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Word for the Week: Listen

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Listen. At first glance we think of noise, sound, things we hear. Listen seems to imply something different than the word hear. Hearing comes naturally. Listening suggests focus, attention, you are tuned in.

Have you ever thought of all the sounds you hear in one day that you don't pay attention to. Birds chirping, cars running, fans blowing, chairs squeaking, bones cracking, people yawning... there's a symphony of sound around us every day, we often just don't notice it.

I wonder if it's the same for some with Jesus. We read our daily Bible reading, check it off the list, and move on to other responsibilities, but do we really know what we read? Were we listening to Jesus? Listening means seeking to understand, to learn from what we have heard. Listen to the words of the Hebrew writer:

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." Hebrews 2:1

Pay attention to what you have heard from the Lord. The danger of not paying attention, of listening, is drifting. When you don't pay attention to your driving, we drift off the road. When we're not listening to the Lord through the study of His Word, we often drift. We overlook sins in our lives. We ignore signs of weakness. We miss the warnings God sends, and can find ourselves in a real mess. Listen!

This is true of our relationships. Often when our relationships struggle is when there is one or more persons who refuses to listen. They are quick to assert their opinion, and their argument, but they've failed to understand where their friend, or their mate, is coming from. James tells us that we need to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). We drift in our relationships when we fail to pay attention - listen.

Think of all the ways we could apply this - are you listening in worship? Are you paying attention to the songs we sing, the words said in prayer, the preaching given? (1 Cor. 14:15) What about your family - are you listening to them? Are they struggling spiritually? Are they going through a rough time with school, or work - would you know?

What an important principle to think about. Don't just hear. Stop. Focus. Listen.

Jesus and Prayer

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jesus shows us a lot about prayer. It was brought up in many of His teachings:

  • Matthew 6:5-15 - praying in secret and the model prayer
  • Matthew 7:7-8 - Ask, seek, knock
  • Matthew 21:21-22 - Ask in faith and you will receive
  • Luke 11:5-8 - A parable about persistence in prayer
  • Luke 18:1-8 - Another parable about persistence in prayer
  • Luke 18:9-14 - A parable about our attitudes before God in prayer

The gospels also provide several examples of Jesus praying to the Father:

  • Matthew 6:9-13 - the model prayer
  • Matthew 14:19 - Jesus blessed the food He multiplied to feed the 5000
  • John 11:41-42 - Jesus thanked the Father for hearing Him at the tomb of Lazarus
  • John 12:28 - Jesus praised the Father - "Glorify Your name."
  • John 17 - Nearing His death Jesus prayed an intimate prayer about His relationship with the Father, for the apostles,  and for those who would believe
  • Luke 22:32 - Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail
  • Luke 22:41-44 - Jesus prayed in the garden for the cup of suffering to be removed
  • Luke 23:46 - while on the cross Jesus prayed, "Father into Your hands I commend My spirit."

We are given a glimpse of Jesus' praying habits

  • Mark 1:35 - rose early to pray
  • Matthew 14:23 - prayed in the evening
  • Luke 6:12 - prayed all night to God

What do we learn about prayer from Jesus? Prayer connects us to God. Prayer requires work/effort. Prayer is a habit we must develop - learning to speak to God throughout our day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through the prayer offered by faith, God listens, answers, and can do great things. We could go on and on, but this ought to show us that the place to begin learning about prayer is at the feet of Jesus (Luke 11:1).

 

Thursdays with Bill - Characteristics of Truth

Thursday, July 23, 2015

CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUTH

 

In the lesson this morning I want to talk to you about truth.

  1. Even within our brotherhood, I believe there is a growing lack of appreciation for truth and a growing tolerance for error.
    • I’m concerned about that, so I want to remind you of what the Bible has to say about truth.
    • I want to call your attention to some of the CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUTH.

 

But before we talk about the CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUTH, I want to impress this thought upon your mind: Nothing is more important than truth.

 

Nothing is more important than truth, because . . .

  1. You are going to be judged by the truth.
    • Psa 96:13 – “For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.”
    • Rom 2:2 –  “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
    • Rom 2:8 – “ ... but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath ...”
  2. If you are saved, you are saved by the truth.
    • Prov 16:6 – “In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity.”
    • 2 Th 2:13 – “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth . . .”
    • Jn 8:32 – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (from the bondage of sin, bw)”
    • 2 Th 2:10 – “ ... and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
  3. If you are sanctified, you are sanctified by the truth.
    • Jn 17:17, 19 – “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. ... 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
    • 1 Pet 1:22 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth
  4. If your worship is acceptable to God, it’s because you worship Him in truth.
    • Jn 4:23 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
  5. If you reject the truth, you will be condemned.
    • 2Th 2:12 – “ . . . that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

 

With all this in view, the apostle John, in his 3rd epistle, said: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3Jn 4)

 

So we would do well to heed the admonition of the wise scribe of the book of Proverbs: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it . . .” (Prov 23:23)

 

Now, if I have succeeded in getting you to think about how important truth is, I want to talk to you about some of the CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUTH.

 

 

SIX CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUTH

 

1. TRUTH IS ALWAYS NARROW.

 

Every kind of truth is narrow.

 

Mathematical truth is narrow.

  1. Two plus two equals four – no more, and no less.
  2. Anyone who says two plus two equals something else is wrong.
  3. Every other answer given as an answer to that mathematical problem is a wrong answer . . . and there are many wrong answers . . . but there is only one right answer.

 

Scientific truth is narrow.

  1. Under ordinary conditions at sea level, water freezes at exactly 32 degrees Fahrenheit . . . just that . . . no more, and no less.
  2. There are thousands of temperatures at which water does not freeze.

 

Historical truth is narrow.

  1. A given event took place in one particular way.
    • There are thousands of ways in which it did not take place . . . and only one way in which it did take place.
  2. For example: Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
    • It was John Wilkes Booth – not John Dillinger, or Charles Manson, or Richard Speck.
    • It was Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. – not Carnegie Hall in New York City,
    • Lincoln was shot – not bludgeoned, or stabbed, or strangled, or poisoned.
    • Lincoln was shot in the head – not the foot, or the heart, or the back.

 

Geographical truth is narrow.

  1. Chattanooga is in Tennessee not Alabama, or Florida, or Michigan.
  2. Atlanta is south of Chattanooga . . . not north, or east, or west.

 

It really is true: every kind of truth is narrow – and that includes spiritual truth.

  1. In 2Pet 2, Peter speaks of the way of salvation as “the way of truth” (v2) and “the right way” (v15).
    • And Jesus says the way of salvation is a difficult way that we must enter through a narrow gate: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”(Matt 7:13-14)
  2. And Paul shows us that spiritual truth is very narrow
    • Eph 4:4-6 – “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

 

But while it is true that every kind of truth is narrow, it does not follow that anything that is narrow is truth.

  1. You would be just as narrow if you affirmed that two plus two equals five and nothing else, as to affirm that two plus two equals four and nothing else.
    • But you would be very wrong.

 

2. TRUTH IS ALWAYS CONSISTENT.

 

One truth never contradicts another truth.

 

Historical truth is always consistent.

  1. One historical truth never truly contradicts another historical truth.
  2. Example: Abraham Lincoln died from his gun-shot wound on April 15, 1865.
    • If a newspaper reporter reported that Lincoln addressed a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution on April 16, 1865 that would contradict the report that he died on April 15 – both reports could not possibly be true.

 

Scientific truth is always consistent.

  1. One scientific truth never contradicts another scientific truth.
  2. Example: The Humanist Manifesto says, "Matter is self-existing and not created,"
    • The statement by Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer, that matter is continuously being created out of nothing in the empty spaces of the universe contradicts the Humanist Manifesto on this subject – and both cannot possibly be true.

 

It is also true that spiritual truth is always consistent – one truth never contradicts another truth.

  1. 1Cor 14:33 – “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
  2. Application #1:  The doctrine of justification by faith only cannot be true because it contradicts plain Bible teaching (Jas 2:24).
  3. Application #2:  The doctrine that Jesus emptied Himself of deity when He came into the world cannot be true because it contradicts plain Bible teaching in Matt 1:23; Jn 20:28.
  4. Application #3:  The doctrine that the gospel is only the teaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ cannot be true because it contradicts plain Bible teaching in Matt 4:23/Matt 16:21; 1Tim 1:8-11; 2Th 1:8; Col 1:5.

 

3. TRUTH IS NOT DETERMINED BY WHO BELIEVES IT.

 

The Greek astronomer, Ptolemy, said the sun and all the heavenly bodies revolve around the earth.

  1. He was a brilliant man, and highly respected but what he believed and taught about that was not true.
  2. The Catholic Church took the same position and forced Galileo to publicly agree with it – but that still didn’t make it true.

 

Spiritual truth is not determined by who believes it either.

  1. The religious leaders among the Jews rejected the teaching of Jesus, but His teaching was still the truth.
    • Jn 7:45 – “Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’  46 The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!’  47 Then the Pharisees answered them, ‘Are you also deceived?  48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.’”
  2. The worldly-wise, the influential, and the high-born rejected the gospel, but it was still the truth.
    • 1 Cor 1:26 – “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.”
  3. The rulers among the people rejected the teaching of Christ, but it was still the truth.
    • 1 Cor 2:7-8 – “But we speak the wisdom of God . . . 8 which none of the rulers      of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
  4. Application: The fact that Homer Hailey taught it (or Mike Willis, or Ron Halbrook, or Ed Harrell, or Sewell Hall) doesn’t make it true.
    • So you cannot defend your position by saying, “Well that’s what Bro. So-and-So teaches.”
      • It’s not what Bro. So-and-So says that counts – it’s what the      Scriptures say that counts.
      • You’ve got to study the Scriptures for yourself.

 

4. TRUTH IS NOT DETERMINED BY HOW MANY BELIEVE IT.

 

What Ptolemy taught about all the heavenly bodies revolving around the earth pre-vailed for nearly 1,500 years.

  1. Everybody believed it – but that didn’t make it true.

 

When Christopher Columbus set sail to find a new trade route to India, most people believed he would sail off the edge of the earth.

  1. Most of the people of his day believed the earth was flat – but that didn’t make it so.

 

Spiritual truth is not determined by how many people believe it either.

  1. In Noah’s day only eight people in the whole world believed the truth, but it was still the truth.
    • 2Pet 2:5 – “. . . And (God) did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly . . .”
  2. In Jeremiah’s day there was almost no one in the nation of Judah who believed the truth of God’s law or Jeremiah’s message, but it was still the truth.
    • Jer 5:1 – “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her.”
    • Jer 7:28 – “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.’”
  3. Application #1: When the use of instrumental music and church support of the missionary society caused division in our brotherhood, the majority of the churches (about 2/3) accepted instrumental music and the missionary society – but that didn’t make those things right.
  4. Application #2: When church-sponsored recreation, sponsoring church arrangements, and church support of human institutions caused division in our brotherhood, the majority of the churches accepted those things – but that didn’t make those things right.
  5. Application #3: I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I predict that most of the churches of Christ will ultimately accept false teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage – but that won’t make it right.

 

Our attitude must be: “let God be true but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4)

 

5. THERE IS NO SAFE SUBSTITUTE FOR TRUTH.

 

Truth can be replaced only with error.

  1. And the consequences of replacing truth with error can be tragic.
    • Rom 1:24-25 – “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,  25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

 

6. TRUTH IS SOMETIMES OFFENSIVE.

 

Even truths of a secular nature are sometimes offensive.

  1. I’m sure there are a lot of historical truths that offend a lot of people.
    • Example: There are a lot of truths about the way the German people behaved during World War II that are offensive to a lot of Germans today.
      • They don’t like to hear about it or be reminded of it.
      • Some of them want to deny some of those historical truths – they are very much offended by them.
  2. Scientific truths sometimes offend those who have espoused theories that are disproved or discredited by those truths.
  3. And it is certainly the case that spiritual truth has offended a lot of people.

 

But the truth is still the truth even when people are offended by it.

 

Matthew, in the 15th chapter of Matthew, tells about a time when the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus because His disciples sometimes ate bread without first washing their hands .

  1. This violated “the tradition of the elders.”
    • Their tradition required Jews to wash their hands before eating, and they said it was a duty to wash after eating.
    • This was not encouraged as a matter of hygiene, but required as a matter of spiritual necessity – for fear that their hands had brushed against a Gentile or something belonging to a Gentile and thereby caused them to be “unclean.”
    • And the more “pious” washed their hands between the courses of a meal.
  2. Jesus answered their criticism by His teaching in v11: “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
  3. “Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’” (v12).
  4. Now, when Jesus heard that the Pharisees were offended by His teaching did       He apologize?
    • Absolutely not!
    • He said, in effect, “If the truth hurts, that’s just too bad.”
      • “But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch’” (v13-14).

 

Almost every gospel truth is offensive to someone.

  1. All we can rightly do is say “Amen” (“Let it be so”) to every truth.
  2. We must speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
    • And “speaking the truth in love” includes: reproving, rebuking, and exhorting (2Tim 4:2).
    • And if we do that, and someone is offended, that’s too bad.
    • We should not try to offend anyone, but if speaking the truth with sincerity and honest concern offends someone – then so be it.

 

CONCLUSION.

 

There is a true and a false in religion.

  1. There is a true God.
    • 1 Th 1:9 – “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God . . .”
  2. There is the true grace of God.
    • 1 Pet 5:12 – “By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.”
  3. There is a true light.
    • 1 Jn 2:8 – “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”
  4. There is true bread.
    • Jn 6:32 – “Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”
  5. There is a true vine.
    • Jn 15:1 – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
  6. There is a true tabernacle .
    • Heb 8:1-2 – “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,  2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”
  7. There are true worshipers.
    • Jn 4:23 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”

 

When you stand before God in the day of judgment, you will be judged by the truth of God’s word.

  1. If you have not lived your life according to the truth of God’s word, you will find no comfort or consolation in having lived your life the way most people lived their lives.
    • You will find no comfort or consolation in having lived by the teaching and philosophy of the most respected religious teachers.

 

And whether you were right or wrong in matters of mathematics, or science, or history, or geography will be of no importance whatsoever, but your eternal destiny will be decided by what you knew of God’s truth and what you did about it.

  1. Only the truth can make you free from the bondage of sin (Jn 8:32).
    • There is not a passage anywhere in the Bible that says . . .   you can be saved by religious error
      • you can be sanctified by religious error
      • you can be spiritually benefitted by religious error
      • you can purify your soul by obeying error
    • False doctrine will not do for you what true doctrine will do for you.

 

So, let the prayer of the Psalmist be your own prayer: “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle” (Psa 43:3)

 

- Bill Walton

Word for the Week: Equality

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Equality. This word has been on the forefront of the news lately. It seems to be the major talking point of most movements in our country. Everyone wants equality. What is equality? The New American Heritage dictionary defines equal as, "having the same privileges, status or rights, being the same for all members of a group." That's the goal many are striving for - total equality. That everyone is given the same rights and privileges.

There's a problem with this thinking. The equality our culture is calling for is not truly equality. With homosexual marriage legalized, the beliefs and convictions of Christians are ignored and rejected. With giving a woman the "right" to abort her unborn child, that baby has no rights at all, let alone the right to life. It seems, from this humble perspective, that the call today is not for equality, rather it is for the popular opinion's agenda. It may be labeled as an issue of civil rights, or gender equality, but none of this truly is equality.

There is truly only one way the world will find genuine equality, and that is in submission to Christ. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28. True equality is found when we submit ourselves to Jesus. We are all the same in that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23), in need of a Savior. We find equality when we surrender our hearts and our will to Christ. As Paul would say - "it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

There's a timeless quote that sums this up well: "The ground is level at the foot of the cross."

 

Jesus and Mountains

Monday, July 20, 2015

Something interesting we find in the gospels are the different notable occasions that took place on a mountain. The "Sermon on the Mount" of Mattthew 5-7 was a message given by Jesus on a mountain (Matthew 5:1). When He chose His apostles He was on a mountain (Mark 3:13). Jesus spent an evening in prayer on a mountain (Matt. 14:23). When Jesus was transfigured, displaying His glory before Peter, James, and John, He was on a mountain (Matthew 17:1). When Jesus was giving a difficult teaching concerning the fate of Jerusalem, He and His apostles were sitting on a mountain, almost as if looking over the city as a visual illustration of His message (Mark 13:3). This would be the same setting Jesus would choose for a time of prayer and reflection before His arrest and crucifixion (Mark 14:26). It was on a hill outside of Jerusalem, Calvary, where the Son of God, the One who spoke the mountains into existence, was slain for the sins of the world. 

It's interesting to me that the creator of the world made a habit of traveling up on the mountain.

Memorable events in God's story took place on top of mountains. Abraham went to offer his son on a mountain in Moriah (Genesis 22). Moses received the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Isaiah prophecies of a mighty mountain, exalted above all others, to which all the nations will come.

Many who have climbed mountains have expressed the feeling of being closer to God. It could be that the higher we ascend on earth's mountains, the further we distance ourselves from the world's distractions. Scaling those great heights we find ourselves surrounded by the grandeur of God's creation, hearing nothing but the beating of our heart and our heavy breaths, as we endure the steep climb. It is there we can better meet our God, not in some kind of mystical, emotional, supernatural sensation. Rather when we separate ourselves from the endless distractions of the world and surround ourselves with the beauty of God's creation, we allow for ourselves a moment of uninterrupted focus on the almighty.

We need more of this. Maybe not driving to a literal mountain and climbing it. But time in silence with God. Time away from the noise of everyday demands. Maybe a bench in a park. Maybe a hill overlooking your city. Maybe a trail you can walk, or sitting in the night's sky overlooking the stars. We need that kind of time in our life. Time where we can devote our thoughts and our words to Christ. Time when we can rearrange our hearts, our priorities to their proper focus - Christ's Kingdom (Matt. 6:33). Do you have a place you can go? Have you spent time alone with God lately? Make some time this week. Find a place where you can take in the splendor of God's creation, be reminded of God's power and majesty - a place where you can purely focus on your God. Climb your mountain.

Thursdays with Bill - Christians Facing Problems

Thursday, May 14, 2015

                  CHRISTIANS FACING PROBLEMS

 

                  Most of you have found out that being a Christian does not mean you are going to have a problem-free life.

  1. Even the most faithful Christians have to face real problems in this life, and some problems are hard, even heart-breaking, problems.
  2. The Bible even teaches that being a Christian forces us to face some problems we would not have if we were not Christians.
  3. The song says: “No tears in heaven”
    • In this life there are yet tears, and sorrow, and pain – that’s the bad news.
  4. But the good news is: the faithful Christian will have no more problems after this life is over ... and while we live in this life, with God’s help, we can face whatever problems we have to face, and we can endure it.

 

                  I want to talk to you about that in this lesson. I want to talk about Christians facing problems.

                   

                  I WANT TO BEGIN BY TALKING ABOUT SOME OF THE PROBLEMS CHRISTIANS SOMETIMES HAVE TO FACE.

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF HAVING A HUSBAND OR WIFE WHO IS NOT A CHRISTIAN

  1. I realize that some people who are not Christians are still out-standing people.
    • They have high moral standards.
    • They have honesty and integrity.
    • They are friendly, and kind, and generous.
    • And we admire their many fine qualities and enjoy being around them.
  2. Some people might think that a Christian who is married to such a nice person has no real problem – but I don’t believe that.
    • It would have to be a worrisome problem to love someone more than you love anyone else in the world, and have to live every day of your life knowing that he/she is lost – just one heartbeat away from eternal separation from God and a punishment without hope of reprieve.
  3. And the Christian who is married to an unbeliever who is not an outstanding person faces an even more difficult problem.
    • He/she may be immoral, or dishonest, or vulgar, or abusive, or actively opposing the doctrine of Christ.
    • The Christian who is married to such a person has the problem of living every day with a person who is a corrupting influence – either deliberately, or uncaringly, trying to work the ruin of the Christian.
  4. Some Christians in the 1st century faced the same difficult problem: married to one who has never obeyed the gospel, or married to one who has turned his/her back on the Lord – 1Cor 7:12-13; 1Pet 3:1.
  5. How is a Christian to cope with this problem – not just today, or tomorrow, but day after day for the rest of his life?

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF HAVING BEEN FORSAKEN BY A HUSBAND OR WIFE

  1. In some cases, the departing husband or wife has left in order to pursue an adulterous relationship with someone else.
    • In such cases the Christian can divorce, and is freed from the marriage bond, and can remarry – Matt 19:9.
    • But the feelings of betrayal, the feelings of anger and resentment, the hurt and pain, will not soon go away.
    • And there may be “scars” that never completely heal.
    • And if there are children at home the problems are even more complicated and difficult.
  2. b. In other cases, the marriage disruption has nothing to do with adultery, and the innocent Christian partner is left to face even harder problems – Matt 5:32.
  3. Some Christians in the 1st century faced this problem, too – 1Cor 7:15.
  4. What is a Christian to do when faced with such hard and heartbreaking problems?

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF PROLONGED ILLNESS AND PHYSICAL SUFFERING

  1. I’m not talking about the aches and pains that aspirin can cure, or an antibiotic and a few days in bed can cure, or surgery and a brief stay in the hospital can cure.
  2. I’m talking about the Christian who has an illness that isn’t going to get any better.
    • It may never kill him, and it may not get progressively worse – but the illness and the pain will not go away ... ever.
    • I think, after suffering every day for a long while, I would start to wonder: “Why me?”
    • I would probably become very conscious of ungodly people around me who are enjoying robust good health, and I would want to know: “Why me?”
  3. The apostle Paul may have faced this same problem.
    • I’m not sure, but it sounds like it – 2Cor 12:7-10 (note “infirmities” in v9-10).
      • 2Cor 12:7-10 – “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
    • He begged the Lord to take it away. But the Lord’s answer was: “No. You must live with it.”
  4. How is a Christian today to live with the problem of unending illness and suffering?

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF BEING MISTREATED AND MISUNDERSTOOD

  1. I’m talking about a Christian suffering mistreatment for doing good.
    • Sometimes a Christian is sincerely trying to help someone, trying to do them good, with right motives and good intentions, but is misunderstood and mistreated – suffering abuse for trying to do good.
  2. Elders and preachers are frequently faced with this problem.
    • It hurts when you try to help people and in return you get anger, resentment, a cold shoulder, or your get misrepresented and lied about.
  3. Christians throughout the years have frequently had to face this problem.
    • Example: Paul and Silas – Ac 16:16-24
  4. How is a Christian to live with this problem? Especially when it happens over and over?

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF UNDESERVED POVERTY

  1. It is possible for someone who is lazy, or foolish, or wasteful to get themselves head-over-heels in debt – but that is not the person I’m talking about.
  2. I’m talking about the person who does the best he can to provide for himself and his family, and he is careful to live within his income, and through no fault of his own he’s plunged deeply into debt and it looks like he’ll never get out from under it.
    • It may be because of sickness of one of his family members.
    • It may be because of a lawsuit that takes everything he has or ever will have.
  3. And poverty can be a problem that leads to sin.
    • Prov 30:7-9 – “...Feed me with the food allotted to me;  9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.”
    • This proverb also brings up the opposite problem: the problem of prosperity – 1Tim 6:17; Lk 8:14.

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH A PROBLEM THE BIBLE CALLS “YOUTHFUL LUSTS”2Tim 2:22.

  1. When Paul talks about “youthful lusts” I do not think he is talking about lusts that older Christians could not also have problems with.
    • But Paul is pointing out that there are some lusts that are more or less characteristic of the young.
  2. How are young Christians to deal with these problems and temptations – especially in view of the fact that they don’t have the maturity and experience that other Christians do?

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE HAVING TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM OF A “HANDICAPPED” BACKGROUND

  1. I’m not talking about a physical handicap. I’m talking about upbringing.
  2. Children who have faithful Christian parents are blessed indeed:
    • brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,”
    • raised from birth to become children of God.
    • Example: Timothy – 2Tim 3:15.
  3. But most children are not born to Christian parents, and are not reared in Christian homes.
    • Some children are trained and taught by their parents to become anything but a Christian – actually taught by their parents to think, say, and do evil – taught to drink, and lust, and curse, and cheat, and carouse.
    • When people are raised in such homes, and then later become Christians, they have a lot to unlearn.
    • Example: Manaen – Ac 13:1.

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE HAVING TO FACE THE PROBLEM OF LOSING A HUSBAND OR WIFE THROUGH DEATH (OR A SON, OR A DAUGHTER).

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF CHILDREN WHO HAVE GROWN UP, GONE FROM HOME, AND TURNED THEIR BACK ON THE LORD AND THE LORD’S PEOPLE.

 

                  SOME CHRISTIANS ARE FACING THE PROBLEM OF A TERMINAL ILLNESS, HAVING BEEN TOLD THEY HAVE AN INCURABLE ILLNESS AND ONLY A SHORT TIME TO LIVE.

 

                  IT IS SIMPLY THE FACT THAT CHRISTIANS ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM PROBLEMS – EVEN TERRIBLE, HARD PROBLEMS – SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE CHRISTIANS.

  1. In fact, there are problems that Christians have to face because they are Christians – problems they would not have to face if they were not Christians.

 

                  But I want you to realize that it is possible, if you are a Christian, to overcome any of these problems, and any other problems you may have to face.

 

                  (By “overcome” I mean: you can endure it, and still be faithful to God and useful to God, and have peace of mind, and a reasonable measure of happiness)

 

                  CONSIDER THE EXAMPLE JESUS HAS SET FOR US.

  1. Heb 4:15 – “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
  2. God has promised to help us do the same – 1Cor 10:13.

 

                  CONSIDER PAUL’S EXAMPLE.

  1. Php 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
    • This was not said just after his conversion, but while in prison.
  2. Heb 13:5-6 – “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  6 So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”

 

                  CONSIDER THE MANY PROBLEMS 1ST CENTURY CHRISTIANS HAD TO FACE BECAUSE THEY WERE CHRISTIANS, AND YET MANY OF THEM FAITHFULLY ENDURED.

  1. Heb 10:32-39 – But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:  33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became com-panions of those who were so treated;  34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.  35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:  37 "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.  38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."  39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those   who believe to the saving of the soul.”
  2. Rev 2:8-11 – “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:  9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “ 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’”
    • They had already suffered, and Jesus said there was more to come, but Jesus told them: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
    • In each of the epistles to the 7 churches of Asia, an eternal reward was promised “to him who overcomes” – Rev 2:7 ...  2:11 ...  2:17 ...  2:26 ...  3:5 ...  3:12 ...  3:21.

 

  •                  
    1. It is true that we all have our own situations and our own problems to face.
    2. And it may be that you have had to face a problem that is especially hard and heart-breaking.
    3. But it is also true that we can face whatever we have to face, and endure it, and overcome it if we approach it in the right way.

 

                  I have said all that to get to this: I want to suggest something very practical that will help you to get through any problem you ever have to face.

 

                  WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SUGGEST IS CERTAINLY NOT THE ONLY THING THAT GOD HAS PROVIDED TO HELP US WITH OUR PROBLEMS.

  1. But what I am about to suggest will help you with any problem, and it will help you get through what you otherwise would not get through.
  2. What I am talking about is the Bible: READ THE BIBLE.
  • When everything is going good – read the Scriptures.
  • When everything is going bad – read the Scriptures.
  • When your whole world has caved in, and it seems like there is no way it can possibly get worse – read the Scriptures.
  1. Whatever your situation in life is, within the pages of your Bible, God gives you the guidance  and the motivation to help you get through it.
    • If everything is going good for you now – this is what you need.
    • If everything stops going good – this is what you will need.

 

                  I want to read some Bible passages I’m sure you are familiar with, but I want you to listen to them with what I’ve said in this lesson particularly in mind.

  1. 2Tim 3:16-17
  2. Acts 20:32
  3. 1Pet 2:2 – “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby”
  4. Psa 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

 

                  I want to illustrate how practical the Scriptures can be in giving us help with the problems we face.

  1. When you are faced with a problem and you don’t know what to do, the Scriptures can tell you what you ought to do.
    • Example: What should a Christian do who is married to an unbeliever who will not listen to the gospel anymore – who won’t even talk about it?
    • The Scriptures tell you what to do – 1Pet 3:1-2
  2. When you know what you ought to do, but what you ought to do is terribly hard to do, the Scriptures can motivate you to do it –
    • by reminding you that Jesus commands it,
    • by giving examples of others who have done it,
    • by reminding you of the consequences if you don’t do it,
    • and by reassuring you that you can do it.
  3. When you think you know what you ought to do, but you’re wrong, the Scriptures can straighten out your thinking.
    • You may think you ought to “get even.”
    • You may think you ought to quit.
  4. The Scriptures can counteract the ungodly, immoral influences that you are unavoidably subjected to day by day.
    • Example: We live in a society that puts a premium on outward beauty;
      • But the Bible reminds us of what true, lasting beauty really is – Prov 31:30 – 'Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."
    • Example: We live in a society that tries to make alcohol a necessary part of every social activity – picturing it as a part of the “good life”and urging you to “grab all the gusto” you can.
      • But the Bible tells it like it really is:
        • Hos 4:11 – "Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart,"
        • Psa 20:1 – "Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise."
    • Example: We live in a society that advocates and glamorizes sexual immorality.
      • But the Bible awakens your conscience and appeals to your sense of decency – Prov 5:1-20

 

                  CONCLUSION

 

                  Becoming a Christian does not spare anyone from the hard problems in this life.

  1. As a matter of fact, as Christians we will have to face some problems that the non-Christian never faces.

 

                  But whatever problems this life brings our way can be faced and endured if we go about it in the right way – trusting God, and seeking His help.

  1. And although God helps us with our problems in other ways, the help He gives us in the Scriptures is invaluable and indispensable.

- Bill Walton

 

Thursdays with Bill - They Say and Do Not Do

Thursday, April 30, 2015

THEY SAY, AND DO NOT DO

 

                  There is great danger in teaching doctrines that are false.

  1. 2Jn 9 -- “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”
  2. 1Tim 1:3 -- “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia -- remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine.”
  3. Matt 15:8-9 -- “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

 

                  There is also great danger in teaching true doctrine, AND THEN NOT DOING IT.

  1. Some Christians who oppose false doctrines actually practice, in their everyday living, many of those same false doctrines.
  2. Some Christians are right about the Calvinists, Pentecostals and others being wrong in the things they teach, but then those same Christians actually practice some of those doctrines that they rightly say are false!
  3. This kind of thing is abhorrent to God

Matt 23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

  1.  3 “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
    • Rom 2:17-24 -- “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God,  18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law,  19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,  20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.  21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?  22 You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?  24 For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written.”

 

I want to point out some areas in which people who claim to be true Christians,  and teach true doctrine, are sometimes/often guilty of teaching one thing and practicing something else.

 

EXAMPLES AND APPLICATION

 

1. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

                   

                  False doctrine: Salvation is by faith only.

  1. “Wherefore, the doctrine of salvation by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and full of comfort” (Methodist Discipline).

                   

                  True doctrine: Saving faith is a living, active, obedient faith.

  1. Jas 2:17    “Thus also faith by itself, without works, is dead.”
  2. Jas 2:24    “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
  3. Gal 5:6    “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

 

                  Yet, some Christians are seldom involved in actually DOING THE WORKS they say are necessary to saving faith.

  1. Jas 1:27    visiting the fatherless and widows
  2. Heb 10:24-25    encouraging and admonishing other Christians
  3. 1Pet 4:9    practicing hospitality
  4. Gal 6:1    restoring those who are involved in sin
  5. 2Tim 2:2    teaching the lost

 

                  Christians (real Christians) devote their lives to the Lord’s work and doing good works.

  1. 1Tim 6:18 (NIV)    “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
  2. 1Cor 15:58    “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

 

                  Who is the worst offender?

  1. The one who says salvation is by faith only?
  2. Or, the one who says we are justified by works, and not by faith only, but  then doesn’t do the works?!

 

2. BAPTISM

 

                  False doctrine: Baptism by itself will save (Baptismal Regeneration).

  1. A leading Catholic authority defines “baptism” in the following fashion: “A sacrament of the New Law instituted by Jesus Christ, in which, as a result of washing with water accompanied by the words ‘I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,’ a human being is spiritually regenerated, and made capable of receiving the other sacraments.” (Attwater, 45).
    • This view involves the idea that “baptism” need not be accompanied by faith, or personal surrender to the Lord. Note these additional citations from the same source.
      • Baptism of the insane may be lawfully performed if such a desire has been expressed in a lucid interval, or in imminent danger of death if, before losing reason, a desire had been manifested. Those who have been insane from birth, or since before attaining the use of reason, may at any time be baptized as infants.”
      • “Baptism of the unborn. If there is not a probable hope that a child can be baptized after birth, Baptism may be administered in the womb: in the case of a head presentation, on the head; in other presentations on the part presented, but then it has to be again baptized conditionally if it is living on complete delivery. Should the mother die in labour, the child is to be extracted from the womb and, if certainly living, baptized absolutely; if life is doubtful, conditionally. An aborted fetus must also be baptized, unconditionally or conditionally according to the circumstances.”

                   

                  True doctrine: Baptism will save the believing penitent who lives faithfully before God.

  1. Rom 6:3,4    “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
    • Col 2:11,12    “In Him you also were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
  2. Mk 16:16    “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
  3. Ac 26:20    “but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”
  4. Rom 10:9-10    “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

                  But . . .

  1. You don’t hear them confessing their faith when the opportunity arises.
  2. You don’t see the fruits of repentance in their lives
  3. You don’t see them walking in newness of life
  4. You don’t see consistent dedication to living faithfully.

 

                  Who is the worst offender?

  1. The one who says baptism by itself will save?
  2. Or, the one who says baptism is just one of the conditions of salvation, but lives as though it’s the only condition that really matters?!

 

3. THE SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER

 

                  False doctrine: Nothing a Christian does or fails to do puts his soul in any danger (ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED).

  1. “They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith)
  2. “We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.” (Sam Morris, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Stamford, Texas)

 

                  True doctrine: The Christian must “be faithful until death” in order to receive “the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).

  1. Col 1:21-23    And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight - IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard. . .”
  2. 2Pet 1:5-11    “ But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,  6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,  7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.  10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;  11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
  3. Tit 2:11-14    “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  14 who gave Himself for us, that (1) He might redeem us from every lawless deed and (2) purify for Himself His own special people, (3) zealous for good works.”

 

                  Some members of the church say that a Christian must be faithful unto death to receive the crown of life, but . . .

  1. they live however they want to
  2. they go where they want to go
  3. they do what they want to do
  4. they say what they want to say
  5. they act like they have some special exemption from God

 

                  Who is the worst offender?

  1. The one who says a Christian’s sins do not endanger his soul?
  2. Or, the one who says a Christian’s sins do endanger his soul, but behaves as though he doesn’t mean a word of it?

 

4. MUSIC IN WORSHIP

 

False doctrine: It’s alright to use mechanical instruments of music in our worship to God.

 

                  True doctrine: We are to sing and make melody in our hearts in our worship to God.

  1. Heb 13:15    “Therefore by Him let us continually offer up the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
  2. Eph 5:19    “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”
  3. Col 3:16    “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”
  4. Psa 95:1-7 -- “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  3 For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.  4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also.  5 The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.  6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.  7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.  . . .”

 

                  Who is the worst offender?

  1. The one who enthusiastically sings songs of praise and admonition while accompanied by instruments of music?
  2. Or, the one who insists that only singing is approved by God and we must make melody “in the heart” and not on mechanical instruments, but he finds no real enjoyment in singing and his heart really isn’t in it?

 

5. GIVING TO THE WORK OF THE CHURCH

 

False doctrine: Christians are required to tithe -- like the Jews under the law of Moses..

 

                  True doctrine: Christians are to give freewill offerings.

  1. 1Cor 16:2    “let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper. . .”
  2. 2Cor 8:12   “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has. . .”
  3. 2Cor 9:7    “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”

 

                  Who is the worst offender?

  1. The one who is a stickler for giving a tenth of his earnings because he believes the law of Moses (or that part of the law of Moses) is still binding?
  2. Or, the one who contends that our giving is to be governed only by the teaching of the New Testament, but he gives as little as he can “get by with” and even that is given only because he feels obligated?

 

6. THE FELLOWSHIP MEAL

 

                  False doctrine: The local church is authorized by the Scriptures to provide social meals for the congregation (which many of our brethren refer to as “fellowship meals”).

 

                  True doctrine: The Lord’s Supper is the true “fellowship meal” . . . and common meals are to be eaten “at home” . . . and  social meals are to be provided by individual Christians and families as practical demonstrations of brotherly love and hospitality.

  1. I say, “The Lord’s Supper is the true ‘fellowship meal” because . . .
    • 1Cor 10:16    “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (koinonia, fellowship, YLT) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (koinonia, fellowship, YLT) of the body of Christ?  17 For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
  2. I say, “common meals are to be eaten at home” because . . .
    • 1Cor 11:22    “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”
    • 1Cor 11:34    “But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.”
  3. I say, “social meals are to be provided by individual Christians and families as practical demonstrations of brotherly love and hospitality” because . . .
    • Ac 2:46    “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  47 praising God and having favor with all the people.”
    • Rom 12:10, 13    “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
    • 1Pet 4:9    “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”

 

                  Brethren, it is NOT enough to oppose “fellowship halls” and “fellowship meals”and church-sponsored social and recreational activities.

  1. The Lord’s apostle says we must be “given to hospitality” (Rom 12:13).
    • Given to hospitality” means “pursuing hospitality” and it’s translated that way in Young’s Literal Translation.
    • Marvin Vincent, in his Word Studies in the NT, says: “Lit., pursuing hospitality.” And he goes on to say: “The verb indicates not only that hospitality is to be furnished when sought, but that Christians are to seek opportunities for exercising it.”
    • This same verb is translated “pursue” in a number of other passages.
      • In 1Cor 14:1 Paul says, “Pursue love”
      • In 1Th 5:15 he says, “always pursue what is good”
      • In Heb 12:14 the writer says, “Pursue peace with all men”
    1. So Christians are to pursue hospitality, looking for opportunities to practice hospitality . . .
      • to one another in the congregation
      • to new members
      • to visiting preachers
      • to travelling brethren    
  2. As we learn to love one another as brothers and sisters in the family of God we will want to spend time together, and be in one another’s homes.
    • It will become a natural expression of our love and affection for one another.
    • We will be closer to some than to others, but we will love all our brothers and sisters -- and we will be hospitable toward all of them.

 

CONCLUSION

 

                  This sermon has really been about HYPOCRISY.

  1. Because we’ve been talking about people who SAY one thing, but DO something else.
    • They SAY they believe one thing, but they BEHAVE as though they believe something else
  2. Jesus reserved His very strongest rebuke and condemnation for just such people as that:  “They say, and do not do.”(Matt 23:3)
    • Again and again He called them “hypocrites”
    • And Jesus says the hypocrites will be damned.
    • Matt 15:7-9    “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:  8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.’  9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
    1. Matt 24:51    “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’  49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,  50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,  51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

                

Bill Walton

Word for the Week: Better

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Better. The word carries some implications. It brings to mind the idea of quality. It implies a judgment being made. We might use words like greater, superior, or improved. We use the word all the time. It determines the choices we make. We talk about the better tasting food, or a restaurant that offers better service. We like some movies, but there are others which are better. We talk about better schools and teachers, better cars and roads. We discuss better care in hospitals and coverage with insurance. We want jobs with better pay and offer better benefits. We understand the concept of better. Some things are good. Other things are simply better. 

Martha needed to be reminded of this. Her service to Jesus was good. Preparing the food and caring for her guests was good. However there was something better she could have been doing. She could have followed the example of her sister who chose the "better part" of sitting at the Master's feet and taking in the bread of life (Luke 10:42). 

This is the Christian life - choosing between what is good and what is better. There are many "good things" we can be involved in. There are good works and services which can fill up our schedule and occupy our time and energy. But are they what is best? Are there more important things I need to be focused on? Are there more pressing matters which deserve my full attention? The writer in Hebrews urges us to shed the weight that slows us down so we can run as fast as we can towards our heavenly goal (Hebrews 12:1-2). It ought to remind us that even though there may be things in this life which may not be sinful or wrong, it doesn't mean they will help me be who God wants me to be, or do what God has asked me to do. In all things I need to ask - which is good, and which is better? And like Mary I need to have the heart that always seeks the better part. 

 

Jesus and Moses

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jesus and Moses. To the Jews this would be a no brainer, Moses is greater. He was one of the chief figures of Judaism and was primarily associated with the Old Law (Joshua 8:32). Moses is remembered as the one sent from God to help free God's people from the Egyptians (Exodus 3:10). Moses went into the presence of God on mount Sinai where God gave him the law (Exo. 19-20). Moses was one whom God spoke to "face to face" (Exodus 33:11). He was known as the most humble man (Numbers 12:3). He led God's rebellious and stubborn people to the promised land. It wasn't easy, but that is an admirable quality about Moses - he was an excellent leader. He had a heart for people, and a heart for God. The Jews were proud of their connection to Moses (John 9:28). 

But as great as Moses was, Jesus is greater. That's what the writer of the book of Hebrews points out in the third chapter. Jesus is greater because of His position. He is the builder of all things (Hebrews 3:3-4). He created the world (Hebrews 1:2). He built this spiritual house made up of God's faithful people (Matthew 16:18; 1 Timothy 3:15). Moses was a servant who worked in God's house (Hebrews 3:5). Jesus is the Son who presided over God's house (Hebrews 3:6). The Son is the heir of an inheritance. The Son is in a position of authority over the servants. Moses was great and his service to God and God's people was excellent, but Jesus is far greater because He is the Son - the creator of all things. He is the Son who humbled Himself in coming to earth as a servant, in humble obedience to the Father which resulted in His death for the sins of the world (Philippians 2:8). 

Thus Jesus and Moses are similar in that they both served in God's house. What's different between the two is that Moses (just like us) was simply a servant. He was a leader of God's people, and a prophet, yet despite these roles he filled Moses was ultimately simply a servant to God. Jesus is the Son who took on the role of a humble servant. It's an incredible thought, the Son leaving the throne and taking on the towel, becoming a servant so that through His death we who are merely servants of God may become adopted into God's family - no longer simply servants, we may be called His sons/daughters (Romans 8:15-17). What an awesome Lord we serve!

Thursdays with Bill - Let Not the Church Be Burdened

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LET NOT THE CHURCH BE BURDENED

 

                  I want to remind you of something that has happened to many churches in our society.

  1. It has happened to Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches and other denominational churches.
  2. And it has happened to a lot of churches of Christ.

 

But what has happened to those churches must never be allowed to happen to this church.

 

1. I want to begin by calling your attention to 1Tim 5:16

 

KJV: “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed."

 

As you think about this passage take special note of the part that says, “let not the church be charged.”

 

NKJ: “… do not let the church be burdened”

 

NAS: “... let not the church be burdened”

 

NIV: “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them”

 

C.B Williams: “let the church be free from the burden”

 

2. What this passage is teaching is the fact that God intended that there should be limits on the benevolent responsibilities of the churches.

 

                  Example: Churches are NOT to be burdened with caring for your needy relatives.

  1. If you have family members who are in need, the responsibility to help them is your responsibility, and that responsibility is not to be put on the church.
    • 1Tim 5:4 ~ “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.”
    • 1Tim 5:16 ~ “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”
  2. Furthermore: the Bible solemnly warns us that refusing to care for our family mem-bers  a denial of the faith.
    • 1Tim 5:8 ~ “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
  3. So churches are NOT to be burdened with the care of Christians who have family to care for them.

 

                  Another way churches are NOT to be burdened is with the care of non-christians.

  1. I won’t take time to go through each passage in the New Testament to       show who churches helped in the 1st century, but in every case it was needy saints.
    • Example: Ac 4:32-35; Rom 15:25-26; 1Cor 16:1-3.
      • Saints were not the only needy people in Jerusalem at that time, but these churches did not burden themselves with the impossible burden of trying to help everybody.
  2. This doesn’t mean that individual Christians should not try to help non-christians when they are able.
    • The Bible teaches that we, as individual Christians, have a responsibility to help our neighbors and others as we have opportunity –– Gal 6:10
  3. But God never intended for churches to be burdened with the task of trying to take care of all needy people.

 

What we must keep in mind is that: (1) God created the church to do certain things, but (2) God did not intend for the church to try to do everything, and (3) we should not burden the church with things God didn’t intend for the church to do.

 

3. I freely acknowledge that what I have just said sounds very strange in our day when most people see churches as a part of the answer for almost every social need and problem in modern society.

 

The modern idea is: If anybody needs something or wants something the churches are one place to go to get it.

 

If anyone is short on rent money, or money for utilities, or money for groceries they just get out the yellow pages and start calling churches.

 

If children need daycare they look to churches to provide daycare services.

 

If public schools are inadequate they think churches should build and operate alternative schools.

 

If mothers need time for themselves away from their kids they want to drop them off at one of the churches for “Mother’s Day Out.”

 

If someone needs a recreational diversion from the stresses of modern living they expect the churches to provide the recreation.

 

If parents have problems with their children they think the churches that are really “on the ball” will provide psychological counseling for them to get them straightened out.

 

So the teaching of the Bible that churches should not be burdened with some things seems very strange in light of modern ideas about what a church should be and what a church should do.

 

4. Furthermore, it is also true that many churches have willingly shifted their focus away from meeting man’s need for salvation and spiritual growth in order to focus on the social and secular goals.

 

                  Some churches have even conducted market analyses to determine what people in the community want in a church so they can re-design the church to make it more attractive to people.

  1. If people wanted the church to provide Driver’s Education they would provide it.
  2. If people didn’t want to hear about sin and Hell they would avoid it.
  3. If people wanted diet and aerobics classes they would provide them.

 

                  They even made these purely secular activities sound “churchy” by inventing clever religious sounding names for them.

  1. Example: Many of these social and secular activities are now labeled “ministries” so they will sound religious.
  2. Example: Church gymnasiums are now called “Family Life Centers.”
  3. Example: Providing these purely secular activities is now called “ministering to the whole man.”

 

                  If you’re wondering why some churches are doing all this it’s because it works.

  1. What I mean by “it works” is this: They have discovered that by catering to modern ideas about what churches should be . . .
    • they can draw bigger crowds,
    • they can swell their memberships,
    • they can increase their budgets,
    • they can build bigger buildings,
    • and they can become more prominent in their communities.

 

So it’s true: The idea in 1Tim 5:16 of not burdening and distracting the church with work that God has not assigned or authorized seems very strange by today’s standards.

 

5. But, on the other hand, we also have to admit that what has happened to many churches has turned them into something very different from the kind of churches God put in place in New Testament times.

 

The simple truth is this: The churches we read about in the Bible were focused primarily on meeting people’s spiritual needs through evangelism, teaching, and worship.

 

                  That spiritual emphasis on teaching and evangelism is reflected in the various teaching jobs God assigned in the early church

  1. Eph 4:11-16 ~ “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ -– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

 

                  That focus on saving people from their sins, and building them up in the faith through the teaching of God’s word, is also reflected in the way the Bible describes the church.

  1. 1Tim 3:14,15 ~ “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
  2. 1Pet 2:5 ~ “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 

                  And this emphasis on spiritual teaching and evangelism by the early Christians is even seen when legitimate charitable work was done.

  1. Ac 6:1-4 ~ “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’”

 

So, what many people want churches to be today, and what many churches have become, really is very different from what churches were in New Testament times.

 

6. The question I want you to think about is this: “Why shouldn’t churches change, if it works?”

 

Or, to make the question personal, let’s ask: “Why shouldn’t this church change if it will help us to draw bigger crowds, and have a bigger budget, and give us more prominence in the community?”

 

                  One answer is: Even though secular appeals do attract more people it is appealing to peo-ple on the wrong basis.

  1. Illustration: Suppose we announced in the paper that we would give a $50.00 bill to every visitor attending our services next Sunday?
    • The fact is: Some churches have used money to get people to attend.
    • And we all know if we offered enough money we could easily have an overflow crowd here.
    • But the problem is: They would be here for the wrong reason.
  2. If you’re wondering if it really matters why people come to church services, just look at Jn 6:24-26 ~ “When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You come here?’ 26 Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’”
  3. As you think about Jn 6 ask yourself, “How many people could Jesus have gotten to follow Him if He had done and said what they wanted Him to do and say?”
    • Of course, the answer is: Jesus could have had even bigger crowds if He had given the crowds what they wanted.
  4. But Jesus didn’t adjust His teaching to suit the crowds because He didn’t come just to draw crowds -– but to change people and save them.
  5. Point: Even though churches can draw bigger crowds, and have bigger budgets, and bigger buildings by catering to the world – that is not God’s goal … and it is appealing to people in the wrong way.

 

                  And while I’m at it, let me point out that when a church starts adding things to the work of worship of the church in order to conform to what people want or expect, there is virtually no stopping point.

  1. If a church can add benevolence to non-christians to its work because people want that or expect that …
    • Then a church can add instrumental music to its worship because people want that or expect that
    • and, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what the “Two-by-Two” do – they don’t believe in using instrumental music in their worship, but they use instrumental music in their “out-reach” efforts because they think people want it and expect it.

 

                  The second reason we must not burden the church with work God hasn’t assigned to the church is because it lessens the ability of the church to do the work God has assigned to it.

  1. What I’m saying wouldn’t be true if a church had unlimited resources.
    • The church could do it all: it could do all that God assigned it to do ... and it could do anything it chose to do beyond what God assigned.
  2. But the reality is: There is only so much any church can do - and if a church uses any of its resources to do work that God has not authorized  it will necessarily diminish by that much its ability to do to the work God has authorized.
  3. llustration: Suppose this church has $100,000 in financial resources     every year (I know money is the not only resource a church has).
    • Suppose by using that $100,000 for the teaching, evangelism, and benevo-lence God wants us to do we accomplish “X” amount of good.
    • Now suppose instead of using $100,000 in the work God wants us to do, we use $50,000 to do work God doesn’t want us to do -– leaving only $50,000 to do the work He has authorized.
    • Obviously, we have diminished our ability to do the work God wants us to do by half.
  4. Point: To whatever degree a church involves itself in work God has not assigned it to do, to that degree it has lessened its ability to do the work God has assigned it to do.
    • And that’s true whether we’re talking about financial resources or “human resources.”
  5. So churches should not be burdened with work God has not assigned because it lessens their ability to do the work God has assigned.

 

                  But the simplest reason of all is: Because God said not to do it.

  1. In 1Tim 5:16 God has plainly said not to burden the church with certain things.
    • And even if it makes no sense to us, the fact that God said it requires us to respect it.
  2. In 2Jn 9 God also said that we must not go beyond Christ’s doctrine.

 

Whether we’re talking about teaching doctrines Christ didn’t give or burdening the church with responsibilities Christ didn’t assign, it is going beyond the doctrine of Christ.

 

Conclusion

 

So it’s true that many churches today are very different from churches we read about in the Bible.

 

It’s also true that churches today patterned after those in the Bible seem strange and behind-the-times to many people.

 

                  But our goal as a church is not to conform to worldly ideas about what a church should be, but to be what God tells us to be in the Bible.

  1. That won’t win us any awards from community civic clubs.
  2. That won’t gain us prominence in the eyes of local political leaders.
  3. That won’t seem “effective” and “modern” to many people.
  4. But that will (1) entitle us to keep calling ourselves a “church of Christ,” and (2) it will appeal to people who are really wanting to learn and follow the Bible, and (3) most of all: it will please God.

Bill Walton

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