"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
The Function of God's Goodness
"The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
God's goodness, repeatedly proclaimed by Scripture (Ps. 25:8; 33:5; 34:8), and demonstrated throughout His dealing with men, was the subject of a Lord's-day Bible-class session led by George Brewer. The principal stress was on this Divine attribute's function manward.
As the text from Romans printed above declares, that function, along with God's other qualities, is to lead men to repentance and devotion to Him. His "kindness and love," as well as the richness in and tenderness of His mercy, are to have the same effect (Eph. 2:4-5; Tit. 3:4-7; Jas. 5:11). Unless we are so affected by God's glorious Person (II Pet. 1:3, ASV), we practically despise Him, as Paul asserts (Rom. 2:4-11).
Since God makes what the flesh regards as stringent demands upon men, these constraining elements of His nature must be perceived, if men are to comply with the demands, it was pointed out. He calls upon those who will be accepted by and have fellowship with Him to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts," and take up the cross and daily follow Christ (Lk. 9:23; Tit. 2:11-14). This cannot be done by sheer willpower, though that is involved in the process. Self-effort must be supplemented and made effective by the spiritual apprehension through faith of the "glory and virtue" of God, by which we are called unto salvation and His fellowship and service (II Pet. 1:3, ASV).
An important part of God's goodness is quite commonly overlooked, Brother George observed. It is that, by His exactions of us, He is concerned only for our good, or well-being. At no point are they made as a mere exertion of despotic authority. The requirements are but an expression of God's goodness and love for us. He demands that we give up what is harmful to us, and that which He calls upon us to do is for our very best interest. So it was indicated with reference to ancient Israel. God led them through "that great and terrible wilderness," in order that He might ultimately do them good (Deut. 8:15-16).
In our loose-thinking and -living day, it sorely needs to be recognized that the rigid discipline which God requires is altogether beneficial. The grandfatherly permissiveness which many attribute to Him is wholly unbefitting the Divine love and the tender concern for men's welfare that God has.
Service without Distraction
"I would have you to be free from care" (I Cor. 7: 32, ASV).
The following representations concerning distractions from the full fellowship and service of God were made by Albert G. Stoner, Jr.
The ability to "attend upon the Lord," or worship and serve Him, "without distraction," is the ideal for God's people (I Cor. 7:35). As long as we remain in the body, however, there are distractions for most of us. We must learn to deal wisely with them, striving to constantly accord God the preeminence in all our interests and relationships.
The "law of sin" that remains operative in us is one of the principal distractions. "When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom. 7:21; cf. vv. 22-23). Grace does not wholly neutralize that law, as some falsely claim, though it does enable those who will receive and use it to maintain dominion over the sin that dwells in them (Rom. 6:14). As it is written, "He giveth more grace" in our striving against sin (Jas. 4:6). Full deliverance from "the body of this death," or life in this "vile" and "sinful body" (Rom. 6:6, RSV; 8:24-25; Phil. 3:21), is on the way. It shall be brought to us in the "salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:5; cf. v. 13). Thus, "we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5, ASV; cf. II Tim. 4:8).
There are legitimate relationships and responsibilities that tend to distract one from complete devotion to God. These include family connections and duties, the earning of a livelihood, and the like. Inasmuch as such associations and obligations are sanctioned by God, He allows for the partial distractions which they create. It should be noted that proper earthly relations and duties pose distractions from devotion to God, not from the service of Him. That is because, in duly attending to these matters, we serve God, seeing all that we do is to be done as unto Him, and not as unto men (Col. 3:23-24; cf. I Cor. 7:20-24).
It is the inordinate occupation with the legitimate concerns of this life against which Jesus warned in His parable of the sower and the soils (Lk. 8:14). Effectiveness for God is hampered or nullified by absorption with "cares and riches and pleasures of this life." Hence, we are admonished not to permit that to occur with us. It takes knowledge of the truth and a close walk with the Lord by faith to be able to maintain balance at this point, knowing where to draw the line with regard to temporal interests.
All associations and responsibilities of this life must be viewed from the perspective of eternity, and kept in subordination to eternal considerations. They must not be permitted to blur or obscure our view of God and our duty to Him. It must be kept firmly in mind that the temporal life down here is fundamentally in preparation for the eternal one up there. To the extent that situation is lost sight of or ignored, we are ensnared by earthly distractions, and come short of the entailments of our heavenly calling.
Due perspective in this connection is given by Paul in First Corinthians 7:29-30. "The time is short," he observes: "it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and those that rejoice [in iniquity], as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not." The reason for this universal temporality: "For the fashion of this world passeth away" (v. 31). Hence, those who will serve God acceptably must use this world "as not abusing it" (v. 31).
The distractions of earth to which they are properly subjected are burdensome to those who are enamored with God. Such persons anticipate with great joy the time to come when, forever freed from earth, they shall be able to attend upon God and the things pertaining to His kingdom entirely "without distraction." It is recognized that the present situation is one imposed by God's will, and is accepted as part of the probationary disciplining for heavenly life. But, while they patiently bear the "yoke," in the youth of their mortality (Lam. 3:26-27), those in whom God now dwells earnestly desire the consummate experience that remains.
That will include the service of God "day and night" in His temple, and going "no more out" from His presence (Rev. 3:12; 7:15). The "former things" shall have "passed away," and "all things" shall have been made new (ch. 21:4-5). That new and abiding order will be entirely "of God" (Rom. 11:36). In it will be nothing at all to distract from a full sense of His glorious presence and undivided service of Him. That will, indeed, be "fullness of joy" for those who delight in their God, and provide them with "pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11).
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).