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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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I’M JUST PASSING THROUGH!

My Thoughts . . .
Monday, 05-10-2021

Have you ever been tempted to get involved with a “get rich quick” scheme? Usually, the one who introduced you to it is the one who gets richer while you are left with the “scheme.” Did you know there are some who believe God will bless them with unlimited happiness with no negative down-time if they will become a Christian? That happiness evaporates when the first negative crosses their path. Some will recognize they have been sold a false perception of Christianity. They will learn that lesson or use it as an excuse to walk away from God. Others will be convinced that their lack of faith has eliminated God’s blessings from them. Some will accept that “reason” as valid and try harder to please God with their pseudo perfection. Some will tolerate their failures a few more times. They will either come to understand the truth or will blame God for refusing to protect them from the world’s bitterness.

Some either do not know or have forgotten that Jesus had fourteen apostles. Judas Iscariot was the first to have his expectations shattered. Twelve died through persecution. Only John died of natural causes. Yet even he did not escape persecution. Jesus died upon the cross. He cried out quoting Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). God does not forsake, He only fulfills. Jesus was fulfilling Old Testament scriptures to be our sin sacrifice! Christians in the first century were no stranger to suffering, alienation, arrest, and death. Those conditions were not messages from God to individuals that He no longer loved them. It was the world’s reaction to show their disdain for God and His children.

The “get rich gospel” may be preached by some today, but usually wealth is limited to the one preaching that gospel rather than the audience who finances it. One such preacher in Memphis, Tennessee boasted on his TV show, “I want my pie in the sky, NOW!” Apparently, he got the “Now”!

In Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, he forewarned his disciples about future persecution (Matthew 5:11-12, 44; 10:17-20, 22-23). Even in this country Christianity is losing the respect it once enjoyed due to those who are more enamored with the world. Persecutions have been an ongoing event since the first century. They are reminders that that this world in not our home. Jesus told about a rich man and a beggar dying. The rich man lost everything while the beggar gained it all!

Becoming a believer does not guarantee that one will live on “easy street.” It does mean that you will enjoy heaven with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, and a host of others who chose to follow God.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

My Thoughts . . .

Thursday, 05-06-2021

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. . . But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1, 4 Emphasis mine, RH).

Although one is to obey the laws of the country in which he has citizenship, Paul is not saying government is always right.  Mankind is not consistent individually or in government.  Paul was under Roman government which imprisoned him and finally took his life.  Why?  He was a Christian.  As a believer, he worshiped only one Deity whereas Rome had multiple gods.  Rome also indulged in practices which were not moral for a Christian to engage in.  Public killing of Christians was entertainment to that pagan society.

Not all believers are fortunate enough to live in a country that supports biblical values.  Some may experience situations making it almost impossible to render valid moral decisions.  Do you pay taxes which government spends to destroy three hundred thousand innocent lives each year?  Do you pay taxes to pay upkeep on a building that is used to slaughter Christian men, women, and children?  Do you support a government that supports atheism or polygamy?  That was the world in which Paul wrote Romans 13. 

A Christian holds dual citizenship.  One becomes a citizen of a country by birth.  Later, that individual may become a citizen of heaven through faith.  Yet Jesus stated, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  When citizenship in one kingdom violates the laws in the other, a serious decision must be made.  Which kingdom is number one?  Christians fled from Jerusalem due to persecution (Acts 8:1).  Do you flee or must you stand your ground as a disciple of Jesus?  If you flee, are you a coward with no godly backbone?  Some fled.  The apostles remained.  Were the apostles the only faithful ones due to staying in Jerusalem?  We do not see Scripture condemning those who fled.

If a country has a death penalty, and a Christian does not agree with such, is his position sinful?  If he agrees to the criminal being executed, is he sinning by taking that position?  Jesus asked the apostles if they possessed a sword.  He told them if they did not have one, go buy one (Luke 22:36).  They possessed “two” (Luke 23:50-52).  Jesus did not accuse Peter or the other apostle of sin because they wore a sword.  Governments have sentenced both the innocent as well as the guilty to death.   Governments have had laws that were sinful, and Christians followed those laws.  For example, slavery in the Old and New Testaments was lawful.  In the nineteen-century slavery was lawfully practiced in the United States.  Some Christians helped slaves to escape their owners which was unlawful yet humanitarian.  Having multiple wives was legal in David and Solomon’s day, but not so today although one religious group in Utah practices such.  Most automobile drivers break the speed limit laws believing it is allowed.  Some find out it is not.  I have never seen a Christian ask for prayers because he went two to five miles per hour over the posted speed limit.  Would that be called “sinful allowances”?

Is it wrong for government to sentence a prisoner to death?  Paul basically states that “If you break the law, expect to be punished by the law.”  Some accuse government of “murder” when a prisoner is executed.  The government is guilty of killing that person, but it is not murder.  If a policeman shoots a criminal to protect his life, he has not murdered the criminal only killed him.  Murder is against the law.  All killings are not murder.  If a citizen does not want to be punished by hanging, the electric chair, or a firing squad, then said person should not break a law that punishes the guilty with the death penalty.

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

THE INVISIBLE, VISIBLE CHURCH!

My Thoughts . . .

Monday, 05-03-2021

Perhaps you have not been informed, but if you have been saved, you are supposedly in the “invisible body of Christ,” which is essential to your salvation.  However, as soon as possible, you are told that you need to join a “visible” church, which is “not essential to your salvation,” but is necessary to have fellowship with other saved people.  It is claimed that the “invisible” one is the true “body of Christ,” made up only of those whom God has added to the saved (Acts 2:37-47).  The “visible one” is made up of those who are truly saved as well as the pseudo-Christians who think they are.   God adds to the saved, providing for every spiritual need, but the saved decided they needed to divide themselves into non-essential churches.  That decision is contrary to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21.  With a multiplicity of churches being created, one discovers that he must submit to the specific church’s doctrine which makes it different from the doctrine and practice of other non-essential churches.

Those who are members of the “invisible” church are encouraged by friends, family, and pastors to become a member of their “visible” fellowship.  Why?  The usual reply is that membership is essential in order to “have fellowship” with others who believe alike.  It has the real Christian engaged in non-essential actions as though those acts are essential to his salvation.  If such is so, then those “visible” churches that have practices different from one another, are engaged in error. In all “visible” churches the true Christian is engaged in actions with pseudo-Christians as though both are performing acceptably as the saved “body of Christ.”  Does Paul not forbid fellowship with such because they are engaged in the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11)? 

Why do some believe that those whom God has added to the saved cannot be recognized nor identified as the true “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 12:27)?  Since that recognition is missing, one is obligated to join a “visible” church that can be identified.  Isn’t that view questioning Paul’s inspiration?  Did he not write to “the church of God” in Corinth?  When he addressed them as “the body of Christ” did he speak the truth or a lie?  Why would the saved want to join a non-essential church when they can easily encourage one another as the true “body of Christ”?  If scripture does not require a saved individual to join a non-essential body of the pseudo-saved, then where did that requirement originate? 

If an assembly must be perfect in doctrine and practice to be the saved of God, then neither Jerusalem, Corinth, Philippi, nor any other first century assembly was saved.  Most of the New Testament letters to churches called for correction.  If correction was stipulated, it indicated the imperfection of that congregation.  Yet, despite their faults, each assembly was “the body of Christ” in that locale.  Each was in fellowship with God as well as the other assemblies of Christ.  Corinth was “the body of Christ” in their city.  Paul never used the classification of “visible” or “invisible.”  Such identifying phrases originated much, much later due to error being continually accepted and practiced.  We are victims of the traditions, concepts, and practices of those who lived before us.  Churches divide for multiple reasons.  Those who led those fractures usually believed division was essential to remain faithful to God.  Self-righteousness is often stronger than truth.  Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?”  If we please anyone with our divisions, it is Satan.  What is our justification for dividing the body of Christ today?  What passage teaches that members of “the body of Christ” must join a non-essential “visible church” to have fellowship, worship, or encouragement?  According to scripture, all those who were added to the saved by Yahweh God had fellowship, teaching, worship, and encouragement before man introduced the “visible” doctrine (Acts 2:46-47). 

GOD SEES YOUR HEART!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 04-22-2021

Luke informs us about the replacement of Judas Iscariot in Acts 1.  A replacement was needed, but only one of two candidates could fill that need.  Lots would be used, but God would make the choice.  Have you ever wondered how those two men approached that election?

We usually think of Jesus touring Palestine with the twelve and a few women.  Some Bible students seldom think of women traveling with thirteen men.  Some think the duties of those women were to cook and wash the utensils afterwards.  Some may venture further and consider them as women who were needed to teach other women and children.  Yet, Luke informs us that it was “necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21-22).  Strange how Bible students can read such passages but not recognize what they have covered. 

The first man’s name was Joseph, called Barsabbas, surnamed Justus.  Joseph is his Hebrew name.  Bar (son of) and Sabbas (Father’s name) identifies his family.   Justus is his Latin or Roman name.  He may have had dual citizenship as did Paul (Saul of Tarsus).   The second man was Matthias.  Little is known about him.  When this need for a replacement was announced, what thoughts went through their thinking as well as the one hundred eighteen others who were present?

The description of Joseph (Justus) seems to set him above Matthias.  Little is known of that disciple’s background.  Today, a man’s family background may be helpful.  It is true that sometimes a person does not live up to his family’s reputation.  Sometimes he exceeds it.  Usually if you know one person better than the other, you choose the one you know.  Joseph’s credentials appear to make him the better choice.  Yet, the one hundred eighteen are not blessed in making that vote.  That choice is left to a higher court (v. 24).  God sees a man’s heart and chose Matthias.  That does not mean Joseph was a poor contender, it just reveals that Matthias’ heart would fit the work better.

Sometimes God’s choice does not incite congratulations from everyone who wanted a different person to fill that void.  If one wanted Joseph rather than Matthias, faults are never hard to find when needed to justify one’s complaint.  Matthias’ heart may have made him God’s choice, but humans do not always agree with God’s perceptions.  Usually, complainers do not voice their disagreements to the one who needs to hear them.  Complainers usually share with those who will listen to their disagreements!  If the listener agrees, they have gained one more in their “many” who agree with their view.  No such sin appeared among the one hundred and eighteen.  Neither did Joseph become a bad loser.

After that choice was made, Luke nor any other inspired writer mentions Joseph or Matthias again.  Joseph is not reported as a bad loser who complains about being “robbed” in how the choice was made.  Joseph takes the loss without complaint.  He does not become a thorn in Matthias’ side.  Did he leave the group hurt deeply because he was not chosen?  Luke does not say.  Perhaps he continued a good work despite the lack of praise.  Sometimes important works are filled by individuals who labor for the Lord without expecting a lot of fanfare.  God is the one who sees their heart.  He is their audience.  However, if you were Joseph, would you have felt you were the one best suited to replace Judas?  That is usually how congregational problems start.  Losers seethe until something blows up.  Not so with Joseph.  That is why he was so great!         

ARE YOU OF THE ELECT OR NON-ELECT?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 04-15-2021

Jesus announced to his apostles, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).  That “rock” was Peter’s statement (v. 16).  The Greek word ekklesia means “called out, assembly, or congregation.”  Jesus’ assembly began on the Acts 2 Pentecost.  God added believers to that saved body (Acts 2:46).  Once an individual leaves scripture, the word “ekklesia” is assigned to the meeting place rather than those who meet there.  It adds to the confusion on what Jesus, in the King James Version refer to as “the church.” 

“Church” has come to mean 1) the visible body of believers and 2) the invisible body.  The visible body is everyone that is a member belonging to or attending a physical building in a specific location.  The visible body is made up of people who have their name on that local roll, but not all of them are on the divine one.  Those who are on the “divine roll” are members of the invisible body of Christ.  God is the only one who knows the real from the counterfeit.  At the judgment, the pseudo-Christian will be culled and thrown into hell.  The bona fide disciple will spend eternity with God.

This idea of visible and invisible may have originated with the teaching that certain individuals are God’s elect.  Those will be saved and it is impossible for them to be lost.  They are in the invisible church since only God knows who they are.  The pseudo-Christian is not in that elect number.  He may attend services, donate more than any other, be hospitable, live a clean life, and even outwork those who are of the elect.  Yet his works are senseless.  God did not assign him to the elect.  There is nothing he can do to change his status.  All non-elect people cannot and will not go to heaven.

Determining whether one is or is not of the elect is God’s work alone.  His decision was made before man was created.  If one is of the elect, God will give him faith.  If he is not of that number, his belief system will be a pseudo faith.  Since God alone makes the decision, man cannot be lost if he is saved, nor can he be saved if he is of the lost.  Once saved, always saved.  Like so many doctrines, there are variations of this one.

When man attempts to determine who is in the elect and who is not, his attempts are little more than a guessing game.    If a person faithfully attends church, lives a clean life, is an honored citizen, is a great parent, is an excellent worker in bringing others to Christ, and an excellent contributor, he is thought to be one of God’s elect.  Of course, nothing he does adds to his salvation since God must give him faith.  It is believed that God determined before the world was created who would or would not be saved.  God is supposed to infuse a person with faith, the person has no ability to develop that faith himself.

On the other hand, if a person seldom attends church, is divorced a time or two, uses foul language, is involved in some “shady” deals, and whose character is often questioned, is saddled with the expression “non-elect.”  Of course, if the “elect” person leaves his family and runs off with his/her neighbor’s spouse, the “elect” definition has the “non-” added to it.  If the reprobate suddenly changes his ways and starts a life of following Jesus, his “non-” definition is change leaving him with the better expression “elect.”  Such judgments are human rather than divine.  Remember, the devil is spoken of as “an angel of light.”  Light sometimes blinds.  Being fruit inspectors is not wrong, but sometimes fruit is not ready to be inspected and our inconsistencies appear.

On the day of Pentecost about three thousand were added to the saved by God.  Some who were added were Pharisees and brought their teachings with them.  In Acts ten Peter preached to a Gentile family who were also added to the saved by God.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem in chapter eleven, there were some very unhappy Christians who objected to his hobnobbing with Gentiles.  Later when more Gentiles were converted, the elect Pharisees objected to Gentiles gaining that elect position without being circumcised.  In that sense, the Pharisees who are of the elect, denounce Gentile brethren as if they were not of the elect because they have not had surgery!  This seems to imply that Gentiles are not the elect (or saved) by faith, but rather saved (elected) by circumcision surgery.  In Acts fifteen, the Jewish church in Jerusalem, in a limited meeting, decided that Gentiles would be accepted by faith rather than by circumcision or election.  The Hebrew writer states, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.   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). We have a choice.  We can live by faith or we can draw back.  What have you chosen? 

ASSUMED LEGITIMACY!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 04-12-2021

The definition of the word assumption is: “The act of taking something for granted.”  This action is engaged in a lot more than some think.  Even when studying the Bible, a reading will lead the person to assume things which that passage does not contain.  The person may be honest in thinking that his assumptions are taught in that passage.  That is when man makes his assumptions equal to scripture.  When that assumption is partnered with tradition or culture, it becomes inspired information for that individual.  If a person believes the Bible teaches it and you disagree, you appear to be someone who ignores what God teaches.

In some congregations the sermon always ends with an invitation given to inform the lost, if present, how they may be saved.  It is a five-step procedure which is 1) hearing the Gospel, 2) Believing the Gospel, 3) Repenting of one’s sins, 4) Making the good Confession, and 5) being immersed “for the remission of sins.”  About twenty or more years ago one of our overseers complained to me that neither the other preacher nor I were giving the full “Gospel invitation” at the end of our sermons.  Since we attempt to teach only what the Bible states, I asked him for “book, chapter, and verse where any inspired writer gave a 5-step invitation as we usually required.”  To prove his complaint was scriptural, he attempted to remember and quote a Bible passage as his proof.  He assumed it was in the Bible since we did it.  Finally, he admitted, “It isn’t in the Bible, is it?”  My response was “No.”  He assumed it was.  Assumptions are tricky and are sometimes given more honor than scripture itself!  The Pharisees did that and Jesus rebuked them (Matthew 15:9).  They assumed they were right and Jesus was wrong. 

If our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents practiced something “in church,” it was assumed that they did so because the Bible required it the way they performed it.  In some cases, anger may have erupted just by asking for the passage which supposedly authorized that belief.  When no such passage is found, it illustrates it is a tradition of man rather than originating from the Holy Spirit.  When that is tied in with the belief that one must do everything right and practice nothing that is wrong in order to go to heaven, it disrupts that person’s confidence in what he has always believed.  It is a hard lesson which some refuse to swallow.  It puts that person in a religious tailspin from which he refuses to recover.  It may cause the person to think that if he is wrong on that subject, he may be wrong on other points as well.  That too is a possibility.  Alexander Campbell and others found themselves in that position.

In such positions most of us come to believe that we must be “right” in our fixed number of beliefs and practices or our salvation is in jeopardy.  One’s faith is based upon his sacred number being correct and continued in order to go to heaven.  If one of those beliefs becomes questionable, it opens Pandora’s Box that other positions may also be shaky.  If he finds some of his cherished doctrines are based more on assumption than truth, honesty questions whether his system of belief is built upon the right foundation.  One searches for justification that will make his belief system acceptable rather than admit he has been following error. Just because one’s great-grandparents, grandparents, or parents believed and practiced a particular way does not mean the Bible demands it.  Some beliefs and the resulting practice may not endanger one’s soul unless they bind that belief upon others.  That has happened in the past and division has been the results.  The New Testament warns us in several passages to “take heed” (Matthew 24:4, Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18; 21:8; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:12).  That command is to all believers in Jesus.  However, the multiple divisions in faith today informs us that sometimes assumptions sound biblical but are not (Matthew 24:4; Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18; 1 Timothy 4:16)!

DEAD MAN WALKING!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday 04-05-2021

In 1995 a movie was produced starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.  It was about a prisoner, convicted of murdering a young couple, who was scheduled to be executed.  A prisoner going to his execution was referred to as a “dead man walking.”

In 2019 Jeremy Camp introduced a song titled, “Dead Man Walking” which was not about a murderer walking to his execution.  It was about a man who was dead in his sins being redeemed by Jesus.  Two different scenarios using the same title.  Camp’s song contains a repeat of these words,

“I was a dead man walking

Until I was a man walking with You (Jesus).”

Sean Penn’s character died in the electric chair for his actions.  In Jeremy Camp’s song there is also a death involved.  However, the death referred to is different from the death in the movie.

1. You and I were dead due to our sins (Romans 3:9-10; Ephesians 2:1).

2. Jesus died to pay for those sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 3:5; 4:10; Revelation 1:5).

3. To benefit from Jesus’ death, one must die to his sins.  In that death, the old man is buried and therein one follows Jesus in his death (Romans 6:3-4, 10-11; Acts 2:38).

4. One is raised from that immersion into the new life in Jesus (Romans 6:4-11).

5. When raised into that new life, that individual is now dead to sin (Romans 6:2, 11)!

I was a dead man walking in sin.  I became a dead man to sin by being buried with Christ into his death.  I was raised with Christ into that new life.  I am now dead to sin and God has bestowing upon me His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul informed the Ephesians that without Jesus they were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  Without Jesus one may be active and walking, but he is dead due to his sins.  As such he is a “Dead Man Walking.”

Although believers had different opinions about the purpose of water baptism, Jesus submitted to John’s immersion, which was “for the remission of sin,” even though our Lord had none.  We follow his example and command to be immersed “for the remission of sin” because we are sinners.  Some submit because Jesus commanded it but refuse to acknowledge that it is essential to their salvation.  It is admitted that if they refuse to obey Jesus’ command to be immersed, they cannot be saved.  Others submit because Jesus commanded it and to be blessed, they obey his instructions.

We are all “Dead Men Walking.”  Why we are engaged in that “walk” depends upon which “KIND” of dead man we desire to be.

Therefore, there is NOW NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Our choice!

“ARE YOU HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT?”

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 04-01-2021

Are you happy with God when things are going your way, but question His goodness when life turns sour?  Have you ever thought that if you didn’t experience “bad luck,” you would have no luck at all?  Did you blame God for allowing that kind of luck to fall on you?  Have you ever questioned God when life was kicking you in the teeth rather than gifting you with roses?   Some are happy with God as long as life is smiling on them.  After all, is God not responsible for keeping a Christian happy?  If that condition is not there, is God not being negligent in taking care of His believers? 

Humans often make Satan’s job easy due to mankind’s erroneous thoughts about what God’s major responsibility is.  Some believe He is supposed to make our lives happy by removing all negatives from our path.  We forget God created man and put him in a beautiful garden and gave him free will.  We forget that we have that same “freewill” but use it exactly as Adam and Eve did.  We either benefit from our choices or live to regret them.  We even develop ways to escape the consequences of our bad choices by blaming others for the results of our actions.  Adam started it (Genesis 3:12).  We continue it by cloning his footsteps.

Paul recognized this problem when he admitted that he knew what was right or wrong, but usually made the wrong choices (Romans 7:15).  Good came out of those bad choices leading him to cry out for deliverance (v. 24).  Some make choices leading to death and continue to rush headlong on that course.  Others decide to seek the right choices that will give them freedom (v. 25 & 8:1).  That freedom does not negate the imperfect influences created by that person’s sins.  Those influences touch all of us in different ways.

Judas Iscariot was the trusted treasurer for Jesus and the apostles.  He received the same opportunities as did the other apostles.  He heard Jesus’ private and public teaching with the others.  He saw the same miracles that they witnessed.  He had heaven’s opportunities poured out to bless him but he chose to evade them.  He did repent after the betrayal but chose death over forgiveness.  Sadly, misfortune and unhappiness is received by some because they welcome the consequences of their bad choices.  Those choices can also have a negative effect upon the loved ones of those individuals. 

We are more like the apostles than we would like to think.  They were concerned for their lives during threatening weather because they feared the wind and water more than they trusted the Messiah’s power.  They could not conceive how five barley loaves and two small fish could feed five thousand men.  Their perception of Jesus was overshadowed by the number that needed to be fed.  Jesus’ statement to the twelve “Oh you of little faith” could be directed at us (Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8).  We are fortunate when we recognize that we need that admonition. Things usually attract us with the promise of happiness but rob us instead.  The true reward to happiness is based upon the direction we are looking (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

TO TURN OR TO DRAW?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 03-29-2021

After the riot in Washington D.C., there were concerns from different individuals and organizations.  Some concern has been expressed in articles and from members of different churches.  It is easy to agree with the non-violent positions taken.  After all, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek and to love those who hate us.  It is always easy to give advice, even the biblical kind.  What is difficult in doing the “cheek” turning is when it goes beyond insults and becomes violence against one’s spouse, children, or grandchildren.

We are living in a society which stands upon the shoulders of people who lived before us and “built” this nation.  Like us, they lacked perfection.  Expansion meant resettling the “undesirables” to the west, despite their “tears.”  Further expansion westward meant forcing those same individuals to dwell on smaller plots of land and live off government handouts.  Since they were not Christians, their children were forced to receive that faith to civilize them.  Since our forefathers knew what was best, those children were given the gift of salvation whether they wanted it or not.  Such places as Little Big Horn were where those “ungrateful” people voiced their disapproval.  Our forefathers had more guns and forced a peace settlement.  Chinese and Japanese laborers did receive better conditions, but not much.  Progress is often thought necessary despite the condition some people are forced to accept.  Of course, no one wants to be in that group that was forced to comply.

Our grandfathers went to Europe to fight the Kaiser in 1917-18.  53,402 of our soldiers never came home.  It was touted as a war to end all wars.  Some churches during WW I ostracized members who put on the uniform.  This was true, especially of preachers who joined or were drafted.  However, the thirties saw Japanese expansion which clashed with US interest and Pearl Harbor shocked us into dropping “the other cheek” philosophy.  Pearl Harbor made enlistment popular.  That decision led to 407,316 of our boys losing their lives.  671,846 were wounded.  72,000 were missing in action.  Some from each of those statistics were Christians.  Some veterans suffered nightmares until the day they died because they viewed their military service being out of harmony with Jesus’ “cheek” statement.

If the US and Allies had turned the other cheek and opened our borders to Nazism and Japan’s Imperialism, things would be totally different today.  Christianity would be a back-alley faith engaged in secret meetings, hoping those gatherings would not be discovered.  Nations evangelized by former GI’s after the war would not have happened.  Millions who heard the gospel from 1945 to 2021 would not have been converted.   Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren would have been educated in Third Reich and Japanese Imperialism.  The Bible would be on the burn list.  White and black believers would work and die side by side in forced labor camps.  Women would be abused and discarded when failing health made them no longer desirable.  Freedoms once cherished would be past history.   We would not be where we are today if it had not been for those men and women who fought and died to establish the freedom which we inherited.

Although Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek, he also asked how many swords the apostles possessed.   He was told two.  Peter owned one of them.  Jesus did not scold them nor order them to discard them.  Peter was wearing his at the Passover Feast and it was on his waist when he went with Jesus to the garden to pray.  He drew that sword to defend Jesus, but Jesus’ plans were more important than Peter’s protection.  Before that event, Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers out of the Temple Courtyards.  I doubt if any of those fleeing merchants claimed that Jesus was just showing them how to turn the other cheek.  Was Jesus contradicting his own teaching?  No, the context was different, and Jesus dealt with others within that context.

Sometimes an event may make it difficult for a Christian to know what the correct course is.  Sometimes the wrong decisions are made, but God’s grace is mightier than our mistakes.  Peter denied Jesus but the Lord did not hound him about it.  Mankind lacks perfection which usually leads to inconsistencies.  There are times when we need to turn the other cheek.  Then there are times when a sword leaves its scabbard.  The use of a turned cheek is better!  Putting one’s sword back in its sheath stops bloodshed.  May we all have the correct wisdom to select the better of the two courses.

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