Idlewild church of Christ
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20
Why Do "Churches of Christ" Differ so Widely?
by Sewell Hall
A sign reading "Church of Christ" in front of a building tells you very little these days. Most any doctrine or practice may be found inside. This is frustrating to many people.
Outsiders make fun of the situation, saying, "You preach unity but you are the most divided people we know." They may add, "This just proves you are not the true church." This last statement shows a total misunderstanding of what the true church is, but it is a misunderstanding shared by far too many "members of the church."
How Can We Explain It?
First, many churches that claim to be churches of Christ are not "of Christ" at all. Any church can claim that designation, but only one that truly recognizes Christ as its head is justified in using it. There is no denominational accrediting board that can certify a church as a true church of Christ — the Lord Himself is the judge of that.
In addition, there are churches, claiming to be churches of Christ, that intend to follow Jesus but have widely differing ideas of what that involves. Some, like the Sadducees, "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Mt 22:29). Others know the scriptures but construe them loosely, rejecting only those things that are forbidden. Still others believe that only those things clearly authorized are to be practiced; but even among these there may be differences as to what is authorized. When such congregations are truly autonomous, it is inevitable that there will be noticeable differences.
Such Differences Are Not New
Differences existed among churches established by the apostles even while the New Testament was still being written. The "seven churches of Asia" (Revelation 2 and 3) provide good examples.
A visitor in Ephesus would have found an old established church that was doing everything right but with a lack of love (Rev 2:4). Moving on to Smyrna, he would find a rather poor little group that had a bad reputation among the Jews in town (Rev 2:9). Visiting the church in Pergamum, he might well hear a teacher defending idolatry, approving the eating of meat sacrificed to them (Rev 2:14). And if that was not shocking enough, going on to Thyatira he might meet a woman in the church who claimed to be a prophetess and was actually teaching and seducing the men to commit fornication (Rev 2:20).
If the traveler expressed concern about what he had found thus far, he might well be told that he would find things better in Sardis where there was a church widely known as a really lively church. But on arriving there, he would be disappointed to find that, as far as doing what God wanted them to do, they really were dead (Rev 3:1-2). Moving on to Philadelphia, he would find a church made up of good people, but relatively small and with "little strength" (Rev 3:8). Finally, in Laodicea, visiting the church he might be met by greeters at the door offering him a brochure and telling him how rich and self-sufficient the church was; but on closer inspection he would find that they really were spiritually "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (Rev 3:17). At least, that's what the Lord found.
Were all of these churches right because they would claim to be "of Christ"? No! Two of them were threatened with total rejection by the Lord (Rev 2:5; 3:16) and three others were warned of dire consequences if they did not repent. Did the remaining congregations comprise the "one true church?" NO! The one true church is not composed of congregations but of faithful individuals saved by the Lord (Acts 2:47). In spite of the false teaching and immorality in some of the churches there were still some who had "not defiled their garments." The faithful remnant in these and other churches made up — and make up — the "one true church."
What All Churches Must Do
In John's epistles, written about the same time, we see echoes of the same problems. He speaks of those who questioned both the divinity and humanity of Jesus (doctrine of the Nicolaitans?); of those claiming they could sin without guilt and of some who hated their brethren. There had even been divisions which John explains by saying, "They went out from us because they were not of us" (1 Jn 2:19).
John stated the solution. Approximately ten times in 1 and 2 John he speaks of "the beginning." Most often that expression seems to refer to the beginning of the church on Pentecost under the direction of the apostles of Jesus (see 1 Jn 2:24). After warning of false teachers (1 Jn 4:21) he provides the standard by which they are to be tested. As an apostle he writes: "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 Jn 4:6).
We cannot be responsible for every church in the world that calls itself a church of Christ. Our responsibility as congregations is to o back to be the church as it was in "the beginning" and to the apostles doctrine in which that church continued steadfastly (Acts 2:42). As individuals we must make sure that we are a part of the faithful remnant that makes up the "one true church."
- - Biblical Insights, February 2012
“The Church Failed Me”
A handful of times in my experience, I have heard someone blame the church for the weakness or moral failings either of themselves or of family members. “I took my child to Bible classes all those years and now they’re not faithful to the Lord.” Or, “Brother so-and-so was a member of this church for years and then one day he left his wife for another woman.” Or sometimes I have heard Christians blame the church for what seems to be their overall discontentment. “I was going through hard times and no one from the church helped me” (which often is not true, but is an exaggeration).
First please allow me to say that it is tragic when Christians do not provide each other with the support and help that they should. The Bible is clear that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6.2), weep with those who weep (Rom 12.15), and show sympathy to our brethren who are going through hard times (Heb 10.34). The Lord in His wisdom put us together in local churches so that we would not have to stand and fight against the world alone. We are together for our mutual strength and encouragement. I am sure that there have been times when a local church, as a group, did not rise to an opportunity. Sometimes we let people “fall through the cracks,” and that is not a good thing at all. There is no excuse for it.
But there is another side to this. First, I think it is unhealthy to view the local church primarily in terms of “me.” I am sure that this is a reflection of the culture in which we live. “Me first” is the motto of our age. We have been trained by the world around us to think first of self. “What am I going to get out of this?” “How will this benefit me?” “This isn’t going to cost me anything, is it?” These are often the first questions that cross our minds when faced with a decision. Have we allowed this thinking to affect our relationship with the Lord’s church? I fear that it is not uncommon in places where there are several congregations within a short distance of each other for Christians to choose the congregation at which they will worship (or sometimes, whether they will join themselves to a local church at all) based on what “I” want. “I want Bible classes for my kids.” “I want the preaching to be good” (whatever that means). “I want a lot of social interaction – potlucks, picnics, get-togethers for the young people,” etc. “And if a church lacks one or even all of these things, I’ll go find another one.” I’m not saying that all Christians are like this, nor even that most Christians are like this. But a few are, and these are the ones who, in my experience, classically blame the church for whatever is not right in their lives.
But if you’re going to evaluate the suitability of a local church based first on the criteria of “me,” then you will not likely be happy anywhere. No local congregation is likely to have everything, and do everything, that “I” want. The satisfaction of “me” is a hole that can never be filled, a thirst that can never be quenched. Besides, Paul said that this is not the way a Christian ought to think. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2.3f).
Secondly, I fear that those who blame the church for their problems may have bought into a very worldly view of the church. We hear it all the time from unbelievers – “you people in the church are hypocrites.” “You don’t really love everyone.” “You don’t do for anything for the community.” “You have a guy in your church who hasn’t paid his taxes.” In other words, the charge is the church is not perfect, but it ought to be. They suppose that the church is made up of sinless people (“saints” in the secular sense of that term), and when they see imperfections in the church they cry out as if some great injustice is being done.
That’s the way – I fear – that some Christians think of the church. “My brethren ought to be perfect, and when they are not, I’m either going to leave or I’m going to complain about it loudly.”
But I have some news. The church is not perfect. I doubt if it ever has been. I am suspicious that there has ever existed a local church that was completely pleasing to the Lord in every possible way, with no room for improvement.
The fact is that the church is made up of imperfect people. Sometimes they say things that they shouldn’t. Sometimes they do things that they shouldn’t. Sometimes they fail to do what they should do. Sometimes they want to help, but they don’t know how, or they lack the skills or resources to accomplish it. Sometimes they don’t know what to say. Sometimes they try to help, but they botch it. Sometimes they allow their emotions too much room. Sometimes they are not as spiritually mature as they could be or perhaps even should be. Every Christian is in a process of growth and maturation. Not all of them are spiritual giants or perfect spiritual mentors. The fact is that the church is made up of people who have all the same kinds of limitations and struggle with the same kinds of flaws as everyone else (and yes, that includes the local preacher and the elders).
The church is made up of the people who have decided to follow Jesus. The gospel is the rule of life they have pledged to follow. But the great majority of them come into the church with all kinds of baggage from the world, and it takes a long time for most people to let go of it. Repentance is not just an event, it is more like a process. We are, day by day, putting off more of the old man of sin and putting on more of Jesus Christ (Eph 4.22-24). Does this mean that we should be content with spiritual immaturity? Not at all. Does this mean that Christians do not need to try to grow, that improvement is not expected out of each one of us? Of course not. Does it mean that our failures to act and speak like Christians, especially with each other, are acceptable? Not really.
Christians are committed to Jesus. Our goal is to be more and more like Him all the time, every day. We are pushing on, growing, and improving. Whether I am doing that according to my own abilities and opportunities, the Lord will judge. In the mean time, I try. The difference between me and the unbeliever is not that I am perfect and he is not. The difference between us (I hope) is that I am committed to becoming more Christ-like every day. I am dedicated to improving myself after the pattern of Jesus, because I trust that His way is the right way. That does not make me perfect, but it makes me a Christian.
The conclusion is that I need to cut the church some slack before I blame it for failing me. My fellow-Christians are, after all, just as weak and beset with problems as I am. They are not perfect, just as I am not perfect. They can, and will, help me when I need it, but I know in the end that their help will only go so far, they can only do so much. And that’s okay. “My strength comes from the Lord” (Psa 118.14). He will never disappoint me. What I get from my brethren is “frosting on the cake.”
By Craig Bradley
In Acts chapter eight we read the story of an Ethiopian eunuch returning home after going to Jerusalem to worship. The Spirit of the Lord told Philip to go down the same road where the Ethiopian was traveling. Then when Philip saw the Ethiopian’s chariot the Spirit instructed him to go and overtake it. As the story unfolded, Philip realized that the Ethiopian was reading from the prophet Isaiah and engaged him in conversation. The end result was that Philip taught him about Jesus and he obeyed the gospel. Clearly this was the Spirit’s intent, and surely Philip recognized it as such. Yet why, with all of the Spirit’s involvement, didn’t He just directly tell the Ethiopian about Jesus? Why involve Philip at all?
As Saul of Tarsus neared Damascus in Acts chapter nine Jesus appeared to him on the road and engaged him in a brief conversation. The incident arrested Saul’s attention and he asked the Lord, “What do you want me to do?”
Jesus commanded him to continue into Damascus and there he would be told what he must do. As we read the account, we see that Jesus was not saying wait and I will tell you later. Jesus didn’t appear to him after he entered Damascus. Rather, after three days Jesus sent Ananias to tell Saul what to do. An obvious question here is, why didn’t Jesus just tell him what to do on the road, or why didn’t He appear to him a second time and tell him Himself? Why send Ananias to tell him?
In the very next chapter of Acts we read about Cornelius. Chapter ten tells us that Cornelius was a spiritually minded man who feared God, was generous to the poor, and prayed always. One day while he is praying, an angel of God appeared to him and told him to send for Peter who would tell him what he must do. Verses 13-14 of chapter eleven tell us that the angel told Cornelius that Peter would tell him words by which he would be saved. Again, we are left with a question. Why didn’t the angel just tell Cornelius what he needed to do in order to be saved? Why go through all the trouble of sending for and convincing Peter to go into a Gentile’s house?
Here are three chapters in a row, three examples in a row in which God is clearly directing events leading to the salvation of two men and an entire household. In the first, the Spirit directed Philip, in the second Jesus Himself appeared to Saul, and in the third God sent an angel to Cornelius.
Yet, in all three instances it is a man that told them what they must do. Why?
There might be a number of answers to that question. The most obvious is that God was directing his servants to teach individuals that they might never have approached otherwise. Philip was told to go teach a man who was excluded from the common fellowship of God’s people. Ananias was told to go teach an enemy of the gospel. Peter was told to go teach a Gentile whom the Jews regarded as an enemy, a dog, and nothing more than kindling for the fires of hell. Yet, God’s desire is to save all men. What better way to demonstrate the gospel is for all than to personally direct his disciples to teach these men?
However, there is another reason God sent men rather than directly revealing His will to the Ethiopian, Paul, and Cornelius. It is that Christianity is a taught religion. It is not God’s will that we be born into the covenant as the Israelites were. It is not a religion that we inherit from our parents. And it is not a religion that comes from a vision, sign, dream, or any personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God has committed His truth to men and women to teach the world. As Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 4:7, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.”
Consider the commission Jesus left the apostles before He ascended to heaven:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:18-20.
Consider also how the gospel was spread:
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” – Acts 2:42
“Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” – Acts 5:25
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” – Acts 5:42
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” – Acts 8:4
“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” – Acts 28:30-31
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” – Colossians 1:28-29
Maybe most importantly, God wanted us to be involved in His work. When the writer of Hebrews chastised the Hebrew Christians for becoming dull of hearing, he made it clear that they should have become teachers by the time of his writing (Heb. 5:12). He was not talking about teaching a Sunday school class; he was talking about being teachers of others in the world. He is making it very clear what God expects of us. Jesus said that His disciples are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Light shows the way. It reveals the path to God and eternal life. It does this by teaching God’s truth to others. It is God’s plan to do that through us. One of the most important things we can do in our assemblies is to prepare ourselves to teach others.
Remember Paul’s words? “How will they hear without a preacher?”
Seven Reasons Why Christians Do Not Get the Most Out of Bible Study
Bible study is foundational for our spiritual health. Unfortunately,too many Christians are either satisfied with a surface knowledge of scripture or think that since they have discovered the correct doctrinal positions on key issues they have arrived. This is hurtful to the individual and to the cause of Christ. As disciples of Christ we need to trust that whatever God revealed, he intended for us to know. When God revealed Isaiah, Zechariah, and Chronicles, he expected us to diligently seek to understand these books. We cannot be content with mainly “scriptural facts” lest we miss out on the beauty of the mind of God. Paul said that the Holy Spirit had revealed “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). Before marrying, couples spend hours upon hours talking, asking questions, and learning about one another. Women especially want to know what is really going on in their husband’s mind. It should be our overriding passion to be with the Lord. So, do we truly know him? Are we excited to discover all we can about our spiritual husband? And if we are not searching the deep things of his mind and learning how wonderful he is, how will we motivate those around us to also pursue the Lord? Bible study, like marriage was designed to be enjoyed. If we are not enjoying it, we are just not doing it right. It is evident that most Christians would love to know God and his word more thoroughly. So what is the problem? Below are seven typical mistakes Christians make that keep them from a more enjoyable Bible study experience.
1. Not investing the appropriate amount of time into study. The purpose of study is to draw closer to God and develop an intimate, meaningful relationship with him. “Knowledge” is a means to the goal, but knowledge itself is not the goal. Christians are too often studying as if they are “cramming” for a test. What is our problem? We are too busy. Am I right? Christians at the very least should be scheduling two hours per week of uninterrupted, in-depth study, besides daily Bible reading. After all, without God’s word we will starve to death.
2. Just reading. I’ve known people who boasted about how many times they have read through the Bible. Of course, we never want to discourage reading the Bible, but as one person said, “It is not how many times you have gone through the Bible that is important, but how many times the Bible has gone through you.” Further, when we are “just reading” it is too easy to forget what we have read. The pencil is one of the best eyes we have. Joseph Gettys said, “You should stress to all of your pupils the importance of working on paper, for what is written on paper releases the mind to fasten its attention on something more” (Teaching Pupils How to Study the Bible). Keep a journal next to your Bible and write down your discoveries. Use colored pencils to mark the text – underline, circle, and shade what you find interesting. If you don’t want to mark in your Bible, at least print the text from your computer leaving a margin to make notes.
3. Not looking for the message of the text or understanding how the original recipients heard the message. When the prophets, Jesus, or the apostles are speaking to Jews, are you “thinking Jewish?” When the first words uttered by John the Baptist were, “The one who comes after me…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” our first thought should be, “What did first century Jews know about the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament, and therefore how were they hearing John?” Until we know what the original hearer understood, we cannot draw conclusions or make applications.
4. Not getting the big picture. Could you summarize the message of Ephesians in a sentence? How about Philippians or the gospel John? Christians typically focus on the details of a text without having a grasp of the bigger message. In other words, when the Galatians received their letter from Paul, did they begin a 13-week detailed exposition of the letter? Or did they first just read the letter? A study of any book of the Bible should always begin with a quick reading while jotting down brief observations that help you discover the author’s reason for writing. By getting a feel of the road you are about to travel, you will be more likely to keep your discoveries in context and find the Holy Spirit’s method of revelation.
5. Being enamored with justifying doctrinal positions. Christians who study primarily to prove themselves right or prove others wrong will invariably draw erroneous conclusions and take passages out of context. Our first objective must be to know what God is actually revealing. The word is a sharp sword designed to “penetrate the thoughts and intents of our heart” (Heb.4:12). If my study does not first draw blood on me, I have not studied properly.
6. Quickly fleeing to a commentary to learn about a text instead of enjoying and meditating on the text itself. Again, we must remember our goal. We study God’s word in order to get to know God, not just to know facts. God’s mind is enjoyable; it feeds our soul and delights our heart. Commentaries are typically cold and surgical and can hinder our own abilities to discover. Commentaries are good if used as you would a friend off whom you bounce your conclusions.
7. Neglecting parts of the Bible that seem to be too difficult to understand. For most people, the Old Testament, and especially the prophets, is the main area of neglect. Paul’s reminder to Timothy is helpful when he says, “How that from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise
for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Old Testament is the key to understanding Jesus. It also gives us a clear description of God’s purpose for his people and the character of the Messiah’s disciples.
Enjoying Bible study and using our study time effectively is imperative. If we do not study efficiently so that God stirs our soul, we will not enjoy our study. And if we do not enjoy our study, we will likely stop studying and growing closer to the Lord.
How Jesus Reasoned from the Scriptures – Necessary Implication
For the last few months I have been thinking with you about the way Jesus reasoned from the Scriptures and applied them to the situations and questions He and His disciples faced. So far we have seen that Jesus drew upon the direct commands found in Scripture (Matthew 22:34-40), and that He looked to the divinely approved precedents recorded in Scripture (Matthew 12:1-8). In this article, I want to look at an argument Jesus made from a truth necessarily implied by the Scripture. But first I want to say a bit about the idea of
A truth that is implied is one that is not explicitly stated, but rather is suggested by other truths and logically follows from them. When I was a kid I often heard preachers talk about “necessary inference.” My old hermeneutics professor (Almon Williams) would want me to point out that technically, God implies and we infer. All this means is that there are some truths that are not spelled out in the Bible, but that we are forced to conclude must be the case because of the relationship between other explicitly stated truths. A good example of a crucial doctrine that is necessarily implied but not explicitly stated is the trinity. The Bible teaches that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), and it also teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:4-6). From these two sets of propositions one is forced to conclude that there is one God in three persons. Now let’s take a look at an argument that Jesus made involving this sort of deductive reasoning.
In Matthew 22:23-33, the Sadducees confronted Jesus during His final day of teaching publicly in the temple. The Sadducees were the aristocratic, priestly party of the Jews. Unlike their Pharisaic counterparts, they did not embrace all of the Old Testament as God’s word, only the Law. As a result of this, since the most explicit statements about the resurrection of the dead are in prophetic books like Isaiah and Daniel, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection (again, in contrast to the Pharisees – see Acts 23:8). Apparently the Sadducees believed that Jesus’ teaching regarding the resurrection of the dead provided a weakness they could exploit, and so they presented Jesus with a situation that would seem absurd on its face in view of the concept of a bodily resurrection. The situation (which they claim was not hypothetical but actual – “there were seven brothers among us” – v. 25) involved a woman who was married to a man who died without having any children (and thus jeopardizing the family line). In keeping with the law found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, his next brother in line married her, but also died. This happened five more times, seven brothers for one woman, until she also died. After laying out this scenario, they posed this question to Jesus: “In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be?” (v. 28). Jesus was not stymied by this question in the least, and responded to it in two moves. “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (v. 29). For His first move, Jesus explained how they lacked knowledge of God’s power. “For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (v. 30). The Sadducees were assuming that the future life in the resurrection state would be exactly like life as it is here. This is a great illustration of drawing an inference that isn’t necessary! But God’s power is not limited to what we can observe in this life. He can transform the dead into a new mode of existence, comparable to the angels (“for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels” – Luke 20:36). And since there will not be death in the resurrection state, the> need for procreation to continue a family line (much less a provision like the levirate law in Deuteronomy) will no longer apply.
For His second move, Jesus exposed their ignorance of the Scriptures by drawing on a passage from the Law which the Sadducees would have accepted as God’s word. “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” (v. 32). The passage Jesus presented was Exodus 3:6, part of the dialogue between God and Moses at the burning bush. This took place many centuries after the passing of the three great patriarchs. Jesus then combined this passage with a simple observation: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (v. 32). One commentator summarizes Jesus’ argument like this: Drawing on Exod 3:6, 15, he (1) notes that when God was speaking to Moses he was still the God of the long-dead patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; (2) infers the absurdity that God would broadcast a covenant relationship with persons whose existence had expired; (3) concludes that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must therefore still be alive; and (4) Deduces that, in relating the story about the bush, Moses himself attested resurrection-belief. (Joel Green, Luke, New International Commentary. p. 722)
Another commentator summarizes the argument like this: The phrase implies that God was the saviour of the patriarchs in accordance with his promises to them… But more is implied than this. On the one hand, there may be the thought that if God spared the patriarchs from danger during their life, he would not forsake them in the greater danger of death. On the other hand, the timing of the statement shows that God is still the God of the patriarchs after their death, and therefore they either must be still alive in some way and/or can confidently expect that he will raise them from the dead. (I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel
of Luke: a Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 742).
What an astonishingly brilliant argument! God is not the God of the dead but of the living. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not cease to exist at death but are alive to God, and await a resurrection from the dead to enjoy the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises.* This argument is a great example of the proper use of reasoning and deduction to draw out truths God has not explicitly but implicitly revealed.
Shane Scott [email protected]
*Someone might counter that a bodily resurrection is not necessarily implied by Exodus 3:6, only an afterlife of some kind. But it would have been completely foreign to the Old Testament view of creation to imagine a perpetual immaterial existence. Human beings were made to be in bodily form. Once Jesus demonstrated that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob survived death, that was the end of the chess match with the Sadducees. As N.T. Wright explains, “The patriarchs are still alive, and therefore, will be raised in the future. Prove the first, and (within the worldview assumed by both parties in the debate, and any listening Pharisee) you have proved the second” (The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 425).
BRIEF EXHORTATIONS FROM DAVID RIGGS
1. "We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord..." (2 Cor. 4:5)
Two guest speakers were asked to speak to a student body regarding Abraham Lincoln. After the first speech, the unanimous consensus of the student body was, "Our speaker was a great speaker." After the second speech, the consensus was, "Abraham Lincoln was a great man." We ask, "Which one did his job?"
Let us not exalt or glorify ourselves in our preaching, but the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. "And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (Rom. 8:10)
A boy while flying a kite was so successful that the kite went out of sight. He stood in the field with a cord in his hand that bent upwards into the sky. Someone asked him how he knew the kite was there, and he let them put their hand on the string. They could feel the pull of the unseen kite. Similarly, although the world cannot visibly see Christ in us, they can recognize His invisible power in every phase of our lives. They are forced to admit that we, as Christians, have something which they do not possess.
Let us truly have Christ, the hope of glory, within us.
3. "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Tim. 4:8)
"Clarence Darrow was a great criminal lawyer, and probably the most famous attorney in the country at the peak of his career. He was also an opponent of Christianity and a defender of Darwin's theory of evolution. His most famous case was probably his defense of evolution in the Scopes trial held in Dayton, Tennessee, otherwise known as 'The Monkey Trial.' Mr. Darrow grew old, as all men invariably do, and, when he was 75, was quoted in the newspapers as saying: 'If I were a young man with my life ahead of me, I think I'd chuck it all, the way things are now. I certainly have no encouragement for young bloods that are just starting out looking for jobs. The sooner they jump out of windows, the sooner they will find peace.' Darrow had all the best as to an earthly career, but at the last decided that life was not worth living. He died with nothing to look forward to for himself, and with no word of encouragement for those who were following after him. Darwin and Darrow produce despair." (From Jere Frost)
Let us not follow Darrow or Darwin, but the beloved apostle Paul as he followed Christ.
4. "Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits." (1 Cor. 15:33)
Two men who were friends both purchased parrots for pets. It turned out that one of the parrots was accustomed to singing spiritual songs, while the other used many curse words. The owners thought if they would place the parrot which sang spiritual songs with the one that cursed, the bad habit would be corrected. It turned out in the end that the opposite happened. The good parrot began to also use curse words!
Often Christians think they can associate with wicked people and not be affected. Some even think they need to get involved with evil people so that they can convert them. To the contrary, one does not need to jump into quicksand in order to get someone out of quicksand.
Let us not be deceived. Evil companionships corrupts good morals.
5. "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24-25)
Some scholars think that Paul, in the above verse, was alluding to the barbaric practice of the Romans, and others before them, who strapped a dead body to a prisoner who was captured in battle. The dead body hindered the prisoner from escaping as he was marched off to captivity. Verse 24 can literally be translated, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this dead body?" Of course, Paul was making a spiritual application, and was asking, "Who will deliver me from the bondage of sin which shackles and condemns?"
Paul answers his own question in verse 25. Deliverance from the wretched, miserable state of sin comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the Redeemer, Savior, and Deliverer.
Let us thank God that we have deliverance and salvation through Christ.
What God Hears Every Day
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Trying to understand the nature of God is an effort of gargantuan measure and yet at the end of the day the hem of the garment has yet to be touched. Where does one begin to unravel the mystery of how completely overwhelming the presence of the Almighty is? Isaiah reminds us that we are mere dust in the presence of the Lord (40:15). What then can we imagine our Creator endures each day as He hears all the activities of man on the face of the earth?
The omniscience of God comes to His ears and with His eyes He declares His omnipresence. Every day people are murdered, raped, abused, starved, tortured, in peril, dying from disease or natural causes. Statistics are impossible to know the true number of human beings that are slaughtered on the altar of man’s inhumanity to man. And God hears every cry, every whimper of a hungry child, every moan of agony and every scream of fright that takes place every minute of every day on the face of the earth. The Lord hears every act of sin (Isaiah 37:17). One of the greatest acts of God’s mercy is that He does not destroy the world today for all the evil He hears.
Peter reminds us the Lord hears many other things. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12). In the midst of such evil as it prevails the character of man the bright hope of righteousness shines forth as the ear of God hears the glorious chorus of the saints who worship and praise Him. Nehemiah begged the Lord to let His ear be attentive to Nehemiah’s prayers (Nehemiah 1:11). The Lord heard the words of a man who delighted to fear the name of Jehovah and granted the request of Nehemiah. Paul and Silas were in a Roman prison “praying and singing hymns to God” and He basked in their melody of praise (Acts 16:25). When the eunuch of Ethiopia made the good confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37) the angels rejoiced with the Father to hear of another child born into the Kingdom.
Every day people do kind deeds, express graceful words, sing songs of joy to the Lord, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. God hears all these acts of man’s greatest humanity to man in loving their neighbor as themselves. What God hears every day will be determined by what we do every day. He ponders our lives in every detail and knows all that we say and do and think (Proverbs 5:21). The omnipotence of God will bring every word to His throne in the judgment day as He has heard every word we have said “including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
The ear of the Lord is not dull that it cannot hear: it hears everything! How many things He hears that saddens His heart yet how many of the righteous lift His spirits with their prayers, petitions, expressions of love, and praise to the one that gave His only begotten Son for man to hear the ring of redemption. What a great God we serve. How wonderful to be part of a covenant that enjoys the richness of the ear of God. May our hearts be filled with the sound of the word of God as He speaks to us by His grace.