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Adventures in Faith

RIGHTEOUS, BLESSED, AND WASHED

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Solomon stated, “Righteousness exaulteth a nation.” (Prov.14:34). If the nation I am a citizen in does righteous things, does that guarantee my salvation? No. When citizens of a nation do what is morally right, the individuals and nation as a whole enjoy the results. However, salvation is granted by God to individuals, not nations. Salvation takes place in the mind of God. Therefore, man cannot create his own way to be saved. A prophet stated, “The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life (John 14:6). God gave us the way through His Son. Jesus died in our place for the sins you and I committed. When we place our trust in and follow Him, he takes away all our sins.

In Romans 4:7,8 we read, “Blessed and to be envied, are those whose sins are forgiven and put out of sight. Yes, what joy there is for anyone whose sins are no longer counted against him by the Lord.” When a Christian stands before Jesus in the judgment, guess how many sins he will have to answer for? None. That’s right. None. Why? Because all his sins have not only been forgiven but forgotten. That person will stand before God as though he had never sinned. He will be perfect because he is covered with the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s why we must put our trust in Jesus rather than in our accomplishments. Not our works, but his blood puts us in right standing with God.

We often ask in song, “What can wash away my sins?” The answer is also given, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That song is correct. We sing God’s truth which is called gospel or “Good News.” How can I bath myself in the blood of Jesus? He died 2,000 years ago. By faith I can die to sin and be buried with Christ into his death. Inspiration tells me that I get into this burial by immersion. What a beautiful picture Paul paints in Romans 6 of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I can be blessed by what he did by being involved in his sacrifice through that immersion. As a sinner, I must die to the body of sin. I bury that body through a burial with Jesus in water and I am raised from that watery grave as a new or saved person because I became a partner with Jesus in his death. Free at last from the old creature and now revealed as the new man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-4).

Regardless of which path my country takes, I can be right with God. When I am right with God, He removes all my sins. All of them. My trust is in Jesus whose blood keeps me in good standing with the Father. God has provided the way, the truth, and the life for us if we will accept it. God saves. Since He does, we can be saved by following his guide lines rather than ours.

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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

fearWhen I look at my righteous achievements, I fear. When I look at my perfection, I fear.  When I look at the quality of my prayers, I fear.  When I look at my life each day, I fear.  When I think about dying, I fear.  When I think about the judgment, I fear.  Am I paranoid?  Some might think so, but “No!”  Do I have panic attacks? No. How can I possess fear and not have negative results?  How can I own those fears and be a Christian?  I am one, but my shoulders are too small to bear fear’s burden alone!

My righteous achievements?  Laughable.  My perfection?  Nonexistent.  The quality of my prayers? Dismal. My daily life? Inadequate. My death? Frightening. The judgment? Questionable.

Yet, I don’t have panic attacks nor negative results.  I haven’t been defrocked.  My shoulders remain small.  I fall so short, if measured in inches, powerful microscopes would not see me. Paul may have been “chief” but I’m second.  My cry is the same as his, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24 (NKJV).  His and my answer?  Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!!  What’s yours?

Without Jesus, fear would be my driver.  What can I do to pay for my sins or assist Jesus’ blood in my cleansing?  If perfection is required, failure is my companion.  Perfection was Jesus’ mission, not mine.  Belief in what He did for me is required, not “Look how much I have done for you, Jesus.”  I sin, but it drives me to the one who remits it.  If I thought my prayers paid for my forgiveness, I would be a fool.  My gospel would not be good news but one rewarded with damnation.  I don’t fear dying because I know who walks with me through that valley.  I am not afraid of judgment because I will not stand there to remind Jesus about how faithful I’ve been, but rather praise Him for how gracious He is.  I will not look at my achievements, but glory in His.  He takes away fears and gives peace! He is my focus, not me!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In Luke 14: 15-24 Jesus tells about a man who had a banquet but the invited guest had excuses and could not attend.  The master sent hbible-scrollis servant out to invite people off the street.  The hall was still not filled, so the master told the servant to “Go out to the highways and country roads.  Make them come.  I want my house to be full!  I tell you, none of those men whom I invited first will get a taste of my banquet!

We are introduced to the same story in Matthew 22:1-10.  However, a lot of things are added and the purpose is different from the one in Luke.  In Matthew, the secondary invited folks, if not properly dressed, are bound and thrown out.  The story ends with, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” rather than “none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

In Luke’s account the “excuses” are more detailed than in Matthew.  Luke doesn’t mention that this is a wedding party.  Matthew does.  Luke is more descriptive about who the servant invites.  In Luke the guest are compelled to come, but not so in Matthew.  In Luke the host is “a certain man” whereas in Matthew he is “a king.”  In Matthew, how one is dressed is important, but Luke says nothing about it.

The Holy Spirit inspired both Matthew and Luke.  So, why are their stories different?  Both are stories or “parables.”  Matthew is writing to a different audience than Luke.  Matthew fills in some details of Jesus’ story not covered by Luke.  Luke is writing to a Gentile readership.  Luke picks out a lesson that fits the audience he is writing to whereas Matthew uses what will best fit his readers.

Preachers are often approached after a service and told what the individual got from the sermon.  Most preachers are surprised because the point they were making is different from the point that person heard.  Sometimes an audience with different needs receives help to deal with that need from a sermon that wasn’t designed by the speaker to address it.  Sometimes a person is feeling guilty about a secret sin and imagines the preacher is exposing it, whereas the minister is totally innocent of the charges.  It is the power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12)!

Matthew is not contradicting Luke.  Both are giving the essence of Jesus’ story, but dealing with different points from the story which fits their respective readers.  In the first century, most people would not have both Matthew’s account and Luke’s.  We have the advantage of possessing both so we may gain the lessons delivered to both audiences.

In studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one needs to research the parallels of each to gain all that is being said.  Our studies are enriched by this advantageous blessing.

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few Sundays ago one of our songs was, “Lord, I Need You,” written by Matt Maher in 2013.  Some of the words are:

assuranceLord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.

As the congregation sang that song I wondered how well those words were sinking into our consciousness?  How many believe God will save them because of their righteousness, performed to co-host His?  One faith teaches that we must have more “good” works than bad ones if we are going to heaven.  In other words, you are on a “point system” and must work to produce “x” number in order to save yourself!  If that is our religious foundation, we have no business singing Matt’s song!

In discussing the righteousness of Jesus as compared to ours, an individual asked if his obedience didn’t amount to something in procuring his salvation.  Is “obedience” necessary?  Yes (2 John 1:9 NIV).  If one loves the Lord, he will willingly obey Him (John 14:15, 23; 15:10).  However, that is altogether different than saying, “My righteousness is worth __% in paying for my salvation.”  Actually, “our righteousness” is like a dirty rag, that if you touched it, you would want to immediately wash your hands (Isaiah 64:6)!

At the judgment, one will not remind Jesus about how well his works measured up to Jesus’ actions upon the cross and expectantly state, “You owe me something for what I’ve done!”  Those who do such have missed the Good News completely.  In fact, it could be another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

If my trust in going to heaven is based upon how obedient I am, my failure to “do enough” will leave me frustrated, ridden with guilt, depressed, and with a fear that will consume me.  Why?  Because our obedience will never be sufficient to make a down payment on our sin debt.  However, I can with assurance say that Jesus is my Savior and I trust that He paid it all for me!

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, Every hour I need You, My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need you.”

Jesus paid it all!!  I am not capable of adding even 1%.  Jesus is not a 99% Savior.  He is my 100% Lord and Savior!  He is the one who saves, not me (Hebrews 5:1)!  I obey Him, not to make points, but because He made the points for me.  I can never repay Him.  My obedience does not supplement the full price he paid for me (1 Corinthians 6:20)!  Why do men demote what Jesus did in order to glorify what we think we’ve done?

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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Monday, December 26, 2016

This family got up together.  The boy dressed and went to milk the cow.  The father cut and retrieved wood for the cook stove and started the fire.  The mother prepared breakfast for going-to-church-2everyone after she got the youngest child dressed.

The father fed the livestock.  The mother gathered the eggs and fed the chickens.  The boy strained the milk, separating the cream, and put the milk where it would stay cool.  Everyone finished breakfast, got the Bible, and finished getting ready to go to church.  The mule was harnessed and each member mounted it.  Snow was still on the ground, but the weather had warmed causing the yard and road to be soft and muddy.  They rode five miles to the church building in town, arriving fifteen minutes early.  The year was 1895.

The alarm goes off.  An arm manages to swings out from under the covers and hit the snooze button.  Fifteen minutes later, the scene repeats itself.  He and his wife finally drag out of bed.  He retrieves the Sunday paper and sits to read the funnies.  The wife yells at the two boys to get up, “IT’S SUNDAY”!  There is no response.  A second, third, and fourth warning is called out, each getting louder.  Grumbling is heard.  Arguments begin.  It signals that both are up!

Mom heats up some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.  Three times “Breakfast is ready” bounces off the walls before anyone appears.  There is bantering between the boys but breakfast is soon consumed.  Instructions again about it being Sunday and the boys are admonished to “quit messing around and get dressed.”  Dad is included in the instruction!  He shaves and combs his hair.  He and she get dressed.  A few more admonitions and the boys look half way decent.  It takes a few more warnings to get everyone in the family vehicle.  Off they go.  They live four block from the church building.  The speed limit is 40, but dad fudges 5 miles more.  This morning they hit all the green lights.  They arrive but parking near the entrance is taken.  Four part grumbling fills the car.  They are in the seventh row of parked cars and down about 300 feet.  All four doors open and the family exits, heading for the church entrance.  The wind is brisk and cold.  More grumbling. They are ten minutes late rather than the usual fifteen.  They congratulate themselves on being five minutes earlier!  The father is the great grandson of the youngest brother pictured on the mule.  The year is 2016.

The wife sees that picture every Sunday and wonders if their ride was on a mule rather than in a Ford Bronco, would they arrive at church fifteen minutes early?

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THE PHILIPPIANS WORK OUT!

My Thoughts . . .
Thursday, December 5, 2019

Paul wrote to the Philippian assembly stating,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

For some, that passage has been a thorn rather than a crown. Soon one discovers that perfection is a goal that is beyond their reach. It is a heartache without healing. It is an impossible job to complete. That interpretation has created a “fear and trembling,” foreign to Paul’s meaning. The apostle did not command the impossible. He was not inferring that the harder you work, the closer you are to eternal salvation. He was not establishing a standard to create miniature Saviors.

That passage is usually connected to others making it appear that eternal salvation is reserved for those who can outperform others (Matthew 5:48; 2 Timothy 3:17). That interpretation creates a false standard of righteousness (Titus 3:5 a). What human being will be chosen as the one that all others will be measured by? Who was that special person in the Philippian membership? Was it based upon perfect attendance, number of people converted, amount of money contributed, prayers offered, or passages quoted? If there is a model to be copied, wouldn’t it be Jesus? Who has attained his perfection or sacrifice? Only the false Messiahs believe they have (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).

The Philippian congregation wasn’t corrected as much as the Corinthian church was. Yet, there were imperfections (3:17-19; 4:2-3). Perfection eludes all saints and assemblies. We mistakenly believe a congregation is faithful if it immerses “for the remission of sins,” meets each Sunday to partake of communion, places money in the collection plate, has “sound” elders and deacons, the attendance numbers are good, the preacher quotes all the familiar passages, and error is faithfully condemned. That may be man’s ideal perfection, but fails to meet God’s standard. For the perceptive, the gap between the two is enormous. That distance strikes “fear and trembling” in hearts that understand the difference. Those who see that deviation know that their efforts to conquer it will only be rewarded with failure. Their “work” will never be enough. This multiplies their “fear and trembling.”  Paul’s command is a work resulting in impossibility as its reward. The blind swallow it and the sighted are rewarded with discouragement.

Isn’t this what Paul is saying? Is he setting goals that neither the Philippians nor future believers can attain? Why would Paul, with those few words, snatch the hope of eternal life from those who are seeking it? Perhaps those words have been taken out of context! Is Paul telling them that salvation is within their grasp IF the culmination of their work is sinless perfection? Or, is he telling them to continue to be obedient in his absence as they were when he was present? There is a difference. They were not sinless when he was with them, nor are they sinless in his absence. He isn’t demanding perfection. God does demand faith. Faith begins when one feeds upon milk (1 Peter 2:2). Yet, as that faith develops, one grows (Hebrews 5:12-14). Faith produces maturity, not sinlessness. Our sinlessness comes through the cleansing blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12, 14; 13:12; Revelation 1:5).

If we substitute some of the different words that some believe Philippians 2:12 is teaching, it may help in clearing up some or all of the misunderstandings.

1. Work out your own perfection.
2. Work out your own sinlessness.
3. Work out your own Messiahship.

Some equate “obedience” as their Savior rather than Jesus. No one seems to know the percentage needed to guarantee their salvation. If it is less than 100%, it will not save. So, hope springs up within the heart, believing God’s mercy will fill that gap. But, how much filling with God’s grace pour out? If 25% is needed, but the gap is 1% beyond that amount, will God’s mercy be sufficient? What sinning saint knows how much gap God’s grace will grant? If our obedience must reach a specific level to save, who knows what that level is? If it is not known, isn’t that individual’s hope built upon that obscurity? Is the unknown the faith our hope is founded upon? Like one’s obedience, such faith is not up to par.

Was Paul telling the Philippians to live a life of fear and trembling because they would never be capable of reaching their goal of salvation? Who accomplished and maintained 100% perfection in Philippi? Who does it today? Whose “work” today meets that 100% mark, much less maintains it?

Doesn’t the context show us that Philippi’s actions, when Paul was in their midst, should continue even in his absence? If so, were they sinlessly perfect in their works while he was there, or were they like you and me, faithful but not without sin (1 John 1:8, 10)?

By the way, how much sin does the blood of Jesus remove before it loses its cleansing power? Keep in mind that Jesus paid it all!

WHEN SIN WAKES YOU UP!

My Thoughts . . .

Monday, December 2, 2019

Some have a hard time going to sleep at night because of their sins.  Some have no problem pillowing their head in spite of their sins.  Some are disgusted due to their failure to stop sinning.  Some believe they are perfect and incapable of sinning.  Some give up and return to unbelief because their sin keeps them from being perfect.  Some become impatient with God because they believe He fails in keeping them perfect, so it’s His fault, not theirs.  Some believe Satan is stronger than God since they find it impossible to never sin.  Some believe God gave them an instruction book and then left them to figure it out for themselves.  Some believe God sent His Son to die for our past sins, but we are responsible for saving ourselves from our present ones.  Some realize they will never be perfect and live with fear that they will die before they can ask God to forgive them.  So, how does sin wake you up, and if it does, what good comes from it?

Everyone, whether saint or sinner commits sin.  Who can ignore that fact?  We may excuse ourselves.  We may exempt ours by enlarging yours.  Regardless of what we do, we are all sinners.  It’s in our DNA, so to speak.  Paul told the Roman believers, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  That statement applies to both the believer and the unbeliever.  If that is false, why did Paul have to withstand Peter to his face (Galatians 2:11-14 NASV, NIV)?  He was guilty of hypocrisy.  Paul misjudged Mark, and his partnership with Barnabas ended in a sharp disagreement (Acts 15:26-40).  Later, Paul admitted his mistake (2 Timothy 4:11).

When John wrote his first epistle, he stated,

If we say that we have NO sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us . . . . If we say that we have NOT sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

Everyone sins.  Those who are lost, are sinners.  Those who are saved, are sinners.  What is the redeeming factor between the two types or kinds of sinners?  One is lost IN sin and the other is saved FROM sin.  I am a sinner who has no sin.  How is that possible?  It is due to the difference by being IN Christ rather than separated from him.  When one is In Christ, he is continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  This continuous cleansing action is needed for God to dwell in the believer (1 Corinthians 3:16).  God is holy and cannot dwell in the unholy.  The Christian is kept holy through the righteous, cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.  I cannot say that I have NO sin, or that I have NOT sinned, because I do.  Yet, I am made spotless by the cleansing blood of Jesus.

The Hebrew writer was addressing believing Jews who recognized their short comings or sins.  But they recognized what the blood of Jesus does for them.  Therefore, he writes,

Now the just shall live by faith . . . But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39).

Believers are people whose sins woke them up to their need for Jesus.  Those on Pentecost ask, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  We die to our sins and are buried with Jesus and raised with him into that new life (Romans 6:3-7).  Paul stated, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Sin can wake us up to our need for Jesus and his saving power!  What is your sin doing for you?

AN UPLIFTING DOWNSIDE!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Pick up any “medicine,” whether across the counter or prescribed, and it has a warning label.  In fact, some warnings inform you that side effects may produce the very conditions it is supposed to protect you from!  If so, you are encouraged to “stop” ingesting it and immediately call your doctor!  Very discomforting information.  Yet, that same warning should be attached to other things besides medication.

There are things which we have innocently accepted that were handed down to us from centuries ago.  Like medicine, it offered a solution to what was considered a problem.  It was an “expedient” to make something work better or more smoothly.  It did, or our ancestors would not have adopted it.  Yet, we live in an imperfect world that attaches a price tag to everything.  Yes, everything.

For example, Jesus invites, “Come to me all you who labor or are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Yet, that “rest” has a price tag attached!  Jesus also stated, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22).  He warned, “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).  That “rest” could cost you your life!  That’s the label warning!

The first century church grew rapidly.  About 3,000 on the first day (Acts 2:41).  Another 5,000 men not long after (Acts 4:4).  So, you have a single saved group that met in a Temple courtyard and from house to house (Acts 2:46).  The Jewish Court stopped the meetings in the courtyard with several arrests and beatings until finally Stephen was killed and persecution scattered the church (Acts 3:1-3, 17-18, 21; 5:17-18, 26-28, 33, 40; 7:54-59; 8:1).

The Temple meetings may have produced larger crowds bringing in a multitude of converts like the 3,000 and 5,000.  Yet, the “label” warnings began almost immediately (Acts 4:17; 5:28).  These warnings culminated in Stephen being murdered and Saul building a reputation (Acts 7:59-60; 8:3).  Yet, this did not stop the house to house assemblies.

House to house meetings contained fewer numbers.  An opportunity for 8,000 plus to be together was eliminated.  Yet, meetings continued (Acts 12:12, 17).  Elders continued to shepherd the flock.  Conversions continued. The gospel began to spread beyond Jerusalem.  House assemblies were found in those locations where the gospel was preached (Acts 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2).  House assemblies were useful and expedient.  Without street signs or a church building, Paul and group found the assembly in Troas (Acts 20:6-7).  Yet, some today would see the downside of that arrangement.  They cannot visualize eight thousand partaking of communion without it being in only ONE room.  Their understanding cannot perceive how an eldership can shepherd people without eyeballing the sheep in that one room.  One group believes communion is limited to all drinking from one cup.  Another believes communion must be in one room to be scriptural.

In the third or fourth century church buildings were first mentioned.  This was an expedient that took attendance out of private homes and put them in a centrally located place.  It was easier for travelers to locate.  More people could be together to partake.  Singing probably improved.  But even this expediency had its negatives.  It developed into the location where believers had to gather in order to be in the presence of God.  It became God’s house or temple rather than that label continuing to refer to the saints (Hebrews 3:6).  The assemblies became more formal.  A clergy was developed to lead the laity in authorized worship.  At first the congregants stood, but seating was introduced.  A good expedient, but with its shortcomings.  Attention was focused on what the clergy did.  The attendees did not face one another nor was there communication of encouragement between people since the back of someone’s head faced them!  Holiness was transferred from God’s original building stones (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 2:5) to the brick and mortar that became the substituted holy place.  Time erased the first century’s meeting agenda so any assembly not in the building at the appropriate times must be sinful.  House to house meetings for “worship” became pass tense.  Worship took on a different meaning and rules and regulations were created to solidify its holy importance.  Proper attitudes in that special place were expected.  Special furniture was created, introduced, and accepted as the way things should be.

Some expedients or traditions may be good and useful.  However, when expedients and traditions become “the way it must be done,” then whatever benefits they once brought, vanishes.  The way we do things in the twenty-first century may not be sinful, but we must continually recognize their origin.  They are not commanded by God.  Such things are our creation to make our way of doing things run smoother.  Just because an expedient or tradition has that characteristic doesn’t make it God’s standard.  Like medicine, some actions still have labels which warn us that a good thing may end up being bad for us!  Even good things have their price tag!

IF IT IS NEW, IS IT BAD?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, November 25, 2019

There are songs with lyrics that grab the soul and refuse to release it.  There is a group that came to Jackson a year or so ago and appeared at the Civic Center.  We went early to find a good seat, but our “early” was “late.”  The line stretched from the front doors to about two blocks.  It wasn’t single file, but two or three people wide.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house!  We enjoyed the group from Georgia who have named themselves since 1999 as “Casting Crowns.”  One of the most popular singles by the group, produced in 2011, was “Who Am I?”

Who Am I?

That the Lord of all the earth,

Would care to know my name,

Would care to feel my hurt.

Who Am I?

That the bright and morning star,

Would choose to light the way,

For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am.

But because of what you’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are!

Chorus

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow,

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling,

Lord, you catch me when I’m falling,

And you told me Who I Am.

I am yours.  I am yours.

Who Am I?

That the eyes that see my sin,

Would look on me with love,

And watch me rise again.

Who Am I?

That the voice that calms the sea,

Would call out through the rain,

And calm the storm in me.

Not because of Who I Am.

But because of what you’ve done,

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are.

Chorus

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow.

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling.

Lord you catch me when I’m falling.

And you told me Who I Am.

I Am Yours.

Not because of who I am.

But because of what you’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done.

But because of who you are.

Whom shall I fear?

Whom shall I fear?

Cuz I am yours.

Cuz I am yours.

There may be some believers who do not realize it, but there are 150 psalms (songs) in the Old Testament that spoke to the hearts of Hebrew saints.  In fact, a Jew by the name of Saul or Paul of Tarsus wrote to the saved in Ephesus and stated,

“Speaking to one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).  He also told the Colossian assembly, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

The psalms have found their verses in a number of our songs and hymns today.  There are some phrases in the New Testament that are said to be “hymns” and “spiritual songs” of the first century.  However, inspired passages fail to specifically identify them as such.  Churches of Christ have always had song books which contain numerous songs by those who were not affiliated with us, such as Bill and Gloria Gaither, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, John Newton, Fannie Crosby, and many others.  All of the songs we sing by those writers were “new” at one time.  They were sung by our members for the first time at some period during their day.

If songs by Luther, Wesley, Newton, Crosby, or Gaither may be learned and sung by believers today, then those written by Mark Hall of the group Casting Crowns may also be learned and sung today.  Something new is not always bad!

UNSAFE AND SAFE SINS!?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Paul established the Corinthian congregation and spent eighteen months with them.  Then he traveled to Ephesus.  About a year later he wrote his first letter to them.  In that short period, they have digressed into all the error he addresses.  Apparently their denominating into four parties is the foundation upon which most of their errors find their origin  (Chapters 1 – 4).  After dealing with these four divisions, he begins with one member who is living with his father’s wife.  He refers to this individual as a “fornicator” (v.9).  He commands them to withdraw from this “wicked person” (v.13).  The Corinthian pagan population has not descended into the immorality practiced by this one individual (v.1).

In chapter 6 Paul begins enumerating the other sins the assembly is engaged in.  What is unique about this letter and the congregation’s behavior is that this one individual is the only one they are commanded to withdraw from!  You have an error practicing assembly withdrawing from one member who is in error.  Wouldn’t human nature motivate the one to remind the majority that four of their fingers are pointing at them?  Only one is pointed at him!  Doesn’t that sound hypocritical?

If the Corinthian congregation existed today, wouldn’t the pointing fingers belong to those who label themselves as “sound”?  Words such as “apostate, unsound, unscriptural, or leaving the old paths” would be the message broadcasted by those condemning fingers.  Condemnation would be heaped upon their eldership, deacons, and ministers.  Appeals would be made to the members to flee and fill their roll books because they are safe havens of truth.  Wouldn’t Paul’s admonitions be extolled as a pattern badly needed to prove the soundness of today’s congregations?

If chapter 5 is a pattern for us today, few would experience a member living with his father’s wife.  Yet, how many disciples in each congregation might be guilty of the following actions described by Paul?  What about folks who are being greedy or making money, influence, fame, or power as their idol?  What about those who slander or are abusive?  What about a person who is a drunkard or involved in drugs?  Is there any member who cheats or swindles others?  These activities are listed with fornication (v. 11).  Are we guilty of ignoring such, failing to be grieved over such, fellowshipping such, boasting about such, or eating the Lord’s supper with such?  If so, are we not more like Corinth than we think?

Didn’t Corinth believe in immersion (12:13, 27)?  Didn’t they partake of the Lord’s supper (11:20)?  Weren’t they addressed by an inspired apostle as “the church of God,” “brethren,” “members of ,” and “the body of Christ”? (1:2, 10; 6:15; 12:27)?  Weren’t they included within the “churches of the saints” (14:33)?  Weren’t they the “temple of God” as well as the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (3:16; 6:19)?  Wasn’t the Holy Spirit dwelling within them (3:16)?  Didn’t they have inspired prophets, language speakers, and interpreters (12:27-28)?  Didn’t they give each Sunday (16:1-3).  Didn’t they practice scriptural withdrawing (2 Corinthians 2:7-8)?  Weren’t they in fellowship with other congregations (16:19)?  Weren’t they “bought with a price” (6:20)?  If a congregation had God referring to them as such in all of those actions, wouldn’t we refer to it as a sound church!  Since they were all of that, did Paul refer to them as an apostate congregation?  Is there a single verse where Paul states that they are no long the true body or church of Christ?  Did Paul suggest that the elders, or preachers be withdrawn from?  Did he warn members moving into Corinth to NOT place membership with them until they repented and pray for forgiveness?

If practicing “church discipline” is a factor in being a restored first century church, would your choices cause you to accomplish that goal or fail at it?  If today’s congregations needed to practice scriptural withdrawal, and it was between a man who was living with his father’s wife or a preacher or elder who rejected Paul apostolic authority, which one would you withdraw from?  If it was between a man who was guilty of slander or one who espoused that the dead were not resurrected, which one would you chose to put out?  If it was between a member who was covetous or one who convinced others to be “of Cephas,” who would you withdraw from?

Was Paul in error himself by not withdrawing from the entire Corinthian congregation until each repented and asked for forgiveness for their specific sins?  Perhaps chapter five is a binding pattern where some sins are to be dealt with immediately by other sinning members.  Isn’t Paul’s pattern allowing those other sinners to put off their repentance for months before it is necessary to threaten them with the same disciplining?  They continued to be the church of God in their sins.  They continued to be temple of the Holy Spirit in their sins.  They retained their spiritual gifts.  They continued to be denominated as the assemble of Paul, the assembly of Cephas, the assemble of Apollos, and the assembly of Christ while they disciplined that one individual.  They are involved in doctrinal error, have not yet repented, yet God is still dwelling in them.

What are your thoughts?

OBSERVING THE PASSOVER!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, November 18, 2019

Have you ever read a familiar passage in the Bible and passed over a single word because you didn’t recognize its importance?  Perhaps I too am guilty of doing that.  What was that word?  It was a word which we know, but we read it in our context rather than in Paul’s!  Paul was writing to the church of God in Corinth to correct multiple errors.  When it came to the Lord’s supper, they were partaking, but not waiting on one another.  Their four-way division may have contributed to that problem.  They also refused to share with one another.  As a results, Paul writes,

For as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” (1 Corinthians 11:21 NIV).

Few miss that word “drunk.”  Some deny the fruit of the vine was alcoholic.  We know it wasn’t Welch’s.  The 13 years of Prohibition probably influenced the interpretation of “drunk” more than first century culture did.  Due to that modern influence, a word definition had to be substituted so “drunk” could not mean intoxication.  Most pay little attention to the word “hungry.”  Why?  That necessitated a substitution also.  One commentator suggested the word “hungry” meant they were eating a “common meal” rather than the Lord’s supper.  Of course, that expression “common meal” has to be added to scripture to establish that view.

The modern communion service is planned to run smoothly, proficiently, and quickly.  When the Lord’s supper is served, the bread could not possibly satisfy anyone’s hunger.  We don’t design it to fill our stomachs.  If Paul wrote to us, he might accuse today’s church of sending people home “hungry,” not because of division, nor refusing to wait or share with others, but because we don’t partake of enough to squelch anyone’s hunger pains.  We use the word “represent” to identify the bread and the fruit of the vine.  No inspired writer used that expression.  Jesus said, “Take eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19).  He also stated, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood,” (Luke 22:20; Mark 14:24-25; Matthew 26:28).  Is our addition “the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11)?

The Greek word that “hungry” is translated from is πειναω (peinao).  It means “to famish, figurative to crave, or be an hungered.”  It is found twenty-three times in the New Testament.  After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness Matthew tells us he “afterwards hungered” (Matthew 4:2).  The angels didn’t bring Jesus the amount of bread to extinguish his hunger which we serve on Sunday morning.  The apostle also informs us that the disciples were “hungry” and ate grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).  Paul states that if your “enemy hunger, feed him” (Romans12:20).  The word “hunger” in these passages wasn’t satisfied with a small wafer or thimble size glass of wine.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was upset because they would not share the fruit of the vine nor the unleavened bread with others.  This refusal caused some to go home hungry.  It caused those who drank without sharing to be inebriated.  Too much fruit of the vine and too little bread.  Drunk on one, hungry without the other.  Yet, were they dining on wine and bread alone?  The Lord’s supper is the last part of the Passover meal.  It continued as that meal even though Jesus used a part of it to be his body and blood.  Notice the following statements.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22).

Mark and Luke tell us, “While they were eating” Jesus circulated the bread without informing them they were no long eating the Passover.  What were they in the process of eating?  Wasn’t it the Passover meal which included lamb, egg, vegetables, fruit, unleavened bread, and wine?  Luke reveals the last two cups consumed during that process (Luke 22:17-20).  Luke also shows that the third and fourth cup of that meal were offered by Jesus as part of his supper memorial.  Neither the Passover nor Jesus added part were performed in silence.  There was instruction concerning what the meal was about.  There were questions, answers given, disagreements, and a dispute during that period of “while they were eating.”  We eliminate from those accounts things that we don’t wish to do and substitute what we are comfortable with.  We insert our culture and weed out theirs!  Our views of “respect, attire, reverence, and worship” are patterned more from the ideology of later centuries than from what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John described.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-28 mentions only the cup and the bread.  However, in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 only the fruit of the vine and bread are mentioned.  John completely leaves out the Lord’s supper but adds the foot washing and Jesus giving Judas a sop.  This Greek word, ψωμιον (psomion) is found only in John 13.  If the absence of lamb and other table items are not being mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11, means they weren’t consumed according to Paul’s account, the same would be true in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 since they are not mentioned there either.  If they may be added by inference in those three accounts, they may also be added by inference in 1 Corinthians 11.

Paul ends his correction on the subject of the Lord’s supper by writing, “If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:34).  Some commentaries claim that the Corinthians were serving a common meal rather than the Lord’s supper.  Actually, the expression “common meal” is not in any text.  That addition satisfies those who need it to flesh out their man made teaching, but it remains as an addition to the divine text.  The context points toward Paul telling the Corinthians that if they do not want to wait on or share with one another, let them eat the bread and drink the wine at home.  Why?  Under those conditions it is not the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-21)!  It is just bread and wine.

If the Corinthians had waited on one another and shared, then no one would have left hungry nor would anyone be tipsy.  If they were filling up on unleavened bread which satisfied their hunger, then wouldn’t that be a pattern for us to partake of a larger amount of bread and drink than we presently consume?  There seems to be more to the word “hungry” than we have presumed.

A NEWS REPORT!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Demas, son of the silversmith was a reporter for the Jerusalem Daily Gazette.  He was commissioned by his publisher to do a story on the wilderness preacher named John.  Demas the Reporter was very thorough.  He had started following Zachariah’s son when Jesus of Nazareth appeared and requested John’s immersion.  Due to the unusual events surrounding that immersion, Demas began following this man who was referred to as Messiah (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:32-34).   Greeks referred to him as “Christ.”

Demas was in the crowd when Pilate brought Jesus out and asked the crowd, “What shall I do with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22).  Demas had shouted with the crowd, “Let him be crucified!”  Crucifixion would be more interesting to the average reader.

Later, Demas decided to do a follow up story on the inner group of this so-called Messiah, especially after some were claiming that he had been resurrected.  Demas was present when the apostles began speaking in unusual languages.  Peter, the son of John, stood up around 9 a.m. and began explaining from scripture their unusual actions (Acts 2:15).  Demas was standing next to a son and father in that crowd.  When Peter accused the crowd of crucifying Jesus (Acts 2:36), the father, Gideon, the herdsman, shouted out to Peter, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  Peter answered the question (Acts 2:38-39).  He continued speaking, finishing with an exhortation to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  The father and son gladly accepted that challenge (Acts 2:40).  Demas decided to follow these two as the crowd trailed behind the apostles to one of several cleansing pools near the Temple called mikvehs.  Jews immersed themselves in these pools to cleanse themselves before entering the Temple courtyards.  Demas had to make a choice in who he would follow when the father and son went in different directions.  He followed the father.  He would later interview the son.

Once the father was immersed, Demas asked him if he thought such an action was essential.  The father asked Demas, “Is not repentance essential to obey the command given by the apostle Peter?”  Demas agreed that without repentance, the results of “for the remission of sins” would not have resulted.  The father then asked Demas, “Was repentance tied with anything else prior to ‘remission’ being mentioned?”  Demas agreed that Peter had mentioned “Repent AND be immersed” before “the remission of sins” was mentioned.  The father added, “I repented and was immersed” because Peter commanded it, making it necessary or essential.

Later when united with the son, Demas ask him if he repented and submitted to immersion because he wanted to be obedient.  The son replied in the affirmative.  To make sure the son understood his question, Demas asked, “Did you repent because it was essential to receive ‘remission of sins,’ or because you wanted to obey Peter’s command to ‘repent.”  Both father and son looked at him and asked in unison, “What is the difference between one repenting to obey or repenting because it is essential?”  Demas replied, “I’m not talking about repentance, I’m referring to Peter’s expression, ‘be immersed.’” The father replied, “What if Peter had said ‘Believe AND repent for the remission of sins,’ would ‘believe’ had been essential but repentance non-essential?’” Demas knew he had already put “repentance” in the category of “essential” when referring to Peter’s statement, so he could not change its category although the father had put it with belief.  The son asked, “If I had refused to be immersed, would I still be obedient?”  Demas knew the answer was “No.”  The father asked, “If Peter had said, ‘Repent because it is essential, and be immersed because you must be obedient, because if you don’t, you will not receive the remission of your sins,’ would that have been more accurate?”  Demas did not answer, but it caused him to think about Jesus’ statement to John the immerser, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).  If Jesus, who was without sin, saw the need to submit to John’s immersion which was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), why was the immersion of Acts 2:38 “for the remission of sin” not essential for those who were guilty of their sins?  Those who submitted to John’s immersion received “remission of sins” after submitting.  Why would one not receive “remission of sins” after submitting to the immersion commanded by Peter?  The Pharisees were guilty of rejecting “the counsel of God” by refusing John’s immersion.  What would a person be rejecting by refusing the immersion commanded by Peter?  Wouldn’t it be “the counsel of God”?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to read what a reporter wrote concerning Peter’s command and what individuals received after obeying that command?  When one thinks about it, he will realize that someone did write a report on that event.  Luke did and what he wrote is called “Acts” (Acts 2:1-47).

UNWORTHY DISCERNMENT?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, November 11, 2019

Misunderstandings may create unwanted fears.  How many Christians fearfully partake of the Lord’s supper?  Although Paul was correct in his statements, some pulpits may introduce those in the pew to a misunderstanding rather than the truth.   They may be honestly presented, but contain conclusions void of God’s message.

Paul stated, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29 KJV).  What does “discerning” mean?  The wrong kind may lead to trouble.

Parents attempt to keep two or three preschoolers quiet, seated, little hands off the bread and fruit of the vine, and partake without misunderstanding what Paul meant by that word.  An honest preacher may infer that one’s attention must be 100% on Jesus’ sacrifice during the partaking in order to fulfill Paul’s requirements.  In those Sunday wrestling matches, both parents are concerned whether or not they have met that requirement.  Were they completely focused on communion or distracted by a squirming child?  If distracted, have they brought damnation to themselves?  Would it be better to stay at home?  What about an older saint with arthritic fingers concentrating on not dropping anything while partaking?  Is that disciple guilty of a divided “discerning” between the physical and the spiritual?  What about the men who serve the audience?  They usually partake “on the go”!  Where is that kind of partaking found?

More than one minister has missed the context of this passage. Most of us desire perfection, whether in the pulpit or in the pew, but that desire is never rewarded, and the expectation is impractical.  Our human frailties attend those assemblies with us.  Misunderstandings can cause doubts which result in guilt, and reward one with grief.

Paul used three words in this passage which are “unworthily,” “damnation,” and “discerning.”  The Corinthian church had a divided loyalty to four teachers: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ (1:10-13).  This division was the foundation where most of the Corinthian’s faith was built.  As one reads 11:17-34 he sees how this thought process invaded the communion.  Some refused to wait on others.  Some would not share their bread or fruit of the vine.  This refusal caused some to leave the assembly hungry while others over indulged and lost their sobriety (v.21).  This attitude points to Paul’s use of the word “unworthily.”  That action resulted in the “damnation” leading to their failed “discerning.”  That attitude is not found in a couple wrestling with small children or an older saint concentrating upon his handling of the communion.

Today some disciples may read our culture and “expedients” into a passage.  When that is done, the first century action and purpose may be totally lost.  The individual may believe he is restoring New Testament Christianity by such insertions.  That is his mistake.  Believing something is true because we do it isn’t God’s standard.  Just because a practice can be traced back several generations does not make it truth.  When we believe the way we do something is biblical and must not be changed, we may be acting more like the Pharisees than we are as disciples of Jesus!

To have the right discernment, one must make sure that it originates from God rather than man.  Remember, we who are preachers aren’t infallible just because we stand and speak from the pulpit or sit and write in front of a computer monitor!

WHAT JESUS SAID!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Back in 1901 one of the publishing houses printed the King James Version with Jesus’ statements in red.  It was referred to as the “Red-Letter” edition.   It became a popular edition of the New Testament.  For reasons perhaps unknown, some began to claim that the only valid part of the New Testament, was the red-letter section.  What they meant was, “If Jesus said it, it is essential.  If Jesus didn’t say it, it wasn’t essential.”

It is true that Jesus used the expression “My words” ten times.  Two of those would be quoted to prove that Jesus’ words were all that was important.

For whosoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory” (Luke 9:26 NKJV) and “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:47).

Just because one recognizes the teaching of the apostles and prophets is essential, does not mean one is ashamed of what Jesus taught.  Neither does it mean that one has rejected the teachings of Jesus by approving of that which was done by the apostles and prophets.  If the first century Christians thought Jesus’ teaching was all that was essential, why did they continue stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42)?  Paul told Timothy that scripture (which was the Old Testament) was profitable for doctrine and referred to it as “instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)?

Let’s also look at the last part of that “Red-Letter” conclusion and test it.  “If Jesus didn’t say it, it isn’t essential.”  Does anyone really believe Jesus made that statement in the quotes?  If so, where?  Second, Jesus never said the following: “______________, you will be saved and spend eternity with me in heaven.”  Put your name in the blank space and then start looking in Matthew through John to see if Jesus made that statement!  He doesn’t, does he?  He also never stated, “Everyone who believes in me and lives in the twentieth and twenty-first century will be saved and go to heaven.”   If there is any validity to the statement, “If Jesus didn’t say it, it isn’t essential,” then no one living today in saved.  So, eat, drink, and be merry because you can’t go to heaven since Jesus never said you would!

Jesus never said a lot of things.  Does that mean we may engage in those activities that our Lord never verbally stated?  Jesus never condemned slavery.  Shouldn’t the person who believes only the Red-Letter Section freely submit himself to that bondage?  Jesus never said one could work at ______________.  Fill the blank with your specific profession.  Since he never said one could work in that specific profession, why would any believer want to engage in it?   If one believes we must follow only what Jesus specifically said or authorized, why practice our culture?

The purpose of Matthew through John was to prove Jesus was God’s Messiah, Anointed One, or Christ, who would be our sin sacrifice.  Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies.

Jesus warned that false Christ would arise.  We may show what Jesus actually said as well as what those who were inspired by the Spirit said and wrote.  Acts through Revelation shows who that was.  As long as we repeat what they taught, we are simply fulfilling Paul’s instruction to Timothy “These things command and teach” (1 Timothy 4:11); “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).  John also stated, “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.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:9-11).  The teaching of Christ and the apostles’ doctrine or teaching are the same (John 14:26; 16:13).

If no one before 1901 had a Red-Letter edition of the Bible, no one before that date knew that only Jesus’ words were to be exclusively followed.  The Red-Letter view came after 1901, much too late to be a first century doctrine.

 

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