If the gospel is good news, then why did they need boldness?

IN ACTS 4 and verse 29, the early Christians prayed for boldness, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” They sent up this prayer since Peter and John had just been arrested and released for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In chapter 5, they will again be arrested and we will see the fulfillment of their request when they told the council, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Immediately after this bold statement they also preach to them the Gospel (the Death, Burial & Resurrection of Jesus [1Cor 15:1-4]) in verses 30-32.

If the Gospel is such “good news,” then why where they arrested and beaten? Why was there such negative reaction to ‘good news?’ Why do we see the same reaction among folks today?

As we look through God’s word, we can find at least 3 reasons

FOOLISHNESS: For many people of their day, the Gospel appeared to them as foolishness. They didn’t believe it and thought it to be like a fairy tale. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” This is as true today as it has ever been. Many today have placed their faith in evolution and ignored the signs of creation that point to an Almighty Creator. Paul noted about folks like these, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” [Romans 1:20].

In the same chapter, his example encourages us to remain faithful and bold against those who find the Gospel to be foolish, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;” [Romans 1:16]

FOES: There are also enemies to the Gospel. The main enemy of the cross for those in the 1st century is very much the same for us today. There will be some who will hate the Gospel because it requires an end to a hedonistic life. Paul wrote that some will follow the Gospel, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Then he said there will be some whose life is spent on their own lusts, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” [Phil 3:17-19].

In his warning was an encouragement for us, follow those who are living a godly life. It takes boldness to be different from the world, but it is extremely important that we succeed. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” [Matthew 7:13-14].

FALSE TEACHERS: Perhaps related to the other 2, there will be some who will lie about the Gospel and speak against it. For the first Christians, the false teachers were the Jews and they spoke against the Gospel because of envy, “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” [Acts 13:45].

There were also false teachers who tried to look like believers. In Paul’s time, he had to deal with people who wanted to exalt themselves, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” [2Corinthians 11:12-13]. How true is this today? Men, owners of denominations, have become the center of attention and the main attraction. Professing to be Christians, they are, in reality, false teachers leading so many toward destruction. This is the most dangerous kind, for Paul compared these to Satan who, “himself is transformed into an angel of light” and calls these people Satan’s ministers [v15].

Boldness is needed here as well. Paul combated these through humble and faithful service. He preached the Gospel with a humility such as that of Jesus Himself. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” [1Corinthians 9:19].

So, you see, we are in just as much need of courage as they, for the Gospel, though Good News to us who are being saved, it is bad news for those who are perishing.

Is God telling me what to do #2

LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE was about a man who said, “you can’t tell me that God’s not talking to me!” though I could show him, through God’s word, that God’s not talking to him separate and apart from the written word, but he just doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to do what he wants to do.

Even before the article was printed, I was hearing this excuse for sin and knew that more needed to be said. So, this article could be titled; “How to stay in sin without repenting.” Allow me to illustrate the main point of this article using instrumental music (I-M) in the worship as the object.

After answering the question about I-M, with a couple I met, using Scriptural proof, they told me, “God is putting it on my heart to play music during the worship.” In effect, even after showing HOW TO DETERMINE SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY [Acts 8; Acts 15] & showing that SILENCE IS PROHIBITIVE [Heb 7:14; 2Sam 7:7; Acts 15:24], their “proof” for remaining in sin was “God put it on my heart.”

I asked them, “I’m really good at making signs, can I bring in a neon transformer, hook it up with some wires and light up a “Jacob’s Ladder” and tell everyone to start worshipping? (The Jacob’s Ladder is a high voltage climbing arc, when an electric spark jumps between two parallel wires. The spark then “climbs” up the ladder.) They had to admit that a Jacob’s Ladder would NOT be authorized, but still couldn’t see how the mechanical instrument was ALSO unauthorized.

In another example, I was listening to a popular financial radio program. A caller said, “I have a wife and a kid, I have $100,000 in student loans as I am pursuing a PHD in music composition. We make under $30k a year and we are paying $2500 per month in a mortgage. How do I get out of debt with these numbers knowing that GOD IS CALLING ME TO THIS CAREER?”

Are you kidding me?! You think that God is calling you to huge debt, to poverty, to financial struggle, to a career that may very well keep you unemployed? I’m not saying you need to be wealthy or to have a prestigious career to serve God, but don’t blame your struggles on God.

You try it.

The next time you want to stay in a sin, when a brother or sister comes to you about it say, “God has put it on my heart to be happy.” Which sin? Any sin.

  • an unscriptural marriage (especially if kids are involved)
  • Leaving the church for a denomination or go nowhere
  • Drinking
  • All Forms of Fornication (Rom 1:26-30; 1Cor 6:9-11)

God DOES want you to be happy, but that happiness must be derived from serving Him according to His written word. What I’ve observed is that people are looking for an excuse to do what they want to do and need to ignore the written word to accomplish it.

God IS CALLING people, by the gospel. “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2Thess 2:14]. Some will ask, “didn’t Jesus say we will hear His voice?” [John 10:27] Yes, but we hear that voice through His inspired written word [1Tim 3:16-17].

Below are 3 steps to “hear” the voice of Jesus…
  1. Read His written word. Any feeling you have, to do something, must be measured against what God has revealed in His written word. [Ephesians 3:4]. It’s only by this comparison can we determine if this “call” comes from a study of His word or if it’s just in yourself.
  2. Keep His commandments [John 14:15]. It’s when we commit to a study of God’s written word AND doing it that sets us on the correct path of righteousness.
  3. Memorize His word. In many places, God has said, “Write them on the tablet of your heart” [Prov 7:3; De 6:8; 11:18; Prov 3:3; 6:21]. Peter sought to “remind” Christians. “I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth” [2Pe 1:12]. Not only Peter, but Paul, Timothy & Titus went about to stir up the brethren’s memory [1Cor 4:17; 2Tim 1:6, 2:14; Titus 3:1].

Conclusion: God is speaking to us, through His written word. The only way we’re going to know what God’s will is for our lives is by a diligent study of His word. He’s given us the authority to choose the details of our lives, as long as those details don’t interfere with service to Him.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” [1Thess 5:18 ]

Can you Imagine?

FROM TIME TO TIME I listen to radio evangelists. They are so frustrating, for they often teach some truth about a subject, but at the end they teach absolute error regarding salvation.

You know what I mean. They say things like, “ask Jesus into your heart” or “join the church of your church”. The problem with these statements is that they’re found nowhere in scripture.

Sometimes a person will say, “I feel God is telling me to _____” then they cite some error that supposedly God told them to do.

This happened to the gospel preacher, Robert Turner, he turned to the person and said, “do you mind if I ask Him?” He then grabbed the Bible and turned to the truth and then said, “He’s telling me He doesn’t want you to do that.”

Before we heed what some person might say (including me), we must compare it to what God has said through His divine word.

Can you imagine…

PETER saying: “Baptism is not essential”?

1Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.

JAMES saying: “Man is saved by faith only”?

James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

ANANIAS saying: “Brother Saul, ask Jesus into your heart and get rid of your sins calling on the name of the Lord”?

Acts 22:16 arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

PAUL saying: “You cannot so sin as to lose your salvation”?

Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

PAUL saying: “It doesn’t matter what you believe in religion just as long as you are honest”?

2Thessalonians 2:11, 12 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

PAUL saying: “You don’t have to obey the Gospel to be saved”?

2Thessalonians 1:7-9 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

PAUL saying: “We are sprinkled with him by baptism

Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:

PETER saying: “There is nothing in a name”?

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

LUKE saying: “those that were saved joined the church of their own choice”?

Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

JUDE saying: “I don’t think it is right to argue the scriptures”?

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Adapted from the Gospel Guide, Shanwnee Oklahoma.

Tis the season to be Jolly

grinch

YOU KNOW SPRING, summer, fall and winter, but do you recall the most famous season of all? As a popular song proclaims this time of year, “TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY.”

It seems the “jolly-season” starts earlier and earlier because people just can’t wait to be jolly. Why do we wait until now to be jolly? For some, it’s hard to be jolly, even during the ‘jolly-days’. Folks who are off to war, or upset over a recent election. Still others find it difficult to be jolly because they don’t have enough money to buy more STUFF.

What is Jolly? Is it the ability to have more stuff? Is it the congested roads as we race across the country to be with folks that we hardly speak to at other times of the year? Perhaps it’s the dread of the extra pounds that we’ll ‘resolve’ to lose after the new year. The jolly season contains mixed feelings, especially as we consider unresolved goals and issues from this year.

The reality is this, a single season to be jolly is contrived. Being Jolly is an idea that should continue throughout the year. Especially among God’s people [1Peter 3:15].

Life is always filled with ups and downs. Instead of calling them problems, we ought to call them challenges. Everybody’s got them. Are we to wait until the challenges of life are gone before we feel jolly?

Jolly is the joy that springs forth from an attitude of hopefulness.  Jolly is a mindset, not a season. Jolly is HERE (point to head) not here (jiggle belly). Why do we wait for a season to be jolly? Are we going to go back to being miserable after the season is over? Perhaps our new year’s resolution ought to be jolly all year long. Is it possible? I believe that it is because God says that it’s so. Paul was joyful in prison, [Phil 1:18]. Peter taught of hopefulness in the persecuted saint, [1Peter 3:15].

When does JOY actually begin? Does it start the day after Thanksgiving, or does it start within your heart as a child of God? The eunuch, in Acts 8:39, went away ‘rejoicing’ upon his resurrection from the watery grave of baptism. Can a Christian be anything but joyful (jolly) regardless the time of year? As the ‘Grinch’ said, “What if (it) doesn’t come from a store? (Our joy) came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.” it was delivered upon a cross.

How can we be Jolly? Here are a few things to think about that may help us keep joy in our lives throughout the year: [Phil 4:8]

  • whatsoever things are true,
  • whatsoever things are honest,
  • whatsoever things are just,
  • whatsoever things are pure,
  • whatsoever things are lovely,
  • whatsoever things are of good report;

In the context of the above, can we also meditate on what goes well rather than what goes wrong? A habitual daily pause to look for the joyful things in life may be part of the answer to a perpetual joy. What is good, joyful or jolly…

  • About yourself?
  • About your life?
  • About your relationships?
  • About what you’re doing?
  • About the love IN your life? (notice I didn’t say love OF your life?)
  • About doing your BEST at what you do?
  • About knowing the reason why you get up every day?

The truth is, there’s no better time to be joyful, than today. Why wait for a season, a present or a person to make you happy? If not now, when? When the economy gets better? When people stop being mean? When the stars align? You’re not promised that much time [James 4:14].

I am resolving to be jolly all year long and I challenge you to do the same. Why wait to be happy, after?

Mary, Did You Know?

THERE’S A POPULAR SONG that is played this time of year which asks the question, “Mary, did you know?” It’s a good question, for Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been keeping things in her heart, “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart” [Luke 2:51]. Then, in John 2, she is the one who prompts Our Lord to perform the first recorded miracle. This song examines the question, what did she know?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mt 14:26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Ac 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Ro 6:4 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.

2Ti 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Lu 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, [Isa 61:1]

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Mt 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kiss the face of God?

Joh 12:45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Mary, did you know… Mary, did you know

The blind will see. Lu 7:21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

The deaf will hear. Mr 7:35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

The dead will live again. Joh 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

The lame will leap. Joh 5:8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

The dumb will speak. Mr 7:35 And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

The praises of The Lamb. Mr 7:36 And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

John 1:1; Joh 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

Lu 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

Joh 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

(insert your name), Did YOU know?

In John’s account of the life of Jesus, he points to the miracles and says, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” [John 20:31]. Do we know these things about Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ?

(originally by Mark Lowry (lyrics) and Buddy Greene (melody))

Can Mary Put in a good Word for you?

FOLKS ARE ENCOURAGED to pray to God through Mary as mediator. One false teacher said, “Praying to the saints is praying to God, in a fundamental way. We’re praying to those who can ask God to help us in our various needs in accordance with His will.” This false doctrine has many sidekicks, i.e., people pray to St. Anthony for lost items; to St. Jude (or perhaps St. Rita) for lost causes; to St. Gerard for motherhood; to St. Peregrine for Cancer victims; and to St. Dymphna for those with mental or nervous disorders, or epilepsy. For many years, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel was included at the end of Mass for his help in defeating Satan.

This is not new, some have tried to make more use of Mary than God ever intended. On one occasion as Jesus taught, a woman cried out to Him saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus quickly replied by saying: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” [Lk. 11:27-28]. Mary was not and is not deserving of worship in any way. She is not deity. She was a humble servant of God [Lk. 1:38], as we all ought to be. Only God is deserving of worship [Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 19:10, 22:9]! Neither is she our mediator. Only Christ serves in this role, and He is our only arbiter between us and God [Job 9:33; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 1Tim. 2:5-6; 1Jo 2:1].

While she served a very important role, she is unable to add to our prayers today. To elevate her or to glorify her in some divine way is error. We can approach God’s throne through prayer but only if we’re IN CHRIST [Heb 4:16]. Let’s learn from our True Mediator, he ended this false doctrine.

3 step method for Overcoming Discouragement

THERE ARE MANY reasons why we become discouraged.

Life is Difficult. Job faced this more than any other person. Problem after problem after problem just kept coming upon him and he didn’t know why [Job 1-2]. Let’s face it, life is hard and it’s dangerous. We face the loss of jobs, or stuff through things outside of our control. Sometimes tragedy strikes us with the loss of a friend or family in death.

Life’s challenges appear too big. This seems to be the challenge for the Israelites as they came into the promised land, even the people were giants! [Num 13:26-33; 32:9] The Lord knew that the challenge of taking the land would look too big and warned them about becoming discouraged [Deut 1:21]. Do the obstacles you face, money, health & relationships, appear too big to handle?

Other folks get us down. Then there’s the trouble that comes upon us through other folks. Their bad behavior affects us. The sin of David in numbering the people did this [2Sam 24:15]. Often we’re troubled by the sin of another. Whether it is their apathy, carelessness or outright wickedness, we become discouraged.

Consider the many tragedies our brother Paul faced during his life as an Apostle of Jesus Christ;  …in labours … in stripes … in prisons … in deaths …five times …forty stripes … Thrice … beaten with rods, once … stoned, thrice … shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; … journeyings often, …perils of waters, … robbers… mine own countrymen, … heathen, … city…wilderness… sea,…false brethren; …weariness … painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. [2Co 11:23-28] It would make almost anyone want to give up, but friend, that is not the answer. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” [2Th 3:13]. What are we to do?

3 STEPS TO OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT

STEP 1TAKE COMFORT IN JESUS – REALIZE THE POWER OF CHRIST WHEN WE ARE WEAK… Paul is referring to this when he makes the statement in 2Cor 4:16 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” As we have seen, Paul suffered greatly for Christ [2 Co 4:8-9], but he saw it as an opportunity for God’s power through Christ to be shown [2Co 4:7,10-11]. Christ taught Paul this lesson as he struggled with his “thorn in the flesh” [2Co 12:7-10]. When we are weak, that is an opportunity to depend upon the Lord for strength! So infirmities and tribulations can be occasions to rejoice, not despair!

STEP 2LOOK AT THINGS NOT SEEN…FAITH Heb 11:1. Looking at things not seen refers to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2Cor 4:16-17]. This is what renewed Paul inwardly day by day. This attitude makes our AFFLICTION appear light! It’s this mindset that gives us comfort that if our earthly house is destroyed (our bodies) we have…” a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” [2Co 5:1-5]. If looking to things unseen can renew Paul, it can also do the same for us.

STEP 3TAKE ACTION – DO SOMETHING – FEAR BOREDOM We must keep on keeping on, or as Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Php 3:14]. We can all do something. It’s easy to say, “nobody’s there for me, so why should I be there for them?” Friend, this is not Christ’s way. Even though all had forsaken Him, Jesus didn’t stop serving us all the way to the cross! He left us an example in which to follow.

We can all do something; For OTHERS For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” [Mt 25:35-36]. When we’re serving the brethren, we’re in effect, serving Jesus. I’ve yet to find the passage which states, “Serve thy brethren AFTER they have served you.”

We can also do something for the spreading of the GOSPEL by inviting someone to read the scriptures with you, or inviting them to a worship service. Let me remind you that one of the methods of evangelism is through our HOPE & GODLINESS [1Peter 3:1, 15].

And finally, we can do something for the CHURCH by participating in the worship & in our Bible classes. Colossians 3:16 teaches how we help one another in our songs, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

As one of our songs says, “Let us labor for the Master from the dawn til setting sun, let us talk of all His wondrous love and care; Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”

He did not know the Lord had departed

THE PHILISTINES are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. That is the situation Samson found himself in after he allowed Delilah to cut his hair in Judges 16:20.

That’s the worst place to be if you knew…. (Which would be far better). Not knowing is dangerous and even spiritually deadly. You can and should repent

Sampson was not the only one, there were so many others…

David hid his sin and didn’t know until Nathan told him. And Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man” [2Sa 12:7]. David had committed sin, but as he tried to hide it is when things got so much worse, leading to lying, conspiracy, murder and ultimately giving occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme.

We can do our best to hide sin, but shall never hide them from God. I’ve heard that certain practitioners of Islam build walls in their homes facing Mecca and allah is unable to see the sin they commit if done behind that wall. The one true God doesn’t have that limitation, He sees everything! David learned this the hard way and wrote a Psalm about it, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” [Ps 90:8]. The writer of Hebrews said, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” [Heb 4:13].

Simon the sorcerer tried to bypass authority and didn’t realize The LORD had departed until Peter told him. “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” [Acts 8:20]. We see this one all the time, folks thinking they can bypass the Authority of Christ [Mat 28:18].  None of us think we can buy the power of the Holy Spirit, but some do believe they can have power over the church through their contribution, dissensions or threats. This sin, sedition, is included with the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20. We must follow the instructions of Christ in all things, the church is not a democracy and we don’t vote on the doctrines of Christ.

Peter played the hypocrate until Paul told him – “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [Ga 2:14]”

We decieve our friends and family in our own hypocrisy. In our attempts to “fit in” with the world, they see our double minded actions toward God. We do this so as not to lose any friends. When we act in such a duplicitous way, are we really being a friend?

Annanias when he tried to outsmart God. “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? [Acts 5:3 ]” It’s impossible to outsmart God, but many attempt to do it all the time. W.C. Fields, when asked why he was reading the bible said, “Loopholes, looking for loopholes!” Can you ever out smart God? Amazingly, Christians believe they can fool God. And what’s worse, they believe they can outsmart Him! Minimal attendance or removing your “membership” without going to another congregation so as to avoid withdrawal. Building a team to “out vote” the leadership. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Sapphira ignored her chance but didn’t take it. “And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much” [Ac 5:8]. At least David siezed on his opportunity to repent. Peter gave her opportunity but she had her story and was sticking to it. Learn from Sapphira and repent before it’s too late.

Nadab & Abihu wouldn’t heed the instructions of the Lord. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” [Lev 10:1]. The commandments are clear, and their not burdensome [1John 5:3], but we think that our way is better. We say things like, “the Bible doesn’t say we can’t.” Look again at Lev 10:1, it says, “the LORD commanded them not.” Silence is prohibitive, we have permission ONLY when we have a command.

Lot’s wife didn’t know when she ignored God’s command. “And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” [Ge 19:17-20]. Perhaps she had grown so used to sin that she didn’t believe God’s command. This seems to be the prevailing view among some. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” [Ecc 8:11]. Folks, just because God is delaying punishment doesn’t mean He will never punish it.

We can know if God is with us, by learning and keeping His word. Read 1John and learn about a wonderful hope for the Christian who loves God. It’s a book of hope and assurance for our faith. Eleven times John writes about what “we know.”

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1John 3:18

7 steps to a better faith

EVEN FROM THE time of the chosen twelve, up until today, folks have sought to increase their faith. I’ve often wondered about the Lord’s answer, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” [Luke 17:5-10]

It’s seems that our Saviour is telling us to get busy and to serve Him. We serve Him by keeping His commandents [John 14:15; 1John 5:3; Matt 7:24]. When the Prophet Elijah was emotionally down from the pressures of Jezebel’s persecution, the Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Upon hearing Elijah’s pessimistic view of the world God said, “Go…” [1Kings 19:9-18]. His command to “go” was for Elijah to finish his work. No “thank you”, no “you sit here and I’ll get somebody else”, no “oh, I’m so sorry.” God said “GO!”

Is “go” really the answer to this request for an increased faith? I believe it is. An active faith has always been a requirement of God’s people. It was the inactive faith that has caused many to be punished. Just read about the complaining and diobedient children of Israel in Exodus, Numbers and Hebrews 3. Their lack of an active faith kept them out of the promised land.

INCREASE OUR FAITH

In another passage on faith, the Apostle Peter gave instructions on how to add to our faith. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith…[2Peter 1:5]. Let’s examine the inspired 7 step plan for a better faith.

ADD TO YOUR FAITH

Virtue; the greek word is “arete” and has the meaning of “moral excellence.” When adding to our faith, the first step is to look at ourselves and cleaning up our own sins. One way to do this is to recognize who we are as God’s children.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: [1Peter 2:9]

Knowledge; Knowledge is a seeking to know, investigation. To often, the folks dealing with a weak faith are also weak in their own knowledge of God. Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 8, speaks about a weak faith and it’s connection to knowledge. Paul urged the faithful to read, study and teach. What would a better understanding of God’s word do for your faith? [Ephesians 3:4; 2Timothy 2:2,15]

Temperance; Having self-control, as this word is defined, is what keeps us out of sin. We must practice it daily. Though God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, as well as providing a way of escape, we must have enough control over ourselves to take the escape, [1Corinthians 10:13], …against such is no law. [Galatians 5:23]

Patience; The word used here is a cheerful enduring patience. None of us knows when the Lord shall return, but we endure cheerfully because we believe He keeps His promises and is a rewarder of those who are diligently seeking Him [Hebrews 11:6]. Built upon knowledge of God’s word, patience is added to our faith through the comfort of the scriptures [Romans 15:4].

Godliness; The next addition to our faith is defined as godliness. Conforming to the laws and wishes of God is the definition of godliness. Everyone gets this, from the atheist to the most ardent believer. Command keeping, although condemned by most denominations, is an essential aspect of our faith. Look back at the original request “increase our faith”, Jesus answered it by describing an obedient servant.   

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, [2Peter 3:11]

Brotherly kindness; Translated love in many places, this is a brotherly affection. One of the building blocks of our faith is kindness toward each other, in particular, toward those of the household of faith [Galatians 6:10].  Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” And Peter wrote, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” [1Peter 1:22].

Charity. In the KJV, the greek word “agapa” is called charity. This is a sacrificial  love toward another. This is the love God has toward us in John 3:16; Romans 5:8. Love can only be described by the action it prompts. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” [1John 4:7-9-13]. And this is the word used in John 14:15, “If you love me…”

Review this list often. Do you see how doing these things can “increase our faith?” If there’s any doubt, read what is said about this list. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [2Peter 1:8]

The one oar Christian

THERE’S A STORY TOLD OF an old wise man of God who was continually criticized for his motto, “pray and work.” A young pupil, struggling with the mounting problems of life, asked the wise man, “If God is so powerful, why then do you teach us also to work?” The wise man of God invited this youth to go fishing. As they entered the boat, the youth noticed that the old man only used one oar and said, “If you don’t use both, we’ll just go around in circles and you won’t get anywhere.” “That’s right, my son,” the elder man replied. “One oar is called prayer and the other is called work. Unless you use both at the same time, you just go in circles and you don’t get anywhere.”

Over the years I’ve learned that prayer alone, or work alone, is just like trying to row a boat using only one oar. All you ever seem to do is just go around in circles.

There is no doubt that prayer ought to be a part of every Christians day. Jesus taught this on several occasion, exemplifying it in His own life [Mat 14:23; 26:36,39; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18,29].

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And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Luke 18:1

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Unfortunately, that is where many of us stop. We pray and pray and pray, wondering why nothing ever changes. What we forget is that God has also required us to act. Let us consider two Godly men Abraham, and Moses, men who are noted for how God spoke to them as a friend [Gen 18:17; Ex 33:11].

In reading Hebrews 11, we see that these two men had a great faith. Was their faith only seen in their prayer life? Are these men remembered for their inactive faith only? Do you recall reading about these men sitting in their easy chair, lifting up praise and prayers to God and softly drifting off to sleep comforted with the thought that God would take care of their troubles? No, never. What we DO READ is that these men of faith prayed and worked.

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By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb 11:8

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Heb 11:7

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When Abraham heard God, he acted upon those commands. In the case of offering up Isaac, it is said that he “rose early” that morning to fulfill the commands of God [Gen 22:3].

Moses also acted upon the commands of God.

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By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Heb 11:24-26

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Did either of these men think that they were accomplishing anything out of their own power? No, they had placed their trust in God, but this trust was manifested by a remarkable demonstration of action.

When we pray according to God’s will, we’re praying having sought to know His will through the study of His word [2Tim 2:15]. Then after we pray, we get up and apply that knowledge to our lives. We act, not because we think highly about ourselves, rather, because we are trusting God to bless our godly activities.

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But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22

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For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  (KJV) [Jam 1:23-25]