Better than the Golden Rule

You’ve heard of the ‘Golden Rule’, it’s taken from the passage in Matthew 7:12;

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

That is a great rule, hence why it’s been called Golden, but there is another rule I like to call the ‘Platinum Rule’.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. [Philippians 2:3]

The word ‘esteem’ is the same word translated as ‘count’ in other passages i.e., Phil 3:7. In that passage, Paul has ‘counted’ all things as loss. Compare that usage to ‘esteem’ and you now have an instruction on how we ought to interact with each other.

Regarding stuff, count it as loss. Regarding people, especially those in the household of faith [Ga 6:10], count them as better than self.

What would it look like if we obeyed the command of our Lord in BOTH of these passages? If you were to ask me how I would describe a Christian, I would begin with these two passages, and perhaps a third;

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. [Joh 13:34]

 – Spencer

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Unconditional Love?

by Terry Benton

That God’s love is “unconditional” means one thing to one person and a different thing to someone else. The Bible does not use the expression “unconditional love” but does imply it. God “so loved” the world (John 3:16). That would mean that love is what moved Him to give His Son for the sinful world. Paul said that he loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom. 5:8). Thus, it was not a situation of God would love us IF….. God loved us when we were at our worst. Thus, in that regard, it was an unconditional love. But, what does that mean? Some seem to think that because God loves us all unconditionally, that therefore He ACCEPTS us unconditionally. Is this what the Bible really teaches?

False Concepts of God’s Love

One clearly false concept is that God only loves us IF we perfectly obey Him. But, that is not the case because the Bible says He loved us at our worst, “while we were yet sinners”(Rom. 5:8). The Prodigal Son’s father loved him unconditionally, but certainly was not pleased with his son’s choices. To love is not to accept any and all behavior. A parent can “so love” a child but not be pleased with the lifestyle of that child. Still, love is what causes the parent to keep hoping for a turn around and return of the lost child. Love longs for a turning point in the thinking of the child, and love is unconditional. But, love does not accept the child in rebellious behavior. The prodigal son’s father never stopped loving his son, but there was broken fellowship and relationship. The father was not glad about the son’s choices and behavior, and did not pretend that relationship remained the same as ever. Perfect obedience was not the reason he loved his son. He loved his son while he was yet a sinner in hope of his son’s coming to himself and returning in humility. Love is that way. God is not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness (Psalm 5:4-6). A person determined to keep practicing sin is certainly not acceptable to the Lord (Prov. 15:8-9). Love means God longs for a sinner who is ruining his life and his potential, longing for the sinner to wake up and turn back to God. God’s love causes Him to also hate what the sinner represents and how that sinner influences others to ruin their lives as well (Rom.1:20ff).

A similar false concept is that “God only loves us BECAUSE we deserve His love”. God’s love is totally unconditional. The character of God is LOVE. Relationship with God is in fact conditional. Love does not equate to relationship and acceptance. As an illustration we might say that George loves everyone. Does everyone love George? And Does George automatically let everyone in his house? Can we not love our enemies without trusting them with our house and our children? Love does not equate with relationship and acceptance.

Things God’s Love Will NOT Do

Love will not automatically accept you “as you are” if that means “as you have been”. Love does not mean I accept my child as a murderer or adulterer or thief. Love means I have “good will” for someone and will help them get right with God. If one is “continuing in sin”, love means that I am sad for them and long for their salvation from sin and ruin.

Love does not automatically forgive you. Forgiveness is conditioned on being “in Christ”(Eph.1:3, 7; Gal. 3:26-27). Love longs for our forgiveness and will provide a just way that it can happen if we want it. There are conditions for coming into Christ where forgiveness is enjoyed.   God’s love longs to forgive, but will not automatically accept you “as you are”, if that means you are going to decide to continue as you are.

Love will not force your love and service to Him. It will not force you to act against your will, but yearns to get you to change your will in His favor. Therefore, love will not, by itself, prevent you from going to torment or hell. God loved even the rich man, but the rich man still went to torment (Luke 16:19f). It was not that God did not love him. It was that the rich man did not love God and therefore did not love his fellow man.

Things God’s Love WILL Do

God’s love will provide a conditional way for you to be saved. (John 3:16; Mark 16:15-16). These conditions do not merit salvation on your end. They are things that you MUST do (Acts 2:37-41), and yet they are not works of merit whereby God OWES us anything (Eph. 2:8-9). Belief and baptism in Jesus’ name are not meritorious works, nor are they works of perfect law-keeping. They are both actions of mind, will, and appeal to God for His mercy. God loves us and will forgive us if we believe, repent, and are baptized in Jesus’ name for remission of sins. God’s love provides the remission of sins and the conditions.

These conditions are within your power to do. There is no excuse for not meeting these conditions.

God’s love will try to attract your better possibilities and potential and will provide the greatest incentives for you to repent (Rom. 2:4-8). Heaven and Hell are incentives, but God’s amazing love and fellowship is a primary incentive.

God’s love is so great that He will do what is painful to Himself in order to be merciful and just in an effort to win your love and fellowship. God IS Love. (1 John 3).

How do we define His Love?

We cannot define it as automatic acceptance. It does not mean that none will be lost. What does it mean? It means that there is “good will”, mercy, and compassion already resident within His character. It is there driving Jesus to the cross for your possible salvation. It is your greatest opportunity in life to have reconciliation with God now so that He can bring you home to glory.

Don’t blow your opportunity to experience and enjoy His greatness of Being. There are conditions for being made acceptable (Rom. 5:1f). We see how 3,000 Jews came from lost and condemned to being acceptable, having remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41) all because of the love of God. You have the same opportunity because of His love. What will your response be?

 

 

Terry Benton, “Unconditional Love?,” in Answering Religious Error, April 15, 2015, http://www.answeringreligiouserror.com/salvation/unconditional-love/.

How to start a church

What if there were no church in Borger, how would you start one?

I knew of a man that became a Christian. The way that he learned the truth was very motivational. He had suffered a debilitating accident which caused him to search for meaning. He began reading his bible. Upon completing the Old Testament, he said, “I’ve got to learn how to serve God, but I’m going to finish reading the Bible first.”

After completely reading the New Testament he said, “I’ve got to do be saved.” He then began seeking Christians. First he looked to the largest “church”. He was immediately disappointed because what he found didn’t match what he had read about in the Bible.

So he continued visiting churches, Baptists, Methodists etc. All along the way he kept asking the people at these places, “why do you do what you do and how do I get saved?” Their answers disappointed him, for they were unable to give an answer that matched what he had read in his Bible.

Then one day he responded to a newspaper ad offering a Bible correspondence course to people that wanted to study the Bible. He completed the course and was very excited because everything taught was completely consistent with the Bible that he read.

After the completion of the course, he invited the man that sent him the course to his home and asked to be saved. He already knew what to do, He believed, confessed Jesus to be the son of God, repented and wanted to be baptized for the remission of sins. [Romans 10:14, John 11:24, Luke 13:3, Matthew 10:32-33, Mark 16:15-16, 2Peter 2:20-22]

Because there was a group of Christians that met in his area, he began assembling with them until the day he passed from this earth.

What if there wasn’t a church in Borger?

What if he had read the whole bible, learning to obey the Gospel yet finding nowhere to worship as God had commanded? [John 4:24] How would he go about starting a New Testament church? Certainly he must find others of ‘like precious faith’. [2Peter 1:1] He would have read, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” [Matthew 18:20]

He would have either found them or taught them. Then what? Now that there are 2 or more, what do they do next? Certainly they have learned to serve the Lord, [Colossians 3:24] but how would they worship? [John 4:21]

You study the Bible.

How did folks do it before us? How did they do it in the Bible? They read and studied it. Paul wrote to the early Christians, “whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ;” [Ephesians 3:4] He also taught people to study the scriptures. [2Timothy 3:15] We can be honorable today, just like the Bereans when they searched the scriptures daily. [Acts 17:11]

Let’s imagine what might have happened, had this small group of people sought to serve God and begin a church in their city.

The Bible our only Guide.

So they read and studied their Bibles. The first thing they did, as a small group of Christians wishing to worship God and to serve him correctly, is to decide to use the Bible as their only guide. To speak where the Bible speaks, and to be silent when it is silent. [1Peter 4:11; 2Samuel 7:7]

Scriptural Worship

Next they asked one another, “How shall we worship Him and what shall we do?” Turning again to scripture they learn that truth is necessary. [John 4:24] They find that Jesus commanded Christians to remember His death by observing the Lord’s Supper. [Luke 22:14-20; 1Corinthians 11:14-34]

Then one of them might ask, “When should we do this remembrance? Should we meet annually, perhaps once a month?” Back to the scriptures they go, seeking the TRUTH of the matter. It is there that they find this passage, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” [Acts 20:7] Since every week has a first day, and there being no additional instruction, they decide to meet every first day of the week, which is Sunday the day following the Sabbath.

While searching the answer to that question, they noted that the passage mentions Paul preaching. Remembering that he also taught to imitate him as he imitated Christ, [1Corinthians 11:1] they recognize that since Christ preached, they must also follow the Godly examples of the scriptures. [Mark 2:2] So they included preaching along with the Lord’s Supper during their worship assembly.

Praying and Singing

So they came together to worship. Then one may have said, “I wonder if we could pray during our worship?” So once again, they return to the scriptures to find permission to pray during the assembly. This answer came quickly, for multiple passages supported the exercise of prayer. [1Thessalonians 5:17, Acts 20:36, Luke 5:16, 1Corinthians 11:23-26]

Another asked about singing. Once again the scriptures showed them they could and should sing. [Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16] Another may have suggested an instrument to aid in the singing, but to their dismay, no command, example or suggestion of an instrument was found in the New Testament worship. They easily found those aids in the Old Testament, but somebody pointed out in the scriptures where it said, “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.” [Hebrews 8:13]

By now they have become quite accustomed to searching the scriptures for what they must do. Finding additional passages confirming that they were on the right path. Passages like, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” [Colossians 3:17]

Problems in the church

All was bliss until one of their number had a need for aid. Since the habit was now engrained into their minds for searching the scriptures, they once again sought the advice of the Lord. They found that money was an important aspect of completing the work. They found in the scriptures where the members were commanded to lay aside money for the work of the Lord. That this work included helping needy saints, but also was to be used for spreading the gospel through the support of preachers and edification of the church. [1Corinthians 16:1-4, 2Corinthians 8 & 9, 1Timothy 5:18, Ephesians 4:16; 1Corinthians 14:26; Acts 20:32]

What’s the name of the church?

The church began to grow, for they were doing exactly what the Lord commanded them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Mt 28:19-20] They were teaching others, teaching only what was in the Bible from God. There was one more problem that arose, the new comers began asking, “What do we call this church?

It hadn’t yet occurred to them that they might need a name. Again, as they have done for every question thus far, they searched the scriptures for a name. One person suggested they name the group after the founding member, Gus. He would have none of that telling them that he didn’t die for the church. [1Corinthians 1:13] As they searched they found several names. ‘They Way’ [Acts 19:9, 23] ‘Church of God’ [Acts 20:28] ‘church of Christ’ [Romans 16:16] ‘The general assembly and church of the firstborn’ [Hebrews 12:23]. What name should they choose, since so many were found? Then this scripture was read, “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:16-18]

This reminded them of another passage, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” [Ephesians 2:20] and others [1Corinthians 3:11, Ephesians 5:23, 1Peter 2:6, 7]. After completing a full study of God’s word on the matter, the settled upon the church of Christ.

Everyone was happy, endeavoring for unity in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 4:3-6] If any other “issues” arose, they would consult the scriptures. When difficulties came, they searched the scriptures. Whatever they did, in word or deed, they did all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. They were just Christians.

Would you like to be just a Christian? You may, if you do what so many others have done and what is shown in the Bible.

5 ways to overcoming Sin

Throughout the Bible, we’re warned about the effects of sin. The problem is less about the knowledge of sin, rather on how to overcome it in our lives. Paul wrestled with this himself saying, “O wretched man that I am!” [Romans 7:24]

How do we overcome sin?
  1. Sin is overcome by Faith – Joh 8:24 except ye believe;
    1. 1Jo 5:4-5 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.
  2. Sin is overcome by obedience – Heb 5:9 and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;
    1. Conduct worthy of the Gospel – Phil 1:27; Rom 12:17-21; Eph 5:22-6:4
  3. Sin is overcome by faithfulness to Christ – 2Ti 4:6-8 [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith:
    1. Re 2:10 Fear not …. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
  4. Self-control – Prov 16:32 ruleth his spirit; 2Pet 1:5-6 add to faith; James 1:19 swift to hear; 3:2-10 bridled tongue
  5. Fruit of the Spirit – Gal 5:22, 23

There’s a very good reason we need to remove sin from our lives……

To obtain an incorruptible crownAnd every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [1Corinthians 9:25]