"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."  (1 Cor.15:19) Many people forget that since the fall of man (Gen. 3) the earth has been cursed by God (Rom. 8:18-25) and Satan has been allowed by God (Job 1:6-12) to rule over the people of this world (1 John 5:19) except for those who are "born again" (John 3:3) and who submit to the rule of God as believers. (Eph. 5:18-21; James 4:7) The fallen nature of man (the flesh) is defined as: "The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (See Rom. 8:6 and Rom. 3:9-18) This is also true for believers who choose to walk in the flesh. (See Gal. 5:16-17) The world system is a composite mindset of all people who live out of their fallen nature and ignore or reject God's rule over their lives. This unholy trinity of the world, the devil, and the flesh works most often through lies and deception (a la The Matrix) and keeps mankind's mind and affections focused on this world/life (get it now) and themselves (get it now for me) versus God's invisible kingdom that is God focused and other focused. (Matt. 22:37-39; Col. 3:1-2) And fallen man also believes that he is not accountable to God if he even believes that God exists. "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." (Eccl. 8:11)

But here comes the TRUTH robed in humanity to both show us the way to live for God and deliver us from the world, the devil, and the flesh and its consequences – eternal punishment. (Matt. 25:46) His human Name is Jesus and his title is Christ (the anointed One). "So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us." (John 1:14, 18) Now God calls and commands all people to be conformed to Christ's likeness. "That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him." (Rom. 8:28-30 – The Message) Jesus as a Man lived always and only to please His Father and bring Him glory. Jesus said, "I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do." (John 17:4) Living for God's pleasure and honor in all we do is the very reason God created us! (Rev. 4:11 KJV; Phil. 2:12-13)

The reason we may be shocked at the fury of God's wrath seen in Revelation is because we have such a low, unbiblical view of God's perfect righteousness and a very tolerant and unbiblical view of mankind's wickedness. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day (Matt. 5:17-20) in His longest sermon for this very reason. (Matt. 5-7) For example, Jesus says calling others a fool, what many of us have done or continue to do (esp. in Atlanta traffic) will send us to hell – eternal punishment. And if we look at a woman with sinful desire in our hearts we are subject to hell. (Matt. 5:21-30) God doesn't suggest we be holy or suggest we repent but He commands us to "be holy" like Him (1 Peter 1:15-16; Lev. 11:44) and "commands all people everywhere to repent for he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." This means the lost, or they will perish, and the saved, or He will discipline us. (Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3-5; 2 Cor.7:9)

As believers we know that the only way to obey God's commands to be holy and to become like His Son is to admit we fall far short of His perfection and receive the unmerited gift of salvation (2 Cor. 5:21) and then live in moment by moment dependence on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-4) to say no to sin and yes to God's two great commandments – to love Him with all our being and to love others as we love ourselves, wanting their spiritual and eternal well-being (not just a happy life on earth) just as much as we want our own. (Matt. 22:37-39; 28:18-20)

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matt. 7:24-27) The present economic and moral decline in our nation and the world (and many say it will get worse) is the storm that is causing many "to crash" – those who have built their lives on the sand of illusion versus the Rock of Reality. Notice that Jesus distinguished the two foundations not by those who hear His Words and those who do not but by those who hear His Words and "put them into practice" (obey them) versus those who "do not put them into practice" (disobey His Word). Judgment and discipline begins with God's children as seen with His people in the Old Testament (Israel). God's warnings for disobedience through the prophets increased and the cost of disobedience increased until they experienced His severe discipline that shocks us even as His wrath seen in the book of Revelation shocks us. "He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah (the king of Judah – the southern kingdom) before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon." (2 Kings 25:6-7) "The king (of Israel -the northern kingdom) replied, "If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? Then he asked her, "What's the matter? "She answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we'll eat my son.' So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give up your son so we may eat him,' but she had hidden him."  When the king heard the woman's words, he tore his robes." (2 Kings 6:27-30)

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."  (1 Cor.15:19) This truth is becoming increasingly obvious even in prosperous America. So how can we transfer our hopes from this life to eternity and rejoice now in the hope of the glory of God?  "And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God." (Rom. 5:2)

A LIFE LIVED "UNDER THE SON" VERSUS "UNDER THE SUN"                                  

*Continually renew your mind by seeing this life through God's truth versus the lies of the world. Rom. 12:2

*Meditate on the glory of heaven. Revelation 21-22

*Read and tell others about the reality and horror of hell. Revelation 20:12-15

*Long to hear Jesus say "well done" more than vain glory and the applause of man. Matthew 25:21                        

*Pray in agreement with God's will to conform you to the likeness of Jesus. Romans 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Hebrews 12:3

*Pray for a greater revelation of a personal knowledge of God, His unique call on your life and His power to carry it out. Ephesians 1:17-19                                                                          

*Pray for revelation to grasp how much Christ loves you and to be filled to overflowing with His love for others. Ephesians    3:16-19                                                        

*Offer your life as a living sacrifice for God's pleasure and glory believing by faith that His will and plan for your life is perfect and thus will bring you the greatest good now (by faith) and for all eternity. Romans 12:1                             

*Convert sufferings and trials into eternal glory (Christ-like character) by fixing your eyes on the invisible and eternal kingdom of God rather than focusing on the light (compared to Christ's suffering) momentary (compared to eternal rewards and blessings) afflictions. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-5

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS                                                             

"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Cor. 15:19 – A fading, unsatisfying hope versus a soul-satisfying, everlasting hope). What is the Lord trying to say to us through this verse?

"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; (this means living with a temporal perspective versus an eternal perspective) all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (A quote from the man who had it all in this life. King Solomon – Eccl. 1:14) What are you chasing after in your attempt to find fulfillment and happiness? How is that working for you?

"When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." (The illusion that man is not accountable to God for every sin. Eccl. 8:11) "And I saw the dead, (the unsaved) great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (See Revelation 20:12-15) How does this truth affect you? Do you think people know this truth or believe it?

"Behold, I (Jesus) am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (the judgment of believers- Revelation 22:12; Also see 1 Cor. 3:10-15)  How does this truth affect you as a believer? Do you think Christians know this truth or believe it?

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (A change of perspective from the same man who had it all in this life and was empty – Solomon near the end of his life. Eccl. 12:13-14) What does it mean to live in the fear of the Lord? Jesus did all the time, why don't we? "In the days of His flesh [Jesus] offered up definite, special petitions [for that which He not only wanted but needed] and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him Who was [always] able to save Him [out] from death, and He was heard (God raised Him from the dead) because of His reverence toward God [His godly fear, His piety, in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father]." (Heb. 5:7 Amp. Also see Isa. 11:1-2 referring to Jesus)

"And His disciples remembered that it is written [in the Holy Scriptures – (speaking of Jesus)], Zeal (the fervor of love) for Your house will eat Me up. [I will be consumed with jealousy for the honor of Your house (or Name.]"  (John 2:17) "Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord." (Rom. 12:11)  How can we increase our zeal for the Lord and His glory?

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