“You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me?”

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"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME"

Robert Stapleton

 

A recent post on the social network Facebook by one who claims to be a preacher of the gospel, was brought to my attention. Some controversy had arisen between he and another preacher. The one whose post I am referring to argued his point with the use of profanity, calling the other preacher names that once used to cause parents to wash their children's mouths out with soap. When I was told this, I thought, "You've got to be kidding me?" But the sad truth is, the use of profanity has become common among those who profess to be Christians, even those who profess to be "gospel preachers." Recently, while speaking to a younger preacher, I was informed of "friends" of his who are also "preachers" who commonly speak in such "off color" ways that causes them to look more like people of the world than people belonging to the Lord (1 Peter 2:9). 

 

Imagine with me the Lord, sitting around with the disciples, leaning over and commenting with the use of crude, vulgar language about one thing or the other. Imagine, rather than His language having been "seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6), it was very much like the language of the common man who cared little or nothing for his speech. You say, "I can't imagine that." Exactly! So how can we imagine our doing something such as this given the fact that we profess to be "Christians"? Do we remember what the word "Christian" means? Does it not have reference to our being "Christ like"? When I hear things like this my thoughts go to a consideration of the common use of such language by those who should know better. It seems to me that anyone who would so casually throw around such words as those under consideration must be used to using them on a regular basis.

 

Think of Paul's words to Timothy as seen in 1 Timothy 4:12, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." Paul stressed that Timothy was to be "an example of the believers, in word,…" This was a reference for the need for Timothy to be a good example in his speech. As Wayne Jackson said, "Harsh, condescending, and insulting words do not carry the day,…" (Before I Die, p. 125). Paul, further, wrote of the need for Timothy to be "an example of the believers,…in purity.," which speaks to the need for Timothy to be sinless in his life.  As preachers, we look to the books of Timothy and Titus for assistance in how we are to conduct ourselves today. Can we not learn something from these words also? Is there not just as great a need for us to be pure as there was for Timothy?

 

An article appeared on a brotherhood internet publication dated September 7, 2009 entitled, "KY preacher arrested for rape." The article went on to say, "He (the preacher – R.W.S.) then told authorities (he) had traveled out of the state and had consensual immoral relations with a 13-year-old girl over the weekend." Needless to say, as I read this I could not help but to think, "you've got to be kidding me?" Here is a man who preyed upon the innocence of a young girl hardly old enough to know better. Here is a man who is to be, once again, "an example of the believers,…in purity." What was going on in his mind? What could cause a "Christian" to think of doing such a thing, much less one who preaches the gospel? Could he not have understood the consequences for his actions beyond the legal ones? What long range damage has been done to the cause of Christ in that community? What of those who parrot the "preachers are nothing more than hypocrites" accusation? Has he not given them "evidence" of such?

 

The phone rang. "Hello, brother Stapleton, this is_____________. How are you doing?" So the conversation began. Not long into it, though, came the confession that he had "cheated on his wife." Again, the haunting thought, "you've got to be kidding me?" Who was this, you ask? A graduate of the school. A "gospel preacher." He sat in on the classes. He heard it said repeatedly, "flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:19). He knows what the Book says on fornicators and fornication (1 Corinthians 6:9; 6:13; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5;            1 Thessalonians 4:3). He can't plead ignorance. Yet, he is telling me that he gave into the "lust of the flesh."

 

The article stated, "A former Church of Christ minister has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for torching or vandalizing 4 Mormon churches, including one where his ex-lover was the organist." It went on to say, "______________went on his rampage because he was upset when the organist, ________________, broke off their 8-year affair in 1998, saying her Mormon faith bars her from getting a divorce." Need I say it? "You've got to be kidding me?" Here, a married man, who knows better or, at least, should know better, that carried on an "8-year affair" (better known in the Bible as 8-years of adultery).  How I wish I could say, it was a joke (no doubt a "sick one"), but it wasn't. There is no getting around it. Another "soldier" of the cross is weakened by his willingness to satisfy worldly lusts.

 

Another article stated, "A youth minister of the Church of Christ has been arrested after allegedly sending nude pictures of himself to a 14-year-old girl over the internet. Police said ___________ sent her four photos of him seated nude on an exercise bike at the church after talking to her in an Internet chat room. The girl showed them to her mother who alerted the police." "You've got to be kidding me?" Surely not? Not one who has been entrusted with our precious children? There is just no way! But there was.

 

Still yet another which stated, "YOUTH MINISTER CHARGED. _________ Church of Christ youth minister ___________________, 41, was charged with 21 counts of child molestation for molesting a young boy for a year. _______________ had admitted to being a pedophile during a counseling session." Even in the face of sounding repetitive, I've got to ask again, "you've got to be kidding me?"

 

But we aren't finished. Consider this article, "COUNSELING VICTIM GETS $300,000. The _____________ Church of Christ & its former minister ________________ agreed to pay $300,000 to a man whom ____________ sexually assaulted during family counseling sessions." Again, "you've got to be kidding me?" A well known congregation of the Lord's people. If I called their name, you would recognize it. But they fell prey to the devices of the Devil, of which they should have been aware (2 Corinthians 2:11).

 

What of this statement from a book written several years ago? "Perversion has become quite a problem in Nashville. Many of you may remember the raids carried out by the police in our local Centennial Park just a few years ago. This was a well know hangout for male homosexuals. You may be surprised to know that the largest number of male homosexuals that the police picked up in Centennial Park were teachers and preachers. Preachers in Churches of Christ were the second most numerous mentioned." (Pettus, Robert, M.D., As I See Sex through the Bible, p. 12). "You've got to be kidding me?" Not homosexuality? Surely not? But, it cannot be denied.

 

Just a few years ago a study was conducted among members of the churches of Christ on the subject of internet pornography. Those questioned were "members of the church of Christ. 4,210 completed surveys used in analysis." The results were staggering.  "57% of men (remember, we are talking about members of the churches of Christ – R.W.S.) have intentionally viewed Internet pornography, 15% of women have intentionally viewed Internet pornography." (emphasis mine, R.W.S.)  Do I need to ask it? "You've got to be kidding me?" I have the survey laying on my desk as I write this. Shocking, to say the least. Revealing of the dangers we are confronted with, as we "wrestle" against the evil of the world about us (Ephesians 6:12).

 

So, why bring all of this up? Why "air our dirty laundry"? Have I got something against the church? No! But I do have something against those who are treating the precious body of Christ in such a way as these are. Do you remember Paul's words to Timothy as seen earlier, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)? As Christians and preachers of the gospel we need to get our "act together." We need to fill our minds with God's Word so as to not sin against Him (Psalms 119:11). We need to get things in order, and start thinking on the things God would have us to think on (Philippians 4:8). We need to clean out our hearts of the wickedness that is there, and fill them with the purity of the word of God, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). We need to "Flee…youthful lusts:…follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22).

 

We cannot continue to cause such harm to the Lord's church and His Cause, as so many have done in the past. It is time for us, as preachers, to stand where the Lord would have us to stand, against the evil that is before us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Influence

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There is one thing that each of us have that I am not sure we fully realize how important it is. The reason I say this is, if we really understood how important it is, we would make some changes. That which I am referring to, of course, is our influence. I fear that many of us may not have come to a full realization of the amount of good or damage we may do through our influence. In view of such, lets give some careful consideration to our influence, and make the necessary changes in order to do the greatest amount of good.

 

We influence those who imitate us. Consider Paul’s words found in Philippians 4:9, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” The world is full of imitators, and many of them are imitating us. Students often imitate their teachers. Children imitate their parents, grandparents, or siblings. I remember seeing a TV commercial some years ago about a father and his young son leaning against a tree. The father pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one, and laid them on the ground beside his son. The commercial faded out as the child reached for the cigarettes to emulate his father. As Christians, we need to realize that we are influencing those who we come in contact with.

 

Neighbors are influenced by our actions. No doubt we recall the story of the woman at the well recorded in John chapter four. Consider what is said in verse 39, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.” Someone has said, “I would rather see a sermon any day than to hear one.” Our neighbors, who never attend services with us, are seeing one sermon after another, seven days a week. As such, what kind of sermons are you “preaching” by your actions? When you miss the assemblies of the church, what are you “preaching” to them about the importance of attendance? When there is a Gospel Meeting or a V.B.S., and you do not attend, what are you “preaching” to them about the importance of these activities? What about the type of clothing they see you wear? Are you “preaching” a “sermon” on modesty or immodesty? What about the places they know you frequent? What type of “sermon” are you “preaching?”

 

Family members are influenced by our actions. How great it would be that God could say of us as He did of Abraham in Genesis 18:19, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment;…” Or, that He could say of us as was said by Paul of Eunice and Lois, in 2 Timothy 1:5, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” As parents, and especially as fathers, we have a great opportunity and responsibility  to serve in the capacity of being the kind of parent that God expects us to be. Consider Paul’s words found in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

It is such a shame to see parents influencing their children to be worldly minded rather than spiritually minded. As parents we need to understand that we only have one chance to get this right. If we fail, our children may be lost eternally. Parents influence their children much more by the “sermons” they “preach” by their lives than the preacher will ever preach to those same children. All too often children cannot hear what the preacher is saying due to the way their parents are living. I have seen far too many children have the sermons on modesty, dancing, and other moral issues torn down by parents on the way home from services. I, also, can look upon those same children who grew up and left the church. I can fairly much assure you, that if you spend your time tearing down the sermons on these issues, instead of reinforcing them, you will look back some day and regret your decision. If we really want our children to live godly lives, then we had been live godly lives before them.

 

Unseen people may be influenced by the way you live. We not only influence those we personally come in contact with each day, but also those who see us while we do not see them. Consider Paul’s words to the church at Rome as found in Romans 1:8, “…I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” You may be surprised how many people of whom you have no idea, that are paying attention to what you say and do. You stop to buy gas, the attendant may know you, even though you have no idea who they are. I recall many years ago, while I was still building houses as a sub-contractor, and preaching on a part time basis, a new electrician that was hired to wire the house I was framing. A few weeks later I was invited to fill in for the preacher of a congregation I had not previously preach for before. Guess who showed up that day? You got it, that electrician. I remember another situation, where two members of the church, although from different congregations, worked side by side, neither knowing the other was a brother in Christ. Makes you wonder how you conducted yourself, doesn’t it?

 

Local church members may be influenced by the way you live. It can be said of almost any “outstanding” congregation that it’s growth  can be attributed largely to a minority. Needless to say, that is a shame. Older people in the congregation need to be setting a proper example for those who are younger. It is a shame that the younger people must look to themselves in times of needed encouragement. So often a “do nothing” attitude permeates a congregation because those who are recent converts look to those of who are older in the faith for direction, and they do not receive such. As with so many different situations, our guidance fails miserably when it comes to setting the right kind of an example when it comes to matters pertaining to attendance, worship participation, outreach, and overall participation in the work of the local congregation.

            It is a tragedy to see “Christians” who could be of such a great influence upon other members of the congregation, but who fail to do so. Consider the words of Paul to Titus in Titus 2:1-8, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” It is past time we come to the realization of the damage we are doing to Christ’s church by our failure to set the proper example in our lives. There is no way around it, we are going to influence others who compose the church here. Will it be for good, or will it be for bad?

 

The religious environment will be influenced by you. The Apostle Paul changed the religious environment of a whole city, as seen in Acts 19:10, 26, 27. Christians, on more than one occasion have made great strides in changing the environment in their area.

 

Negligent members may be influenced by you. So many congregations have negligent members. Members who are putting something other than the kingdom first, as required by the Lord in Matthew 6:33, “ But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” We have a God-given responsibility in this area. Consider the words of Paul to the Galatian brethren, “ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Also the words of James, in James 5:19, 20, “ Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

 

Eternity will reveal the full scope of your influence. Give some thought to the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian brethren as seen in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “ For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” As we think on them, we need to face the question of whether our influence exerted here will be for the good or for the bad. One’s eternal destination may well be determined by how we answer this question.

 

 

 

 

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