CHRISTIANITY, A VERY “EXCEPTIONAL” RELIGION

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After great efforts to save the ship, and the sailor’s attempt to abandon it, the Apostle Paul issued the following warning to the centurion: “”Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). In this statement we find an absolute requisite for the salvation of those who were on the ship. Their very lives hung on the balance of this exception. Everything depended upon the word “except”. The ship, and all those who were on it were lost, “except” those who would remain in the ship. Remaining with the ship was the condition upon which all lives could be saved. As already stated, it was an absolute requirement.

This same emphatic, conditional and provisional word “except” is employed in the Scriptures to express the absolute conditions upon which God offers salvation from sin, and the promise of eternal life. To ignore the “exceptions” of God’s instruction is to jeopardize one’s opportunity to be saved. In view of this, it can be said that Christianity is an “exceptional” religion. It is imperative that man recognize every such “exception” found in God’s plan of salvation. This article will assist us in seeing them.

EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE – PSALM 127:1 – Man must conclude that God alone can build the “house” that is worthy, and will stand eternally. Further, we must conclude that God alone can keep the city. When we understand that the church, as God’s house, is to be built by none other than Deity, we will understand how that those who attempt to do otherwise labor in vain (1 Timothy 3:15). The Lord promised to build but one church (Matthew 16:18). Further, we see that the New Testament teaches that Jesus is the head of but one church (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18). Jesus clearly warned about the result of those “plants” which His Father did not plant (Matthew 15:13). Many religious groups exist, having been built by man, with human creeds, wearing human names that are waiting the day of which they will be rooted up.

EXCEPT YE BELIEVE IN JESUS – JOHN 8:24 – Herein, Jesus warned concerning the necessity of belief, and the consequences for failure to do so. To die in one’s sins is to face eternal condemnation. Yet, there is an exception to such a death. One can believe in Christ. This is an absolute condition, stated herein, for salvation is of faith. The world is lost without salvation. Except man turns to God in belief, he will die in that condition. It is imperative that we note that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).

EXCEPT YE REPENT – LUKE 13:3, 5 – In these passages, Jesus spoke clearly of this exception. Here, we see clear evidence that those who refuse to repent of their sins will be lost eternally. The Apostle Paul spoke of the same need of repentance in Acts 17:30, 31. It is important to understand that one cannot find life in Christ without repenting (Acts 11:18). It is also important to understand that God does not desire that any perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN – JOHN 3:3, 5 – When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to inquire of salvation he was told of the necessity of the new birth. Thus, for one to enter the Kingdom of God, he must be willing to be born anew. This is an absolute requirement! To understand what is meant here we turn to the first gospel sermon preached following the ascension of Christ (Acts 2:37-41).

EXCEPT YE ABIDE IN ME – JOHN 15:4 – As children of God, it is important to realize the necessity of abiding in Christ. Herein Jesus taught that He is the vine, and we are the branches, and so long as the branches remain attached to the vine they are seeking to bear fruit. But apart from the vine, they are barren. Jesus issued a clear warning concerning the need to constantly abide in him (John 15:6, 7). Abiding in Jesus is so important due to the fact that it is in him that so much happens:

  1. In Him have all spiritual blessings – Ephesians 1:3.
  2. In Him we become new creatures – 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  3. In Him we obtain salvation – 2 Timothy 2:10.
  4. In Him we have no condemnation – Romans 8:1.
  5. In Him we are made alive – 1 Corinthians 15:22.
  6. In Him we triumph – 2 Corinthians 2:14.
  7. In Him we are made one – Galatians 3:28.
  8. In Him we are made partakers of the promise – Ephesians 3:6.
  9. In Him we rejoice more abundantly – Philippians 1:26.

 Clearly we see the exception here on each of these points.

 

Christ, The Coming One

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Prior to Jesus’ departure from this earth He, on numerous occasions, spoke of His return (Matthew 16:27; 24:30, 44; 26:64).  As He ascended into the heavens, two “men” in white apparel, commonly believed to be angels, announced His return (Acts 1:9-11). In fact, every New Testament writer makes reference to the return of Christ – Matthew (25:13); Mark (8:38); Luke (21:27); John (14:3); Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:16); James (5:8); Peter (1 Peter 5:4); and Jude (14, 15).  As such, those who accept the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures do not doubt that Jesus is coming again. In this article we want to give consideration to Christ, the coming One.

FIRST, WHAT WILL BE THE MANNER OF HIS COMING? – His coming will be with great demonstration and power (Mark 13:26). In fact, the resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of the heavens and earth are connected with the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 2 Peter 3:10-12).

His coming will be with great glory (Matthew 16:27; Luke 21:27). What a sight it will be to behold, the appearance in the skies of Jesus and his “mighty angels.” His coming will be a glorious event when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, when His shout will be heard throughout the domains of the earth; when the voice of the archangel will speak; and when the harp of God will be heard (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

His coming will be with the clouds (Revelation 1:7). As the clouds transported Him through the skies back to His heavenly home, so the Scriptures teach that He will come again (Matthew 24:30; 26:64).

His coming will be unexpected, as no man knows the day or the hour of His return (Mark 13:32; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5). Like a thief in the night, His coming will come upon the world. On the other hand, while Christians do not know the time of His coming, in one sense it will not overtake us as a thief, as we expect His coming some day

His coming will be universally visible (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:26, 27).

SECONDLY, THE SECOND COMING WILL BE RECEIVED IN TWO WAYS – The righteous will welcome the second coming. The Apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s appearing as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). The Scriptures represent Christians as looking for, or waiting for, the coming of Christ (2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Peter 3:11, 12). With the coming of Christ will be ushered in those things that will consummate redemption. As the redeemed, with purified spirits and glorified bodies, we shall dwell forever with the Lord.

On the other hand, the day of the Lord will be a day of calamity for the wicked. The thought of the second coming of Christ, and of judgment, has always been the fear and dread of the world.

Those who have grown up under the influence of Christianity, but who have not yielded their lives to God, are not able to be at ease because of this thought. And, truly, it should fill their souls with anxiety. On that day, Jesus will be revealed to them, not as the One for whom they are longing, but as the One who comes in vengeance and flaming fire (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Jude 14, 15).

THIRDLY, THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THE DAY OF THE LORD:

                        It will be a day of eternal separation, even of loved ones (Luke 17:34-36).

The opportunity of salvation will be forever withdrawn (Luke 13:24, 25).

The angels will sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them

into eternal fire (Matthew 13:49, 50).

The angels will gather together the saved to be with the Lord (Matthew 24:31).

The dead will be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

It will be a day of great sorrow and weeping (Luke 13:28).

It will be a day of great joy (Revelation 22:12).

FOURTHLY, WE ARE TO WATCH AND BE READY FOR HIS COMING – Jesus did not place emphasis upon the time of His coming, but upon the necessity of our being ready for His coming (Matthew 24:42). Because we do not know the time of His coming, we are exhorted to be ever ready. The parable of the ten virgins was taught for the express purpose of teaching the necessity of always being prepared for Christ’s return (Matthew 25:1-13).

Christ is coming again. That is not the question. The question is will you be ready when He comes?

 

CHRIST OUR SAVIOR

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It has been said that Napoleon once stated, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ was not a man.” By that statement we see his belief that there was more to Jesus than his being a mere mortal. There are many titles ascribed to Jesus, but all are included in the overall concept of his being the Savior. The incarnation of Jesus is a cardinal doctrine of the Bible. It, actually, stands at the center of God’s dealing with sinful man. Everything that pre-dates him looks toward his incarnation, while everything from his incarnation looks backward to this time in history. There are numerous scriptures which present a reason for his coming but, I suppose, none so clearly do so as Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Other passages that could be considered are, Luke 2:20-30; John 1:29; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 5:31; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:5. All of these present Jesus not as a Savior, but as the one and only Savior.

Having noted this let us consider why it is that man needs a savior. The question can easily be answered by the fact of man’s lost condition. The whole of Scripture teaches this fundamental fact in such passages as Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:10, 23; Ephesians 2:1-5. The first step in reaching those outside of Christ is the step of their coming to the realization that they are lost. When such is done as it should be, it becomes much like one in a burning building, who you do not need to beg to leave. The realization that the world was lost explains the urgency found in the preaching of the early church.

With this in mind we then need to ponder the question of “from what does Christ save?” The New Testament answers this question clearly. People are lost due to sin! All who have not obeyed the gospel stand condemned before God, no matter how morally good they may be. Consider the words of Paul to the church at Thessalonica, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). With many the sense of sin is declining. Many, even in the name of religion, have attempted to explain it away. Others look upon sin as being nothing more than a misfortune. The sinner is viewed as a victim rather than as an offender.

So, to who is Christ the Savior? It is important to take note that Jesus saves people from their sins and not in their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus died to save all men, but not all will accept it. Only those who believe and obey will do so, as seen in John 3:16; Hebrews 5:8, 9; 10:39. It can be said that man is saved by faith, but it cannot be said that man is saved by faith alone (James 2:20-24). Biblical faith has always produced obedience (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Hebrews 11). Let us understand that the church is composed of the saved, which are those who have submitted themselves in simple obedience to the gospel and have maintained faithful to the gospel (Acts 2:47; 20:28; Ephesians 2:23-25. In the end, the only thing that matters will be whether we have accepted this offer from God. Have you done so?

 

CHOICES

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Life is full of choices as is manifested in our day to day walk. We make choices when it comes to the clothing we wear, the food we eat, where we live, the degree of education that we pursue, along with many other things too numerous to mention. All of these have to do with this life, but do not always have eternal significance. Other choices are such that will affect us throughout the entirety of our lives from the moment we make them, and even beyond the grave. For example, the choice that we make in a spouse may well have something to do with where we will be for eternity. I have often said that as Christians we need to be careful to choose a mate that will assist us in getting to heaven, and not hell. The simple truth is, I can get there on my own, I do not need help! The same, of course, could be said of children born into our homes. A non-Christian mate will, in many cases, be a hindrance to our setting our children on the right path in life (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Choosing to either become or refuse to become a Christian will, affect our eternal destiny. Numerous passages of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments indicate the eternal significance of many of the   choices we make. Our text for this article is Matthew 7:13-27 which clearly sets the stage for a proper understanding of the need to make choices in life with a view toward eternity.

A CHOICE MUST BE MADE – Needless to say, the most important choices are those of a spiritual nature. In view of our text, we see we can choose the narrow way or the broad way. We can choose to be like the wise man who built his house on the rock or like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Several years ago, while working as a self-employed carpenter, the footer of the basement walls of a house we were building gave way due to the unstable condition of the soil beneath it. We were totally unaware of the soil’s condition until it was too late. Such does not need to be the case when it comes to spiritual matters. God has given us His Word to provide us with the information necessary that we “…may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17). Likewise, He has given “…us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (2 Peter 1:3).

It is important to understand that daily choices have an accumulated effect. One choice is added to another, and another to another, until eventually an established way of life is formed and an eternal destiny is set. Much like the “Christian Graces,” found in 2 Peter 1:5-11, that are added one to another, proper choices, when added up at the end of the day, may result in our developing the holiness expected of us by God (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

CHOOSING THE NARROW WAY – The narrow way consists of following Deity and Deity alone as we walk consistently in “his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Regardless of what man would have us to believe, we dare not choose another to follow when it comes to our spiritual lives. When one chooses someone other than Christ, he severs himself from the only means to reach God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). To properly make the right choices we need to choose true wisdom rather than the worldly wisdom that so many pursue today (Proverbs 23:23; Psalms 119:130; 19:7-11). To seek only worldly wisdom, as opposed to the spiritual wisdom, is pictured as a vain pursuit (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18; 2:15, 16).

We think of the words of the Apostle Paul as he addressed this matter with the Corinthians(1 Corinthians 1:19, 20). Although it can be said that a certain amount of worldly wisdom is necessary to survive in this world, it should never be pursued to the neglect of spiritual wisdom.

The truth of the matter is, often those who pursue worldly wisdom have a very selfish view in mind. It is imperative that we choose the gospel, rather than man-made gimmicks, as we seek for salvation (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12). The reason for this is clearly seen as we take note that the gospel way is the narrow way and as such, it is the right way. Likewise, it is “the power,” not “a power,” as though it is one among many. The simple truth is, the gospel is God’s only “drawing power” to save mankind. In spite of this, modern man continues to use every conceivable means to win and hold members. We must be cautioned to not follow in their path.

CHOOSING “A” CHURCH – We need to choose the Lord’s church as revealed in the Scriptures and not denominational churches which have been built by man (Psalm 127:1;    1 Timothy 3:15; Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). In the New Testament, local churches had a particular organization, work, and worship. In view of such, we need to pattern ourselves after what God ordained for His church.

CHOOSING GOD’S “FAMILY VALUES” – We need to choose God’s “family values” and not the “values” of modern man. God’s way promotes marriage and the home (Proverbs 18:22; 1 Timothy 5:14). Modern man, on the other hand, promotes divorce and so-called “live-ins.” God’s “values” promotes sexual purity as seen in Hebrews 13:4, while man’s “values” would have us live much like an alley cat. God’s ways would have us to accept the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife (Genesis 2:24) while the “wisdom” of the world promotes homosexuality on every front.

CHOOSE TO BE A WISE PERSON – Jesus said that the wise person is the one who hears His sayings and does them (Matthew 7:24). To do so involves reasoning and making the proper response to what Jesus taught. No greater choice could ever be made and displays wisdom in the life of the one who has chosen to do so.

Our day to day choices are important. We can choose the narrow way which leads to life, or we can go in the broad way which leads to destruction. We can choose to be wise by obeying the Lord, or we can choose to be foolish by not heeding his commands (John 1:10-13). When the proper choice is made, those who receive Jesus have a right to become children of God.

 

GOD’S LOVE, JUSTICE AND ETERNITY

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Some object to the idea of a loving God who also punishes or causes pain in any way. One of the major arguments against God and the Bible can be summarized thusly: The Bible teaches that God is love. A loving God would not punish people in a place called hell. Therefore, either there must be no hell, or God must not be a loving God, or the Bible must be inaccurate.

It should be observed that many of the people who present the above argument offer it either because they know little about the God of the Bible, or because they do not desire to serve Him, and therefore they wish to deny the idea of eternal punishment. In this article we want to explore the matter of God’s love, justice, and eternity.

IS GOD LOVING? – It is impossible to deny that the God of the Bible is represented as being full of love and has the desire for His people to live peaceably. 1 John 4:8 clearly states that “God is love.” Jesus is the great representation of God’s love for mankind (John 3:16). When Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that appear in the lives of Christ’s followers, the first thing he mentioned was love (Galatians 5:22, 23). Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:28).

God loves His Son. God’s eternal love has an eternal object, and that eternal object is Christ (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 1:18; 5:20; 17:24). God loves His Son’s followers (Romans 5:5). This suggests that, through Christ, God has blessed His spiritual children with an abundant amount of love (Romans 8:38, 39).

God loves the lost world (Romans 5:8). It was “agape” that motivated Christ to die for the wicked. It was a sacrificial love that caused Christ to want what is best for us, and His love is unchanging (James 1:17).                                             .

God’s love is difficult to comprehend. In Ephesians 3:14-18, Paul indicated that he bowed his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, asking that we might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge.

IS GOD JUST? – It is impossible to deny that the God of the Bible is represented as being full of justice, demanding that the price of sin be paid. Since the beginning of time, and in every dispensation, God required sacrifice for sin (Genesis 4:3, 4; Exodus 10:25). If God is a good God, He cannot tolerate, nor have anything to do with, sin (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Sin, by its very nature, is against God (Isaiah 59:2). Scripture clearly state that on the Judgment Day, many will be condemned (Matthew 25:41; Jude 14, 15). The Apostle Peter wrote that the ungodly will be judged (2 Peter 3:7).  Because God is righteous, he is viewed as a God of vengeance (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). It’s easier to see the vengeance of God in the Old Testament, when He often carried out His judgment upon people immediately, but that does not take away His future vengeance.

CAN THE LOVE AND JUSTICE OF GOD BE RECONCILED? – Some believe that God is akin to a benevolent grandfather who constantly gives generous gifts, but is extremely hesitant to discipline. Others see God as a miserly dictator that rules with an iron fist and is just waiting for one of His followers to misstep so He can send fire from heaven and consume the sinner. In view of this thinking, can we find balance in the way we perceive God? It is interesting to consider that when people decide that love and justice are mutually exclusive attributes of God, they typically throw out God’s justice, but cling to His love. Sadly, the concept of love often is misunderstood. Love does not always demand that people be spared every pain or discomfort. Children often must be punished, but the pain caused by proper punishment will help them in the long run (Proverbs 13:24).

It is possible for God to love as He expresses His hatred of sin (Proverbs 6:6-9; 2 Peter 3:9). The reason man needs to repent is because they did something that God hates. God delays the second coming of Christ not because He is undependable or incapable of fulfilling the promise of judgment, but because His love and mercy motivates Him to give sinners more opportunities to repent (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:9). God’s very place of communication with the Israelites was the mercy seat (Exodus 25:22; 30:6; Hebrews 9:5). Love allows people to make their own decisions.  God’s love dictated that He create free moral agents, not robots who have no decision-making mechanism (Joshua 24:15). It is when people make independent decisions to disobey God that justice must be carried out (James 1:14). However, some still suggest that eternal punishment is far too harsh and that a loving God might punish people in the short-term, but not “for good.”

The concept of justice often is misunderstood. Justice demands that each person gets what he or she deserves.  Even those who deny that God’s love and justice can co-exist must acknowledge that justice is positive.  If a judge allowed murderers to walk free in the name of love, even those who deny that God is a just God would cry out for justice to be served. Similarly, God must administer proper punishment for sin. Punishment often lasts longer than the crime. A shooting may last only a moment or two, while the accompanying sentence may demand years of incarceration.  The Apostle Paul wrote that God is the righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8). It is within God’s purview to determine how long the punishment of sinners should last. If we sin during life, and the sin goes unforgiven, it will be on our souls forever. It makes sense, therefore, that sinners should be punished forever. Surely no saved person would enter heaven and complain that the rewards of heaven last too long. Similarly, saved people are not going to complain about the justice of God. They will appreciate it.

IS GOD QUALIFIED TO BE THE JUDGE OF ALL PEOPLE? – God’s thoughts are higher than the thoughts of men (Isaiah 55:9). He is the One that is qualified to judge all mankind. God is not a one-sided being. Just as many people possess both love and justice in their nature, God is multi-faceted. We never should limit God in ways that we would not limit people.

The fact that God created all humans is proof that He possesses the authority and knowledge to judge all people. God has manifested His love for us by providing a way for us to    avoid His judgment (1 John 4:9). By applying His Son’s blood to our souls, we can be purified and “perfect” in the sight of God (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 5:10). If we reject Christ, and continue to live in a state of rebellion before God, we deserve to be punished (Hebrews 2:3). Thus the responsibility is ours.

A perfect God can be perfect in both His love and justice. As humans, we may not be able to comprehend fully how an infinite Being can balance perfectly His love and justice. However, we can trust that because He created us and knows us intimately, His judgments will be loving, just, and ultimately    righteous. Would you be surprised to learn that “mercy” and “justice” are      found in the same verse? (Psalm 89:14). Our problem is not that we cannot be sure of God’s love for us. Rather, our problem is that we do not love God. God did not tolerate the sin of Adam, Cain, Saul, or David, and He certainly will not overlook sin in my life or in yours. On the other hand, since God is a “righteous judge” we can be sure that He will give us Heaven if we obey Him (2 Timothy 4:8). Abraham said to God just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He did not destroy any righteous people, and on the Day of Judgment,  God, because of His love and justice, will not destroy those that are in Christ.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS

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God expects His people to grow. This is evident from the teachings of the New Testament (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:15).  Every Christian should realize that God desires that we be full grown Christians.  We should, further recognize that He will never be satisfied with us if we are endeavoring to live a life that is absent of spiritual growth. In this article we want to notice some things about what it means to be full grown Christians.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS HAVE CONVICTIONS – Christians must not live the life that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:14, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”. As grown up Christians, we need to be careful to not allow ourselves to be engulfed in everything that is coming and going that is supposedly in the name of the Lord. Having convictions concerning things which are right in the sight of God is to be “grounded and settled” in the truth (Colossians 1:23). We must have our feet on the ground, and know why we believe what we do if we are to qualify as full-grown Christians.  It will not suffice to state a belief in a certain thing and then when pressed for an answer as to why state, “Because”.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS ARE FAITH CONTENDERS – Notice what Jude said of this in Jude 3, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” There is as much a need today for Christians to “contend for the faith” as there was in the first century.  In this era of liberalism and other “isms” that are affecting the church, we must be ready and able to stand up for the truth. We must know how to answer men concerning our hope, as seen in the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3:15. If we are to be full grown Christians, then we must be willing to contend for the faith no matter what the personal results will be.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS – The apostle Paul wrote of this need to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  The brethren at Corinth were admonished by Paul to “quit you like men…” (1 Corinthians 16:13”.  This means to “act like men” as seen in the English Standard Version. When Christians pout, and must have their way, it is a good sign they have never really grown up, as they should have. If we are to ever be the full grown Christian that God desires that we be, we must put away our acting like children. We must act like the adult that God wants us to act like.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS ARE STRONG – It is a command of God that we be strong (Ephesians 6:10). If we are to grow strong, we must eat the right kind of food. Of course, this is said when dealing with spiritual food rather than physical (Matthew 4:4). If we are honest in our desire to be strong full grown Christians, the written word will be a basic part of our daily diet.

We will literally consume the Word of God on a regular basis. Notice what Jeremiah had to say of this in Jeremiah 15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” Likewise, consider what David said in Psalms 119:103, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” If we are to grow strong we must exercise ourselves unto godliness (Hebrews 5:14).  As exercise is valuable in developing physical strength, so it is in developing spiritual strength.

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS ARE CHRIST LIKE – As Christians, we are told to have the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5-8). We have, also, been told to follow in the steps of Christ (1 Peter 2:21). As Christians who are seeking to grow, we must continue to ask ourselves, “What would Christ do or say under these circumstances”? We should seek to determine what He would do in regards to all things pertaining to “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

FULL GROWN CHRISTIANS HAVE INFLUENCE – Influence is either good or bad. The Christian should seek to have a good influence on others. Our lives are to be shining lights for good in order to bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16). Our lives are ordered after the New Testament way of life (1 Timothy 4:16).

As Christians, we are confronted with the question, “are we growing in the areas that we have just considered”? We need to ask, “are we a daily grower, or have we decided to remain as we are”?  We need to be challenged to examine ourselves to see if we are growing as we should be growing (2 Corinthians 13:5).

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

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I suppose if you were to ask what my favorite chapter of the Bible is, I would probably say Romans chapter 8. This chapter is almost at the center of the New Testament, and is definitely at the center of all that is involved in New Testament Christianity. Someone has said of Romans chapter 8, “If the Holy Scriptures was a ring, and the epistle to the Romans a precious stone, chapter eight would be the sparkling point of the jewel.” Another has said, “It is undoubtedly the chapter of chapters for the life of the believer.”

In a casual consideration of Romans chapter 8, I believe it would be proper to refer to it as the Christian’s “Declaration of Freedom”. From Romans 8 we find four spiritual freedoms that I would like for us to consider at this time.

FREEDOM FROM CONDEMNATION – In Romans 8:1-4, we find the first freedom that Paul mentions, that being “freedom from condemnation”. From the time of Adam up to Christ, man had been under the condemnation of sin. The reason for that was there had been no adequate

atonement available (Hebrews 10:1-4). Even during the Mosaical period of time the Law was unable to fully justify man before God. Since the Law was powerless to save man, as it was not designed to do so, God sent His Son to offer Himself as atonement for the sins of man. Because of this sacrifice, man is able to be “justified from sin”; he can become “dead unto sin”; he can be made “free from sin”; so that sin can no longer exercise “dominion over him” (Romans 6:7, 11, 14, 18).

FREEDOM FROM OBLIGATION – In Romans 8:5-17, Paul discussed the Christian’s freedom from obligation to sin. We note that the Christian no longer possesses the carnalmind, but the spiritual mind (Romans 8:6). One who is in Christ is now free to live his life debt-free in regard to the flesh (Romans 8:12). The Christian has a new Father by spiritual adoption, and is the recipient of a new inheritance, becoming a “joint-heir” with Christ (Romans 8:17). Since we now have no obligation to Satan or sin, we need to be strong in resisting him (James 4:7). Our obligation now is to Christ who loved us enough to give Himself for us (Romans 5:8).

FREEDOM FROM FRUSTRATION – In Romans 8:18-30 Paul discussed the Christian’s freedom from frustration. At times, all of us have been frustrated in our efforts to live the Christian life. Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to our not knowing the great encouragement which God supplies. When we become frustrated with our Christian life we need to recall the greatness of our coming glory, as seen in verses 18-25. The realization of this fact should spur us on in those periods of frustration. The great promise that we find in verse 28, alone, should be enough to assist us in overcoming our frustration. With these great blessings available to the child of God, we surely do not want to give up in frustration.

 FREEDOM FROM FEAR – The fourth and final freedom that the Christian possesses, that we see in Romans chapter 8, is the freedom from fear. Why should the Christian fear? God is for us (Romans 8:31) and Christ died for us (Romans 8:32). The Christian should be free from fear because God has justified him (Romans 8:33). In view of this, there are no grounds for our condemnation and no law system to condemn us as we are under God’s grace. Of course this is not to say we have no law, but that there is a clear distinction between the new and better covenant that we now live under (Hebrews 8:6). Since there is no conceivable enemy who can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39) there is no reason to fear.

Truly, as God’s children, we are free through Christ. In Him there is no condemnation, no defeat, no despair, and no separation for those in Christ. Surely, we are free in Christ!

 

 

IS ONE CHURCH AS GOOD AS ANOTHER?

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If you are seeking a companion for life, is one as good as another? If you are catching a bus, plane, or train, is one as good as another?  If you need a doctor, is one as good as another? If you need medicine, is one as good as another?  Most likely, we have answered “no” to these questions.  If so, why are we so careful in material matters and so careless in spiritual ones?

 

So many people see no such necessity in being careful when it comes to choosing a “church”. The idea is that they are all of equal value so it makes little or no difference which one we choose, so long as it is a recognized one. But, is it true that one church is as good as another?

Let’s see what the New Testament says on the matter.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE GOD IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – In examination of differing religions we find that they have different “gods”. For example, Buddhism and Buddha and Islam and Allah are two different religions, with two very different “gods.” Yet when we come to the New Testament we see from Ephesians 4:6 that there is but “one God.” The truth is, if God makes any difference, and He does, then one church is not as good as another.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER IF WE HAVE TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST AS THE “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON” OF GOD – By this it is clear that not all churches are as good as others. This is so due to the fact that not all churches believe that Jesus is the “only begotten” son of God. Jesus issued a strict warning concerning this in John 8:24 where He stated, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Faith in the Sonship of Christ is not optional.  Therefore, for a church to fail to believe this results in their failing to be as good as one that has such a faith.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE FOUNDER IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – When we study the origin of the various religious organizations existing today, we note that they have different founders. But the church that we read of in the New Testament was founded by Jesus (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11). The church founded by Jesus should surely be considered as being better than one founded by another (Psalm 127:1;  1 Timothy 3:15).  It is clear that those religious organizations that can only turn to man for their point of origin will be rooted up, while the one planted by Christ will stand the test of time (Matthew 15:13).

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST IS UNIMPORTANT – Acts 20:28 tells us that the church that we read of in the New Testament cost Christ His blood. Let me suggest that a church which cost Jesus nothing is not as good as the one that cost Him His life, or Jesus was a fool. And, of course, I do not see Him as such.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS THE CHURCHES NOT MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE ARE AS GOOD AS THE ONE SPOKEN OF IN THE NEW TESTAMENT – As already noted, Christ’s church is mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 16:18). Various congregation of the Lord’s church are spoken of in the New Testament (Romans 16:16). Yet when it is expressed this way, reference is to the collective number of congregations in a given area.  Those churches which are not mentioned in the New Testament surely are not as good as the one that is mentioned.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE HEAD IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – It is evident that each church has its own head. Scripture tells us that Christ is the head of the one mentioned therein (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 5:23). Surely we would agree that the church which has the sinless Son of God as its head would be better than one which does not.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE FOUNDATION IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – One may readily find out that different churches have been built upon different foundations. Christ’s church was built upon the truth that He is “the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 16:16-18; 1 Corinthians 3:11).

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER IF THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH IS IMPORTANT – The reason for this is quite evident as we note that different churches worship in different ways. When we properly consider the New Testament we see that one worship is not as good as another (John 4:24; Matthew 15:9).  We can argue all day and night that one way of worship is as good as another, but the truth of the matter is it isn’t, and has never been (Genesis 4:3-5; Leviticus 10:1, 2).

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE DOCTRINE IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – Once again, when we carefully consider the teachings of the varied and sundry religious groups that exist today, we see that different ones preach different doctrines. If they did not, there would not be different churches. The New Testament helps us to see that one doctrine is not as good as another (Galatians 1:6-9).  As a matter of fact, much of the New Testament was written in order to correct the doctrine of those who were in error.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE CREED IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – Here, too, we see that different churches have different creeds. A creed is a formula of religious belief. This is what has caused the world to be as religiously divided as it is.  The church that we read of in the New Testament has only the Word of God as its creed (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Surely we would agree that the church which follows the “creed” given by God would be better than those which do not.

ONE CHURCH IS NOT AS GOOD AS ANOTHER UNLESS ONE “NAME” IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER – It is easily seen how that different churches have different names. A drive down about any street where a number of church buildings are located quickly reveals this to be so. When we consider these different religious groups we quickly take note of the fact that individual members of them wear different names. The members of the New Testament church wear the name Christian (Acts 11:26). Undoubtedly, we would agree that this is a better name than one devised by man.

Surely, we can see the difference here. That is not really the question, though. The question is, what will we do about it?

 

IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES OF LIFE

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Found recorded within the Bible are many important principles that are worth our consideration. Often times these principles contain timeless biblically oriented truths that we overlook. In this article we want to look at some of these important principles found in the Word of God.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE DOES NOT LICENSE IRRESPONSIBLE MORAL CONDUCT – God, as a being of love, created man in His own image (1 John 4:1; Genesis 2:26). When He did so, He made man a rational creature endowed with free will. In ancient times Joshua challenged the Hebrews to choose whom they would serve based on that freedom (Joshua 24:15). Many in our day have adopted the philosophy of the Israelites in the       days of the Judges when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). The secular world, along with some in the church, have determined that due to their having freedom of choice they have a license for immorality. However, this is not true. It is said of the Nicolaitans, of whose work the Lord hated, (Revelation 2:6), that they advocated the practice of idolatry and sexual looseness under the guise of Christian­ “liberty.” However, Christian liberty is not that a man can do what he pleases and still please God. It is that he is free to do what God pleases, or pleases God (Galatians 5:13).

MIGHT DOES NOT MAKE RIGHT –The ancient Chaldeans were considered by the prophet Habakkuk as those “whose might is his god.” (Habakkuk 1:6, 11). There seems to be numerous spiritual descendants of that thought today, even within the church. Those that have been influenced by the philosophy that this is a dog-eat-dog world follow this way of life. To these self is enthroned in their hearts. It matters little who they step on in their pursuit of their goals. However, those who seek an eternal relationship with God will repudiate the “iron rule” that “might makes right” and will replace it with what has been called the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). This “golden rule” obligates us to treat others as we wish to be treated. Anything less is less than what God demands!

THE MAJORITY WAY IS NOT NECESSARILY THE WAY OF TRUTH – Simply because the majority views something to be right does not mean that it is. So many seem to be persuaded by what some have called “mob psychology”. They have what others have called, “the herd instinct.” They are easily intimidated by numbers. The statement “everybody else is doing it” is a classic example of this. ­To these individuals, their conduct is determined by who they are with. Such a life style, though, is based upon a wrong foundation. It violates plain statements and examples of the Word of God (Exodus 23:2; Jeremiah 9:3). Jesus clearly sets forth the truth that the way of the majority is the broad way which leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13, 14). To some the religious motto is, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” In other words, what the majority approves of so does God. But the reality is, the reverse is true. The way of Noah, Lot, Elijah, Christ and the Apostles was the way of quality and not quantity. Every area of our life is to be measured by the heavenly standard rather than a worldly one.

WHAT IS LAWFUL IS NOT NECESSARILY WHAT IS ETHICAL – There are those who rationalize their unholy conduct by the stale cliché, “Well, it’s legal.” They are unmindful of the biblical warnings to lawmakers that they are not to pervert the moral or ethical principles of the Lord. We should always remember that human law is just that, human law. In many states gambling is legal, but that does not mean it is right in the sight of God. On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court legalized abortion, but that does not mean God legalized it. In many places prostitution is legal, but it will never be sanctioned by God. Promiscuous divorce and remarriage is legal, but God views it differently. While the Christian is to respect the law and be submissive to its ethical demands, bad laws can never be a cloak for sinful conduct (Romans 13:1-7). This is why we, as Christians, are to keep ourselves informed of the responsibilities of God’s law (Galatians 6:2).

Putting these principles and other like them, into practice in our lives will help us to better live our lives as God would have us.

GREAT BIBLE QUESTIONS

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God created man with a mind to think. Sometimes questions are used to stimulate the mind to do so. Questions often make people think about important things. At times we find great lessons being taught and grasped by asking questions. Every time a question is asked in the Bible, whether by God or by an inspired man, a great lesson is taught. In this article, we want to examine some of the great questions of the Bible so as to assist us in better understanding what God would have us to know.

“WHERE ART THOU” – GENESIS 3:9 – God’s first question to man was a serious one. Adam and Eve were now in sin, trying to hide from God. He saw them, and the condition they were in. The question here is not just a question of where they were physically, but where were they spiritually. Men have been trying to hide from God since that time. Hagar said, “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13). We would be well off to remember this at all time. There is no place where we can hide from the “all seeing eye of God” (Hebrews 4:13). We need to be aware that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

“AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?” – GENESIS 4:9 – This is the first question asked of God. The background for the question reveals the sin of Cain (Genesis 4:1-8). It is important to realize that we are our “brother’s keeper” (Romans 14:7-21). We should always think what affect our words and actions will have on others (Philippians 2:4).

“IF A MAN DIE, SHALL BE LIVE AGAIN?” – JOB 14:14 – Job was interested in this question. He was in misery, and it seemed that death was at his door.  Over time, this question has lost none of its interest. Thanks to God, the question is plainly answered (John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14). Our life here will determine our life beyond the grave.

“WHAT IS A MAN PROFITED . . .?” – MATTHEW 16:26 – Christ asked this question. By looking at it, we see that it is a two-in-one question. Actually, I know of no answer to it that could be seen as a positive one. It is unanswered, and is unanswerable, as there is nothing but loss when one puts aside the spiritual for the physical!

“WHO THEN, CAN BE SAVED?” – MATTHEW 19:25 – After Jesus’ lesson about a rich man’s difficulty in going to heaven, the question was asked by the disciples (Matthew 19:23, 24).

Over the years, many answers have been given by man that have been in error. However, the Bible answers the question in no uncertain terms. Hell will be filled with people who did not intend to go there (Matthew 7:21-23). Many rational people intend to obey the gospel but neglect to do so. They forget that today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). They forget the brevity of life (James 4:14). Life’s brevity and uncertainty makes this question one of great importance.

“WHAT SHALL THE END BE?” – 1 PETER 4:17 – For those outside of Christ, certainly not salvation (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). For those who refuse to remain faithful, a condition that is worse than their previous one outside of Christ is all that remains (2 Peter 2:20-22). For those who were “once enlightened,” but who have “fallen away”      and are remaining in that condition there is no hope (Hebrews 6:4-6).

“WHO SHALL BE ABLE TO STAND?” – REVELATION 6:17 – All will be examined in view of God’s Word (John 12:48). Who will be able to stand as righteous in the sight of God?  (Mark 13:13; Revelation 2:10; 22:14).

“AND NOW WHY TARRIEST THOU?” – ACTS 22:16 – This question was asked by an inspired preacher of a praying, believing, penitent Saul. Because of his desire to please the Lord, when he was told what to do, and he did it (Acts 9:18).

 These, and other questions similar to them, cause us to carefully consider what God would have us to do. We conclude with one more question, “What will you do with Jesus?” (Mark 15:12).

 

 

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