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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 GOSPEL!

Monday, February 19, 2018

You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins . . .”   1 John 3:5-6 (NASB)

In Him there is no sin.”  I am “in Christ.”  I am a sinner since I am not perfect.  I will never be perfect or sinless.  How can I be “in Christ,” who has no sin, without infecting His sinless nature?  When you multiply all who are “in” the body of Christ, why wouldn’t that multitude affect his sinless condition?  Isn’t this why the windshield wiper doctrine was created by man?  It teaches that when we sin, we’re kicked out of Christ.  When we repent and pray, we’re brought back in until the next sin.  In this “in” and “out” way, the idea is that Jesus’ sinless status is retained.  If we stayed in, it would affect Jesus’ nature, staining his perfect nature with our sins.  Is this view the gospel of Christ?

The windshield wiper doctrine overlooks the power of the blood of Jesus.  Since we are “in Him,” we are continually cleansed (1 John 1:7).  There is no gap to infect Jesus with our imperfections.  He is healing us with His righteousness!    Since we “abide in Him,” we do not have sins.  They are cleansed.  In fact, Paul informs us,

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!(2 Corinthians 5:21 TLB)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)

In fact, Paul reminded Roman Christians,

Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? . . .  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord(Romans 6:2, 6-11 NKJV).

Now, THAT is GOOD NEWS!

JOY: LOST OR FOUND?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11 NIV).

Do we have the “joy” that Jesus promised?  When Saul of Tarsus was on a rampage, did Christians fleeing Jerusalem have joy written on their face?  When concerned about safety, tomorrow’s future is questionable, and life has turned ugly, does joy continue its residence?  If one is burdened with discouragement and hope hides its face, hasn’t joy disappeared?  Does one have joy only when life is positive?

Jesus endured the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:2).  James admonished, “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).  Paul stated that the Macedonian churches, “out of the most severe trial” had “overflowing joy” (2 Corinthians 8:2).  Today we hear, “Give until it hurts.”  The Macedonians gave to be joyful!

Regardless of circumstances, the joy that Jesus expressed can be possessed!  Paul spoke of the gospel which the Corinthians had believed giving them that joy (2 Corinthians 1:24).  That faith continued to bring them joy even though their faith needed strengthening.  Paul informed the Roman brethren that joy was possessed by the reconciled (Romans 5:11).  Notice John’s statement,

And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him.   Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is” (1 John 3:5-6).

John states that there is “no sin in him (Jesus).”  Prior to that he informed them that “Jesus came to take away our sins.”  One is immersed with and into Jesus (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27).  We have been added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47).  We are in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).  We are in Jesus who has “no sin.”  We are “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2).  We are exempt from its payment because we are living in him (Romans 6:23; 1 John 3:6).  How can imperfect Christians not sin?  Jesus takes our sins away therefore there is no sin.  There cannot be because we are in him who has no sin!  He bestowed upon us the righteousness of God when we became a new creation in him (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NKJV, TLB).  We are not those who refuse to know him!  The Hebrew writer states, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39).  Again, the writer states, “There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says” (Hebrews 10:23 TLB).

Do we have that joy that Jesus spoke of?  Notice again that he stated, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you.”  You do have it if you have been listening to Jesus and desire what he offers.  The Ethiopian treasurer responded to Jesus’ instructions and afterwards went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:35-39).  The Christian life may not always be easy, but it is filled with the joy Jesus spoke of!

 “Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

MULTIPLE QUESTIONS

Monday, February 12, 2018

Recently we heard that Facebook is populated with the forty and fifty-year old.  There are some younger and older folks on it, but that group is in the majority.  Our speaker informed us that folks forty and older have learned in a linear fashion, having a beginning and building from that.  1 + 1 = 2 and so on.  However, the thirty and younger individuals are taking a different approach.  They are interested in spiritual things, but it may not be religion as such, nor the Bible in particular.  They have questions, but only in what is of interest to them.  Beginning with Genesis and moving through the history of Israel to the beginning of the church may not be their interest.  You could quote all your favorite passages to prove what their real need is but be wasting your breath and their time.  So, how do you reach them with questions which they may be curious in finding the answer to?  You must know what their interests are!  There is the challenge.

A more linear crowd was in Peter’s audience.  He charged them with crucifying God’s Son.  This created a question explaining their interest.  “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  Peter gave the answer in verse 38.  However, he did not stop but continued his linear thought.  Yet, they responded to his answer by being immersed (v.41).  Philip asked the Ethiopian treasurer, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  The eunuch was intrigued by the question and asked, “How can I unless someone teaches me?”  Philip gave him the answer because the treasurer asked, “See here is water, what is to prevent my being baptized?”  So, Philip immersed him.

If Peter had replied to the inquirer, “Hold your questions and don’t disturb me with any other comments until I’m finished with my sermon,” he may have lost his audience.  If Philip had replied to the treasurer, “How can you be a student of Isaiah and be so ignorant of what he is talking about?”  Water or no water, he may have waded into the pond by himself.

If Peter had been more interested in making Cornelius into a good Jewish proselyte rather than perceiving the real question needed at that time, what would have been the outcome?   Would he have been answering what they were interested in getting a reply to??

In all the cases given, linear teaching was being used with questions.  If you talk with someone who is not interested in that form of teaching, how will you know what questions and subjects are interesting to them?  Will, “I’d like to invite you to attend our church services” peak their interest?  Would the question, “Would you like to study the Bible with me?” excite them?  If you were told, “I am interested in spiritual things,” that might excite you until they asked, “Are you interested in séances?”  Perhaps such passages as Micah 5:12 would satisfy you, but will it convince or interest them?

Culture changes and so do teaching technics.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries debating was popular, because it was entertaining, and people knew the Bible.  Points were seen because of that understanding.  Challenging one another was acceptable.  Today, some members don’t understand whether an argument is valid or not.  If the preacher is known and respected, he is accepted as the winner whether he embraces the Bible or not.  Personality wins arguments, not logic.  Comfort zones become the standard rather than scripture.  Our culture has also been influenced by affluence.  If we have the right outward appearance, they will come!  Our doors are open, if they can’t find them, it isn’t our fault!

For some the important question is, “Do you want to go to heaven?”  Try that question on someone who believes he has found it here!  How do you reach those who are lost but believe they have found the abundant life through a different way of thinking?

The Jerusalem church refused to preach the gospel to Gentiles for 9 to 11 years because they thought they were not worth saving!  Is that what the twenty-first century church believes about those who are not interested in linear learning?  Just another question.  Is it one you are asking?

CULTURE?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

As one grows older, the expression, “Do you remember when . . .” becomes the topic of discussion.  Do you remember when gasoline was $.19 a gallon?  Do you remember someone saying, “If gasoline goes over $.59 a gallon, no one will be able to afford to drive”?  If you are sixty and older, you can remember when mowing your lawn on Sunday was frowned upon!  Does anyone remember what the “Blue Laws” were all about?  Culture comes and goes.

We are the product of our culture.  When culture begins changing, the innovators are usually criticized for that introduction.  Most do not appreciate change, whether good or bad.  After it happens, almost everyone becomes acclimated to it.  The problem is during that period of change!  When our culture makes a change into a rule of faith and forces it upon others, it usually develops into a serious problem (Matthew 15:9)!  Rules and doctrines are created from practiced preferences rather than the Bible!

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pulpits demanded that a woman’s place was in the home.  In the thirties and forties, preachers condemned movie attendance.  In the forties and fifties, segregation was preached as God’s law.  In the sixties and seventies long hair on men was condemned, especially if ear rings were added.  That time period’s culture was preached as God’s truth and change was sinful.  With time, most realized it wasn’t “a thus saith the Lord” topic.  If our great-grandparents could be transferred to 2018, they would probably die from shock.   Perhaps their theme would be, “Those folks have lost their mind and soul!”

Every generation has had its problems in separating culture from a “thus saith the Lord.”  In Jesus’s day, society’s Biblically trained were confronted by the Lord with, “In vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Matthew 15:9 NKJV).  That practice has not diminished!

Man assumes something is God’s word because he feels comfortable believing it.  Assumptions are made, but regardless of how much they are elevated, either by majority or culture, they are not God’s standard!  “Inferences” or “expedients” may be useful, but their originator is man, not God!   When that origin is forgotten, trouble appears. One brother wrote, “When we let our doctrinal belief determine what a passage of scripture can, or cannot say, we are on dangerous ground and it is not the Bible that is our authority, regardless of what we claim.”  Some may not understand that statement, but it describes the religious history of mankind!

The Jerusalem church refused to convert Gentiles and were guilty of disobeying Jesus’ command to preach to “every creature.”  There were some who misinterpreted scripture by demanding that all male Gentile believers be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1, 6).  Peter preached to the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile converts, despite some in the church questioning his actions.  Later in Antioch, fear of that same group stopped him from fellowshipping with Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-14)!  Despite biblical truth, his culture took precedence over that truth!  Such did not cease with the first century.

There is a difference between “What does culture believe” and “What do the scriptures teach.”  We need to understand the difference!

WHAT HAPPEN TO GOOD NEWS?
Monday, October 3, 2016

Is it possible for one who is directly inspired by God’s Spirit to believe and teach error?  Is it possible for one who is filled with the Holy Spirit to misunderstand His message or fall short of practicing what He has given?

In previous articles I have mentioned that the Jerusalem church was blessed with 12 apostles.  That number also included  numerous prophets.  Each was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Yet, culture and a misconception, which grew over 1,600 years under the first covenant, dulled their perception to what Jesus meant by the great commission (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:46-47).  Peter included it in his reply to the question of Acts 2:37, “and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).  Yet, he did not comprehend that information until he entered a Gentiles house 10-11 years later (Acts 10:34-35).

Commenting on Paul’s writings, Peter wrote,

“Our dear brother Paul also wrote you . . . His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16; Acts 2:1-4).

Peter said Paul’s letters were “hard to understand.”  Yet, even though we have the complete New Testament today, the divisions in Christianity are a testimony of that same misunderstanding.  Even among Churches of Christ this deplorable condition exists and continues to worsen as each divisive group justifies itself rather than seeking oneness.

Yet, it didn’t start in the 19th nor 20th centuries!  It began in the first.  When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he said they had prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28-32).  Yet those inspired individuals received corrective instruction from Paul.  Why did it take an apostle, who was inspired, to correct a group of prophets who were?  Perhaps the Corinthian prophets were influenced to believe and practice things contrary to what the Spirit wanted due to the divisive nature of the congregation (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)?   Being inspired did not create supermen who became sinless upon that reception.  When John wrote to the church, he stated,

“You have the gift that the Holy One gave you.  This is why you all know the truth.  Why did I write to you?  Did I write because you don’t know the truth?  No, I wrote this letter because you do know the truth!” (1 John 2:20-21).

If those who were filled with the Holy Spirit had to be dsciplined, like Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), why do we think it is impossible for us to need correcting?  If one memorized the entire Bible, would that guarantee him that he would never misconstrue God’s instruction nor teach his misunderstandings to others as if it was truth?

The same folks John wrote verses 20-21 to, also were told,

“God gave you a gift.  You still have this gift inside you.  You don’t need anyone to teach you.  That gift that He gave you teaches you about everything.”  (1 John 2:27).

And yet, John still wrote this letter to remind them that in spite of their knowledge, they needed to practice what they knew!

Paul warned elders,

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock . . . Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  EVEN FROM YOUR OWN NUMBER men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!”  (Acts 20:28-31).

All of these epistles were written to churches that had inspired members!  In spite of that fact, Paul still cautioned,

“So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.”  (1 Corinthians 10:12).

When we substitute man’s righteousness for the righteousness of Jesus, we are no longer bringing Good News!

“MY CHURCH”

Monday, January 2, 2017

Jesus told his apostles, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).  We often ask others, “Whose church is it?”  The normal answer is “It is Jesus’ church.”  Prior to his birth, an angel told Joseph that Mary’s son would be called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21).  When he was born, they “called his name Jesus” (v.25).

In Acts, Peter stated, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 KJV).

Paul stated, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow(Philippians 2:9-10 KJV).

We sometimes sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know . . .” (He Keeps Me Singing, by Luther B. Bridgers, 1910).  In Matthew 1:16 we are introduced to, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”   Jesus is his name, Christ is his title.  “Christ” (χριστος) is not translated, just spelled out with English letters.  It’s called transliteration.  If the Bible committees had translated it, we would have the word “anointed.”  You would read, “Jesus, who is called Anointed” (Matthew 1:16), or “churches of the Anointed” (Romans 16:16).  The word “Christ” is from the Hebrew word “messiah” which means “anointed.”  The King James and other versions usually translated the Hebrew word mashiah (Messiah) as “anointed” in the Old Testament if it did not refer to Jesus, but as “Messiah” if it did.  Seldom is the word “Christ” ever translated in the New Testament.  Although it may not have been their purpose, this failure has created some false concepts.

Although Jesus said, “I will build my church” the expression “my church” is never employed as a descriptive name on street signs or lettered on church buildings.  What is even more unusual, the name “Jesus” is never utilized as a name to describe HIS – “my church” among a number of religious bodies!  When is the last time you saw a street sign or lettering on a church building with the words, “The church of Jesus”?  Going back through the Freed-Hardeman Lectures, several speakers used the expression “church of Jesus Christ” beginning in 1970 with Garland Elkins, then in the following years by Jon Gary Williams, W.D. Jeffcoat, G.E. Woods, Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Perry B. Cotham, G.K. Wallace, Cleon Lyles, J. Wayne Kilpatrick, Winford Claiborne, Robert D. Rawson, Mark Hawk, Everett Donaldson, Ralph Gilmore, John W. Dale, Richard N. Taylor, Sr., Loy Mitchell, Warren Baldwin, and Richard English, Sr.  Only two speakers, William Woodson in 1990 and Dan Winkler in 1995 used the expression “church of Jesus” without the title “Christ” being included.  In spite of these speeches and their use of the expression “church of Jesus,” not one single inspired writer followed their example!

The church is referred to as “the body of Christ,” but never as “the body of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  It is referred to as “the church of God” or “the churches of God” but never as “the church of Jesus.”  Once it is referred to in the plural as “the churches of Christ” but never as “the churches of Jesus.”  It almost seems that “Jesus” has been eliminated by inspiration as a descriptive term for the church?  I know of none in my faith that would letter or erect a street sign with the expression “The church of Jesus” even though lecturing brethren have used it in their speeches.  It is almost as if “Jesus” has been vetoed by the silence of the scriptures as unauthorized or taboo as a “scriptural” designation for Jesus’ –  “my church.”

Actually, there is no proper name designated by God for street signs or lettering upon  places of worship.  God seems to have put believers on the horns of a dilemma to see if we would denominate ourselves with a specific one!  Over a thousand different churches do.  The question is often asked, “How would we identify ourselves to let people know where we meet if our street signs contained nothing but the biblical expression, “the church” (Acts 4:23; 5:11; 8:1, 3, 14; 11:22, 26; 12:5; 13:1; 14:27; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17, 28; etc.)?  What did the first century congregations letter on their street signs or buildings to identify their meeting places?  What if they didn’t use the expression “the church”?  What if they didn’t own a building?

I FEAR!

I FEAR!
Thursday, January 26, 2017

When 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).

ADDED OR JOINED?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Added or JoinedI have 4,916 FaceBook friends from India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, France, Germany, England, and the USA.  When you befriend one person, they tell their friends.  I didn’t realize I had befriended too many until FaceBook informed me the “cutoff” was 5,000.  Since then, several have dropped out.  Recently, I had an individual to send me a private message stating “I would like your religious church of christ.”  He assured me that he was honest in his request.  From that, I believe he meant he would like to be a member.

I responded to him as follows,

“John, I appreciate your desire to be in the church of Christ, but what is important is first being clothed with Jesus.  If you have a Bible read Acts chapter 2 and see what those folks did for God to save them.”

I’m not sure where John resides, but looking at the way he expressed his desire, it is in another country where English is a second language.  His picture is of a man, probably in his thirties.  I do not know what his background is.  Apparently, he saw the paragraph where I was bragging on the events at Campbell Street on Sunday, August 13 and wanted to join our “church.”

There are two ways that people entered “the church” in the first century.  Some today are misinformed about both.  On Pentecost, Peter preached about Jesus being God’s appointed one (or Messiah/Christ).  Luke informs us, “they gladly received” his message and were baptized.  Then Luke states, “and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”  Verse 47 tells us who did that “adding,” – “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  He did not add them to a church building on the corners of Samson and Main Street.  They were added to the body of Christ as were the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Jesus saves believing, responsive people.  They were the ones added to the saved, which is the body of Jesus!  Since only God does the adding, God is the one who stipulates “how” one gets into that saved category.  A saved person may not belong to a local body of believers, as was true of the eunuch.  After being saved, he went on his way as a Christian, but not identified with a specific congregation like the one in Jerusalem.

The second way is when one who has already been added to the saved, leaves one area and moves to another.  He identifies with others in the new location who were also added by God to the number of the saved.  This is what Saul of Tarsus did.  “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples” (Acts 9:26).  Due to Paul’s previous zeal to persecute Christians, the saved in Jerusalem were fearful of him.  It took Barnabas’ help to eliminate that fear and introduce Paul to the saved as a genuine added one.

If other disciples are absent from an area that a believer moves to, he can use what knowledge he knows to teach others, as the eunuch would have done (Acts 8:35-39).  Of course, the eunuch wasn’t inspired as Paul or Philip were.  So, what he taught to others was restricted to Isaiah’s prophecy and the application that was made from it by Philip (Acts 8:35-38).  Since the eunuch apparently attended synagogue meetings in his home town prior to visiting Jerusalem, he could teach what he had learned in that assembly.  The Jerusalem congregation continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and frequented the Temple and synagogue.  The eunuch would have continued his weekly habit in his home town at saints in Jerusalem continued it in theirs.  Some believe an assembly of saints existed in his city prior to his trip to Jerusalem, but that would be based on assumption, rather than biblical fact.  If none existed, his only information would be from what Philip had taught him.  Yet, God added him to the saved on the information received from Philip, just as He added the “about three thousand” on Pentecost from what Peter preached.  All the added were in the body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 3:6; 4:12). Whoever the eunuch taught, if they did what he had done, they too would have been added to the saved by God.  They might need more teaching, but they would still be in the number of the saved without it.  As one reads Acts 8, it shows that one is added to the saved without a large audience being assembled.  No one voted on whether he could or could not be accepted as a member.  God adds, not the preacher, elders, deacons, or members.  One may join himself to a group of disciples after God has added him to the saved, but he is already a saved one before that joining takes place.  The main purpose of his baptism was not to get on the roll book of a local group of believers.  The only account of rejecting someone from joining their assembly is because the Jerusalem disciples thought he was still Saul the persecutor rather than Paul the Christian.  Their “fear” could hardly be a tradition of how modern congregations accept or decline a saved person’s desire to assemble with them.  The eunuch’s salvation was not dependent upon him possessing the full revelation of the new covenant.  The same would be true of those he taught.

Today, one might join a local group because they are aligned with his way of thinking, yet his membership may not be in the saved because God has not added him to it.  Membership at Jerusalem did not simultaneously add Paul to the saved.  He was saved prior to assembling with them.

If you think you are saved because your name is on a church roll book, you are living under an assumption rather than upon biblical teaching.  You need to ask yourself if you have been added to the save by God the Father!  If not, you need to learn what the “about three thousand” and the eunuch did (Acts 2:27-41; 8:34-39).

IS PERFECT OBEDIENCE ESSENTIAL?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Recently a good friend asked if the Bible taught that one’s obedience must be “perfect”?  My Good WorksBy “perfect” he was referring to one’s obedience reaching and maintaining 100%.

I know Jesus was perfect, and maintained that perfection.  Although some have claimed that they matched the Lord’s perfection, they have deceived themselves!  John stated, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NIV).  Paul stated, “There is no one righteous, not even one . . . all have sinnedRomans 3:10, 23 (NIV).

We know what the Bible teaches, yet we dine upon the devil’s lie!  Do we think we hung with Jesus upon his cross and we are co-saviors with him in purchasing our salvation?  Does the Bible teach us that we are saved by the blood of Jesus as well as by our own blood payment?  Is Jesus blood the 50% down payment on our redemption and our works of obedience the other 50%?  If so, wouldn’t our partial payment need to be just as perfect as Jesus’ blood is?  If Jesus had to be sinless to be our sin sacrifice, why would God accept our payment since we are blemished?

If our obedience is our partial payment to get into heaven, how perfect must that obedience be to merit that reward?  What less percentage can it be and still be considered “perfect” obedience?  If someone was capable of producing and maintaining an obedience that was 99.99% perfect, would it actually be “perfect”?  If perfect obedience is required for one to receive heaven as their reward, it could not mean less than perfect!  All we are capable of producing is less!

Some believe “biblical obedience” must be “perfect”!  For some this means the individual must reach and maintain perfection in obedience as well as the congregation he has joined.  Yet, when questioned about this perfection, advocates define “perfect obedience” as what they presently believe and practice, which is different from the true definition.  Has any congregation reached and maintained “perfect obedience”?  John and Paul say, “No.” Who should we believe?

If no one reaches “perfect obedience,” how could anyone be in fellowship with God, much less enter heaven?  The “Way” spoken of by Luke would be surrounded with an impenetrable barrier that you and I could never cross.

Some will also wed “perfect knowledge” with “perfect obedience.”  How perfect must one’s knowledge be to possess the perfect kind?  If one must understand God’s truth perfectly, what does that mean?  When the eunuch was immersed by Philip was his knowledge perfect or incomplete?  If lacking in perfection, was he actually saved?  He knew about Jesus and wanted to be immersed.  Yet, that’s all he carried to Ethiopia with him after leaving Philip.  He did not carry the King James nor “A Muscle And A Shovel” with him.

If one was a member of the Corinthian congregation two months before Paul’s letter arrived, would that congregation possess perfect knowledge?  They had inspired prophets, tongue speakers, interpreters, and other Spirit lead individuals.  Yet, they needed an inspired apostle’s instruction.  That need proved they were short on possessing “perfect knowledge”?  If a congregation is short on perfect knowledge, wouldn’t it be impossible to possess “perfect obedience”?  If one was without “perfect obedience,” wouldn’t that mean they were no longer in God’s grace because of that shortage?  Were they no longer a true church of God?  Were they just an apostate or false one?  Did they reclaim “perfect obedience” by the time the second letter arrived, or were they short of perfection even then?

How perfect is your obedience?  How perfect is your faithfulness?  How perfect is your knowledge?  If your knowledge is not perfect, how can you have perfect obedience?  If you do not have perfect obedience, how can you be considered faithful?  How many have given up because they could never succeed in being perfect?  How many lived with guilt day after day because their lack of perfection robbed them of all joy in Christ Jesus?  The devil’s deception reached out from Eden to convince them that heaven was just a tree limb away!  Perfect obedience was the price for a taste!

My salvation and joy is in what Jesus did for me upon the cross.  He paid my debt.  He gave me that abundant life!  My faith, trust, hope, and dependence is in Christ Jesus.  Why look elsewhere?

Is perfect obedience essential?  Yes, and Jesus lived it in order to be our sin payment.  He did what we could not do.  It is by his stripes we are healed, not by our sweat!  My obedience will never be perfect, but God knew it.  That’s why He sent His Word to become flesh and live among mankind!  My Savior came from heaven.  He wants your obedience, but he knows it will not be perfect.  He did not come to seek perfect people, but broken ones.  He came to save sinners.  His name is Jesus.  Do you know him?  I hope so!

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