no one’s choices hurt us more than our own.


We need to stop blaming others for the problems we create. People are repulsed when we choose to be mean, affecting our relationships. Adultery is a choice, and it leads to divorce. When we choose thievery, it leads to prison. When we choose gluttony, it leads to discomfort. When we choose rebellion, it creates conflicts in our lives, which actually causes the stress that leads to diseases, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Prov. 17:22). When we choose drunkenness, it leads to alcoholism. We could go on; however, God is giving each of us the choice to abide, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). He thoroughly explains how our choices will affect our future in this life and for eternity. He wants us to focus on preparing for eternity rather than the grave by caring and sharing instead of being selfish. Yet, we keep choosing to rebel, and God responds by pursuing us with His eternal love even though He knows who among us will ultimately refuse His offer. He does this because He is love, and He loves every one of us.


God’s plan includes Jesus coming to clarify the path to God, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105). His Word lights the path to eternity if we choose to seek it, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:11).


We all feel something inside, drawing us to eternity; this feeling lures us to fairy tales with happily-ever-after endings. Some try to satisfy this longing by finding substitutes in this world, such as temporary pleasures, fame, or fortune. But these attempts will never work, for they will end with this life. We just need to understand the one drawing us toward eternity is Jesus. He is calling us to our eternal home. Unfortunately, since He placed the desire for eternity in our hearts, when we sense eternity is beyond our grasp, it affects our mental health, and we are left feeling hopeless.


Religious leaders throughout history have whispered lies about God to lead us into slavery to their form of religion. Sometimes, they even attempt to add burdens, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat … For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. 23:2, 4). But God’s yoke is easy, and we can bear it, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30). We are not to follow anyone but Jesus, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13), because Jesus is the only one leading us eternity, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).


When we see all of the laws, ordinances, and rituals religious leaders have created, we do not feel loved but instead feel we are under some impossible burden intended to show us how worthless we are, how hopeless our lives are, and how dependent we are on some form of atonement. Jesus came to prove His love is great, His burden is light, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 Jn. 5:3), His love is unconditional, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39). The path to salvation is our honest acceptance of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20), and Jesus’s resurrection brings us His eternal hope, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 15:13).


“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Prov. 30:5-6). The Bible is the infallible Word of God leading us to Him, even when the devil tries to lead us astray. We can repel the devil by using God’s Word, as Jesus demonstrated for us in the desert, “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Matt. 4:10-11). If we do not reason with God, we will not obtain the faith needed to understand His unchanging truth, that is older than time itself, which leads us to His promise, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6), and we will not learn His love has never changed. Only our understanding of it changes as we allow His truth to remove the perceived conflicts we mistakenly see in His Word or to expose the lies this world propagates.


Why would some religious leaders add to, or change, God’s Word? Because they have accepted fables created by prior religious leaders, or they have placed the approval of others, the desire for power, or personal comfort, above the Word of God. Many like their good life more than they want to save others, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.” (Lk. 20:46-47). However, God calls us to be servants, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11), and Jesus demonstrated it, “After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (Jn. 13:5), and we will all reap what we sow, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7).


“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” (Lk. 12:51), Jesus did not come to give peace to everyone on earth, but rather, He came to show us the path to His kingdom. We are in the process of dividing ourselves into two groups, those who are with Him and those who are against Him, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matt. 12:30). We are either part of the solution or part of the problem. He asks us to be part of the solution, which means we love everyone all of the time. He has named these two groups, the sheep and the goats, “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:” (Matt. 25:32). In this life, we will choose which group we want to be in. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled into believing there are other groups. We are either gathering with Jesus, or we are goats.


Those of us choosing to be sheep willingly follow Jesus into His kingdom. Those of us who want to be our own god, attempting to create our own version of eternity, our own kingdom, will gladly take the goat’s name (Greatest of All Time) because we believe, as Lucifer did, this is who we have become. Others will not want to decide and will not reason with God. Our refusal to choose will leave us with the default decision of being a goat. God has made it very clear; we have to make a decision to receive salvation, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut. 30:19), so, we are either choosing to be on God’s side, or we will have chosen to be against Him. There are no other choices. And, God will eventually separate these groups, “And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matt. 25:33-34).


He asks us to open the door to our hearts and minds, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3.20), so we can reason with His truth and learn of His great love for us, which we experience fulfilled in His great joy, “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (Jn. 17:13), and only those of us who choose to be sheep will find His peace and joy, in this life and the next, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 15:13). If we want to understand that circumstances do not dictate our peace and joy, we need only look to Paul and Silas in prison, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25), as they rested in Jesus’s peace and joy because they knew their treasure is in heaven.


My favorite pastor, Matt Chandler, has defined convergent space as a moment in time when heaven and earth kiss. This is the moment we feel heaven’s presence here on earth. It is what allows us to live in Jesus’ peace when the storms of this life surround us, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:30-31). It helps us understand we have a choice; we are not imprisoned by the chaos of our world. This is Jesus extending His hand for us to grab hold of the peace He freely offers.


God wants us to be fully known by Him and by the rest of His family. This is what He taught us in the garden, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25). This message is not about nudity. He is talking about living openly honest lives filled with peace and joy. Understanding this frees us from the lies of this world. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve paid a high price to learn this lesson, which caused them to hide and mistakenly cover up their nudity, “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:9-10). But it was not their nudity they needed to cover; it was their rebellion, and there is no way to hide it. Therefore, we need to stop trying to hide, give up our secrets, and become fully known by all. This is what confessing and repenting accomplish. Unfortunately, we are afraid to confess because we feel we do not deserve forgiveness. The truth is none of us deserve it. That is the point; and why we need to confess and repent. This is part of the process of accepting God’s free gift of salvation.


“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12). In heaven, we will all be fully known, with nothing to hide, no guilt, no shame, only an atmosphere filled with love. We will no longer doubt God, as some of the eleven did just before He gave them the great commission, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matt. 28:16-17), or, blame others, as Adam did in the garden, “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Gen. 3:12). In this dying world, the goats will be unable to hear the voice of God over the noise of their guilt and shame. The goats will continue to hide their sins in the darkness, blaming others for their mistakes and pretending they are perfect. Pretending we are perfect leaves no room in our lives to find the door to eternity. We become too busy to reason with the truth. Only when we surrender all of our guilt and shame to His love will we be able to find our way to eternity. And, when we do surrender, everything changes. We become ever more peaceful and patient. We begin living lives centered on serving, and this world notices as we become God’s shining lights.


If Jesus had not died on that cross to save us, our belief would be futile, His gift would not be real, and we would be the most miserable of all people, “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:16-19), miserable because we will have given up some of the temporary pleasures of this life without the benefit of eternity. But Jesus has promised to return and take us to live with him for eternity, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (Jn. 14:2-3), and only our rebellion prevents us from believing it, “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23). Peter is being rebuked so we can see how deadly our vain ambitions are and how poisonous our pride can be. Rebelling against God’s plan is the ultimate demonstration of futility. Nothing lasting or worthwhile is gained by it, and eternity is lost.


Jesus points us to the cross, so we might learn to follow Him into eternity as part of His family. He left a message for Peter, after His resurrection, "But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as he said unto you.” (Mk. 16:7), so Peter would know Jesus forgave him and wanted him to be part of His eternal family.


Jesus wants all of us to know, His forgiveness has been offered to every one of us. This is why He left us so many witnesses to His majesty, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (2 Pet. 1:16-17), and His resurrection, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” (Jn. 20:19-20), and “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk. 16:14-15), and His ascension, “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:” (Lk. 24:51-52).


Love is essential to God, “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.” (Jn. 14:23). Can we not see Jesus wants us to choose to be part of His family? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). God invites us to become His sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of Jesus, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15), as His Spirit beareth witness, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16-17). And, so, He offers us this choice, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut. 30:19).


We need to choose to become sheep, willingly following our shepherd, Jesus. He promises us an eternity filled with love, where everyone will love everyone else. The kind of love Jesus leads us to is the only kind possible in the eternal family He is creating, for there will be no more pain, and no more tears, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4). And He is looking for volunteers.

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