Defining Moments

Posted: February 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A “defining moment” is a time in the life of an individual or the history of a nation that determines the outcome or character of that person or people. This expression can also be applied to the Lord’s church or individual Christians. History records many of these moments.

Within a decade after the final chapter had been written in the scriptures, steps were taken that defined the “church” for the next several centuries. Elders were exalted above other elders in local churches and metropolitan areas and were called “bishops.” Ignatius, one of those bishops, wrote of this as early as A. D. 110-120. Out of that decision developed a hierarchy of authority and rule, unknown to scripture, that found its culmination in a special priesthood through which saints had to access God and by which the authority of the pope of Rome dominated and ruled the Catholic Church.

By the 16th century the same could be said of the Reformation Era. In 1517 Martin Luther rebelled against the authority of the pope and exalted the scriptures as the only authority from Christ. He championed the biblical idea that every Christians is a priest and declared that sinners are saved by “faith alone.” Others joined Luther in promoting this “unbiblical” view of faith. The result was the proliferation of denominational bodies which spread throughout Europe and eventually the world. “Faith only” was the fatal flaw of the reformation movement that defined Protestantism and allowed each church to determine its own mode of baptism, form of worship, organizational structure, and basis for membership.

By the 19th century a number of men saw the folly of division spawned by the Reformation and came to the momentous determination that a scriptural course of action was to “restore” the practices of the first-century church. They determined that to do this they must “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” clearly a biblical idea (1 Pet 4:11; Gal 1:8-9; 2 John 9). That worked well until brethren became enamored with the support of human organizations and social and entertainment programs. These were added without scriptural precedent to enhance the work and growth of the church and, oddly enough, have led beyond these unscriptural practices to fellowship with denominational bodies that are committed to salvation by the Reformation theology of “faith alone.”

Defining moments are not limited to religious bodies. They have also brought down individual Christians. Disciples have faced temptations that challenged their conviction and courage—challenges that first gave pause for reflection and prayer, but in time created hardness and insensitivity to truth and righteousness.

Young business men in their beginning years are often bothered by dishonesty or greed, but in time feel no pangs of guilt as those sins scar and sear their consciences. So it is with brethren who imbibe that first drink or exchange that first smutty joke with their socially elite and worldly friends. Similar conduct occurs among brethren who retire and search for hobbies to occupy their time—hobbies that consume them, dampen their enthusiasm for the Lord, and rob them of opportunities to study, pray, visit, teach, and in other ways work the works of the Lord.

Every apostate brother lost the battle against sin at a particular moment. That time and the challenge he faced defined what he later became. Faithful brethren faced that same moment, but overcame the temptation and, in so doing, defined what they now are. This should tell all and any of us that life is and has always been a challenge of what we are and what we can become. Our choices at any given moment may set a course, good or bad, for what we shall be and where we will spend eternity.

It is God who instructs and defines what we ought to be. It is we who choose and define what we actually become.

-L. A.

 


Whether Pleasant or Unpleasant

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God” (Jer 42:5-6).

This passage is one of the most amazing statements of submission to God’s will found within the scriptures. It should describe the way we approach God’s word each time we sit down to study. It doesn’t matter what I want to believe or practice, it matters what God wants. We cannot form God’s word to fit our own mindset; we must form our mindset to fit God’s word.

It is so easy to convince ourselves God is saying whatever it is we want to hear. We are often deceived into thinking we have given God control of our lives, when really we are just using Him as a puppet. We imagine Him directing us wherever it is we already wanted to go. When the narrow way becomes too steep, we find another “narrow way” that is more to our liking. We try to make our path just difficult enough to make us feel like we’re following God and yet not so difficult that we actually have to break a sweat. This is counterfeit obedience. It may look good on the surface, but it has no real spiritual value.

True obedience is about submitting to the pleasant and the unpleasant. It’s about denying self, taking up our cross, and following Christ (Matt 9:23). It requires sacrifice and self-discipline. We must daily echo Jesus’ prayer in Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). And we have to do more than pray it, we have to live it.

The sad thing about this passage from Jeremiah is that it was little more than lip-service. “But as soon as Jeremiah, whom the LORD their God had sent, had finished telling all the people all the words of the LORD their God—that is, all these words—Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Karea, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie!’…” (Jer 43:1-2).

Why did these men not believe the words of Jeremiah? Did they have reasonable grounds to question the legitimacy of his message? Were his words somehow in conflict with other revelation from God? No. They were only in conflict with these men’s hearts. These words were unpleasant. And instead of softening their hearts and submitting to God’s will, they opted for counterfeit obedience. “Surely, God is not telling us to do that!   We all know this is what He really wants, right?”

How will you react to God’s message? Whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, will you listen to His voice? Will you submit to His will? Will you let Him be in control?

-Grady

 


“Readiness of Mind”

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

After the apostle Paul departed from the city of Thessalonica, he left behind a few believers, but the Jews in general had closed their minds to the message that “Jesus is the Christ.” These Jews had access in their synagogue to scrolls of Old Testament scriptures. Paul preached from these scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth died for their sins and arose from the dead to prove He is the Messiah the prophets of their nation had anticipated for centuries. Although a few men of that city believed, a host of rabble rousers closed their minds, refused to countenance such an idea, stirred up persecution against the saints, and forced the apostle to “get out of town” late one night (see Acts 17:1-9).

Paul made his way some 50 miles down the road to the city of Berea. Again, as was his custom, Paul entered a synagogue of the Jews and began the same process over—alleging and demonstrating from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The apostle found among these Jews open and receptive hearts—men who honestly and eagerly examined the scriptures Paul read in their midst. Luke tells us that these men of Berea not only received Paul’s teaching, but they daily examined the scriptures to determine “whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

When Luke commends the nobility of these Bereans, he made specific note not only of their study habits but also their “readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). This attitude was prerequisite and fundamental to their willingness to examine and study the scriptures daily. The word “readiness” combines a preposition “before” and the word “mind” to describe the mindset of the Bereans before their study of the scriptures even began. The “mind” is essential to man’s examination or study of the scriptures, but its “before” condition determines whether that study ever takes place. The mind, as the Greek word suggests, must be “ready.”

The minds of the Jews at Berea, as Jews everywhere, were conditioned by scripture to anticipate at some point in their history the arrival of a Messiah—an anointed savior. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since the first prophecies of the coming Messiah and many Jews had become lethargic and indifferent about its prospects. Others were so misinformed that Jesus didn’t fit the pattern of their thinking and was dismissed as perverse and false.

The Bereans, however, were different. They were both excited about the claim and the scriptures that proved it. When Paul unrolled the scrolls of the Old Testament writings and announced Jesus as the Messiah, their minds were “ready,” “eager,” and “prepared” to examine the prophecies and Paul’s application of them to Jesus.

Would it not be wonderful today if every one of us who claim to be Christians was this eager to grow in Bible knowledge and Christ-like character? If we were, we would daily open our Bibles, examine verses and chapters, and answer a few simple questions that are designed to prepare our hearts for Sunday and Wednesday Bible studies and our lives for eager service in God’s kingdom.

Think, brethren, how much each of us would grow in wisdom and stature with God; think of the knowledge and strength we would gain in preparation for living in an ungodly world of sin; think of the deepened faith we would have in God and in His word; think of the love and care we would begin to show one another; and think of the zeal and enthusiasm we would have to teach sinners.

When Bereans had this kind of mind, God called them “noble”—a word that means of “high rank.” That’s who we’d be in God’s kingdom. Not only an “elect race,” a “holy nation,” a “royal priesthood,” but also “noble citizens” ranking high in the mind of God. How special would that be, brethren?

-L. A.

 


The Devil’s Deal

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Satan desires to have all men the way he desired to have Peter (Luke 22:31). Relentlessly, he seeks to gain advantage over men through the employment of devious and persuasive devices (2 Cor 2:11). That some don’t care and others don’t take him seriously only makes his work of destroying souls easier. Peter calls him our adversary, who, “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). Not that he looks or sounds like the lion, but that he seeks his prey as the hungry lion, even when appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). It matters little to Satan that most of his followers deny being identified with his kingdom. Why should he care about those who deny voting for him so long as he carries the election? Men serve Satan as they serve sin, claims to the contrary not withstanding! As John puts it, “he who sins is of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

But even worse than Satan’s seeking a place in man is that man will give it! When Paul says “nor give place to the devil” (Eph 4:27), he implies man’s ability to resist. James says plainly, “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). This means that no man has to serve Satan; that every man as a free moral agent can choose his master. It means that the only place Satan can have in man is that which man gives him! Such bespeaks of a potential and power for which every man should be thankful. Satan’s power is limited. With God’s help we can resist; we can endure (1 Cor 10:13), therefore we must. The devil ever seeks a place in man, but thanks be to God, he cannot take it!

Not only can the devil be given a place in man, his given place becomes a growing place. Sin begets sin. The attitude that permits one will permit yet others, and with increasing ease. Recall David’s lustful looking upon Bathsheba and how it led to adultery, lying, and finally murder. In every sin lies the germ of a hundred more. And with each successive sin comes a degree of hardening (Heb 3:13); a gradual dulling of the spiritual senses that soon numbs the violated conscience. Once given a place, the devil is hard to displace and soon expands his base of operations. That’s why he needs resisting — and early!

In addition to being a given and growing place, the devil’s place is also a distracting place. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (11:3). Simplicity here is singleness and sincerity as opposed to double or divided. Satan would divide and distract our minds from Christ — perhaps with cares; perhaps with riches and pleasures, or in other ways, just so long as it is occupied with earthly things and not spiritual (Col 3:2). Mark it well: whatever distracts us from Christ; whatever hinders our doing His will or encourages not doing it is of the devil! His deal is simple: give him a place in you now and he’ll give you a place with him in eternity (Matthew 25.41).

-Dan S. Shipley

 


Evangelism Report – January 2015

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

The sun rose this morning because God still wants someone to be saved. And as long as the sun continues to rise, this is our main goal as laborers in the Lord’s vineyard—to save lost souls and help them get to heaven one day. If we care about these souls as God does, evangelism is always going to be at the forefront of our minds. Let it never be said that a soul perished eternally because we were negligent in sharing the gospel with them.

Over the past 28 sunrises we have continued to make progress in our efforts to sow the seed of the gospel in our community. We have restarted our community Bible studies being advertised on meetup.com. Only two of the three studies for this month have been conducted so far (the 3rd study will be led by L. A. tomorrow night in Fenton at 7pm on the book of Acts).   Just in these two studies we already had one new visitor which led to a personal Bible study. We continue to have some returning visitors as well.

Our online membership on the STL Bible Study group has increased from 32 to 34 this past month. Some of these new members have already RSVPed for future studies and we expect to meet them soon. Please consider joining one of these three monthly studies yourself and feel free to bring a friend. You don’t have to sign up online to attend. The meetup website is just one avenue we can use to advertise these studies. Feel free to direct any questions about these efforts to Scott Bale or myself.

I would also like to mention again the Sunday afternoon service we conduct at the Lakeview Park retirement home every 4th Sunday of the month at 2pm. This is the facility where Anna Barton lives, who has just recently been added to our shut-ins list. I have been teaching through some personal evangelism charts over the past few months and we have many regulars in attendance. Our hope is that in time this teaching may lead to further personal studies with some of the residents.

Anyone who would like to join this service is welcome (although it’s possible some would have to stand due to limited seating). It would be an encouragement for Ms. Anna to see you, as well as an opportunity for you to reach out to some of the other residents. We usually sing 3 or 4 songs, have an opening and closing prayer, and a 10 –20 minute lesson. Any men who would like to help lead are welcome to as well.

Another effort on the horizon is a revamping of our tract rack. While the short attention span of modern generations has made 15-20 page tracts all but obsolete, there is still a use for quality concise Bible teaching in this form. Hopefully these new resources can be an effective tool for some in reaching out to their friends and neighbors with the gospel. If there are any topics you feel would be particularly helpful, please let me or one of the elders know. We’re still in the process of selecting tracts to purchase.

While most of our efforts are in the sowing and watering stages, we have recently seen some fruit in the Lord’s vineyard. Yesterday afternoon Jeff Harms committed his life to the Lord and had his sins washed away in baptism.   The gospel has been at work in his heart for some time through the influence his family and many of the brethren here at Kirkwood. Let us all give God thanks and praise for what His grace has done in Jeff’s heart and do our part in encouraging him in this new life he is living.

Many of our young people are reaching the age where they are thinking more seriously about the condition of their souls. Let us not neglect to do our part in reaching out to the lost whether they be within or without our assembly.

-Grady

 


Worship “In Spirit”

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman focused on the elements of true worship (John 4:19-26). In it Jesus made clear that the geographical “place” of worship, whether in Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim, was unimportant. He did stress, however, that “true worshippers” will worship “God,” and they will worship him in “spirit” and “truth.” “God,” he notes, is the object of worship and “him only shalt thou serve” (Matt 4:10); “truth” denotes the content of worship—for “in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt 15:8); and “spirit” describes the character of the worshipper. But what exactly does “in spirit” mean?

It refers, first of all, to the nature of man. God, Jesus says, is a Spirit and man, Moses says, is made in image of God (John 4:24; Gen 1:26). Spirits do not have flesh and bones, so the likeness of man to God is not the body (see Luke 24:39). But man in addition to a body has a spirit or soul and that explains his likeness to God (see Matt 10:32; James 2:26).

Man’s worship of God “in spirit,” thus, emanates as an expression of the inward man (see 2 Cor 4:16; Eph 3:16). It is this “spirit” of worship that is described by the biblical words translated “worship” in the New Testament: sebomai, proskuneo, and latreuo.

Sebo or sebomai means “to revere” and denotes piety, godliness, and devoutness. These terms describe the awe and adoration that must fill a man’s soul when he genuinely addresses God in worship. Proskuneo or proskunetes actually means “to kiss the hand (toward) one, in token of reverence” as a spirit-filled expression of honor and devotion and obeisance. Latreuo, which means “to serve” or “to render religious service,” is to be a “spiritual” or “reasonable” service—one that comes from “reason,” the “mind,” or “heart” of man (see Rom 12:1).

Trees, animals, stars, the sun, the earth—all creation serves God’s will and displays his handiwork and design. But only man, of all earthly creation, can offer “heart-felt,” “spiritual” worship and service to God. Man’s unique likeness to God enables him and God requires him: (1) to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind; (2) to obey from the heart the form of doctrine to which he is delivered; (3) to sing and make melody in his heart; (4) to give as he purposes in his heart; (5) to discern in the heart the body and blood of the Lord; (6) to exercise the mind and senses to discern good and evil; etc. (see Matt 22:37; Rom 6:17; Eph 5:19; 2 Cor. 9:7; Rom 10:1; 1 Cor 11:26; Heb 5:13-14).

Jesus emphasized this in his strong indictments of Pharisaic hypocrisy. Pharisees prayed, gave alms, and fasted with great fanfare—but merely to be seen of men (see Matt 6:1-18). Jesus rebuked their heartless, formalistic worship and service in unmistakable words: This people honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:8).

Man is the crowning glory of God’s earthly creation and with it comes responsibility. Man must not act robotically or heartlessly. He is crafted distinctly by God as a rational, spiritual being who is to respond to God’s will out of a reverent heart toward God’s very person and being. Man is expected to know God, extol his worthiness, and worship Him. Man is required to know the truth, respect God’s teaching, and worship heartily.

But where must this worship be offered? In Mt. Gerizim as practiced by the Samaritans? At Jerusalem according to the ancient practice of the Jews? In a temple or cathedral? No! None of these. It must be “in spirit,” as Jesus told the Samaritan woman. Man must worship God in his heart, from the depth of his soul, out of the sanctuary of a holy spirit. Geographical location is immaterial when true worshippers from the depth of their being “offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).

-L. A.

 


Damaging Desires

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief” (Prov 14:12-13).

Do we really believe that God’s will is better for us than anything that is contrary to His will? Most of us would say yes, but the evidence suggests that we have a hard time cultivating an unconditional confidence that God’s way is best. We may give up certain things in order to do what is right, but we often make these sacrifices somewhat reluctantly, perhaps for no other reason than to keep from going to hell. Deep down, don’t we often feel that the thing we had to part with would have been a “better” fulfillment of our real desires, had God just allowed us to have it?

Perhaps the trouble is not that we have too little faith in God; it may just be that we have too much faith in ourselves. It’s an obvious fact that we live in an age that exalts the desires of the human heart, whatever they may be. Jeremiah’s prayer, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10:23), strikes us as quaint, if not primitive. We tend to view the doing of our “own thing” as wise, and even courageous.

When we reflect on the matter more deeply, however, what do our hearts tell us? If the honest truth be told, haven’t we each privately experienced the truth of the principle that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”? Wouldn’t it be wiser after all to have, with Jeremiah, a healthy distrust of our own ability to see what is lastingly good?

One of the profound tragedies of our present world is the persistence with which we pursue “fulfillments” that are bound to break our hearts. We find that many of our enjoyments leave a bitter, deadly aftertaste. Too often, our pleasure is followed by regret. But Solomon reached this conclusion long years ago: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Prov 10:22). It takes trust to believe that this is true, that God’s will is better, really better, than any alternative.

“A mother may understand that her little child would like to take a sparrow in its hand. She is careful to prevent that from happening, even though she is sure the child would be glad to have it… She knows a moment’s pleasure with the bird will bring great sadness later… She is guiding the child away from those pleasures which bring tears” (Guigo I).

-Gary Henry

 


A New Hope, A New Life

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).

This verse begins a doxology or declaration of praise that is the foundation for all Peter will say through v. 12. This is one long sentence in the Greek composed of a variety of subordinate clauses. A similar doxology can be found in Eph 1:3-14, beginning with the exact same phrase and employing similar sentence structure.

For what is Peter here calling us to praise God? The new birth He has given us. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is now our Father as well. This parentage imagery will be prevalent in much of what Peter is preparing to write (1:4, 14, 17, 23; 2:2).

We have been born unto a “living hope.” We were dead in our sins. Our flesh was doomed to decay. Yet, we have now been given a new birth and, with it, a new life that will outlast the grave. We now have hope of conquering death.

This hope is thriving and vibrant. Hopes and dreams of this life may fade or fail through the years. They will be realized and replaced, or disappointed and discarded. But the hope of everlasting life will never fade in the least from its original glory (v. 4). This hope will never die, but only grow more precious as the years go by.

It is only by God’s great mercy that this hope of new life was made possible. We never deserved a second chance. We had shown ourselves utterly unworthy of the first life God had given us. Instead of living out the purpose of our Creator, we gave ourselves over to a “futile way of life” (1:18).   We wasted our days under the sun on fruitless pursuits that held no eternal value. We deserved to be discarded as a failed invention, broken by our own free-will.

Yet, God didn’t look upon our brokenness with disdain, but with mercy. He saw us squirming helplessly in our blood and called to us, “Live!” (Ezek 16:6). He took us under His wing and tended to all our wounds. He restored the ruins of our past and mended the broken pieces back together.

Where His mercy made a second chance available, the power of Jesus’ resurrection makes success attainable. We aren’t back where we left off, set up to fail all over again. By God’s grace, we are now equipped for victory. This new life is not like the one we possessed before. It has the power to conquer sin and death. Our Savior has “rendered powerless him who had the power of death” that He might free us from the devil’s grasp (Heb 2:14-15).

We aren’t trekking our own path in this new life. We are following the footsteps of One that has paved the way to glory (Heb 2:10). And so just as He bore His cross on Calvary, we must daily take up the cross of self-denial (Luke 9:23). As His body was placed within the tomb, we must bury the old man of sin in the waters of baptism (Rom 6:4). And as He was raised in power and glory, we must live a transformed life, being a daily testament to God’s grace at work within us (1 Cor 15:10). When our task on earth is done, we can ascend to meet the Lord in the air, and spend an eternity in His presence (1 Thess 4:17).

The great mercy of the cross and the great power of the empty tomb are what give life to our hope. A hope driven by these forces cannot remain inanimate. It is not just a living hope because of what it holds for us in the future, but because of what it produces in us now. True hope doesn’t just sit back and wait. It must be active in our daily lives.

“And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1). If we hope to meet Jesus our Lord one day, we must be actively seeking Him now. We must set our minds on heaven, where He resides (Col 3:1-4). We must be diligent to develop a character that will not be out of place in a “new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:11-13). We must live out our hope each day in true praise to the Father who gave it.

-Grady

 


Unequally Yoked

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Jehovah, in His covenant with Israel, strictly ordered them to avoid joining, blending, and mixing things that are different (see Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9-11). God forbade yoking an ox with a donkey, weaving flax and wool into the same cloth, and sowing two kinds of seed in the same field. We may not know fully why God issued these laws, but most agree that, in part, it illustrated the need to keep the nation holy—separate from heathens and their unholy practices.

The apostle Paul may allude to this ordinance when writing to brethren who had been known for their unholy alliances with idolatry and immoral practices. To the church at Corinth in his second letter, the apostle wrote: “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14).

Paul clarifies his thought with a series of questions: “For what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light and darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has a temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor 6:14-16). Christians, Paul is saying, are to separate themselves from the world of sin and touch no unclean thing (2 Cor 6:17).

The expression “unequally yoked” is one word in the Greek language and combines the words “different” and “yoke.” Its precise meaning denotes the tying or binding together of dissimilar things. This occurs when righteousness participates with iniquity, light shares things in common with darkness, and believers engage in the lifestyle of unbelievers. An unequal yoke results when Christians compromise with sin and partake in evil deeds.

Business. This occurs when Christians become partners with non-Christians in business and operate with them on dishonest principles. The “yoke” is not unequal and the partnership is not wrong unless the bond ties the believer to an unclean practice of the unbeliever.

Marriage. Unequal yokes develop in marriages when believers bound to unbelievers join their mates in unrighteous behavior. The Christian may sign a deceitful income tax return, drink a few beers at a New Year’s Eve party, engage in a night of dancing with friends, or don immodest apparel for a beach party. The “yoke” of marriage is not of itself unequal—for marriage is sacred, joined by God, and each is sanctified in the other (see 1 Cor 7:14).

Denominationalism. A disciple may for a legitimate reason choose to visit services of a religious group that teaches and practices false doctrine. Even Paul attended the synagogues. And when invited the person, as I have done, might speak the truth. This Paul did. But to blend our voices in unscriptural singing or to contribute money to support false teachers and unauthorized practices is to yoke oneself unequally by endorsing and having fellowship with sin. To give them greeting in bidding them Godspeed is to share in their evil deeds (see (2 John 10-11).

Friends. “Friends of the world” is not equivalent to “friendship of the world” (see James 4:4). Paul accepts association or company with fornicators, covetous, idolaters, etc. that are of the world (1 Cor 5:9-10). But to engage with them in their sins is friendship with the world itself and it creates “enmity with God” (James 4:4). Evil companions can corrupt good morals and when they do our company with them has become an unequal yoke and must cease. Both young and old need to be reminded not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of scoffers (see Psa 1:1).

Christians are in the midst of the world to let their lights shine before the world of ungodly and wicked men. They are to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul and are to be seen as lights in a crooked and perverse age (Matt 5:16; 1 Pet 2:11; Phil 2:15). And we cannot do this when we yoke ourselves unequally to the world in perverse practices.

-L. A.

 


One Thing Christians Should Not Stop Saying

Posted: January 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Recently, an article has been circulating entitled “One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying.”   The author advocates that we should stop saying we are “blessed,” at least in reference to any type of material prosperity. He writes:

“When I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers.”

If we are going to talk about being blessed, he suggests we rather focus on the spiritual blessings of hope, love, and peace. We should reserve the word “blessed” for talking about our relationship with God, not our physical possessions.

Certainly, we need to be wary of the “health and wealth gospel”. We need to recognize that God doesn’t simply hand out fame and fortune as positive reinforcement for good behavior. Yes, even the poor and suffering can say they are blessed (Matt 5:3-12). But should we really stop saying our physical provisions are a blessing? I’m afraid this may be taking it too far.

The scriptures tell us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father lights…” (James 1:17). Should we not give God credit for any and every good thing we receive here on earth? If we can pray to God for physical provision (Matt 6:11), can we not thank Him when He grants it to us? Somebody should have told Moses that being “blessed” doesn’t apply to physical prosperity (Deut 28:1-14).

No, Christians should not stop saying we are blessed. We should not cease to call any good gift experienced here on earth a blessing. We should give God thanks and praise for all good things and even express that gratitude in our conversation with others.

What we should be careful about, however, is assuming these blessings indicate divine approval. Jesus clearly tells us that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). Just because I’m in some way blessed by God, does not mean I’m necessarily living a life that is pleasing to God. Nor does suffering or misfortune mean we are displeasing to Him. This was the error of Job’s friends. Yet Job was suffering because he was upright, not in spite of it.

And so whether in prosperity or persecution, we cannot assume God’s approval or disapproval of us. Yet, whatever our circumstances, we can always say we are blessed. We can always give thanks and praise to the Giver of every good gift.

-Grady