Mankind is looking ahead into a new year, and there is much writing and speculation about what the future holds. There is a judgment upon all, and it is because of this judgment that nearly everything that is being written is negative. Analyses of the future are mainly very grim.
Reading in the Scriptures, we see there are two views. On the one hand, very bleak – indeed, worse than anyone can describe. This applies to the wicked who will not repent from their wickedness. On the other hand, it is inexpressibly hopeful and bright – yes, better and brighter than anyone can describe. This applies to God-fearing people, those who acknowledge and repent from their sins and begin to walk in the light.
God’s thoughts – human thoughts
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. It is only through faith and obedience that we can come into these thoughts. There is a significant difference between God’s thoughts and human thoughts. People think, they write books, they make plans and strategies that are very rarely converted into good realities. God’s thoughts are linked to action, and they come to fruition even if the whole world votes against them. Therefore, it is safe to be in God’s thoughts, in God’s will and plan for our lives. No one can enter these thoughts with human wisdom. Everything must be given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is given to those who obey Him. “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 1 Corinthians 3:20. He destroys the wisdom of the wise, and brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent. This is written in connection with the message of the cross. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
And here lies the secret. It is only through the cross that we can get a clear connection with God, and through the cross He can bring about His plans for us – the plans He had laid for us before He laid the foundation of the world. Then God begins to share His thoughts with us. On the cross the Spirit of revelation comes upon us and we begin to look into that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard – the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9) Then it is impossible to be discouraged and see the future as bleak!
The entire history of Israel shows how rare such people are – those who give themselves completely, and love and serve God alone. Some people did it periodically, when great distress came upon them. But when the distress was over and the enemy defeated, their hearts were turned away from God to idols. This is the very point, which determines what the future will bring us personally. God’s thoughts are clear: “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7. If these glorious thoughts of God are to become reality, our innermost thoughts must also be clear: our hearts must be entirely for God; it must be pure for His eyes. It must be pure from all sorts of idolatry!
The message of the cross makes the future bright
The purity, decisiveness and clarity that Christ expects from us is expressed very clearly in Luke 9:57-62. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’
Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’
And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Here we see the “eye of the needle” and the cross that confront us when we enter the covenant of discipleship. All these “buts” with all sorts of carnal considerations for family and friends pollute the heart so God’s clear thoughts, rooted in faith, hope and love, do not reach the chambers of the heart. So life becomes heavy, the goal is unclear and the trumpet does not give a clear sound. (1 Corinthians 14:8)
You cannot enjoy the promise that all things work together for our good. Why? Because of unbelief! Has this unbelief crept into your heart because you have not fulfilled the conditions? The promise was for those who loved God alone! Let us establish ourselves in the covenant of discipleship. The message of the cross lives in the disciple’s heart. There it is bright. It’s not always the feelings that bring light, but faith in the living God, in the risen Christ, who in the most hopeless night could cry out: “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:1-46)
May we preserve this whole and pure heart with these clear thoughts of faith, so our whole life comes into harmony with the Scriptures. Just think of the future Jesus looked into when He could say: “All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine.” John 17:10. They were clear thoughts and plain words.
Why we can lift our heads
May we enter the new year with purified hearts; not with old leaven, but with the pure message of the cross planted in our hearts! God could see into the hearts of the children of Israel, saying, “When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.” Deuteronomy 31:20-21. This, despite all the goodness they had met!
What thoughts do we have? Paul could say the following about Timothy: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance …” 2 Timothy 3:10. The two were joined together in the same mind and the same thoughts. The cross was working and living water flowed out. Glorious blessed thoughts welled up and were transformed into action and the edification of the body of Christ.
Paul’s testimony was: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20. We cannot live a more exalted life. With this testimony, we can meet all of life’s troubles and all the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Yes, the devil himself and all the enemy flee from us and we can go triumphantly out of the trial through faith in the message of the cross. God’s thoughts and plans are brought to fruition and Satan’s thoughts are destroyed. In this victorious spirit and with the power of faith in a pure heart we can enter the new year with our heads held high. Soon we will meet our Master and our fathers, who laid such a foundation for us! The spirit of expectation keeps us awake and Jesus’ last words to His cross bearers comfort us: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. In this way we carry the message of the cross to life and peace into the future with great boldness.
This is an edited version of an article that was published in BCC’s periodical “Skjulte Skatter” (“Hidden Treasures”) in December 1999.
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