The reason we come here on a Sunday is because we want to learn to be on the Lord’s side; simply being here physically does not put us on the Lord’s side (Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car). God has given us a thousand pages with countless examples of people who were on his side, and people who were not. We can all name the “good guys:” Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Jesus (of course), Paul, and so on. We also read of people who were on the Lord’s side even though no one else was. Joshua was one of the faithful spies who brought back a good report; he said Israel would be able to conquer the land because the Lord was on their side (Numbers 14:6-9); ten other spies said they couldn’t do it. Daniel had to pray to God even though the king had signed a law that said no one could pray to anyone except the king (Daniel 6:10). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image even though there was a severe penalty (Daniel 3:18).
Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).” There were many periods in Israel’s history where they were on the Lord’s side, and many periods where they were not. When they were on the Lord’s side, they did well. When they turned their back on him, he turned his back on them.
As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we have chosen to be on the Lord’s side; we have accepted his invitation. But as we very well know, just because we’re on the Lord’s side right now doesn’t mean we’ll be on the Lord’s side forever. I’m only 28; but as I’ve said before in a different talk, about half the people around my age have already left the truth. At the Williamsburg Conference about nine years ago, I met a brother from the Midwest, a great guy, real smart, solid brother. He had come out of the world, and was already a much better believer than I was. I spent a decent amount of time with him there and then at the New Year’s Eve party after the Conference ended. I remember him asking me, “Do you think Jesus is coming back this year? I think it’s gonna be this year.” That next morning, he and everyone else from out of town left to go home; I gave him a hug and told him it was such a pleasure to have met him, and he said the same. That was the last I ever saw of him; he left the faith the next year, and hasn’t looked back. There was a girl at a Bible School that I went to every summer for many years; she was there for most of them. This girl was beautiful from head to toe; any Christadelphian guy she wanted, she could have had. She ended up marrying some guy who wasn’t a Christadelphian, and now she and her husband are off doing their own thing. This is what happens when you go over to the other side, even just to take a look; sometimes it just sucks you in. The good news though, as someone said recently, is that even if you take one thousand steps away from God, you just need to take one step back and he’s there.
We need as well though, to be careful not to kick people to the other side; a few of the people I grew up seeing at Bible Schools and such, left the truth because they said they were sick of the fighting; the dogma; the way brothers and sisters treated each other. This is obviously not an excuse for leaving the Lord, but it is a reason that has been given on multiple occasions. Are we turning people away from the Lord’s side because of a desire to be right, instead of a desire to be on the Lord’s side, and to show the Lord’s side to others? James says that fighting comes from inward (James 4:1). We’re not supposed to be fighting against anyone; we’re supposed to be helping each other get to God’s Kingdom.
I’m not saying knowledge isn’t important; of course we need to know what we believe; we need to be sure in it, to know that we know the true God and Jesus of the Bible, and to know and understand God’s plan and his principles. We cannot make God in our own image.
I’m also not saying that error should be allowed; James says that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20). But I am saying that mercy should be allowed, because we’re all sinners and fall short (Romans 3:23). Take any two Christadelphians; they are two very imperfect people, but they can both be on the Lord’s side. The brothers and sisters in Corinth had a lot of issues; some of them didn’t even believe in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12); but they were still brothers and sisters who wanted to be on the Lord’s side. Paul didn’t tell the Corinthians to kick them out, and he didn’t say they weren’t on the Lord’s side. Instead, he taught them the truth.
Remember that the amount of knowledge we have does not dictate whether we are on the Lord’s side; we have brothers and sisters who have been in the truth for over seventy years, and some who have just been baptized a few months, or even just a few days. The one who has been in the truth for seventy years cannot expect the newly baptized person to know as much as he does. We’re all at different levels, but we’re all still on the same side, hopefully.
We have two short books in the New Testament that provide a very interesting contrast. In 2 John, the writer warns against false doctrine, to make sure it is not allowed in. But then in 3 John, the writer warns against Diotrophes, who did not welcome some brothers and sisters, and cast certain of them out. Now, we here in Richmond don’t have anyone like that today, but do we look down on certain brothers and sisters because they don’t do things exactly the way we do? Jesus said, “If they’re not against us, they’re for us (Mark 9:38-40).” Just because a brother or sister or a group of brethren doesn’t do exactly as we do, it does not make their status in Christ any less. That’s a brother or sister; someone who Jesus died for (Romans 14:5-9), who God loves; a child of God.
Imagine for a minute, if this country goes to a second Civil War; we’ll say Republicans vs. Democrats. At the same time, Russia or North Korea attacks our country. Chances are, America would be in quite some trouble if Americans couldn’t get along enough to fight a common enemy. Imagine as well, a baseball team where there is fighting among teammates in the locker room; the players can’t stand each other, but have to play together all season; it may be a long summer.
There’s plenty of fighting going on in the world; so much hatred. It should not be so among God’s children. We don’t have literal fighting in our community, but there is certainly enmity between brethren in many areas. We have a common enemy; it’s sin, and it’s the ways of the world; we fight against principalities (Ephesians 6:12).
Moses asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” The Levites came to him; they had not wavered (Exodus 32:26). Notice that it was Moses who asked; he gave the people a choice; God gives us a choice as well. We don’t have to be on his side if we don’t want to; there is a great reward waiting for all those who are on the Lord’s side, and there is a consequence for not being on his side. To be on the Lord’s side means we have to love what God loves and hate what God hates. He does not grant exceptions, even though the world we live in says that he does.
Elijah was told that seven thousand people had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18); could you imagine being told that if you thought you were the only one? It would have been humbling for him. God always leaves a remnant. The Lord knows them that are his (2 Timothy 2:19). God’s love and grace may extend further than we as humans think or would like it to go. We need to be careful to not be like Elijah, to think we’re the only ones. God may very well be leaving a lot more than we think. Who knows how far God’s grace will extend? One commentator said, “When we get to [the Kingdom], as we shall miss a great many whom we thought to meet there, so we shall meet a great many whom we little thought to find there.”
Joshua asked the angel, “Whose side are you on?” The angel said he was on the Lord’s side, not Joshua’s side or the enemy’s side; Joshua then had a choice to make: whose side was HE on (Joshua 5:13-14)? As a Christadelphian, I’ve been asked before, “which ‘side’ are you on?” “Side?” I didn’t know there were teams; There is only one body of believers (1 Corinthians 10:17). We’re either on the Lord’s side or not on the Lord’s side; he’s either for us or against us; there’s no middle ground. And if he is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? The answer, of course, is, no one! On the other hand, if the Lord is not on your side, it’s not the Lord who needs to move; it’s you.
Out of all the groups of believers, God is calling out a people for his name; a people to be on his side. Not everybody is going to be there; there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing; there will be those who say unto him, “Lord, Lord,” who will not enter into his Kingdom; why? Because he never knew them. See, to be on the Lord’s side, we have to know him and he has to know us (Matthew 7:21-23). If he is the captain of our salvation, simply having an academic knowledge, a mechanical relationship with him, will not work. He is going to one day ask each of us, “Have you done what I commanded you?” We are his friends if we do what he has commanded us (John 15:14). Jesus says his brothers and sisters are them that do the will of God (Mark 3:35). Notice that he does not add any other qualifiers.
Jesus did say, “many are called, few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).” But we don’t know how many is many, and how few is few. But: when the time comes, everyone who is on the Lord’s side will be in the Kingdom. What God asks of us is fairly simple, isn’t it? Love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), Fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13), act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), humble yourselves, pray, seek his face, turn from your wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14). If we focus on doing what God asks of us, to be on his side, we will naturally gravitate towards those who also want to be on his side. Look at Hebrews 11; how many people are listed? They were all on God’s side; some of them went to extreme lengths, and they have a great reward waiting for them (Hebrews 11:36-40).
We all have one father, says Malachi (2:10). John says, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12).”
The Psalmist writes, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).”
Look at the way the world is now; why would anyone choose that over what the Lord offers? We look for a city whose builder and maker is God, a city that has foundations that will not fade away (Hebrews 11:10). We have been invited to the Lord’s side; it’s an invitation that we have accepted. He loves us; he is for us if we are for him; he wants us to be in the Kingdom (Luke 12:32); have you ever thought about that? When you are baptized, you have decided to be on the Lord’s side. We come here because we want to be in the Kingdom; we want to be on the Lord’s side. Are you on the Lord’s side or not? We have a choice; we know where God wants us to be; he will never leave nor forsake anyone who is on his side (Deuteronomy 31:6); the Psalmist writes, “He will cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Psalm 91:4).” Nothing, says Paul, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), and eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what the Lord has in store for those on his side (Isaiah 64:4). We’ll close in Psalm 37:1-18, a contrast between those on the Lord’s side and those who are not.