The last two Sundays, we looked at Romans 8:28, word-by-word-by word and we did learn a lot. In fact, we learnt that there are two things, two realities in this world: good and evil. Both of these two have a way of impacting our lives, for good or for bad whether we like it or not. However, because we are His children, God uses both for our good.
Simultaneous Occurrences in Life
So we see that in life there are many things that occur simultaneously and for a purpose. Some of these things are good, while some are bad. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” This verse is also repeated by Luke in Luke 11:23. In that brief declaration, Jesus immediately established that there are 2 things that impact our lives therefore one really has to make a choice: either you are for Him or against Him. Either you believe He is the Anointed One who came from God or you do not. Either you are His friend or you are His enemy.
In fact, when you consider this statement by Christ, you recognize that it is indeed a very bold assertion; it is a very strong statement to make. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet! In effect, Christ is saying that you are either light or darkness, a loyal subject or a rebel and that there is no middle ground: you are either His child or satan’s; you are either walking with Him or walking with satan. Now if you walk with satan, you can’t walk with Christ. No wonder, Amos 3:3 asks the question, How can two walk together unless they be agreed?
The Tree of Life
Basically what we are seeing is that there is a choice that we have to make in life. When Christ came into this world, we were suddenly given a choice, a way out of eternal misery. We could no longer do things the way we felt. And having chosen the Jews as the people through whom He will bring salvation to mankind, the Jews now had an opportunity and consequently though them Gentiles had the Word of God made accessible to them. Today, no one can sit on the fence and neither can anyone feign ignorance because the Word of God has spread. It has spread all over so now humanity is presented with a choice, either or.
When we go all the way back to the Garden of Eden we see this same principle at work. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden:
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
The Tree of Life
According to Genesis 2:8, 9, The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Principle of Two surfaces here again, because just as one of the two trees, the Tree of Life, was a blessing to Adam and Eve, the other, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was to become a curse for all of their posterity. That is the sin we see all around us today in our world.
So there were these two important trees and they are both mentioned because they are both very significant. Smack dab in the middle of the Garden of the Lord was the Tree of Life and of this tree we are told that man (i.e. Adam and Eve) could eat. The Tree was right in the center where it would be most conspicuous. Today, Christ represents the Tree of Life and He ought to be the Center of your life. Is He? Look at Revelation 2:7 and 22:2.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
The other tree, let me call it the second tree, was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Isn’t that an interesting name? Why such a name? It bore this name because it appears God’s will with regard to this tree was that by it Adam might know something about morality, about good and evil. So then for that matter, one could ask the question, “What is good?” And my answer is that (1), everything that God created was good and (2), it was good not to eat of this tree. By the same token I ask, “What is evil?” and similarly I answer that it was evil to eat of this tree. Evil because God explicitly forbade man not to eat of it; thus, to do so constituted disobedience. Right away, we see the Principle of Two: two trees, and in these two trees what did God set before Adam? He set good and evil, the blessing and the curse, life and death. Either or!
Talking about the Tree of Life, Jesus is sometimes referred to or signified by the Tree of Life; for example in Proverbs 3:18 which talks about wisdom. Christ is the giver of both natural and supernatural life. By the way by “supernatural,” I am referring to eternal life. Jesus alone can and gives eternal life. But when Jesus teaches that He is the Way the Truth and the Life and that no man can come unto the Father except by Him, those around Him and all who heard this teaching didn’t like it at all. But you know, Jesus’ teaching has always evoked both wonder and rejection. Matter of fact, the two reactions to His teachings are evident in our contemporary world. When we go evangelizing, what do we see or experience? What are people’s reactions? So you see what I mean, right? Amen!
“He who is not with Me is against Me…”
As I move on, what I want to do is to look at Jesus’ declaration by breaking it into two parts, starting with He who is not with Me is against Me. These words mainly refer to unbelievers. However, it also explicitly refers to satan who is behind all rebellion and the fight against God. After all, satan is never on Christ’s side; he hates Christ and so is an adversary. Church, do you see something else here that Jesus is saying? Jesus is saying as well that it is not enough simply to agree with His moral teaching or His religious principles. Isn’t that amazing? Why is it not enough to just agree with Him? Because many of His detractors and attackers like the Scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees etc most probably did. Remember, they were masters of empty morality.
Now, another thing I want us to note is the following illustration. Let us say after reading the Bible where Jesus praises His Father, challenges His audience to show unconditional love, abhor hypocrisy, share their wealth with the needy you accept these teachings. But then you walk down Merivale Road where you start witnessing to people and come across a Jehovah’s Witness, without knowing it was one of them so then you say all these things and the man is like “Thank you so much, sir. I believe all that and I’m glad that someone is sharing this good news.” Then you say to him “Sir, I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the One and Only Messiah and He was crucified on a cross for our sins.” Well in this case, you will agree with me that then this is a rather different matter because Jehovah’s Witnesses have a totally different belief, right? Similarly, that was the case of the Pharisees and their followers and allies.
“…and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth”
The other part of the verse says and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth: Isn’t that something? You know, it is hard to build but so very easy to destroy. You’ve seen how long it takes to put up skyscrapers, huh? Then to do the finishes touches on the interior. But look at how easy it is to bring the same structure down. All they need is a wrecking ball and down it comes crashing. Similarly it is hard to keep sheep in line and that is why shepherds need guard dogs, etc. You do recall our study of Psalm 23 where we learnt how Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd? We see the same thing here.
(a) Christ is the Good Shepherd. He does two things:
He gathers His sheep to Himself, and
He brings His sheep into His fold
(b) On the other hand, satan is the wolf. He does four things; he:
Scares the sheep
Scatters the sheep
Snares the sheep
Slaughters, destroys the sheep.
So Church, there is open war, with satan attacking Christ. And how does he do so? Because satan is not able to directly attack Christ what does he do? He focuses on what is most dearest to Christ: you and I, the saved of the earth. And since such an open war has been declared, no one, none can be neutral. It is either or!
When Christ made this statement, He who is not with Me is against Me and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth, He was accused by those in the other camp, the camp of satan of using evil forces to cast out demons. The Scribes and Pharisees despised and blasphemed any of the discourses that was delivered by our Lord Jesus. However, when He cast out the devils, Christ was actually destroying their power.
Basically, what we are learning is that once you are in the devil’s camp, then your heart, the heart of every unbeliever, that is, becomes the devil’s palace; he comes and goes as he pleases and does whatever he wishes. The heart of the unbeliever is where he dwells, where he parties and where he rules. Not only satan but also his wicked spirits, his demons, those foul spirits enter in without any difficulty; they are welcomed, and they dwell there; they work there, and from there they rule their human captive. So Jesus plainly says that in this serious conflict against evil he that is not with Me is against Me.
THE SPIRITUAL CATEGORIZED
In the spiritual world there is likewise two categories: Blessing or a curse, faith or doubt, light or darkness, good or evil, truth or lies, love or hate. The two trees in the garden remind us of that, right?
Let us look as well at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which tells us that life is a life of pairs. We have two hands. And Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that God has appointed the times and seasons, the events of our lives, the happy and the sad, the easy and the difficult, the good and the bad. So like I said, we have two hands and on one hand the appointed times and seasons, and the events of our lives can bring worry, but on the other hand, it should bring us hope, faith and trust in the Lord.
In the seven verses of Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon makes twenty-eight statements—fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones. Solomon clarifies for us that there is a right time and a wrong time to do all these things that he has listed in 3:1-8. When a person carries out these actions at the right time, his/her efforts are usually successful. But when the same things are carried out at a wrong time, disaster results.
Finally, I’d like to say that there is even a proper time when people should out their faith and trust in God for salvation and do you know what? That time is now, not tomorrow. It is right now. Look at what the scripture says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 – (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
You know, whether we like it or not, Life after death is one of the most important subjects that a person must think about. Sure, it is something that we do not like talking about at all; it is indeed a hard and morbid subject to study, but it matters very much as it is about eternity. If there is life after death, then nothing matters more than a person’s relationship with God. And making the decision now to follow Christ, you don’t lose if there is no life after death. But I can assure you that even though I have never died before, I know what happens, because Jesus laid it our vividly for us in His story about the rich man and Lazarus. Brothers and sisters, do not take any risk. As the Word says, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
In His amazingly simple and economical use of words that speaks unparalleled volumes, Jesus, when it came to categorizing people, did that with ease. Out of that, we see His worldview through His heavenly-view and we should see ours through His. Jesus’ approach defines everything for us and also gives us something to emulate as we endeavour to be like Him. As far as His teachings are concerned, there are only two categories:
The Wheat or The Tares
12 whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:12.
Those in the Narrow Way or Those in the Broad Way
13“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.
The Wise Builder or The Foolish Builder
24“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27.
The Sheep or The Goats
31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Matthew 25:31-33.
The Wise or The Foolish Virgins
1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matthew 25:1-13.
The Friends or The Enemies of the Lord (John 15:14; Romans 5:10)
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” John 15:14
10“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” Romans 5:10, 11
Those of the World or Those Not of the World
19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:19
The Servants of Sin or The Servants of Righteousness
16“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18
What we are seeing here in these pairs is that there is today, only the righteous and the wicked, and only two eternal destinies, life and destruction. So, where do you stand? What choice have you made? What about your loved ones? You know, there is no middle ground, no in-between.
It is either, or. Either you are the thief on the cross who surrendered to Jesus and heard the assuring words “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” or you are the other one who hated himself so much that he was blind to Jesus’ offer of everlasting liberty and consequently sent himself to eternal hell. Yes, he sent himself. He was given the choice but he chose damnation.
Many today are like that fool, sending themselves to everlasting torment by denying God and rejecting Jesus. You see, people think they are smart. They choose to believe in heaven but not in hell. People don’t have to go to hell, but many have gone, many are and many will. What does scripture say hell was created for? Matthew 25:41 says that it was created for the devil and his angels. If there is no hell, why would God send sinners to heaven? I mean if you wanted nothing to do with God in this lifetime, why would you want anything to do with him in the next life.
By the way, let me take this opportunity to address an issue, that hell is everlasting. When He created us God gave us an eternal existence because He wanted us to be with Him forever. In our earthen vessels He endowed us with spirits that will live forever in a certain form or state. Thus in this way, those who have accepted Him will be able to truly have fellowship with Him after He creates the new heaven and the new earth. Further, and because He exists outside of time and desires us to relate to Him more intimately than is possible with our limited physical existence, He has made the necessary provision. People can choose to ask the question all they want “How can a loving God send people to hell?”
The Lord is inviting you today. Now is the accepted time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. Look at what 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 says:
“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”.
We live our lives one day at a time. Not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. Yesterday is gone. Today is, but is slipping away. Tomorrow never comes. So today is the only day we have, to be saved by the grace of God.
In Luke, we read that one day Jesus was walking down the road followed by multitudes. As Jesus only will know, He saw a man in a tree. Let us read the story together in Luke 19.
“And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost'” (Luke 19:5-10).
Salvation can come to your house today if you will receive the Lord. Do not think that past sins cannot be forgiven. Jesus sets free anyone who comes to Him. Don’t be like the thief and do not put Jesus off until tomorrow because tomorrow never comes. Instead, Now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.
I’m ending now and I will say this, that no one dies yesterday and no one dies tomorrow. When we die, we die today. Jesus loves so much and He died for our sins, yours and mine, as He did for those two thieves whom we talked about. On the cross He also died for the sins of both men who were crucified with Him. To one of those men Jesus could, and did say: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Beloved, it is either, or. Either you are the thief on the cross who surrendered to Jesus and heard the reassuring words “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” or you are the other one who went into eternity, eternally separated from the Eternal God. Which one are you?