GOD’S VIEW OF SIN

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Nearly everything looks different to those that participate and to those that observe. The football player verses the “armchair quarterback,” the automobile driver and the so-called “backseat driver,” and the sinner and God.  It does not take long to see how people tend to view sin differently than God. Atheism denies its existence while materialism views it as a violation of one’s conscience.  When we consider religious people we see a varied view. There are those who see sin as pre-destined, while others view it as a matter of birth and other as a matter of individual free will.  To sum it all up, we could say that God’s view of sin is much graver than man’s view.  In this article we want to give serious consideration to God’s view of sin and, hopefully, be encouraged to take the same view as He does.

GENERAL DEFINITION – We first want to notice a general definition of what sin is from God’s perspective. God describes sin as the transgressing of His will (1 John 3:4).  He, further, describes it as man not doing what he knows to do right (James 4:17).  And even further, He views sin as unrighteousness (1 John 5:17).

SIN AS GOD SEES IT – When we consider the Scriptures, we are provided a “window” that allows us to see sin as God does. We see that God views sin as self-destructing and defiling. The Psalmist speaks of evil hunting down the violent man and overthrowing him (Psalm 140:11). From Scripture we see that the sinner is often far more destructive to himself than to others, even those he intended to harm (Proverbs 8:36). The Bible is clear concerning the fact that sin is shown to be destructive (Isaiah 3:9-11).  From this text we see that denial of sin will not make it go away.  We can, also, note from the Scriptures that saying “everyone does it” won’t ever make it right (Exodus 23:2).  When it comes to sin, even our best efforts are seen as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Additionally, we note that God sees sin as hateful. Those that discriminate unjustly for advantage are an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 25:13-16). In Psalm 5:4-6, David summarized God’s attitude toward sin when he indicated the following.

God has no pleasure in wickedness

There is no place in God’s presence for evildoers

Workers of iniquity are hated

The wicked will be destroyed

 

From Proverbs 6:16-19 we see seven things that disgust God.

Pride – James 4:10

A lying tongue – Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 19:5

Hands that shed innocent blood – Matthew 27:14

Those that devise evil – Amos 5:14; 3 John 2

                                                 Those that are swift participants in evil – Romans 3:15; Matthew 2:1

                                                Those that bear false witnesses – Romans 13:9, 10

Those that are sowers of discord – Proverbs 16:28

It is also quite revealing to note that God sees sin as separating and alienating. In Isaiah 59:1, 2; 64:7; and Hosea 5:6 we clearly see the fact that sin results in separation and alienation of man from God. The writher to the Hebrews indicated that there is a great depth to which one may fall in sin (Hebrews 6:4-6).  The Apostle John indicated that some are so deep in sin that intercessory prayer is useless because such individuals are unwilling to turn from their sin (1 John 5:16). Man needs to be careful that he not allows sin to become such a force and presence that it alienates the only One who can help (Isaiah 55:6, 7).

In further study, we may see that God sees sin as enslaving and progressive (Romans 6:16). In a careful study of sin, we see that it results from a lack of self-control (Romans 7:23).

THE BIBLE EXPRESSES THE DIVINE SUMMARY ON SIN – Sin is seen to be universal (Isaiah 53:6). The Apostle Paul pointed out that both the Jews and Gentiles were convicted under sin (Romans 3:23).  Even Christians are not immune to the possibility of sin in their lives if they give into temptation (1 John 1:8).

We may also note that sin is internal in origin – no one can make us do it. The Scriptures indicate that what controls the heart controls the man (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 15:18-20; Luke 6:45).  We must understand that sin is inexcusable in view of natural revelation (Romans 1:20-31) and written/inspired revelation (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Titus 2:11-13).

Sin looks different to man than it does to God. Man may offer several excuses. It is often heard.

“After all, everybody does it.”

“I just don’t see anything wrong with it.”

“You don’t want me to be unhappy do you?”

“It’s not as bad as what others do.”

“I can always change later.”

However, regardless of how we see, or don’t see, sin, God sees it as:

 

Self-destructing and defiling

Hateful

Separating and alienating

Enslaving and progressive

In the end, it can easily be said that sin, by nature is:

 

Universal – Therefore, everyone needs Jesus

Internal – Therefore, everyone needs the gospel

Inexcusable – Therefore, everyone must accept personal                                                                    responsibility and take personal action – 2 Corinthians 5:10.

DOES GOD ANSWER PRAYER?

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The subject of prayer usually brings forth much controversy. Especially when it comes to whether God hears and answers prayer. We should understand that God actually desires that we come to Him in prayer as His children. It is easily seen that nature declares that God provides. He has provided sleep for the weary and medicine for the ill. He has actually made us dependent upon Him. He not only desires such, but invites us to petition Him (Matthew 7:7, 11; 1 Peter 3:12; Hebrew 4:16). Yet, even with these scriptures in mind, people say that God hasn’t answered their prayers. But is their assertion true? In this article, let us briefly give careful consideration to the question of “Does God Answer Prayer?”

DOES GOD NOT ANSWER? – People actually deny His existence because they say He hasn’t answered their prayers. But how do we know He hasn’t answered them? Some may say, “Well, He didn’t give me what I asked for.” But does that prove that He didn’t answer the petition? Of course not, the fact is God did answer (James 4:3). Only He didn’t answer in accordance to our selfish requests.

GOD DOES ANSWER PRAYER! – When praying we need to understand that God answers in various ways. First, He may give what we ask and more. For example, Solomon prayed for wisdom, but got more (2 Chronicles 1:7-12). God gave him what he asked and more. God may only give what you request. Elijah prayed for rain, and God only gave him rain (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17). God may give a substitute for that which we request. Paul prayed three times for the “thorn in his flesh” to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7, 8). However, God did not give Paul what he requested; instead He made a substitution (2 Corinthians 12:9). God may, also, answer prayer by refusal of the request. Someone may say, “If God refuses, He does not answer. But that is untrue. As parents we must deny certain requests of our children due to varied circumstances. We answer “no”, but nevertheless we have answered. An example of this is seen in that God answered “no” to Jesus in the garden (Matthew 26:39).

PRAYER IS HINDERED – Often times we hinder prayer by certain things that we do. We hinder prayer by asking for something not in accordance to God’s will. God denied Jesus’ request in the garden for the “cup to pass” because it was not according to His will (Matthew 26:39). At times we force God into refusing because we ask for something contrary to His will (1 John 5:14, 15). Sometimes prayers are hindered because we ask amiss (James 4:3). To “ask amiss” is to ask with the wrong motives. Prayers are hindered because of the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving, our prayer of forgiveness will be hindered (Matthew 6:14, 15). As husbands we may hinder our prayer through failure to properly    honor our wives (1 Peter 3:7). If you treat your wife like a dog, I can guarantee your prayers are going to be hindered! Sin, in our lives, hinders our prayers (Isaiah 59:2; Proverbs 28:9).

GOD IS NOT AN “SOS” GOD – Some look upon God only as an “SOS” God. They look at Him as someone only to be called upon in time of trouble. We must realize that if we do not love and serve God in good times, we need not expect Him to bless us in bad times. People who never do anything for God are the ones who scream the loudest when it appears He isn’t listening. We must live righteously if we expect our prayers to be heard (1 Peter 3:12; John 9:31). We have no right to treat God as an “SOS God”. We should not expect for Him to be at our beckon call.

God answers all the prayers of the righteous. We have ample assurance of this from the Scriptures (Ephesians 3:20; 1 John 5:14, 15). However, we must be living properly in order to receive that promise.

 

SO, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

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Occasionally, when an article is posted, responses comes forth both of a positive and negative perspective. One response that I have found interesting has been when someone responds that the article they read did nothing more than list what has been preached for years in the church with, from their perspective, little or no reaction to the message.  Then it is suggested that since the path written about has “failed”, we must take another approach. It appears that in the mind of some things like the need to preach the word, the need to encourage the membership to step up and be obedient, the need to explicitly follow the pattern set forth in the New Testament for service and worship, etc., have come up short. Therefore, so it seems, we must find another direction to go, perhaps even to follow the teachings of the denominations around us so as to better fit into our communities.

Now, let’s suppose for a moment that the responder is correct and there is a problem. The question that has to be asked is exactly what is the problem? Is it that the preaching of the gospel is powerless in the 21st century?  Of course not! It is still the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16) whether we recognize it or not! I can deny that a stick of dynamite is powerless until it is lit and explodes.  Could it be that Paul’s words to Timothy concerning the need to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2) were only insightful in the early church and the events of the first century? Well, again, of course not!  Just as Paul was “pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26) by declaring “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) when we do the same we “reap what we sow”.

So, what’s the problem? The same as it has for some time, an unwillingness by man to humble himself “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6) and comply with what he has been commanded to do! Starting at the “beginning”, what was the problem with Adam and Eve? Was it that God’s command to Adam concerning his not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17) somehow powerless, resulting in Adam’s sin? Should God have taken another approach?  Surely not!  All that was needed was for Eve to tell the serpent to “hit the road” or for Adam to refuse to listen to Eve and do what he had been told by God!

What about Cain and his offering unto God (Genesis 4:3-7)? Granted, we do not know a lot about what transpired up to the time of this offering, but knowing the justness of God we can be assured of one thing, Cain knew better, but chose to follow the path he took. Here, again, should we suggest that perhaps if God had chosen a different path things might have had a better outcome? Well, why should He? Keep in mind, God has never had the obligation to compromise His will just so man can be happy!

Several hundred years pass, and we arrive at the time of Noah and the unrighteousness of the world. Scripture states that “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). What if it is suggested that if God had chosen a different path, things might have been better? But He did not choose a different one, and had no obligation to do so.

We turn to Leviticus 10:1, 2 and see the disobedience of Nadab and Abihu in offering “strange fire” unto the Lord. Would it be appropriate to suggest that if God had chosen other fire things would have been better for Nadab and Abihu? No, things would have been better for them had they complied with God’s commands!

Many more examples like these could be cited to show that the problem has never been with God or His Word, but with those that have been unwilling to do what they were commanded by Him, as was the case with Israel many years later (Isaiah 59:1, 2).

Moving to the New Testament we note that the parable commonly referred to as the parable of the sower clearly sets forth what the problem really is. This parable is found in Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20 and Luke 8:5-15 and provides us with a Divine description of the differing “heart conditions” found within man. When one considers this parable one thing that is clearly evident is that the problem does not originate with the “sower” or the “seed”. Rather, when Jesus was asked to explain the parable, He pointed out that the problem was with the hearts of those who did not hear “the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”  “Watering down” the gospel will save no one! It is the “truth”, and only the “truth” of God’s Word that makes man free from condemnation (John 8:32; John 17:17; Romans 8:1). Only when one hears (Romans 10:17) and does what God has commanded (James 1:22) can there be the expectation of the blessings that come from God (Ephesians 1:3).

We can further note that the problem has been and continues to be with those that are unwilling to be “doers of the word” (James 1:22). Perverting the gospel of Christ, regardless in what area, results not in conversions, growth or stability within the church (Galatians 1:6-9)! Just the opposite is seen when one deceives himself by refusing to do what the Scriptures command! As Jesus and Paul never apologized for taking a stand with the truth, we must do likewise (John 6:53-66; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1). When we do so, will there be those that will not like the truth and treat us as enemies for proclaiming it? Of course there will, just as it was the case in the first century with Stephen and those to whom he preached (Acts 7:54-60) and the Apostle Paul and the Galatian brethren (Galatians 4:16).

So, then, what is the answer? First, it is not turning our backs on gospel preaching. Paul was quite clear concerning the fact that those who “call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13) and to do so would require a preacher who would preach the word so faith can come by the “hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:14-17). Secondly, the answer is not to be found in practicing the ways of denominationalism.  Just as it was during the time of the public ministry of Jesus that the “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” resulted in worship being vain (Matthew 15:9) so it is the case today.

So what do we do? We speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and busy ourselves being “doers of the word” (James 1:22) while refusing to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). We endeavor to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We cannot improve upon God’s plan, so let’s get busy doing it rather than looking for excuses for failing to do so.

Here Am I, Send Someone Else

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Verse 8 of Isaiah 6 is the essence of all faithful service to God. Reality demands, however, that we look at our more frequent response – “Here am I; send somebody else!” Clearly, Isaiah was a “hero of faith” at this point in his life as he manifested the proper attitude concerning service. In view of Isaiah’s willingness to be used, we want to consider “the other side of the coin,” and what we learn from Moses’ attempt to shirk personal responsibility as seen in Exodus chapters 3 and 4. In doing so, as we think of the efforts of the congregation here and what attitudes are we manifesting when it comes to our service?

WHO AM I THAT I SHOULD GO – EXODUS 3:11? – There were several reasons for Moses to go:

The need for Israel’s deliverance – verses 7-9

God said to go – verse 10

God selected Moses – verse 10

Moses was uniquely prepared to go:

His Israelite heritage – verses 2:9-10, 11.

His familiarity with Egypt – 2:10; Acts 7:21, 22.

As we seek to apply this to ourselves, as we teach the lost, provoke responses in others, and bring Christians to maturity, we see the same reasons are clearly visible (Matthew 28:18-20). There is the need to go. God has said to do so. He has selected us to do so. And, we are uniquely prepared to go. So why aren’t we?

WHAT SHALL I TELL THEM – EXODUS 3:13? – God’s answer is found in Exodus 3:14-22. As far as we are concerned, God has fully equipped us:

To speak – Ephesians 4:25; Titus 2:1

To do, or to go – 2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Peter 1:3

Consider a father’s answer to his son’s questions, as he was struggling to grow in faith and convictions in teaching his friends. His father said, “Just tell them what the Bible says!” When we struggle with knowing what to say, “Just tell them what the Bible says.” Nothing more and nothing less should be said.

SUPPOSE THEY WILL NOT LISTEN OR BELIEVE ME – EXODUS 4:1? – Confirmation from God was given for Moses and Israel in verses 2-9. The simple truth is, we never quit doing what we must do even if people will not listen or believe what they are being told. Consider Noah, a preacher of righteousness, who stayed the course although, it appears, no one was paying any attention (Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). Also, think of Isaiah’s response in Isaiah 6:9-13. Whether Israel would listen or not, he was ready to be sent to do what the Lord would have him. The secret to success is that we never quit (Joshua 1:1-9). We must always “abound in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We must never grow “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9), even if no one is listening.

I AM NOT ELOQUENT- EXODUS 4:10 – The ability to communicate truth with eloquence is desirable and useful (Acts 18:24). However, that ability is possessed by only a few. The rest of us struggle to do the best we can! Moses’ statement was quite interesting in light of his background in Egypt (Acts 7:22). Reliance on human ability/ingenuity still lives! But our weakness is opportunity for God’s power to show through (Romans 1:16).

PLEASE SEND SOMEBODY ELSE – EXODUS 4:13 – Previous statements are excuses; now we see the real reason, Moses was unwilling to go. This reminds us of the parable of the “great supper” found in Luke 14:16-24. What we have to understand is, God will exalt and use those who obey Him as seen in the events in Esther’s life (Esther 4:13). As we consider Moses’ unwillingness to go, we must pay careful attention to God’s response as seen in Exodus 4:14-17.

We note that Moses was not released from his task, just because he did not want to do what he was told. Likewise, we not released from our responsibilities of Christian living and work, no matter what they are.

God accepts legitimate reasons, but not flimsy excuses. As we consider the work of the church, it really comes down to one of two attitudes, “Here am I; send me” or “Here am I; send somebody else.” As far as we are concerned, it is our individual decision to make. In view of this, which best describes our attitude and work in God’s kingdom?

 

 

 

DO WE NEED A REVIVAL?

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In consideration of what is going on today there can be little doubt that we need a revival in many areas. The world desperately needs revived or stirred up concerning some very basic Bible doctrines, which is what I would like for us to consider with this article.

WE NEED A REVIVAL FOR FEAR AND REVERANCE FOR GOD AND HIS WORD – I am afraid that man has long lost his fear of God and reverence of His Word. Man needs to fear God and keep His commandments because this is our whole duty (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  We need a revival in regard to reverence of God as Creator of this universe, rather than reverencing the created (Psalm 111:9). We need to be holding the Word of God before the world and proclaim that it is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). We need a revival in regards to not being ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). We need to get those both in and out of the church revived concerning the Word of God.

WE NEED A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO PRAYER – We need to revive our prayer lives. One study that I read indicated that the average “Christian” prays only four minutes a day. In view of this, we need to be praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need to come to the realization that where there is no prayer or little prayer, there is no power or little power (James 5:16). We need to get the whole church on its knees in prayer (Acts 12:5). We need to pray for the work. We need to pray for each other (James 5:16). We need to pray for the elders, the deacons, and the preacher. We need to pray for the lost (Matthew 9:37, 38). Someone once said, “You cannot stumble if you are on your knees.” and there sure is a lot of truth to that! In the garden, Jesus told his disciple to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus knew that he, who stands best, kneels most. There is no doubt; we need to have a revival when it comes to prayer.

WE NEED A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO EVANGELISM – Whether or not we realize it, we are in the soul saving “business” (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16). As already seen, the fields are white unto harvest (John 4:35). But the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37, 38). We must come to an understanding, when it comes to evangelism, that we need a revival of the fervor of the early church. Early Christians went everywhere preaching the Word (Acts 8:4). The sad reality is, the average Christian must live to be over 100 in order to replace himself in the church. The simple truth is we can never move people until we are first moved.  It would seem that since we have the truth we would want to share it with our friends and loved ones (2 Kings 7:9).

WE NEED A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO STANDING AGAINST SIN – It has been said that the biggest trouble with sin is the “I” in the middle. Christians are new creatures in Christ and need to act that way (2 Corinthians 5:17). We need to be setting our affections on things above rather than things below (Colossians 3:1). We need to be taking a stand against sin. Too many are spending their time winking at sin rather than being courageous enough to stand and fight against it. To be pleasing to God we must put on the whole armor of God so as to be able to stand as He would have us to stand (Ephesians 6:10-18). It might be unpopular, just as it was when Jesus was here. Yet He fought against it, which is good enough reason for us to do the same (1 Peter 2:21, 22).

WE NEED A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE – As Christians, we need to love each other with pure hearts (1 Peter 1:22). The love that unites Christians should be stronger than the differences that divide us. If it isn’t, then we do not have the unfeigned love that we should have. We have been commanded to love one another, so we have no choice if we wish to please God (John 13:34, 35). This does not mean we compromise on the truth, but it does mean that we seek to be kind and loving even as we oppose error.

THE WORLD NEEDS A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHURCH – They need to come back to the one that Jesus built (Matthew 16:18). They need to come back to the one that Jesus died for (Acts 20:28).  They need to come back to the one in which salvation can be found (Acts 2:47). And they need to come back to the one of which Jesus is the head (Ephesians 1:22, 23).

THE WORLD NEEDS A REVIVAL WHEN IT COMES TO GOD’S WAY OF SALVATION – The New Testament teaches that faith (Romans 10: 17); repentance (Acts 17:30); confession (Romans 10:9, 10); and baptism (Mark 16:16) are all part of God’s plan of salvation for man today. Anything less is less than what He demands!

As we consider what is going on around us, we need to cry as did Israel, “Revive us again” (Psalm 85:6).

DOING THAT WHICH IS RIGHT IN OUR OWN EYES

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From a statement found at the close of the book of Judges, we find one of the root causes of the spiritual destitution which was typical of that day. The statement is, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Judges chapter 17 mentions the idolatry of Micah, and how he set up his own pattern of worship (Judges 17:5, 6; 10-13). In chapter 18, the tribe of Dan steals the idols of Micah and persuades him to be their priest (Judges 18:19, 20). In chapter 19, we see the terrible crime of some of the Benjaminites (Judges 19:22-26). In consideration of this situation, we note that the tribe of Benjamin, instead of giving up these evil men for prosecution, tried to protect them. As a result, there was war and nearly all of the tribe of Benjamin was destroyed. Thus, the closing statement of the book of Judges concerning there being no king in Israel.

As we consider this statement, we must remember that they had a king – God, who they failed to recognize as such (1 Samuel 8:7). The Divine arrangement then was very much like the arrangement under the New Covenant today. In these days there is a similar disregard for authority and people in general are set on doing that which is right in their own eyes, which is what we want to consider in this article.

THERE IS DISREGARD FOR DOING THAT WHICH IS RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD – Our primary concern should be to please God, not self or others. Jesus is our model here, as is seen in a number of passages such as John 4:34; 8:28, 29; 12:49. The Apostles Peter and John provide an excellent example (Acts 4:19, 20). We need to remember that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9; Luke 16:15). Recall how the Apostle Paul pointed out that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19-21). Hence, we cannot do that which is right in our own eyes and that which is right in the sight of God at the same time. Cain serves as an example of how that could not be done, and the “cost” involved (Genesis 4:3, 4; Hebrews 11:4).

GOD FOREWARNS THAT FOLLOWING ONE’S OWN SIGHT WILL NOT WORK -Solomon indicated that there is a way which seems right, but the end is death (Proverbs 14:12). Walking in the sight of our own eyes is the sin of presumption (Psalms 19:13). God specifically charged those who lived under the Law of Moses:

Not to do that which was right in their own eyes –

Deuteronomy 6:18; Proverbs 3:5-7.

Not to do more or less than what He authorized –

Deuteronomy 12:32.

There were many under the old dispensation who thought they could violate these principles and get by with it. Study of the Old Testament shows they did not. The same principles apply to those who are living under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 9). Notice Revelation 2:6, 15 concerning this. The Lord’s attitude should be our attitude (Psalms 119:104; Romans 12:9;  1 Thessalonians 5:21). We must quit insisting on our own ways, and begin insisting on doing that which is right in the sight of God.

We have the platform for unity given to us by the Apostle Paul  (Ephesians 4:1-6). As Christians we need to strive for this unity. Anything contrary to the apostles’ doctrine is wrong (Romans 16:17, 18). In the New Testament we see that factions, divisions, and parties are condemned because they lead to something other than the unity the Lord would have us to possess (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:20, 21).

WHEN MEN FOLLOW THEIR OWN EYES, THEY ARE CERTAIN TO GO IN WAYS THAT ARE WRONG – This is so due to the fact that each person is found going a different way. Many of which are going in a direction other than the way the Lord demands. There are many denominations today, each having originated in the mind of men. They have been set up by the wisdom of men, and are walking in the sight of their own eyes. The simple fact is, Jesus is the head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:20, 22). Division in the body of Christ is a downward movement away from what God desires because it weakens the cause of Christ. This is evidenced by what the Lord said in His prayer in John 11:20, 21, “that the world may believe”. The reality is division produces unbelievers.

DOING THAT WHICH IS RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF THE KING IS THE WAY UPWARD – As we have indicated, pleasing God should be our primary objective. He will bless us when we do those things pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). Seeking to please Him unifies believers which brings manifold blessings.

Peace and harmony, which in turn, pleases God –

Psalm 133:1; 1 Timothy 2:2, 3.

And more conversions – John 11:21; 13:35.

To have peace in the local congregation is a great blessing, while contentions, biting and devouring hurts the local congregation (Galatians 5:15).

During the dark days in the history of Israel there was much false worship and immorality when everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. There was no authority in those days. The same will be true today when man seeks to do that which is right in his own eyes. There is a King over Spiritual Israel today – Christ Jesus. Let us constantly seek to do that which is right in his eyes instead of ours (Revelation 22:12-14).

DOES IT MATTER?

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Churches of Christ are often accused of majoring in minors. This accusation comes because we think that things make a difference while many, within the denominational world, do not think there is any difference to be made. We speak considerably about authority for our actions while they do not. We are concerned about what is written in the Scriptures while they are often not. The question we want to address in this article is does it really matter what we believe and practice? I affirm that it does, and will present several reasons from God’s Word as to why I am convinced of this.

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES:

Cain would be our first example to consider. He decided to offer from the field (Genesis 4:3) while Abel brought a sacrifice from the flock (Genesis 4:4a). Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected (Genesis 4:4b-5). Why was this the case? The answer is simple, Abel’s offering was offered by faith (Hebrews 11:4; Romans 10:17) while Cain’s was not.

The tower of Babel would be our second example. As seen from the Scriptures, the people decided to build a tower and become a great nation in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:1-4). Yet, the Lord confounded their plans (Genesis 11:5-9). Why was this so? Again, the answer is simple, God said to “fill the earth,” not the plain of Shinar (Genesis 9:1). The problem was, the men at Shinar were not planning what the Lord wanted.

Our third example is that of Nadab and Abihu who decided to use “strange” or unauthorized fire to burn incense (Leviticus 10:1). Because of their actions, the Lord caused them to die (Leviticus 10:2). Why was this so? God had explained that the fire for incense was to come from the “altar before the Lord” as seen in Leviticus 16:12. Nadab and Abihu did not use what the Lord wanted used.

Our fourth example is that of Moses. From Numbers 20:2 we see that there was no water for the people. God’s response to this was to tell Moses to speak to the rock from which water would come (Numbers 20:8). Rather than following through with what God said, Moses spoke to the people and struck the rock (Numbers 20:10, 11). Because of this “small act” Moses was not allowed to take the people into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12). Why was this so? Because the end did not justify the means. Moses did not do what God instructed him to do and suffered the consequences.

We could go on and speak of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-7), Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33) and Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-22). However, from the above examples we ought to be able to see that all of these seemingly “minor” differences made a “major” difference to God. The truth is, it did matter! The fact is God wants it done the way He has said to do it and a failure to do so will bring the condemnation of God upon those who reject His command.

 NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES:

The first New Testament example we note is that of the Athenians and the idolatry that had come to the point of the extreme (Acts 17:16). In their attempt to “cover all bases” (Acts 17:23a) they hoped that by default they would worship the one true God. In the end, they worshipped “ignorantly” (Acts 17:23b). Ignorance is no longer an excuse, as God now (and then) expected men to repent (Acts 17:30).

The second New Testament example we take note of is the church at Corinth. For whatever reason, we see that they were tolerating the sin of fornication (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2) which was clearly unacceptable (1 Corinthians 5:6, 9-11). They, further, were guilty of turning the spiritual into the carnal by an abuse of Lord’s Supper. The true intention of the memorial feast was gone (1 Corinthians 11:20) and it was turned into a drunken bash (1 Corinthians 11:21). Their actions showed a hatred of the church (1 Corinthians 11:22).

EXAMPLES OF THE PRESENT DAY:

We see many examples when it comes to the time. Some allege that salvation is “by faith only.” Although we acknowledge that faith is necessary for salvation (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6), there is nothing in the New Testament that teaches that man is saved by faith alone. Actually, just the opposite is true. The New Testament teaches that one is saved by a combination of baptism (1 Peter 3:21); repentance (Acts 17:30) in association with faith.

Many religious institutions use mechanical instrumental music in worship with no New Testament authority. Historical usage confirmed its first use in 606 A. D., which is far too late for the New Testament. The New Testament commands us to “sing,” not play (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Many similar doctrines are seen in the religious teachings of men today that contradict the Lord’s will for man.

DOES IT MATTER?

Indeed it does, as can be affirmed by a careful study of the following Scriptures – Colossians 3:17; Matthew 7:21; 28:20; Revelation 22:14. Let us continue to demand “book, chapter, and verse” for all that we practice.

DETERMINING RIGHT AND WRONG

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Whether we live for Christ or not, we are always faced with the need to determine right from wrong. Quite often we find ourselves going through a great deal of anxiety trying to determine what we should do under a certain set of circumstances. We may have thought if there were a set of rules that we might place before us to follow in making these decisions, would we not find life easier to live? Clearly we would! With this article we want to ask several questions which, when answered, will assist us in determining right from wrong.

DOES THE BIBLE SAY IT IS WRONG? – This would be one of the key factors in determining the correctness of something. If the Bible says it is wrong, then it is wrong, and that settles it. Likewise, if the Bible says it is right, it is right, and that settles it. Given the fact that the Bible includes everything that “pertains to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), we should turn to it for the answer to the question of whether or not something is right or wrong. This is especially true in view of the fact that God would have us to do good, and not do bad (Isaiah 7:15). We should also be aware of the fact that the Bible guides man in making the right decisions in life (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

DOES IT HURT EITHER MY MIND OR MY BODY? – This should also be one of the key factors in determining right from wrong. We should never do that which will harm either our minds or our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). God has given us both and it is certain that He would not want us deliberately doing that which would harm either.

WILL IT ENSLAVE ME? – I am sure that each of us realizes that there are numerous things that can and do enslave people. Thus, prior to deciding on something, we should ask “Will it make a slave out of me?” There should be nothing in our lives that rules us, apart from God.

It is when we allow something to bring us under its power that we have failed to do that which God would have us to do (1 Corinthians 6:12). One translation of this passage states, “…but I will not be mastered by anything.” Thus, we should always be concerned about whether we will answer to our actions or will they answer to us.

IS IT GOOD STEWARDSHIP? – Every Christian should be concerned with that which God had placed in their care. Stewardship is concern for whatever God has given us. We should be practicing good stewardship when it comes to deciding whether or not something will bring good or bad effects upon us. It should be understood that stewardship is not a suggestion from God but, rather, a command (1 Corinthians 4:2). Whenever we are confronted with the decision as to whether something is either right or wrong, this should be one of the questions we ask.

WILL IT GLORIFY GOD? – This, too, is an important question that warrants an answer. We should never do anything that does not bring glory to God. Everything that we do should be done with that purpose in mind (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

WILL IT PROFIT AND EDIFY OTHERS? – If we would understand that no man is an island to himself, and that everything that we do should be done with others in mind, we would be far better off (Hebrews 10:24; 1 Corinthians 10:33).

WILL IT HELP ME TO SERVE GOD AND OTHERS? – This question should be asked since we all realize that we wish to serve God and our fellow man (1 Corinthians 10:23, 24).

IS IT WORTH IMITATING? – We should try to only do those things that we would want others to do (Matthew 7:12; 1 Corinthians 11:1). We should realize that many people are watching us and looking for help in determining what is right and wrong. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in doing wrong, others will follow, including our children.

WILL IT CAUSE OTHERS TO STUMBLE? – This falls in line with the previous point. We should never want to do anything that others will follow us in and be wrong. Likewise, we should never, by our actions, cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9).

IS IT BEST? – This question should be upon our minds as we make daily decisions (Philippians 1:9, 10).

Having done that which is right in the sight of God will make all the difference at the Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). These and other questions can help us make the right decisions when confronted with difficult decisions that must be made. Our eternal destiny is at stake. Let’s be sure to give proper attention to do that which the Lord would have us to do.

“OLD FASHIONED PREACHING”

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A recent article indicated a growing number of members of the church have gotten away from wanting sermons that are of the nature of “book, chapter, and verse”, and have come to the point of wishing to have their “ears tickled” (2 Timothy 4:4) by what I call “sermonettes” from “preacherettes.” The article referenced a “preacher” that had some twenty years earlier indicated he never intended “to preach another doctrinal or issue-related sermon.” This reminded me of the preacher who I heard “brag” about how he “preached” fifteen-minute “sermons”, but bewailed the “ignorance of his brethren” when it came to their knowledge of the Bible. The article referenced above stated, “Generally speaking, sermons have become less doctrinal, softer, and less related to Scripture.” In view of 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, and Paul’s “charge” to Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine”, such a practice directly contradicts God’s demands.

Amazingly, the article indicated that the results of such a move away from doctrinal preaching were that the church experienced “a thirty-six percent drop in membership . . . from 1978 to 1998”. Although the “preacher” cited in the article indicated that “old fashioned” preaching had done “more harm than good”, the “proof is in the pudding.” The facts are, when gospel preachers actually preached the Word with “vim and vigor” the Lord’s church grew. When this was changed to make room for so-called “motivational and positive preaching”, the church declined dramatically. One does not need to be the proverbial “rocket scientist” to see the facts here.

It always amazes me that those who clamor for a “watered-down” gospel message would not do so when it comes to many other things in life. For example, who would want to purchase gasoline that is “watered-down”? How many of us would be happy with a “watered-down” cola? Have we never poured out a soda because it was “watered-down” by the melted ice? The pure unadulterated gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Anything less than the “whole truth” (John 8:32; 17:17) is robbed of the fullness of its power. The “word of God is quick, and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12) only when it is presented in its fullness!

Holding back that which is “profitable” unto man violates the example of Paul’s preaching to the Ephesian church (Acts 20:20). There is no doubt that in order to do what he did, he had to “preach doctrinal” sermons. If not, how was it that he could truthfully claim to have held nothing back that was “profitable”? If he held back part of the “whole counsel of God”, how could he have honestly made the statement he did in verse 27, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God”? Much of the New Testament was written by this same Apostle, who repeatedly dealt with “doctrinal or issue” related subjects. If every lesson found in his epistles that were related to either “doctrinal” or “issue related” matters were cut from the pages of the New Testament, the vast majority of the New Testament would find its way into the trash.

Found within the New Testament is twenty-one passages written by the Apostle Paul to churches at Corinth, Ephesus and Rome, and to Timothy and Titus, all of which mention “doctrine”. Not even one of them suggests that Paul was willing to do anything other than preach and teach those things necessary for sound doctrine. Not a single passage remotely suggests that Paul was instructing Timothy or Titus, as gospel preachers, to avoid preaching “doctrinal” sermons. In fact, just the opposite is true! Can you imagine Paul writing to Timothy, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, but don’t preach doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13, PSV [Perverted Standard Version])? Of course, you cannot if you know the New Testament, since Paul said just the opposite, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (KJV).

Shame on “preachers” who refuse to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2)! Shame on “elders” that refuse to stop the mouths of those “who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not” (Titus 1:11), allowing them to teach things contrary to New Testament doctrine! The Gospel is the one and only message by which man can be saved (Romans 1:16; Jude 3). Souls lost in eternity due to our failure to teach the truth will be souls for which we will give account. Consider the words of James relative to the responsibility of teachers, “My brethren, be not many masters (teachers, A.S.V), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). As Jesus clearly indicated, when the “blind lead the blind” they both shall end up in the “ditch” (Matthew 15:14). The Lord’s church needs to say, “Enough is enough of this nonsense, either preach the word, or get out of the way so someone else can!” It is time to get back to the “old fashioned” “old Jerusalem” message given by inspiration through men who were not swayed by the whims of those around them!

CHALLENGES A CONGREGATION MUST MEET

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When a congregation grows, it is likely to face various challenges. The devil would certainly love to hinder or stop such a congregation in their work (1 Thessalonians 2:18). How he does this may not always be evident, as he is a great deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3). Through simple and seemingly harmless diversions, the devil can lead us astray if we will allow it to happen. We must take up the admonition to “hold fast” in order to remain faithful to God (Revelation 3:11). As we do so, we must seek to overcome any challenges the devil might throw our way. As we do so, we know that our efforts to be “steadfast” are not for nothing (1 Corinthians 15:58). In this article we will look at some challenges that every congregation must meet to serve the Lord faithfully.

THE CHALLENGE TO REMEMBER WHAT OUR WORK IS – Far too many times this is where problems arise. We do not remember what our work as the church is. We need to remember that our work involves equipping the saints for ministry or edification. We are to provide for the spiritual growth of each member of the body (Ephesians 4:11, 12). This is how the body continues to grow (Ephesians 4:15, 16). To accomplish this, we must provoke one another to love and good works by not forsaking the assembling ourselves together (Hebrews 10:24, 25). As is easily seen here, one of the reasons that we are to assemble together is to do this. In view of this, the question is, is each of us doing what we can to help other Christians grow?

THE CHALLENGE TO SOUND FORTH THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST – We need to be seen to be like the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Through individual and collective efforts, we must “sow the seed.” Often times as time passes it becomes tempting to slack off.  But we must remember that we hold in our hands the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). We need to remember that the souls of our friends and neighbors are so valuable that Jesus died for them (Romans 5:8). We need to remember that those who leave this world outside of Christ will be lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The question to each of us here is, is each of us doing what we can to spread the gospel?

THE CHALLENGE TO PROVIDE FOR NEEDY SAINTS – This was the original purpose behind the collection (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2). As the church, we need to recognize that even if there is no need locally, there may be needy saints in other places. We do not want to pass up opportunities to do good (Galatians 6:10). Additionally, as we take note of Paul’s words here, please pay careful attention to the phrase “all men.” Also, we do not want to pass up opportunities to practice pure religion (James 1:27). Here, again, the question to each of us is, is each one of us doing what we can to see that needs are being met? The work of the local church goes far beyond providing a place where people worship from week to week.  We should be preparing ourselves to work!

THE CHALLENGE TO LIVE ABOVE PETTINESS – Even good churches can be hindered by pettiness. Notice Paul’s concern for the church at Philippi (Philippians 4:2, 3). When churches lose sight of their primary purpose, they are ripe for being torn asunder by selfishness, gossip, and factions. We must keep a proper sense of proportion. It is disastrous when we begin to “major in minors.”  Small problems begin to be blown out of proportion. We must see the largeness and importance of our work in comparison to our problems. Every church has its problems, for we are composed of imperfect people. If we would but remember Paul’s exhortations in Philippians 2:1-5 they would surely help! Congregations need to accept the challenge never to allow pettiness to so affect them that they destroy themselves.

THE CHALLENGE TO MAINTAIN GRATITUDE FOR OUR BLESSINGS – We have much for which to be thankful. As individuals, we have many physical blessings such as our families, friends, homes, health, freedom and jobs. We, also, have many spiritual blessings, such as salvation in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, peace of mind, the love of God, the strength of the Word of God, and the hope of heaven. As a congregation, we are free from turmoil, free to worship, filled with love and unity. We are blessed with good facilities with the possibility of numerical and spiritual growth. Overall, we see great potential for both individual and congregational growth

As the congregation of the Lord’s people here, we should be noted for our “attitude of gratitude.” Notice how often Paul exhorted the Colossians to be thankful:

Giving thanks to the Father – Colossians 1:12

Abounding with thanksgiving – Colossians 2:7

As the peace of God rules in your heart, be thankful – Colossians 3:15

Giving thanks to God – Colossians 3:17

Be vigilant in prayer with thanksgiving – Colossians 4:2.

As individuals, and as a congregation, let us never become unthankful when it comes to the blessings we receive from God. When we do become unthankful it is a step toward depravity (Romans 1:21) and a sign of perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

There are many other challenges that congregations may face. Such as persecution for the cause of Christ and natural calamities that may devastate the community. But in most cases, even those challenges can be met and overcome if we will remember what our work is, live above pettiness, and maintain gratitude for our blessings.

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