Forgiveness

EVERY ONE of us have failed another and were in dire need of their forgiveness. We also know the pain of another that has failed us. This is all too clear when we look at our close relationships such as with our spouses, children and the like. Without forgiveness, we could never have lasting relationships. It’s only through forgiving others can we ever expect to receive forgiveness [Matthew 6:14-15].

            We learn from this scripture, that forgiveness is an essential aspect of our walk with God, and we desire He forgive us our trespasses against Him. We also urge folks to forgive others, citing this same passage. This is an easy teaching, that is, until we are the ones that need to forgive. Forgiveness is much more difficult to practice than it is to teach.

            God knows us better than we know ourselves. He left us instructions on how to practice forgiveness, even giving us His Son as the perfect example [Ephesians 4:32 …. forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you]. Jesus is incredibly merciful, having given His life while we were ungodly sinners and enemies [Romans 5:6-10].

Let’s consider the Scriptures regarding how to practice forgiveness.

            First, we need to face the facts that even after we’ve forgiven someone, they very likely will need to be forgiven again. We need look no further than our own mirrors to realize this truth. Jesus was asked how many times one should forgive their brother. His answer, “…up to seventy times seven.” [Matthew 18:22]. Before you start counting down to 490, understand that the lesson is that there’s no limit to the number of times we are to extend forgiveness.

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“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

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Praise the Lord that there’s no upper limit on the number of times HE WILL FORGIVE YOU. Look again at the command on forgiveness in Matthew 6, there’s no cap. How often will He forgive you? He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1John 1:9] If forgiveness were a number where then is mercy, grace, compassion and kindness?

            Next, we need to show compassion toward the one seeking our forgiveness. Empathy is a part of forgiveness. Looking again at Matthew 6, we see that The Lord is connecting a reminder of your own sin to that of the one we need to forgive.

            Do you recall your sins against Him? How do you feel, guilty? David wrote that, “my sin is ever before me.” [Psalm 51:2] Did you feel that way? How much did you need God’s forgiveness? How long did you desire to return to Joy, knowing that you were out of fellowship with God?

            When someone is seeking your forgiveness, remind yourself of your own shortcomings toward God. YOU MAY FIND THAT YOU NEED FORGIVENESS FROM THE VERY PERSON SEEKING IT FROM YOU!

            Lastly, we need to let it go. Some folks say they forgive but when they’re sinned against again, they will drudge up the past failings. Why do you suppose sayings like, “Bury the hatchet, but remember where you buried it in case you need it” exist? It’s hard to let go when we’ve been wronged.

            The Lord has shown us through His own forgiveness toward us, how we are to complete the process. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” [Hebrews 10:17] Without this last step, forgiveness hasn’t really occurred. When we hang onto the memory of the wrong, it will fester in our hearts, hardening us against them, preventing forgiveness.

            If we fail to forgive, fully, we are in jeopardy of losing our own salvation. Our very hope of eternal life is dependent upon God forgiving us our own sins, and His forgiveness is contingent upon US FORGIVING OTHERS.

I said that to say this…….

            As a preacher, I am commanded to preach, “…in season, out of season…” [2Timothy 4:2]. This means that I need to teach whether or not it’s liked by the hearer, preaching the truth in love. [Ephesians 4:15]  Paul continues by saying to, “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” People never like to be rebuked (sharp disapproval), nor do they enjoy being reproved (reprimanded), but that is my charge.

            In the process of doing my duty, I’m placed in a very precarious situation, so I follow the example of the early preachers who prayed for boldness [Acts 4:29]. This boldness I request, may come across as arrogance, the rebuke as closed minded and the reproof as downright meanness. I’ve been accused of preaching too negatively by one and rebuked for not enough fire and brimstone by another.

            I beg you therefore, give me the benefit of the doubt. When I preach, I may touch a touchy subject. I may step on your toes (though I was aiming for your heart). Paul struggled with this as well, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.” [2Corintheans 7:8] I may even hurt your feelings. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE forgive me! My brother, please know that I do my job out of a deep love for you, that you and I may go to Heaven.

            As a human being, I may even say something wrong. WHEN I do, please love me and FORGIVE me as I repent of those things. We’ll learn how to do this together, to forgive one another.

spencer            

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When Church is Boring 

church is boring

LET’S BE HONEST, sometimes we get bored, even at the worship. What are we to do, change it? But what would we change?

Denominationalism has taken on this problem of boredom head on. In an attempt to keep folks in the buildings (and their money) they have made some changes. I’ve told you about the hip hop church, but I’ve also seen “churches” adding coffee shops, gymnasiums and activity centers with pizza.

            We have, in our own area, churches for cowboys, churches for blacks (I abhor this idea), churches for old, churches for young, all in an attempt to make church more attractive to people. Many have embraced the idea of “churchitainment.” 

            We’ve come to a time where it’s hard to distinguish between a worship service and a concert. Dimmed lights over the audience and flashing colored lights on the stage. Worship leaders have become pop stars for the church. Preachers are becoming famous for proclaiming motivational messages rather than the “…whole counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27].

            Folks have now been trained to seek out churches based on their entertainment value over the spiritual truths it proclaims, unaware that the main work of the church is to teach God’s truth. [Matthew 28:18-20; 1Timothy 3:15]  

            Some of you may never go that far, yet still insist on change. In Recent times we’ve seen churches of our Lord introduce instrumental music into the worship, seeing no wrong with such. No, it didn’t happen overnight, hand clapping & cheering replacing the old-fashioned “AMEN”.

            If I wanted to introduce instrumental music to this congregation I would stop teaching that it’s wrong. Then after some time of never teaching on it, I would begin by speaking positively about the instrument, bringing lessons from the Old Testaments use of the lyre and the harps.

            Next I would suggest that it’s ok. I could even put together a mid-week instrumental service. After that has taken hold I would then move it closer to the first day of the week. Then I would turn the evening Sunday worship into a “contemporary” worship while keeping the “traditional” worship in the morning.

            After everyone was used to that I would then ask, “Why are we divided?” Suggesting that both worships be the same. I would appeal to your emotions and point to the successes of other congregations.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I hope you see, this is exactly how denominations have strayed from the truth. “..There is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]. Way back in the early history of the nation of Israel, they said, “Make us a king like all the nations.” [1Samuel 8:5] They wanted CHANGE, like the other nations. The problem was that they had REJECTED GOD. “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” [1Samuel 8:7]

If you would like to reject God, by ignoring His will, we too can become like all the churches. God’s word said to “sing”. [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16] That which is specifically authorized makes all other choices unauthorized. Singing with the voice is the only authorized form of music for the worship.

“Where is My Honor?” 

            God asked the Israelites this question in Malachi 1:6. He asked because they had found “church” boring, speaking about their worship. He goes on through the prophet to quote what they were saying, “Behold, what a weariness is it!” They had even “snuffed at it”, [Malachi 1:13]. Even back then, folks found the ways of God boring and stopped following His commands for the worship.

            God proposed 2 changes to those that found it boring, turning up their noses at the worship: (1) Shut the doors, stay home and stop worshipping in vain, vs10. (2)He obviously would prefer them to repent, take it to heart and give honor to His name, lest He “will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.” [Malachi 2:2]

            Please look closely, He never says to change His commands for the worship to accommodate our tastes, preferences or desires. Has God changed? Is He a new God that has no concern for how we worship? Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]. He condemned the Pharisees; “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Matthew 15:9]

            I can shorten my sermons, fire them up a bit, making them more like motivational speeches instead of “instruction in righteousness.” [2Timothy 3:16] The song leader can select only upbeat songs and we can say more meaningful prayers. The real answer is not to change what God has authorized for our worship, (prayer 1Corintheans 11:24], vocal singing [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16], giving cheerfully [2Corintheans 9:7], preaching & the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]), but to change our hearts as worshippers.

            To worship in “spirit and truth” is to worship with our whole hearts, loving Him fully, [Matthew 22:37] and to worship according to His command, according to His revealed word, for His word is truth. [John 17:17] When we read the New Testament, we find some Christians worshipping in error with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Paul said, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” [1Corintheans 11:22]

            Are we exempt from doing things God’s way? Can we change the worship because we find the “old paths” boring? Can we change the worship to attract more people? If you can find any passage authorizing these changes then let’s do it. The problem with making changes, it requires us to sin by ignoring God’s commands and these errors lead to more changes until we can no longer recognize the church found in the New Testament.

Someone once said, “WHAT PEOPLE ARE CONVERTED WITH, THEY ARE CONVERTED TO.” How about we just stay on the “narrow way”, which is the way that leads to eternal life. [Matthew 7:14]

Spencer Blackwelder
Evangelist for the church of Christ in Borger, Tx

No Absolute Truth?

what is truth

SOMEBODY once said, “There is no absolute truth.” To which we must ask, “Is that absolutely true?”

I find funny the things people assert about the Bible, God and religion. They’re “absolutely certain” about what they claim. When pressed, they never have a logical answer.

We should be ready for these assertions and be able to answer them [1Peter 2:15]. Let’s examine a few things people claim…….

I’M AGAINST ORGANIZED RELIGION: This claim is often used to excuse a person from weekly Sunday worship. They bolster the claim by pointing out the hypocrisy of church goers.

AN ANSWER: We are hypocrites. That’s because we’re people. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” [1John 1:8] Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians what kind of person they once were, fornicators, idolaters, thieves, drunkards and the list goes on [1Co 6:9-11]. Do you suppose that every Christian stops all sins as soon as they are baptized?

Another answer for this is found in the fallacy of the argument. Why is this discussion only used with religion, but seldom elsewhere? We never criticize the Ford Motor CompanyTM for a few lousy drivers of their cars. We never criticize the grocery store when one of the shoppers is rude to us. Why then do we criticize God’s command to worship? I suppose it’s because of the false notion from the first part, that all Christians must be perfect.

Sometimes we foster that belief when we as Christians act arrogantly, and speak with unbelievers without love. [Ephesians 4:15] Besides, can we ignore the commands of God when others fail to follow them accurately?

I’VE READ THE BIBLE: This one is usually used when a person is attempting to establish their credibility as they preach an opinion. This is hard to contradict because you have no actual proof, (other than they don’t know scriptures), and they get angry when you call them out.

AN ANSWER: One way you can disqualify this assertion, without calling them a liar, is by pointing out that the Bible cannot be learned with ONE reading. It requires continual, daily, reading and study [Acts 17:11]. Ask them this, “Did you go to school? If so, were you able to understand all of your lessons upon reading your textbooks once?”

ALL CHURCHES LEAD TO THE SAME PLACE: Another way this claim is stated is when a preacher says, “Find a church of your choice.” The belief is that, due to the different personalities of people, the Lord has allowed different style of churches, but they’re all leading people to heaven.

AN ANSWER: The Scriptures teach that the church is the body of the Lord, [Ephesians 1:22, 23], therefore, when in chapter 4 it says, “There is one body,” it’s teaching that there is only one church. If there is only one church, then why are there so many different doctrines, even ones that teach a different gospel? [Galatians 1:6-9]

In order for any assembly of Christians to be considered a church of our Lord is if they follow the whole council of God. [Acts 20:27] Our desire here in Borger is to be a true church of Christ. [Matthew 7:21]

THE BIBLE DOESN’T SAY I CAN’T: For me, this is one of the most ridiculous statements I ever hear. What they mean is that there is no specific mention of their sin, therefore, they are free to commit said sin.

I tried this line of reasoning with my parents once. Just once. This method of reasoning NEVER works in other areas of our lives, yet we expect to use this rational with bible study. It is this attitude that causes problems, not just in the church, but in our personal lives. You’ve heard the unverified story of the person that is injured because he used his lawn mower as a hedger. He subsequently sued the mower company using this logic, “you didn’t say in the manual that I couldn’t use it as a hedger.”

AN ANSWER: The Lord has taught us that silence is not authoritative. When King David sought to build God a permanent Temple, he was stopped because God NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT IT.  In 2Samuel 7:7, God asks, “Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?‘”‘  This is also taught in the book of Hebrews regarding the priesthood of Jesus [Hebrews 7:14], as well as over the issue of circumcision, [Acts 15:24].

These passages teach clearly, silence is prohibitive. If the bible doesn’t say you can, then you can’t. To argue, as do so many denominations, “any practices not expressly forbidden could be considered”, is to argue AGAINST God and His divine word.

There is an absolute truth, it is God’s inspired and divine word [John 17:17]. God delivered this truth to His Apostles and inspired men, and they wrote it down. When we read it, we can know what they knew about the mystery of God. Let us study God’s word and know the truth. [John 16:13; Ephesians 3:3-4; John 8:32]

spencer blackwelder
evangelist – Franklin St Church of Christ, Borger Texas.

Are you Noble?

SOMEBODY asked me one time about a preacher on a certain website to find out if they’re any good. I responded by saying, “Whether they’re on the internet, in a book or preaching from a pulpit in the church of Christ, we are to test every person to determine if their teaching aligns with God’s teachings.

That is the meaning of the verse in 1John 4:1; “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” Then the writer added; “because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

The Apostle John was warning that some will teach error, “false prophets.” The Apostle Peter had a similar warning, except that he said some false teachers would come from among the Christians; “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” [2Peter 2:1]

Is there a way to determine between a false teacher and a true teacher from God? Yes, there is, and we MUST prove for our own knowledge what is being taught. [1Thessalonians 5:21]

TESTING THE TEACHER

In John’s 1st letter, he gives us two tests…..

TEST ONE – Do they deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? A true teacher will say that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [1John 4:2]. Some folks are denying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. [2John 1:7]

TEST TWO – Does the teaching match what the Apostles taught? We perform the test by matching it to what the Apostles taught as they were taught it by the Holy Spirit.

Looking at verse 6 of John’s 1st letter he tells us how to know the difference between truth and error, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

The Apostles were told what to teach and what to write by the Holy Spirit [John 16:13]. Also in 2Timothy 3:16 Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…..” He also said, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” [Ephesians 3:3].

In Galatians 1, Paul wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” [Galatians 1:8].

He warned us in the 1st Corinthian letter, not to follow men further than what we can see in the word of God, “….that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” [1Corinthians 4:6b]

TWO OTHER TESTS

Though not mentioned by John, we can read about two more tests…..

TEST THREE – Moses answered this question, “How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” [Deuteronomy 18:21-22]

            When a prophet makes a statement in the name of the Lord, if what he says does not take place and his words do not come true, then his word is not the word of the Lord. Certain modern denominations have made some predictions that have NOT come to pass. By this test, they are NOT from God.

TEST FOUR – This test is to be used if someone claims to do a wonder (miracle) or a sign [Deuteronomy 13:1-3]. If their teaching, doctrine, contradicts what God has already revealed, they are to be rejected. It matters not whether they were able to perform the sign or to give a wonder. This is very similar to what John taught in the second test. (BTW – signs, wonders & tongues have ceased 1Cor 13:8)

PERFORMING THE TEST

At the beginning of the church, as the inspired men and Apostles taught, folks performed these tests. We read of one such group in Acts 17, the Bereans. The writer notes that these were “more noble (honorable).” Why were they nobler? Simple, because they, “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Look closely at this passage, the context shows that it was the Apostle Paul, along with Silas, who are teaching. God COMMENDS the Bereans for performing the tests for the Apostle Paul! Compare that to some denominations, even today, who CONDEMN the examination of scripture and tell their members that they are unable to know the truth unless the leadership teaches it.

The title asks if you are noble. We can be noble too, when we search the scriptures, just as they did. A message repeated yesterday and remains today, SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES. [Isaiah 34:16; Luke 16:29; John 5:39; 2Timothy 2:15, 16].

A final word. Let’s note one other thing that the Bereans did. It says that they searched the scriptures DAILY. I was studying with a brother in Christ the other day and he punched me right in the heart when he said, “We would all be better off if we INCREASED to weekly our DAILY STUDY.” Did you catch it? He is suggesting, and I agree, that we’re falling short in our daily reading of God’s word. So, I ask you, nay, I ask myself, Am I more noble?

Spencer Blackwelder