Hold My Mule

Image result for farm mule plow

Robert F. Turner wrote a story that tells of an old Farmer, who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Many of the members thought the old Farmer compensated for his inability to sing by singing loud. His singing disrupted those who sat nearby and disturbed those that sat on the other side.

The looks of disapproval didn’t seem to catch the notice of the man’s joyful noise.

The men of the congregation talked amongst themselves and appointed 3 men to make the long drive to the old man’s farm and have a chat with him about his obnoxious behavior in the assembly. “Didn’t he know that we don’t act like that during worship? Didn’t he know that there are dignitaries and all sorts of important people hearing his off tune, off key, off tempo singing?” they reasoned among themselves.

Dressing in their suits and shiny shoes, which meant to make a statement about their importance, they trekked out to the old man’s farm.

As they pulled up to his run-down house, they saw him out back plowing a dusty field ‘Jeeing & Hawing” a tired old mule. They honked the horn hoping to gain his attention to avoid having to get out and mess up their nice suits. However, the old Farmer was busy wrestling that old mule.

After some time, they reluctantly pulled themselves out of their air-conditioned car and walked out to talk to him.

As they approached, the Farmer excitedly said, “Well looky here, what a pleasant surprise. It’s so wonderful you made the trip out to this old farm. What brings you ‘round?”

One of the men replied, “We’ve come to talk to you about your singing…” Before he could finish his prepared speech, the farmer interrupted. “I know what you mean. When we start singing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about my ramshackle house and the MANSION Jesus has gone to prepare for me.”

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

[John 14:2]

“When we sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but think about this dusty field, the sweat and toil. Then I’m reminded about how God promised there’d be no more sorrow.”

“When we start to sing those songs about heaven, I can’t help but be reminded of how much sin and sadness there is in this world. I think about my wife and son and how they died together at his birth and I’m reminded how the good book says that God will wipe away all tears. I’m reminded how we’re to meet our loved ones in the air when Jesus comes back to get those that are His.”

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” [Rev 21:4]

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [1Thess 4:17]

He kept on, “I just get so excited about God’s promises that I can’t help but sing praises to our King. As a matter of fact, I feel like singing right now. HOLD MY MULE.” Then the Farmer handed the reins of his old mule to the men and began to sing (perhaps he sang “No Tears in Heaven”) as the men just stood there in the middle of that dusty field.

After a few moments, the men tied up the mule and somberly walked back to their shiny new car. After several quiet minutes of the long drive back to town one of them said, “You know, I didn’t realize how beautiful that man’s voice really sounds.”

“Yes indeed,” replied another. The third man said, “If I get to heaven, I hope that God will see to it that I get to sing with that good man.”

—Spencer

WHEN THE DEVIL WAS BAPTIZED

ON SEPTEMBER 23, 1911 the ‘devil’ obeyed the gospel. I’m certainly not talking about ‘THE’ devil, Satan. This article is about a man who was about as devilish as human man can be.

As a youth, his devilish tendencies were quite apparent. As is often the case, his brother was called the preacher on account of his good behavior, whereas our subject acquired ‘devil’ as a moniker for his devilish behavior. “He liked to carry on and play pretty rough at times.”

In his early twenties, he became an actual rebel. Being a southern sympathizer, he organized a group of rebels to engage in guerrilla attacks on Union installations during the war between brothers. Among his “Wildcats” guerilla fighting unit was a good friend named Dyke Garrett. Dyke found the brutality of war deplorable, denouncing it as against God’s will. After the war Dyke began to think much more seriously about Christianity and obeyed the gospel under the teaching of one Alexander M. Lunsford.(1) Lunsford himself being a student of another Alexander. The Devil and Dyke remained lifelong friends.

However, the ‘devil’s’ vengeful side showed up when one of his friends was shot & wounded. The ‘devil’ vowed and subsequently followed through with his promise to have retribution. This vengeance streak ran through the blood of his kin and another death was attributed to the ‘devil’ and his family.

It wasn’t long before the ‘devil’ and his family got into a feud with a neighboring family over a hog. Things escalated quickly after that. When the ‘devils’ brother was killed in the feud, he went all in killing 3 of them in retaliation. (2)

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” [Rom 12:19]

There were several more battles, and as many as 15 lives lost in the feud, including five children in the war between families that lasted for over 28 years.

For most, that’s the end of the story, but it wasn’t the whole story for the ‘devil.’ Some 20 years later, the ‘devil’ got some new information. He received some good news from his old war buddy, Dyke.

 

Dyke Garrett, gospel preacher

 

You’ll recall, Dyke had turned to Jesus obeying the gospel. Not only that, He became a circuit preacher for the church of Christ in the parts where the ‘devil’ lived.

Having been a friend of the ‘devil’ he went to him personally to deliver the good news. Receive it he did and at the urging of his friend, the ‘devil’ went to a gospel meeting and at the end of that meeting he went forward to repent and be baptized for the remission of his sins. They went down to the waters of Island Creek where Dyke Garrett baptized Anse ‘the devil’ Hatfield into Christ. (3) The feud between the Hatfield’s & McCoy’s was over. At least it was over for the ‘devil’ now turned child of God.

Anse ‘devil’ Hatfield standing on front right with hand on hip. Dyke Garrett is the seated man with white beard on front left.

 

According to those that knew him, Devil Anse spent the remainder of his life in peace, with the knowledge that God had forgiven him, his sins washed away in the blood of the Lamb in a cold mountain spring.

If the Gospel can have that effect on a fighting man like Hatfield, as it had on Paul who had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” then surely it can have that effect on anyone.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]

—spencer

  1. Do you recall that Dyke Garrett had been converted to Christ by Alexander Lunsford who was converted through another Alexander? That was one Alexander Campbell. (4)

1: Uncle Dyke Garrett. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2082

2: WIKIPEDIA.ORG “Hatfield–McCoy feud”

  1. Baptism of Devil Anse. https://thedailyhatch.org/2012/06/01/great-great-granddaughter-of-devil-anse-hatfield-said-he-came-to-christ/
  2. https://blueridgecountry.com/archive/hatfields-mccoys-revisited-blog/hatfields-and-mccoys-revisited-week-4religion/

 

What are you Doing about it?

We can all agree that Jesus the Christ did not sin. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:” [1Pet 2:22]. The rest of us have “sinned and come short of the glory of God” [Rom 3:23].

We’re not alone. The great bible characters dealt with this realization:

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter & Paul. Each of these faced the reality of their own sin, Paul saying; “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” [1Tim 1:15].

This fact is no authorization to continue in sin even as Christ came to save sinners. Paul also wrote; “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [Rom 6:1-2]

Through our obedience to the gospel we have found redemption through Christ Jesus, having our sins washed away in water baptism [Acts 22:16]. Although we’ve been washed, sin leaves a terrible mark on our psyche and scars on our bodies. What are we to do with this?

Paul wrote to the Philippians about this, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Phil 3:13-14]. However, in another place he reminded the church of their past sins, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1Cor 6:11]. What are we to do with that?

Putting these two passages together we come to this conclusion; Remember from where you’ve come and from what you’ve been saved, but close the door on your past so that you can move onward to do the work of God. There are THREE things about our past that need “forgetting” so we can please God today.

FIRST, we need to forget our past sins. Paul had plenty of sins in his past especially as it related to his persecution of the church. “And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” [Acts 22:4]. Our past sins are forgiven, but unchangeable. They are what they are and we cannot undo them. Therefore, they are to be forgotten.

SECOND, we need to forget our past successes. Whatever good we may have done, however many people we may have helped in the gospel, we cannot rest on those successes. We must continue to press toward the goal. Nowhere is “once saved, always saved” taught in scripture. Not after faith, baptism or any good deed.

THIRD, we need to forget (in a figure) our past sorrows. We’ve all experienced loss & pain, but those sorrows should not prevent us from moving forward with God. Some let the pains and losses of their past to paralyze them from continued service in God’s kingdom.

Rather than let our past paralyze us, it ought to MOTIVATE us into more & abundant service to our King. Being reminded of the forgiveness we have through Christ; our past sins should MOVE us to continual repentance [Acts 8:22-24; 1John 1:7-9].

Our past wins should continue to MOVE us to do more service for our King. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” [Titus 2:14].

Lastly, the pains of our past should MOVE us to reach out to the lost with the gospel message so that nobody dies outside of Christ. You can feel Paul’s sense of urgency about this for the unconverted Jewish nation; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” [Romans 10:1, cf 9:2-4].

We have no control over our past selves and we have no control over our future selves except as it relates to our TODAY selves. Today is the largest amount of time within our ability and with that it is our only opportunity to serve God.

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts… Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;” [Heb 3:7-14].

IGNORANCE, INTENT AND EMAILS

(this article may reference current events but is in no way a commentary on political views by the author as it relates to these events)

Confidential emails have been in the news of late. The jist of which is that a certain, high level, government employee, mishandled classified communication within the government. The FBI investigated and found unsecured & unguarded servers (the device where electronic mail would be stored and sent), “extremely careless” handling of email by this employee and her staff, and poor judgement on the part of this high level employee in the handling of Top Secret communication. The FBI then said, “We did not find…clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information.”

It’s on this last point that this article shall address as it relates sin, salvation and getting into heaven.

Under human laws, intent plays a major role. For example, if a person was negligent in their behavior, they may or may not be prosecuted. In recent cases of accidental harm to a person involving a vehicle, intent becomes the deciding factor. God spoke about these situations and gave instructions under the Law of Moses for unintentional harm. “as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies-he shall flee to one of these cities and live; [Deuteronomy 19:5] and in some cases were required to pay restitution.

Intent may be a factor, but ignorance of the law is another matter. Under our law system, Ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses not”) is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. There are plenty of examples where a person is fined or punished having been unaware that they were committing a crime. If you doubt this, the next time you’re pulled over for speeding just tell the officer you didn’t know the speed limit.

For humanity, God leaves everyone without excuse whether they’ve read the Bible or not.

Look at Roman 1:18-21; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [emphasis mine]

You see, God has made every effort to show himself to every person and it’s their willful disregard for Him that will earns His wrath.

In another place, regarding ignorance, Paul said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” [Acts 17:30-31]

Peter also taught that we are not to remain in our ignorance but to obey; “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” [1Peter 1:13-16]

Here’s the point of what I am saying, when we face the judgement of God, saying “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t intend to sin” will not open the gates of heaven unto us. The only way that we can survive the judgement and to receive an entry into heaven is through the saving blood of Jesus the Christ.

How can one be saved?

Now that you’ve heard about God’s wrath and salvation through Jesus, Repent and be converted from your ignorance. “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” [Acts 3:17-19]

After your repentance, their remains the blotting (washing) away of your sins. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16] “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 2:38]

If you do this, you will be saved, but this doesn’t give you liberty to keep on sinning. Therefore, the Christian must remain faithful. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-4] And if we sin, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” [1John 2:1]

Though human courts overlook ignorance, God won’t. Why delay?

THE TRUTH HAS SET US FREE…FROM WHAT?

JESUS SAID TO the believing Jews, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32]

From this passage, as disciples, we must continue in His word, and from this word we will know the truth. Then this truth will set us free. Later on Jesus will say that God’s word is truth. [John 17:17]

The first question you should ask is; “From what are we being set free?”

WE ARE FREE FROM…
  • The curse of the Law of Moses. Galatians 3:10 points out “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This was referring to the Law of Moses, for in chapter 5v4 Paul then says that a person seeking to return to that law “has fallen from Grace.”
  • The power of the Law. Romans 7:1-7 teaches us that until Christ’s death, burial and resurrection that the Law of Moses was still in effect. It wasn’t until His death were we freed from the power of the Law, “nailing it to his cross.” [Colossians 2:14]
  • The dominion of sin.Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:17-18] Without the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus, “ye are yet in your sins.” [1Corinthians 15:17]
  • The guilt of sin. The guilt that most people experience is dependent upon a future punishment. In Christ, who paid the debt for our sins, Christians have been made free from the condemnation of sin. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” [Romans 8:33] Does this mean that we can continue to sin? No sir. Rather, we have someone who cleanses us of our sin, but only if we’re in Christ. [1John 1:9]
  • The power of darkness. Because we are His disciples, having obeyed the Gospel, God has “…delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” [Colossians 1:13] Many say that the kingdom will begin sometime later, but this scripture teach that Christians are in His kingdom now and free from the darkness of this world.
  • The fear of man. No longer bound by sin, under the power of darkness of this world, Christians are also free of what man can do to us. The Apostles faced persecution, beatings and imprisonments, even being commanded to stop speaking about Jesus. Yet, they had no fear saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” [Acts 5:29; 4:18-20] Though we may be persecuted or threatened for our faith, no man can ever take away our salvation. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” [Psalm 118:6]
  • The fear of death’s sting. Because we are in Christ, and freed from the bondage of sin, we no longer have the fear of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” [1Corinthians 15:56,57] Being in Christ, we look forward to a day when we can be with the Lord even if He comes sometime after our life on this Earth. [1Thessalonians 4:14-17]
  • The position of no hope. Becoming a Christian puts us into a living hope. This hope becomes a part of our lives and is demonstrated to the world through our lives. Peter noted that this hope shall be seen by those around us to the point that they may ask us of this hope. [1Peter 3:15]
  • The state of separation from God. Christians become children of God through adoption. Prior to our obedience to the gospel, we are separated from God because of sin, but now we are reconciled to God by the death of His son. [Romans 5:10] What a wonderful thing it is to be called a child of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:26]
WE HAVE BEEN SET FREE IF….

…we become one of His disciples. This begs the next question, How do I become a disciple of Christ? Remember, Jesus said, ““If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32] To become His disciple we must obey the Gospel. Before He ascended into heaven He gave this command, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” [Mt 28:19 (ASV)]

The Gospel is what calls us [2Thessalonians 2:14]. Leaving sin, we obey the Gospel which shall deliver us [Romans 6:17]. The gospel is about the Death, burial and resurrection of Jesus [1Corinthians 15:1-4]. When Jesus is preached [Acts 8:35], one will conclude the need to be baptized [Acts 8:36].

If you “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” [Matthew 22:37] then you will also do whatever he commands.

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]

What saves you?

What about the Thief on the Cross?

what about the thief

Folks will use many reasons to take away the command by our Lord to be baptized. The one heard most commonly by me is, “What about the thief on the cross?” This one is offered by those who have a little biblical knowledge, and by those who’ve heard it before, but have never been challenged with scriptural evidence.

THE ARGUMENT goes like this; “If, as you say, baptism is necessary for salvation, then what about the thief on the cross? He was never baptized, yet the Lord said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Baptism is not necessary to salvation, because the thief could not obey that command, yet the Lord said he would be in paradise.” [Lu 23:43]

The Scriptures examined: The real issue pertains to a crucial feature of Bible interpretation, are we to take all 66 books of the Bible and take everything that is said and apply it directly and equally to everyone? The Bible is literally filled with commands, instructions, and requirements that were not intended to be duplicated by people living today. People are amenable to the law period under which they lived. [2Timothy 2:15]. There are three dispensations found in the Scriptures:

  • The Patriarchal Dispensation – From creation, everyone was subject to a body of legislation passed down by God through the fathers of family clans (cf. Hebrews 11:1), until the giving of the Law of Moses.
  • The Mosaic Dispensation – At Mt. Sinai, Moses was given a new Law from God and Jews were subject to that body of legal information [Law of Moses] from that time until it also was terminated at the cross of Christ. Consider the following passages:[Matthew 27:51; Romans 2:12-16; Galatians 3:7-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 2:11-17]
  • The Christian Dispensation – After Jesus’ death on the Cross, all peoples are now amenable to the Law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]
Now that we have this background information, let’s examine the reasons which make their argument invalid:

Reason #1– The Law of Moses was still in effect. Many folks are confused when reading the Gospels for it is commonly called, “The New Testament.” However, the majority of the gospel story in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, take place while Jesus was alive and living as a Jew subject to the Law of Moses.

Jesus was born to a Jewish family under the Law [Mat 1; Luke 3; Ga 4:4], circumcised the 8th day [Lu 2:21], observed the Passover [Lu 2:41, 22:8-20], taught people to follow the Law [Matthew 5:23-24; 8:4], and followed the Law Himself [Matthew 5:17-18].

Under the Law of Moses, never was there a command to be baptized for the remission of sins. Sins were atoned for through the sacrifice of bulls; And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. (Leviticus 4:20). The word “atonement” <kaphar> literally means “to cover” and is the same as in Gen 6:14 regarding covering the ark with pitch.

Nowhere in the Old Testament is the teaching that sins were totally removed. As we study our Bibles, we find in Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. [Heb 10:11 …can never take away sins.] This system pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and terminated at the cross [see above scripture references]

The thief on the cross lived during this Mosaic period, therefore was subject to the Law of Moses and it’s system of sacrifice through bulls and goats.

Which brings us to the second reason……

Reason #2 – Since Jesus lived under the Law of Moses, He followed that law. Of course, He would have no reason to offer a sacrifice on His own behalf [Hebrews 4:15] being without sin, He did teach those around Him to do it for themselves [Mt 8:1-4]

As we study, we find out that the sacrifices in the Law of Moses were pointing to the sacrifice that Jesus would offer of Himself. Galatians 3:19-27 teaches that the Law was a teacher to bring us to Christ.

The letter to the HEBREWS teaches us that it was Christ’s death that ended the Law and began the New Covenant. [Hebrews 8-10]. Paul, speaking about the death of Jesus in relationship to the Law of Moses, said “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” [Colossians 2:14]

Therefore, the THIEF on the cross never had a command to be baptized for the remission of sins. He died, having repented and placed his trust in the Christ, as EVERYONE UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES did when they obeyed the ordinances under that law.

Reason #3– The command to be baptized “for the remission of sins” was issued AFTER Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. When Jesus was on the cross, He was fulfilling the Law of Moses, ending it, and bringing in the New Covenant. It was AFTER His death, burial and resurrection that He gave the great commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” [Matthew 28:19]

FOR THE REMISSION OF SIN – This phrase is found in connection with baptism. It is particularly important to note how and when it was used;

  • Mt 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
  • Ac 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These two verses show the connection between, baptism, Christ’s blood AND the remission of sins.

The other instances of this phrase are connected to the preaching of John “the Baptist”. When we study the scriptures, we find that John’s baptism never remitted any sins, for we read in Acts 19:1-5;

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.  4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

CONCLUSION:
  • The thief on the cross lived AND DIED under the Law of Moses, as did Jesus our Lord, where there was NO COMMAND to be baptized.
  • The thief, had he been able to obey the command, was not under any obligation to obey it for it DIDN’T APPLY TO HIM at the time of his death, because the Law of Moses was the covenant in force at the time of the statement, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
  • The command to be baptized was given AFTER his death.

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.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________________________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________________________

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