Dear brothers and sisters around the world,
Warm Christian greetings with the following inspired words: “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light…. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11, 12, 14).
Recently, I had the privilege of visiting some of our elderly pioneers. One of them said to me: “Brother Silva, every sunset we experience is a sign that the coming of the Lord is nearer.” When we knelt to pray, I realized that the main hope of that brother is to go home with Christ soon.
According to the inspired words of Paul in Romans quoted above, it is high time to awake out of sleep. Paul explains that: “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
When we consider the real condition of our world—full of violence, corruption in all areas of life, diseases, family crises—we see that the prophecies are being speedily fulfilled.
What is our spiritual condition as individuals, families, and as a church? What kinds of things are occupying our minds? Is the Bible the book to which we are seriously giving our attention? How about our conversations? Are we talking about heavenly things? Or are we more concerned about our own houses, our car, our own business? In His sermon on the mount, Christ said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things (food, clothes, etc.) shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Which priorities became the focus of our minds in 2016? Which ones will be our priorities in the fast-approaching new year?
Let us keep in mind that we need to be ready every day for the coming of Christ. We cannot postpone our preparation, expecting that in the future we will be ready. Our need of preparation is today.
In Hebrews 3, we read the solemn words: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; while it is said, today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (verses 12-15).
To the believers in Colossae, Paul wrote: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Can we know the reality of our own spiritual life? Yes, we can.
In the book, Steps to Christ, Chapter 7: “The Test of Discipleship”, we find a very practical way to diagnosis our spiritual condition: “While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.
“It is true that there may be an outward correctness of deportment without the renewing power of Christ. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions. By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on?
“Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.
“Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’ (Galatians 5:22, 23). They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside. Christians will seek not the ‘outward adorning,’ but ‘the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit’ (1 Peter 3:3, 4).
“There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless it works reformation. If he restores the pledge, give again that he had robbed, confess his sins, and love God and his fellow men, the sinner may be sure that he has passed from death unto life.
“When, as erring, sinful beings, we come to Christ and become partakers of His pardoning grace, love springs up in the heart. Every burden is light, for the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness.”—Steps to Christ, pp. 57-59.
Knowing our real condition and being conscious of what God expects from His believing children, let our goal for the new year be to set apart time to study God’s word, meditate, and pray. May our homes be houses of prayer, a Bethel, so that soon we may be with our family in the heavenly home for eternity. Let us take the position of Joshua when he declared: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
I wish to all our brothers and sisters a blessed new year full of God’s grace!
Cordially, in Jesus Christ,
Davi Paes Silva