Category Archives: Steve Phillips – Editor

Affliction

The following was a response I sent to a brother inquiring about particular troubles he is facing that I thought might also be of encouragement to you. Love, bro Steve

Dear brother M, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. The same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. Thus, God is in control of circumstances and even temptations themselves. See I Cor.10:13; I Pet.5:9,10.

You indicated that you are distressed over a continuing ailment. I know virtually nothing of your situation, but let me offer these words that I trust will be of comfort and encouragement to you. The Psalmist says: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” [Ps.119:71]. It was due to a bodily affliction in Paul that the gospel was first preached to the Galatians [Gal.4:13].

In the wisdom of God, the Lord not only allowed, but refused to remove a thorn in Paul’s flesh on the grounds that His grace was sufficient for the power of God to be manifest through that weakness [2 Cor.12:7-10]. Having so said, Paul confessed that he was well content with [and I will provide here an alternate translation of verse 10] “inability to produce results [i.e. weaknesses], mistreatment [i.e. insults], necessities [ i.e. distresses], with persecutions, with anguish [i.e. difficulties], for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So, dear brother, in that you are presently reduced to weakness and distressed over that state is designed for your good and everlasting benefit by loving wisdom from on high. Do not fret over obtaining a rapid release from what seems to be set against you presently. In good time the Lord Himself will bring you forth into broad places. Yet even a Timothy was beset with a chronic affliction for which no supernatural remedy was forthcoming [I Tim.5:23].

It is quite natural for us to search our hearts when things appear to be “going wrong.” But do not become morbidly introspective; this is never the Lord’s will. The deeper one peers into that darkened cesspool of self, the more removed we become from the solution. David rightly prayed thus: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there by any wicked/hurtful/way of pain way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” [Ps.139:23,24].

This is the prudent and safe way; ask God to search your heart rather than attempting to do so from our own distracted, confused, and untrustworthy assessment. If there is something needing mending, He will surely lovingly bring that to our attention for our blessing and His glory.

It may be so that our situation and the silence of God are, in fact, due to no fault of our own. It was so for the brethren in Ps.44. “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten You, and we have not dealt falsely with Your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from Your way” [v.17,18]. Read that Psalm; in the midst of it is the striking statement that we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered [v.22], the very passage that Paul quotes as proof that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord [see Rom.8:35-39].

Brother, you indicated that you have a sense of failure. I, at least, would not wish to boast about my own “success;” I am acutely aware of my numerous shortcomings-failures, actually-and have nothing to glory in but the cross, through which I have been crucified: not a very complimentary resume’. If I have been crucified, then there is hope in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life that something good may yet come forth from the tangled disaster of which I am made up of.

The song that arrested your heart, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” is taken from Christ’s own words in Mt.11. There He continues in v.29, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” What is it that we are to learn from Christ? Meekness. Vine’s Dictionary describes meekness as an inwrought grace of the soul consisting of that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting: as even receiving the insults and injuries of evil men as employed by Him for our chastening and purifying. 

Think of all the contradiction of sinners against Himself that Christ endured with this disposition of heart. Truly we need to learn from Him; and surely this will bring rest to our souls.

Love, brother Steve

Divisions

The following was a reply to an inquiry about whether it is “divisive” to follow the patternof Christ and practice the simplicity of gathering together according to New Testament directives.

Dear bro Yinnkah and bro Sunday, We send our love and greetings to you and the brethren with you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I will attempt to address your concerns regarding truth and the divisions that attend fidelity to it.

The testimony of our Lord Jesus is that He was despised and rejected of men, not for His deeds of kindness and benefits to the sons of men, but for the cause of righteousness and truth. Specifically, He was hated on three accounts: [1] He set aside the humanly devised traditions of men and brought the light of truth in its stead, [2] He steadfastly refused to participate in bankrupt religious practices that had no validity from the Word of God, and [3] He unflinchingly exposed the folly of both the doctrine and practice of those who held to them.

In short, “You are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God” [Jn.8:40].  And, as a result, “A division occurred in the crowd because of Him” [Jn.7:43] and “A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words” [Jn.10:19]. Thus it is that Christ’s words that “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” have their fulfillment; the sword being that of the Word of God which causes such division [see Mt.10:34-36 and Heb.4:12].

There is no division when the flock hears and follows the voice of the Good Shepherd [see Jn.10:4,5,27]. Division occurs when other voices intermingle to urge travel along divergent paths and they are heeded. The voice of the Lord Jesus contained in the written Word of God is what we must hearken to. Thus insistence upon truth is never divisive; it is rather our only legitimate grounds of true unity. Those teaching otherwise introduce division by causing the sheep of Christ to depart from His way and leave off following Him.

Now, while it is evident that God’s purpose is that “you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” [I Cor.1:10], it is also evident that “there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” [I Cor.11:19]: the latter being regrettable though seemingly unavoidable entirely.

And so, my brothers, a gentle and kindly firmness about truth will necessarily arouse resistance and even retaliation from among those not persuaded by it. That being the case, we should not be surprised when intimidations, sanctions, threats, ostracism, banishment, and slander attend us for sake of the truth.

We, however, should studiously avoid being drawn into a carnal conflict of fleshly reaction. Wisdom is vindicated in her children. And so we are accorded numerous directives on our behavior and deportment when so suffering. We are to be “in no way alarmed by our opponents” [Phil.1:28], to “deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since [we] are also beset with weakness” [Heb.5:2], and to “not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God might grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” [2 Tim.2:24,25].

These are a brief summary of how we are to conduct ourselves in the midst of conflict. Dear brothers, let there be no wrangling over words, unkind and harsh railing; show every consideration for every man; speak the truth in love [Eph.4:15] knowing that a soft word turns away wrath [Prov.15:1].

I am well familiar with the history of contention that has prevailed among many there in Benue and Kogi. Be those blessed peacemakers extolled by Christ in Mt.5. Do not be drawn into the fray; it bears no fruit identifiable as from the Dove of heaven.

I am no stranger to controversy and the reprisals of men. In Benue State at the statewide convention of Deeper Life, my books were publically held up and all members of that denomination were warned to never read them or attend any teaching sessions of mine or they would we excommunicated. In Okpoga, 13 brethren were thrown out of their church for attending a study I taught. In Enugu-Ezike, an entire denomination held “prayer” meetings to decree my death on the 15th of December. In Eme near Onitcha, an “apostle” tore my book to pieces and marched on the shreds from his pulpit on Sunday morning. In Otukpa, a brother wrote a letter to every member of PFN citing me as “the father of all heresy.”

I have been charged with being a secret cult leader posing as a gospel preacher, one who abducts children and drinks their blood. In Ibadan I have been black-listed among the most powerful Pentecostal ministries in that city. Throughout Benue and Kogi the warning of “Mnago” has been repeated far and wide against me. In Sierra Leone I have been called a false prophet and antichrist by an assembly of some 50 Pentecostal pastors.    

Brethren, let none of these things move us. Love those who are in opposition. Do not retaliate; hold no bitterness. Let your forbearing spirit be known to all. Be identified by what you are for, not for what you are against. Let all that you do be done in love, for love is the distinguishing mark of a true disciple of Christ.

Our love and prayers are with you all, your loving brother and servant, Steve

Editor: Mathew’s trip to Sierra Leone

Editor: Brother Thomas Mathew and his wife Jijie contacted us from our website several months ago about their interest in contributing to the work of the Lord in Sierra Leone. They are originally from India and are currently working in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. They have just concluded a 7-day trip to SL where they were hosted by the brethren and had a fruitful time of sharing the Word of God. Pray that the Lord might direct their steps about serving the Lord Jesus in that land. The following is a letter from them re: their trip. 

Dear Brethren

In Philippians 2:13 it says that “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” When we look back now, we are amazed at the way things happened. Before we started from here we had no clue as to what and how the Lord was going to minister through us. But in reality now when we look back, all glory and praise goes to Him alone.

Personally , I experienced the most powerful presence of God those days we were there and also we never felt out of place. All of you were like our own family members!!. Even the land itself resembled very much like my native place in Kerala, India. The Climate was conducive and the food was excellent!

Though we have travelled to many places in India to do ministry, we never felt the kind of deep attachment that we are experiencing now towards Sierra Leone. Because India is such a very big country, going to another State and especially to North India is like going to another Country. Though we had wonderful men of God from our native place everywhere we visited and were eating our native food mostly in all those North Indian trips,  we never felt so deeply attached to those places.

All the brethren out there in SL, even though none of you were known to us earlier, loved us just as one among your own household. May God bless you abundantly for this love shown towards us; It is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

We are committing all our future plans to the Lord as we would like to take every step according to His divine plan.

It is really encouraging to know from Brother Simeon that they started the preparation of the mud bricks. I am sure that the Lord will bring it to pass for the completion of the worship place.

Let us continue to communicate through e-mails and exchange our thoughts.

Bro.William:  You were like a brother to me. May God bless you abundantly for your sacrificial love in accompanying us everywhere, even missing your classes.

Bro.Emmanuel:  Thank you so much for your hospitality; Love to Sis.Liz and your children. Attending the Church worship was a very pleasant experience. We still watch those videos and we loved your singing!!

Bro.Simeon:  We still fondly cherish the time at your house. Love to your Mum and brothers. If you get a chance please convey our regards to your principal Mr. Ibrahim. The good work that you do in and around Lunsar is great, may God bless you for it.

Bro.Mohamed Paul Ngegba:  You challenged us. We still remember the Cassava and Fish curry in your house and that was yummy!!! It is my favourite food and a typical Keralite food. Love to your wife and children.

Bro.Foday:  Thank you so much for your love; I still remember the service at the local church where you translated the message. You were flowing with me!! Love to your wife Gladys and child.

Bro.Steve & Sis.Patti:   A big thank you to both of you, the numerous mails that we had in exchanging information really helped us to be prepared better. Your lives out there have challenged us very much. Love to all your children.

We had sent a few snaps of our SL trip to the brethren out here. I will be sending them to all of you. All the brethren here did a wonderful job in keeping us in their prayers continuously.

May the Lord Almighty fulfill His plans in our lives according to His will.

Love,  Thomas, Jijie, Joshua, Samuel & Deborah Mathew

Judgment, Jesus, & Jihad

Judgment, Jesus, & Jihad

From heaven the righteous God executes judgment upon wickedness among the sons of men; it is His prerogative.

He may do so directly as in the days of Sodom when fire rained from His throne upon the perverse and deviant [Gen.19:24]; or when myriads of Assyrian soldiers were slain in one night by the Angel of the Lord [2 Kings 19:20]. 

Means may also be employed in the discharge of His righteous sentence against sin.  Stormy winds compelling swirling clouds of thunderous lightening may be the executioners of his wrath [Job 37:10-13].  Swarming troops of voracious locusts may be mustered to ravage the wayward by Divine summoning [Joel 2:25].  Plagues may decimate populations according to Almighty decree [Deut.28:27,28]. 

Even men may justly serve as God’s agents in executing judgment upon individual or national iniquity.  Capital punishment was instituted from earth’s earliest days: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” [Gen.9:6]. 

Government has been ordained by God to effectively punish evil and reward the good.  Civil authority “does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” [Rom.13:4].  

Even wicked regimes serve Sovereign purposes in curtailing the spread of national wickedness through invasion, conquest, and annihilation – witness the overthrow of Babylon in one night by the Medes [Dan.5:30,31] and the Lord’s calling of Pharaoh Neco of Egypt to join Assyria against Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in order to cripple Egypt and destroy Assyria [2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron.35:20].

How the Lord can engage the unrighteous to perform His will is a mystery to any spiritually sensitive heart.  The prophet himself found it distressing that the terrible Chaldeans would be raised up as a destroying scourge against many lands, the very Israel of God included [Hab.1:5-7].  Yet he had to confess: “O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction” [Hab.1:12]. 

There are many times when we must conclude: “The war was of God” [I Chron.5:22].  And it is in this capacity that Israel was brought into Canaan; to judge a specified group of people in a particular place at a designated time. 

But quite in contrast to Islam, God did not ordain His people as a general force against unbelief, immorality, and idolatry wherever they may be found.  He commanded Israel to annihilate only the Canaanites and possess that land alone as He had promised to Abraham some four hundred years prior [Gen.15:18-21].  The following clearly testifies to this.

“It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations [Canaanites] that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” [Deut.9:5]. 

Why had God not destroyed them and divested them of their land in the days of Abraham?  Because, “the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete” [Gen.15:16].  Four hundred years passed in the mercy of God while their abominations abounded until judgment was the only recourse.  “Every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” [Deut.12:31].

They were wholly given over to sexual immorality and perversion along with idolatry, witchcraft, and child sacrifice. “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, [or] one who…practices witchcraft…because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you” [Deut.18:9-12]. 

And thus it was that the Lord sent Israel to execute His judgment upon the wicked Canaanites.  “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech [an idol]…you shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.  Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal…For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants” [Lev.18:21-25].

Yet the Lord did not thereby establish His people as agents of subjugation and slaughter to any who did not embrace their religion.  No, rather they were commanded not to detest or seek to harm their surrounding neighbors though they, like the Canaanites, were corrupt idolatrous enemies. 

Edomites and Egyptians were not to be despised [Deut.23:7] and Ammonites and Moabites were not to be pursued and destroyed even though Israel was not to seek their peace or prosperity [Deut.23:3-6].  Joshua chapters 10-21 detail the specific regions captured and occupied by Israel at the time of their Divinely directed conquest; all within the boundaries specified at the time of God’s promise to Abraham.

This is in absolute contrast to Islam’s agenda of JihadAllah preaches a message of submission or slaughter.  The Kafara [unbelievers] are to be converted or eliminated.  Islam must be embraced world-wide or populations who refuse are to be exterminated.

This is not extremism; it is faithful devotion to the Qur’an [quotations from the Qur’an will appear in italics and the references will follow.  “S” stands for Surah, similar to a chapter].  Islam was begun by a Jihad led by Muhammad.  Those who do not engage in Jihad are not true Muslims at all, but are no better than other Kafara.

Jihad is not optional if one would reach the Paradise of God and be saved.  Those engaging in Jihad who have the highest rank in the sight of Allah; They are the people who will achieve salvation [S.9:20]. Truly Allah loves those who fight in his cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure [S.61:4]; who fight unyieldingly, whether with words, the pen, politics, wealth, or the sword; yes, and the sword.

How is the “faith” to be propagated and defended?  Is error to be fought with truth or by physical force?  The Lord Jesus answers, “With the Truth.”  Allah replies, “By Jihad.”      

Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly: therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom: until the war lays down its burdens.  Thus are ye commanded: but if it had been Allah’s Will, he could certainly have exacted retribution from them Himself; but He lets you fight in order to test you, some with others.

 Therefore when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks…But those who are slain in the way of Allah, — He will never let their deeds be lost.  Soon will He guide them and improve their condition, and admit them to the Garden which He has made known to them [S.47:4-6].

 What is it that the faithful Muslim is called upon to do in the cause of Jihad?  The Qur’an answers this frequently so that there can be no mistake.  Fight in the cause of Allah…and slay them wherever ye catch them…and fight them on until there is no more persecution and the religion becomes Allah’s [S.2:190-193].

 I [Allah] will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.  This because they contended against Allah and His Messenger [Muhammad]: If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment [S.8:13,14].

 Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war [S.9:5].  Fight them and Allah will punish them by your hands [S.9:14].  It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah [S.8:17].

 Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith fight in the cause of Evil (Tagut) [Tagut is anything other than Allah, the one true God]: So fight ye against the Friends, of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan [S.4:76].

Let not the Unbelievers think that they have escaped, they will never frustrate (them).  Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know [S.8:59,60]. 

This is not the Gospel of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is not what the Lord Jesus practiced, nor what He taught His disciples to practice.  Christianity is the true religion of love and forgiveness.

God Himself in the final Day of Judgment will righteously execute punishment upon all unbelief.  It is His prerogative.  But true believers in the Lord Jesus are never to take vengeance, much less take up the sword.  Regarding this, the Scriptures are clear.

Jesus said, But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…treat others the same way you want them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same [Lk.6:27,28, 31-33].        

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets [Mt.7:12].

But they did not receive Him…When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” [Lk.9:53-56].      

They crucified Him…but Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” [Lk.23:33,34].

When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.”  And He touched his ear and healed him… Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” [Lk.22:49-51;   Mt.26:52].       

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good [Rom.12:17-21].       

This is Christianity.  It is completely opposite of Islam.  They are not the same religions because they do not have the same God.        

Love, forgiveness, blessing, peace, and kindness flow from the Father in heaven to His own people who display the same to others.

Submission to Allah displays his qualities.  Allah is another god.

Lacking Leaders

Lacking Leaders

 

            Beloved brethren, Follow the man who follows Christ.  Listen to him who hears from God.  Serve alongside with the one who serves Christ and the saints.  Fellowship with those who are in fellowship with the Father and Son.   

            In this communion, there are no appointees to posts or successors to perpetuate a ministry, only a fellowship of like-minded brethren.  Even among the closest associates, there are no assignments by compulsion [I Cor.16:10-12].  Gospel ministry is a fundamentally spiritual matter that can only be maintained by individual godly integrity.

Brethren, we must not be surprised or stumbled by departure.  The Galatians had to be admonished, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” [Gal.5:7].   Though one’s labors have been tirelessly mingled with tears, there will yet arise men to draw away disciples after themselves [Acts 20:30]. 

Do not forget that there are both rocky soil and thorny entanglements in the kingdom of heaven [Mt.13:20-22].  Even among the zealous and doctrinally sound Ephesians, first love had declined [Rev.2:2-4].  It pained the heart of the aged apostle that all who were in Asia had turned away from him [2 Tim.1:15]. 

Peter denied His Lord and Judas betrayed his Master.  A beloved co-worker noted in Philemon 24 later deserted Paul because of his love for this present world [2 Tim.4:10].

Some in times past have been with us and are no longer.  There are those who have drifted [Heb.2:1], others have departed [Jn.6:60,66], a few have turned aside [2 Tim.4:10], and at least one has even slandered and betrayed [Ps.55:12-14].

The pattern of Christ, that great treasure of sound words, can only be maintained by the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God [2 Tim.1:13,14].  When a man’s spirituality wanes, his status as a leader is immediately compromised regardless of his previous attainments; witness Peter in Gal.2:11-14.  Do not allow esteem for a man’s prior godliness blind your eyes to his present failure: Remember, it was Christian who led Hopeful astray onto By-Pass Meadow and into the clutches of Giant Despair.      

“Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” [Phil.3:17-19].

Lest any misconstrue my intentions, I am not promoting myself as Paul was worthy of imitation.  I am acutely aware of my failings and inconsistencies and do not recommend that any follow in those footsteps.  I do, however, commend to you Christ and the gospel that I preach to you.  With them you can find no fault. 

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” [Heb.13:7].   

Have this read to all the brethren.  “I speak as to wise men, you judge what I say” [I Cor.10:15].

Love, brother Steve

Devotion to Christ

DEVOTION TO CHRIST

One thing is needful
Luke 10:42

Devotion to Christ is the outmoded relic of yesteryear’s religion.  We are content with this situation.  Like the five thousand of old, if we may merely eat of His loaves, we are content.  Indeed, receiving from His hand is our chief delight, but He is not.    

Our belly has become our god.  Success, prosperity, and fulfillment are the ignoble objects of our waning devotion.  We will sacrifice, in measure, to obtain His benefits, using Christ Himself as the means to our own selfish ends.  It is imagined that He will help us perform our will; that He will hasten to fulfill our decrees.  And when He has done His part, we toss Him aside, forgotten, as we bask in what we have used Him to obtain.

Formerly the church had sung, “Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.”  Now it chants, “Abraham’s blessings are mine.”  We are no different than the church of Laodicea who thought themselves to be rich, increased in goods, with need of nothing.  It sickens Christ still.

We struggle in order to gain for self.  Answers are demanded while wisdom is despised.  Solutions are eagerly sought but the Savior is not.  Provision is pursued with no thought for treasure in heaven.  And if God can assist us in our quest, we are content to use Him to get what we want.  But the great men of both covenants were not so engaged.

Moses said to the Lord: Let me know Your ways that I may know You -Ex.33:13.  Paul exclaimed: That I may know Him -Phil.3:10.   In fact, this is what eternal life is made of.  It is the Lord Jesus Himself who said so. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent–Jn.17:3.  We gauge eternal life by our confession, He, by our communion.  We are unlike our God.  We neither know Him nor are particularly concerned to do so.   Many other things occupy us.

A distraction is that which interferes with our concentration.  Concentration is focused thought and attention.  When distracted, the object of our devotion is set aside for that which is of lesser significance.  Yet we are willing to entertain the interruptions that so readily clamor for our recognition.  A distraction may not be positively evil; it may in fact be good.  Serving the Lord is nothing to be shunned.  But Martha was distracted with much service -Lk.10:40.

Service to the Lord became an encumbrance.  It diverted her heart from its true and worthy focus.  Doing something for God replaced communion with Him.  Martha was willing to tolerate distraction, Mary was not.  Martha spoke, Mary listened.

The Marthas of the world wish their voice to prevail.  They will presume to command the Lord and expect Him to comply.   She came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me.” -Lk.10:40.     

Martha imagines that her Lord is just like she is, but He is not.  He is unknown by her.  His heart remained veiled to her hurried footstep.  Worried and bothered about so many things -Lk.10:41 was the true assessment of her service.  Irritated insistence upon her own way testified to her lack of devotion to the Lord Jesus.

The coming day of Judgment will reveal many things done poorly. For some, it will show a few things done well.  Fewer still will have a testimony of having done the one necessary thing in all of life.  One thing is necessary -Lk.10:42.  Here is a definitive statement of what is essential.  This must be done; all else is optional and, at best, secondary.

We do not live this way.  Devotion to Christ is not the compelling passion of our souls, yet it is the only truly necessary thing.  Nothing else truly matters.  But we have not opted for this.  We have chosen the foolish part which shall be taken away from us.  Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her -Lk.10:42.

It will abide with her throughout everlasting day.  She will carry this into eternity.  Devotion to Christ is the only portion that a mortal soul will not have taken from him when he leaves this earth.  It is eternal life. Knowing the only true God is necessary; nothing else in all of life falls into this category.

The categories are but two; necessary and unnecessary.  Devotion to the Lord Jesus is all one will find in the first category.   Everything else in life will be found in the second.

This is a shattering reality to any honest heart.  To this busy and superficial generation, it will only significantly trouble them when standing naked before the God they have not known.  Devotion to the Lord Jesus cannot begin then.  Eternal life, knowing God, can only have its origin here on earth.  It is the exclusively necessary thing now in this life.

This is not religious fiction.  Christ Jesus who spoke it knows whereof He speaks.  The final verdict on all of life’s activities is that one thing has been necessary all along.  You have been told.  The Lord Jesus has said it Himself.  Search through the vast array of activities, distractions, and delusions that comprise your life.  What have you found there that qualifies as necessary?

All is vanity.  If nothing essential and hence truly worthwhile is discovered, all is loss.  The tragedy of an irrelevant and wasted existence will overwhelm you in a single horrifying instant.  In a blinding flash of clarity you will realize that one thing has been necessary all along.  But retrospect will not save us.  Devotion to the Lord Jesus is a matter for the moment, and every moment thereafter, here upon earth.

Friend, you are worried and bothered about many things.  They will be taken from you.  They have no lasting value.  They can neither rescue you at the Judgment nor satisfy you in the present.  One thing is necessary.

Disturbed as we may be by this, few of us will do anything about it.  We may guiltily redouble our efforts to attend church, but we will not become devoted to Christ Himself.  We may vow to pray more often, but this will soon fall by the wayside.  We remain undevoted to the Lord Jesus.

There are two main reasons for this. First, we do not believe that He is worthy.  Secondly, we do not believe that we are as evil as we are.  These are the roots of the matter.

The Lord Jesus sees us; He is watching.  He knows not only what we do but why we do it.  He gazes into our very hearts.  He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing -Mk.12: 41.  All is open and laid bare before His all-searching eye.  He saw their acts of devotion; He also saw what no one else did, He saw who was truly devoted.

Many rich people were putting in large sums…out of their abundance…A poor widow…put in all she owned, all her living -Mk.12:41-44.  He knew the coins of each.  He knew what remained in the purse, and what didn’t.  The rich reserved portions for self, the widow abandoned all for the Lord.
How much is He worth?  This is the fundamental question when assessing devotion. 

Of what value is the Lord Jesus to us?  The worthiness of the object dictates the terms of the investment.  And money is surely not the point of the discussion, for the Lord Jesus said: This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury -Mk.12:43.

No calculator can quantify the devotion of a heart that is wholly abandoned unto Him.  Nor can one count up the inestimable value of Christ Jesus the Lord, precious in the sight of God -I Pet.2:4.  Grasping the immeasurable greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ will determine the greatness of our devotion.  Without this, even thirty shekels of silver can be imagined to be a magnificent price at which I was valued by them -Zech.11:13.

The rich in the Temple fared better than this in their own estimation.  Even so, combined, theirs could not equal two mites.  To the widow, the Lord was worth all.  Her life was of no account in her mind.  That she would entrust to Him who was worth all.  He would attend to all her needs.

This is the secret and the mystery of devotion.  The Lord is worth all.  Nothing is to be withheld; nothing remains clutched to the bosom of self.  Who is the Lord Jesus Christ to you?  Of what value is He?  Is He worthy of a total and complete devotion in an abandonment of self?

You answer, “Yes”?  Have you told Him so?  Have you brought your two mites?  Has everything passed from your hand into His?  He is still sitting and observing.  He is seated now in the true temple which the Lord built, and not man.  He sees beyond the surface, He sees your heart.

One thing is necessary.  The Lord Jesus has a question for you: But who do you say that I am? -Mt.16:15. You must answer this by your life, and not only with your lips. 

Our devotion is sickly because our thoughts of the Lord are beggarly while our esteem for self is highly inflated.  We love little because we have been forgiven little. We are not that bad in our own estimation.  We have some sins to be sure, but the extent is minimal we imagine. And so, we remain loveless and devotionless.

Which of them will love him more?  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  And He said to him, “You have judged correctly…he who is forgiven little, loves little” -Lk.7:42,43,47. The estimation of our own guilt determines our response to the Lord Jesus.  Simon was actually no better off than the harlot, except in his own deluded conceits.

It is not that one must wallow in horrible crimes in order to be devoted to the Lord Jesus.  What is needed is a clear perception of the nature and reality of our own sinfulness.   The woman wept in acute bitterness over her wretchedness.  The Pharisee reclined with Jesus thinking to himself that all was well with him.  She was painfully conscious of her condition; he remained in delusion and darkness.  The woman judged herself, the Pharisee judged her and the Lord Jesus both, but not himself.

He imagined that he needed nothing.  The truth is that he was a hypocritical son of hell (Mt.23:15). Actually, he was a blind fool full of self-indulgence (Mt.23:17, 25).  If he would see himself clearly he would know that he was a whitewashed tomb full of all uncleanness and soon to be damned (Mt.23:27, 33).

But he did not think of himself in this manner.  He therefore did not weep.  He did not kiss the feet of the Lord Jesus.  Neither was he forgiven; neither did he love.  He thought much of himself and little of the Lord. He was devoted to his religion and his place therein, but he was not devoted to God.

Tearless saints lack devotion to the Lord Jesus.  When have you last wept over the abysmal blight of who you truly are in the corrupt depths of your inner self?  Do you kiss His feet as the sinner you are, or recline at His head in self-generated acceptability?

You may not congratulate yourself that you are not like others.  You are, and worse.  Doubting this, you shall never be justified or cleansed from your desperate evil (Lk.18:9-14).  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise -Ps.51:17.

According to the dictionary, contrite means “broken down with sorrow for sin; humbly and thoroughly penitent.”  What does it mean to you?  Judas kissed the Lord, but not His feet.  He felt remorse, but shed no tear.  He had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.  He had the appearance of a disciple, but was not.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way -Ps.2:12.

Tears and kisses are not optional.  One abides a Simon, or worse yet, a Judas, in their absence.  There is no forgiveness apart from them.  You will love but little, if at all. 

One thing is necessary.  Devotion to Christ is not an added element to our existing religion; it is the one indispensable foundation for all that is built upon it.  Lacking this, our religion is a vapor and delusion.

Those who venture all for the Lord Jesus will not be understood by the devotionless multitude; they will not be by fellow disciples either.  The lack of practicality of such “extremism” will draw the disapproval of the unconsecrated.  It always does.  The disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste?  For this might have been sold for a high price and given to the poor” -Mt.26:8, 9.

They were very expedient, conservatively calculating.  The sum of their calculations was that man takes precedence over God, that needs preempt worship, and that ministry eclipses communion.  Jesus said, “Let her alone” -Jn.12:7.  There is something that transcends service and charity.  It is the one necessary thing He prizes.

The Father seeks such to be His worshipers -Jn.4:23.  He is seeking not for better servants, but for worshipers, for lovers, for tear-stained cheeks, for lips pressed to nail-scarred feet, for costly vials emptied upon a thorn-crowned head.  He is seeking for those who will pour out every precious thing in their possession upon the Son of God; to do so because He is worthy due to the excellence of His glory.

 This is the essence of gospel response.  It is what the Lord has been seeking even from before time immemorial.  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love -Eph.1:4.  Holy, in love; isn’t this what it means to know God?  Is this not what eternal life is, and ever will be?

But those who are forgiven little love little.  Those who reserve for self do not value Christ.  Those who are occupied with activities do not chose the good part.  And those who focus upon the ever-present poor will always ask: “Why this waste?”

Why, indeed?  Because there is nothing better that one can do.  There is nothing else that is truly required.  Those who love little call it waste.  He who loves His own to the uttermost calls it necessary.  Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her -Mt.26: 13.  What she did is what the gospel demands.

The conclusion of Paul’s gospel is to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice -Rom. 12:1.  This is what she did.  All that she had, she gave.  What it cost her was of no concern.  What others thought did not turn her away: He was worthy.  This is what filled her heart, which in turn filled the house with the fragrance of Christ unto God -2 Cor.2:15.

 Kept to herself, the ointment did no good to any; neither to her, the poor, nor the Lord Jesus.  Kept to yourself, of what benefit are you?  One may well ask of you, ”Why this waste?”  Why are you wasting on self that which ought to be entirely poured out upon the person of Christ?  What is He worth to you?

Others have gone to great lengths for lesser gain.  The queen of Sheba traversed from afar to hear, firsthand, the wisdom of Solomon.  She saw him and spoke to him of all that was upon her heart.  She perceived the wisdom of his words and the splendor of his house.  She sat at meat with him and tasted of his table.  His servants were blessed and their amenities fine.

When she gazed upon his ascent to the house of God, there was no more spirit in her -I Kings 10:5.  She was overwhelmed.  She confessed that she did not believe the word she had heard in her own land. 

She had thought less of Solomon than he was worthy of.  When her eyes were opened, the realization rushed upon her that the half was not told me -I Kings 10:7.  So great was he, so magnificent, grand in wisdom, and glorious in riches; there was none his equal.

Her mouth could contain it no longer.  Praise pealed from her lips.  Riches poured from her hands. Spices; rare, fragrant, exhilarating aromas wafted their delights throughout the house of Solomon.  Never again did such abundance of spices come in as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon -I Kings 10:10. Solomon was glorified.  He was delighted.   And the queen was blessed from his abundance (I Kings 10:13).

Brethren, behold, something greater than Solomon is here -Mt.12:42.  The Lord Jesus exceeds Solomon as the sun does a match, as the sea a dewdrop.  He is greater and He is here. 

You have heard of Him by the hearing of the ear.  His word has reached you in your land.  But what of you; have you arisen to come to Him, to seek His face, to hear His wisdom?

When you see Him as He is, when you perceive the glories of His house and the blessedness of His servants, as you gaze into His face and feast at His table, and behold His ascent to His Father’s house, there will remain in you no more spirit.

You will confess that you have not believed the word you heard in your own land.  You will realize that you have thought Him to be far less worthy than you had ever imagined.  You will abhor yourself in dust and ashes.  Then your tongue will be loosed in praise and your hand will relax its grip on all you have clutched to your bosom.  Gladly all will be given.

The insignificance, foolishness, and pride of your heart will be seen in the light of His glory.  And you will bring forth spices uncountable.  You will become devoted to the Lord Jesus.  You will have tasted of the one necessary thing.   He will be glorified and pleased.  You will be blessed from His bounty.

But you must arise and come.  You will not be devoted to Him staying where you are.  You must come to where your tears will cascade upon Him, where your lips will meet His feet.   He cannot be anointed from afar. His word will not be heard amidst the bustle of your activities.  You must come to His feet, both to hear and to weep.  It is there that you shall discover the one necessary thing.

Some of you will come; some of you will not.  It is because of this that I must tell you one other thing about the Queen of Sheba.   She will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here -Mt.12:42.

She was compelled by the greatness of that king of peace to seek him earnestly.  At all costs and with glad sacrifice she came to see his face, hear his wisdom, and behold his glory.  It was a great expenditure for a lesser reward.  She will condemn this generation.  Her very life will bear solemn testimony to the wickedness of hearts in not arising and seeking the Lord Jesus Christ.

This queen will be there, as will you, at the Judgment.  The King will ask you, “Do you see this woman who came from the ends of the earth?  How far have you come in pursuit of the one necessary thing in life, devotion to My Son, the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Many will be speechless on that day, but not the Queen of the South.

She will turn and ask, “Why this waste?”

One thing is necessary