Brothers and sisters, we should remember that Jesus is God Himself and that He is the judge of the living and the dead. And we shouldn’t take our salvation lightly or for granted. If we think so little of God, then that means we’re expecting God to do only little things for us. But since we know who has called us – and that He has called us to Heaven – and since we know how much Jesus Christ suffered for our sakes, we shouldn’t take anything He has done lightly. It would be a sin to hear about these things and not give them the importance that they deserve. But the question now is, how can we pay Him back for our salvation? What can we give Him that would be worth what He’s given to us? He’s given us so many things that we don’t deserve! God gave us His Light, Jesus. He spoke to us, like a father speaks to His children. And He saved us when we were dying in our sins. So how can we praise Him enough? What can we do to pay Him back? We were confused in our thinking, like we had a cloud around us that kept us from seeing the truth. We worshiped idols, things that people had made, instead of the real God. Our whole life was nothing more than spiritual death. But while we were walking around in the darkness of our cloud, God came and gave us back our sight. He helped us get rid of our cloud of confusion and see the truth. He had mercy on us and saved us because He had compassion on us. He saw that we were sinful and could never be saved unless He was the one who saved us. We couldn’t save ourselves. When we were not His people, He called us to be His people [see Hosea 2:23].
“Rejoice, you barren woman, you who never bore children. Break into singing and shout it out, you who never went through labor. Because more are the children of the desolate woman than the children of the woman who has a husband” [Isaiah 54:1]. When God said, “Rejoice, you barren woman”, He was talking about us. The Church was barren before God gave her children. And when He said, “Break into singing and shout it out, you who never went through labor”, He meant that we should not get tired, like a woman in labor gets tired, of praying to God. And when He said, “Because more are the children of the desolate woman than the children of the woman who has a husband”, He was referring to the fact that our people, the Gentiles, seemed like they were desolate and abandoned by God, but now since we believed in Him, the number of us who have become Christians has increased to be more than the Jewish Christians, the people who seemed to have God. In another Scripture, Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” [Matthew 9:13]. He means that it is right to save people who are dying spiritually. Think about it. How much greater is it for God to save something that is falling rather than something that is already standing firm? So Christ wanted to save us who were dying, not the healthy. And He did save many of us, coming and calling us when we were already spiritually dead.
So since we see how much mercy God has had on us, we no longer worship dead gods, but come to the true God through Christ. And the only thing God requires is that we not deny Jesus, through whom we came to know God. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses to people that they know Me, I will confess to God that I know them” [Matthew 10:32]. If we confess we know Him, then our reward is to have Jesus say that He knows us. But how do we confess that we know Jesus? By doing what He says and obeying His commands. And by not only honoring Him with what we say, but with our whole heart and mind. As God said in Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” [Isaiah 29:13].
So let’s not just call Him Lord. Simply calling Him Lord won’t save us. As He said, “Not every one calls me Lord will be saved, but only those who do what is right” [Matthew 7:21]. But, brothers and sisters, let’s confess that we know Him by our good deeds, by loving each other, by not committing adultery or speaking wrongly against each other, by not being jealous of each other, but by being self-controlled and full of mercy and kindness. And we shouldn’t fear any person, but only God. God said, “Even if you are close to Me, but do not obey My commands, I will send you away from Me and will say, ‘Leave Me. I don’t know where you come from, you sinners’” [see Matthew 7:23].
So, brothers and sisters, let’s give up our love for this world and do God’s will. He is the one who called us and we should not be afraid to leave this world. As the Lord said, “You will be like lambs among wolves” [Matthew 10:16]. Then Peter asked, “What if the wolves attack the lambs?” Jesus answered, “The lambs won’t be afraid of the wolves after they are dead. So you should not be afraid of those who kill your body, but after that can do no more. Instead, fear Him who, after you are dead, has the power to send your soul and body into the lake of fire” [see Matthew 10:28]. And you know, brothers and sisters, that we’re only in this body and in this world for a short time, but that Christ’s great promise to us is no less than the Kingdom of God and eternal life. What can we do to gain all that other than to be holy and righteous and think of the things of this world as foreign to us and not things that we want? Because when we start wanting worldly things, we stray away from the path of righteousness.
As the Lord said, “No servant can serve two masters” [Matthew 6:24]. It won’t do us any good to try to serve both God and money. “What good is it if a person gains the whole world but gives up their soul?” [Matthew 16:26]. Likewise, this present time and the future that is to come are enemies of each other. The present time focuses on adultery and sin and greed and lying. The future says goodbye to all of those kinds of things. We can’t be friends with both. We have to say goodbye to the one and befriend the other. And it’s better to hate the things that are here now because they’ll last only for a short time. The things that are to come are good and will last forever. If we obey Christ’s will, we will find rest for all eternity. But if we do not obey Him, nothing will be able to save us from eternal punishment. As the Scripture says in Ezekiel, “Even if Noah, Job, and Daniel were there, they could not save their children from captivity” [Ezekiel 14:20]. So if even such righteous men as these could not save their children on account of their righteousness, how could we ever hope to enter God’s Kingdom if we don’t keep ourselves pure? And who will speak to God on our behalf unless our deeds in this life were holy and righteous?
So then, brothers and sisters, let us train hard since we know that the ultimate race is coming up. Many people compete in the earthly athletic races, but only those who have trained the hardest win. In the same way, let us all train ourselves to win the eternal race. And let’s run together so that we can all win. And if we can’t all win, then let’s at least all come close. We know that if someone cheats in the earthly races, they are whipped and disqualified. So what do you think will happen to us if we try to cheat at the eternal race? About people who are not faithful to their baptism, God said, “Their worm will not die and their fire will not go out and they will be a warning to everyone” [Isaiah 66:24].
So let us repent while we are still on earth. We are like clay in the potter’s hand. If the potter is making a dish and it messes up in his hands, he can fix it and reshape it again. But if it breaks after it’s gone through the oven, he can’t fix it anymore. In the same way, while we are in this world, we have time to repent and be saved. But after we leave this world, our chance for repenting is up. So, brothers and sisters, if we have done the Father’s will and have kept our bodies pure, then He will give us eternal life. As Jesus said in the Gospel, “If you haven’t been faithful in the little things, who will trust you with truly great things? I say to you that whoever is faithful in the little things is also faithful in the big things” [Luke 16:10-12]. He means that we should keep our bodies pure and maintain the purity of our baptism so that we can gain eternal life.
And none of you should say that our bodies won’t be judged or resurrected. Listen, in what were you saved? What were you in when God took that cloud away from you and helped you see the truth? You were in your body! So we should understand that our bodies are the temple of God and should keep them pure. Just as God called you to Himself while you were in your body, so will you be judged in the body. Christ the Lord, who saved us, was a spirit first and then became a person with a body. In the same way, when we die, we will just be spirits, but then we will receive our bodies back again and will receive our reward while we’re in our bodies. So let us all love one another so that we can all enter into the Kingdom of God. Let’s put ourselves under the care of God, the Great Physician, while there’s still time for our souls to be healed. And let us pay Him back as best we can. How can we pay Him back? By repenting with a sincere heart. Remember that He knows everything before it happens and He knows what is in our hearts. So let’s praise Him forever, not just with our mouths, but also from our hearts so that He will receive us as His true children. As the Lord said, “Those who do the will of My Father are my sisters and brothers” [Matthew 12:50].
So, my brothers and sisters, let us do God’s will so that we can gain eternal life. And let us go after virtue, giving up our sins and running away from ungodliness so that evil won’t conquer us. If we always work at doing good, peace will come to us. People who can’t find peace are the ones who keep trying to find happiness in this world rather than in the promise of the future. They don’t know how bad the punishment will be that their sins are leading them towards or how great the happiness of the future that has been promised to us will be. If people were sinning and not affecting anyone else, that wouldn’t be so bad, but as it is, they’re not just sinning themselves but also teaching others to sin. They don’t realize that by doing this, they’re doubling the sins that they’ll be judged for. They’ll be judged for their own sins and for the sins of the people they taught to sin.
So let us serve God with a pure heart. Then we will be righteous. But if we don’t serve Him – if we don’t believe His promises – then we will be miserable. As the prophecy says, “Miserable are they who are double-minded and have a doubting heart, who say, ‘We’ve heard about these things since our parents were young, but look, we’re old now, and still nothing has happened.’ You foolish people! Think about a plant. The grapevine, for instance, sheds its leaves first. Then it buds. Next it grows new leaves and then blooms. After that come the sour grapes, which then turn into ripe fruit. In the same way, My people have troubles now, but will receive good things afterward” [see James 1:8 and 2 Peter 3:3-4]. So, brothers and sisters, let’s not be double-minded. Instead, let’s wait patiently in hope so that we can also receive our reward. God is faithful and He has promised to reward each person for their works. If we have done righteous things in God’s sight, then we will enter into His Kingdom and will receive the things that “no ear has heard, no eye has seen, and no mind has imagined” [1 Corinthians 2:9].
So let us do everything in love and righteousness as we eagerly expect God’s Kingdom to come soon, since we don’t know when God will appear. Even Jesus Himself, when someone asked when His Kingdom would come, said, “When the two become one, when the outside becomes like the inside, and when there is no longer any male or female” [reference unknown]. The two are one when we speak the truth to each other so that we understand each other completely. It’s like having one soul in two bodies. The outside becoming like the inside refers to the soul and the body. Just as everyone can see our bodies, so we should let everyone see into our souls by the good works that we do. The disappearance of male and female comes about when a Christian man can look at a woman without thinking at all about her sexuality and a Christian woman can look at a man without thinking at all about his sexuality. If we do these things, Jesus says, then His Father’s Kingdom will come.
So, brothers and sisters, let us repent without delay. Let us commit to doing what is good. We’re all full of mistakes and sins so let us wipe away our past sins and not live just to please people. We should live righteously, however, not just among ourselves but also when we’re around the people of the world so that we won’t give them a reason to blaspheme God’s name. As the Lord says, “My name is blasphemed among the Gentiles all day long because of you. Why is My name blasphemed? Because you do not do the things that I desire” [see Isaiah 52:5]. The Gentiles are filled with wonder when we speak the truth of God, but when then when they see that our deeds are not worthy of our words, they blaspheme and say that our words are just a story and not something to be taken seriously. When they hear us say that God said, “You will receive no reward if you love those who love you. You will only receive a reward if you love your enemies and those who hate you” [see Luke 6:32-35] - when they hear us say that, they agree that it is good. But then when they see that we do not have this kind of love, they simply laugh at us and God’s name is blasphemed because of it.
So, brothers and sisters, if we do God’s will, we will be a part of the original Church, the spiritual one, that was created before the sun and the moon. But if we don’t do God’s will, then we will be like the Scripture that says, “My house has become a den for robbers” [Jeremiah 7:11]. So let’s choose to be a part of the Church of life so that we will be saved. I think you know that the living Church is the body of Christ. As the Scripture says, “God made humans, male and female” [Genesis 1:27]. The male represents Christ and the female represents the Church. As the Jewish Scriptures and the Apostles clearly teach, the Church has not just recently come into being. It existed from the beginning in a spiritual state, just as Jesus existed in a spiritual state but became physical in these last days so that He could save us. The Church, also existing spiritually, became human in Christ, showing us that if anyone respects the Church’s physical form, they will also receive its spiritual form through the Holy Spirit. The physical is a copy of the spiritual. No one who disrespects the copy will receive the original. This is what He meant, brothers and sisters, when He said, “Guard the flesh so that you may receive the Spirit” [reference unknown]. So if we say the body is the Church and the spirit is Christ, then the person who has not respected the body, or the Church, will not receive the spirit, or Christ. How awesome is the life and immortality that our bodies will receive if we join ourselves to the Holy Spirit! “No one can describe the things that the Lord has prepared for His chosen ones” [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Now in the past, I’ve given you pretty strong advice to control yourselves sexually. If anyone can control themselves in this area, they won’t be sorry for it. Instead, they’ll save themselves and me. It is a great reward for me to turn a wandering and dying soul to salvation. The way we can pay God back for creating us is to speak and hear in faith and in love. So let’s live in the things that we believe. Let’s live in righteousness and holiness. Then we can pray to God confidently and He will say, “While you are still speaking, I will say, ‘Here I am’” [see Isaiah 58:9]. This is a great promise from God. Remember that He is more ready to give than we are to ask. So seeing how kind God is, let’s not keep ourselves from receiving the good things He has for us. As great is the reward is to those who obey God, the punishment for those who disobey God is just as great.
So, brothers and sisters, since we still have time to repent, let us turn to the God who called us. He will still receive us. If we say goodbye to the sinful pleasures of this world, if we conquer our souls and refuse to give in to every wrong desire, then we will receive Jesus’ mercy. Now you know that the Day of Judgment is coming quickly and that it will be like a burning oven, melting the elements of heaven. The whole earth will be like lead melting in the fire. Then everyone’s work will be revealed – the things they did in secret as well as the things they did openly. On that note, giving to the needy is a good work. Giving money is a way to repent of your sin. Fasting is better than prayer for repentance, but giving to charity is better than both. “Charity covers a multitude of sins” [1 Peter 4:8], but praying with a pure conscience saves you from death. Anyone who is full of praying, fasting, and giving to the poor, will be truly happy, since giving to charity helps lift the burden of sin.
So let us all repent with our whole hearts so that no one of us will die. If God has commanded us to make our priority pulling people away from believing in idols and teaching them the truth, how much more wrong is it for a soul who already knows God to turn away from Him and die! So let us help one another so that we can also lead the weak to what is good and all of us be saved. Let us convince each other to repent and teach one another. And let us not just obey and believe now, while we’re in church, but also when we leave to go to our own homes. Let’s remember the Lord’s commands and not allow ourselves to be dragged away from Him by our worldly desires. Instead, let’s meet together here more often and push ourselves to go further and further in the Lord’s commands so that we will all be united and taken together into the life that God brings us to. As the Lord said, “I am coming to gather together all the nations, tribes, and languages” [Isaiah 66:18]. He’s talking here about the day when He will appear, when He will come and judge each person according to their works. The unbelievers will see His glory and power and will be amazed when they see Jesus reigning over the world. They will say, “Woe to us because You were and we didn’t realize it or believe it. We didn’t listen to the elders of the Church when they told us how to be saved.” “Their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched. They will be a warning to everyone” [Isaiah 66:24]. He’s speaking here about the Day of Judgment, when everyone will see who among us has lived ungodly lives and not truly followed Jesus’ commands. But the righteous, who have done good, who have endured torture for Christ and have turned away from worldly pleasures, will see those who have done what is wrong and denied Jesus either by their words or by their deeds, and will see how horrible their punishment in unquenchable fire is, and will praise God, saying, “There is hope for those who serve God with their whole heart.”
So let us make sure that we are also among those who will give thanks and who have served God, and not among the ungodly people who will be punished. I, myself, am still a sinner. I haven’t escaped the power of temptation yet and am still stuck right in the middle of the devil’s plans. Still, I try my best to pursue righteousness and hopefully will at least come close to it since I, too, still fear the coming judgment.
So, brothers and sisters, you’ve heard God’s message in the Scriptures and now I’ve read this encouragement to you so that you might pay attention to what has been written and save both yourselves and the one reading to you. For my reward today, I ask only that you repent with your whole hearts and give salvation and life to yourselves. If you do this, you will set the example for all the young people who want to study God’s goodness and live holy lives. And let us not make the mistake of getting angry when someone encourages us to turn from our sin to righteousness. Sometimes we don’t even realize when we are sinning because of the double-mindedness and unbelief of our hearts. Our “understanding has been darkened” by our useless desires [Romans 1:21]. So let us work righteousness so that we can be saved in the end. Anyone who obeys these commands will be blessed. Even though they might have to go through trouble for a short time in this world, they will gather the immortal fruit of the resurrection. So don’t let the godly person grieve if they are miserable in this life. A better time is coming for them. They will live again in Heaven, with all the believers in God who have gone before us, and will rejoice throughout all eternity. They will never be sad again.
And don’t worry if you see sinners getting rich and God’s servants struggling with money. We just need to have faith, brothers and sisters. Remember that this present life is training us spiritually for our glorious future. Righteous people have always waited to receive their good things. If God rewarded the righteous immediately, then we would all be focused on our rewards instead of growing in godliness. We would act righteous just to get what was coming to us, but wouldn’t really be righteous. Then God would judge against us and punish us. Now, to the only God, invisible, the Father of truth, who has sent us the Savior and the Prince of immortality to show us the truth and the heavenly life, be glory forever and ever, amen.
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