Reaching in, to reach out

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY the neighbor girl asked for my help to wash her car. She was just a few years older than myself, and being the kind, generous person that I am, I quickly left my chores of weeding the flower beds and charitably assisted this helpless neighbor. Upon my return, some few hours later, my father pulled me aside and said, “Son, I appreciate that you want to help your neighbor do her chores, but you need to make sure your chores are done first.”

I’ve saved this lesson in my heart for all these years, uncertain how to apply it to my life beyond the immediate application of leaving all to help the cute neighbor. That is, until now. I’ve been emphasizing so much about outreach lately, that I thought it was time to pause a bit and make sure our home chores are done. A brother in Christ, Bryan Gibson, calls these home chores of which I’m referring as “INreach.”

There’s no such word as “INreach”, but the idea of it is very clear in the Bible. We’re talking about the efforts of Christians, both collectively and individually, those who are “inside” (1 Corinthians 5:12), “Of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), “our people” (Titus 3:14) – in other words, Fellow-Christians, or fellow saints, to encourage and to edify the body of Christ.

Looking at the letters from Paul to the evangelists, Timothy & Titus, it becomes obvious how much emphasis is given to “INreach”. Paul instructed the two evangelists to “set in order the things that are lacking?” (Tit 1:5) – to appoint qualified men to serve as elders and deacons (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13); to keep the church pure from false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 2:14-18; Titus 1:10-14); to instruct brethren how to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12); etc. If we fail to do our own chores of “INreach” for very long, then we’re certain to have problems creep into our homes and lead some away with divers lusts (2Timothy 3:6). Yet, if we give it proper attention, then the weeds will be plucked away allowing the fruit to grow, including a people better prepared to reach OUT.

If we continue to study our Bibles, it will be difficult to miss what it says about our individual responsibilities to “one another.” We’re commanded to…Love one another (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12); be hospitable to another (1 Peter 4:9); admonish one another (Romans 15:14); weep and rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15); restore one another (Galatians 6: 1); comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18); etc. As we continue to be an evangelistic church, remember to REACH IN, for your brethren need you and you need them. “As we have opportunity, let us do go to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Look at these commendations to the early church: “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). “The household of Stephanas… they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:15). Brethren in Thessalonica received strong commendation for “brotherly love,” but were then urged to “increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). Serving the needs of the saints takes up a lot of time. How can we “increase more and more?”

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for overlooking the weightier matters of “judgment, mercy, and faith,” commanding them to do these, without leaving “the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). Putting these lessons together, we Saints need to strive to do ALL of the work of the Lord, balancing our duty to outreach to seek and to save the lost, with our “INreach” in teaching and strengthening our brethren. A spiritually strong, and loving church leads to a strong and loving outreach (John 13:35). The teaching of the New Testament clearly states this principle; “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-12), showing us that a balanced church is “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17).

It can be easy for us to criticize others in the church for their lack of outreach. We ought to remember that some of these are also doing the work of the Lord in their “INreach”. For a period of time, my baby doll and I were dedicated to bringing up our boys “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is a vital duty of parents, lest we lose the next generation of Christians from among our own families.

A final word, it is easy to turn “INreach” into selfishness, looking ONLY at your own personal needs. Yes, we have a duty to care for one another, but that duty doesn’t begin AFTER your needs are met. If I’ve learned anything it is this, when I’ve sought to “bear one another’s burdens,” that my burdens were also lifted (Galatians 6:2). Job had all restored to him AFTER he had prayed for his friends (Job 42:10).

If Christ is living in us (Galatians 2:20), we shall become a growing church. Growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2Peter 3:18) AND growing in size from those that are outside as we preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

-Spencer

Let your conscience be your guide?

Give a Little Whistle

Give a Little Whistle

 

Give a little whistle, and always let your conscience by your guide.” Jiminy Cricket (1)

            In the movie, Pinocchio, the little puppet wanted to be a good boy and Jiminy was going to help him. All he had to do was whistle. Oh if that were only possible!!

            The presumption in the movie is that the conscience is never wrong, but is that true? It’s true that we do need to let our conscience be a guide, but what if it’s wrong? Who sets the conscience anyway, God? If God sets the conscience then none of us would have ever sinned. Of course we all have. [1John 1:8]. If God sets the conscience then how do we explain Saul?

            Saul was a Jew, zealous toward God, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” [Acts 22:3]

            He was among the religiously elite class of Pharisees, “….after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” [Acts 26:5]. He succeeded beyond his equals far and above any other. “And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” [Galatians 1:14]. Concerning the Law of Moses he kept it diligently. [Philippians 3:5]

            Because of his zeal toward God, he persecuted the sect called “the way” because he knew in his heart that it was wrong, even consenting to the death by stoning of Stephen. He persecuted Christians, consenting to their deaths, breathing out threats and slaughter against them. Delivering both men and women into prison. He petitioned the chief Priests to give him permission to go to other cities and synagogues, that if he found any “of the way”, he may bring them bound to Jerusalem.  [Acts 7:58 ; 8:1,3; 9:1,2; 22:4]

            If God sets the conscience, then what happened to Saul of Tarsus? He said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” [Acts 26:9] He was very sincere about his persecution of the church. [Acts 23:1]

            Our conscience is our moral compass, but only if it is set correctly, pointing to true north. In other words, attuned to truth. [John 17:17]

            The trouble is that our consciences are sometimes set wrong. Saul, later called Paul, had a conscience that was set toward God, but with wrong, outdated information. [1Timothy 1:13]

IS SINCERITY ENOUGH?

            If sincerity, based on our conscience, determines whether or not we go to heaven, then Saul was heaven bound while he persecuted the Lord. [Acts 9:4]. A famous denominational Pastor said that he doesn’t know if a Jew, Muslim or an atheist is lost if they don’t follow Jesus. “You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …” (2)

            If sincerity is enough, then why did Jesus tell Saul, “….Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” [Acts 9:6b]?  If sincerity is enough, then why was he told “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16]? If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to confess that Jesus is the Christ? That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [Romans 10:9]. If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to repent? [2Corinthians 7:9]. If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to be baptized? [Romans 6:3]

GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE

           Oh, it would be nice if we could just whistle and have Jiminy show up to keep us out of trouble? Jesus is no cricket, and He’s not a pet that we call to do our bidding. No sir, we have been given control over our conscience, and we are to train it. Jesus showed us the way….

 

Spencer Blackwelder

1 – Walt Disney Productions 1940.
2 – Larry King Live. http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0506/20/lkl.01.htm

God has 3 No’s

When a person says things like, God must have a reason for this tragedy, or He’s got a plan for me (spoken in the midst of all sorts of trouble) I want you to be ready to point out something about God, his no’s.

The trouble stems from a misapplication of ……..Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

They believe that God causes tragedy in order to fulfill His purpose. I think we blame God too much. When we blame Him, it seems we are accusing Him of unfairness, or some prejudice. Does it seem fair to you when one person loses a child and another doesn’t? If you begin to think that God is unfair, or unjust, I want you to turn to this passage……..

2Ch 19:6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. (7) Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. (Bribes) <righteous De 10:17-18> <respect of persons Job 34:19; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25>

Let’s go back to Rom 8:28, what does it say?

  • All things work together for good –salvation, see the rest.
  • to them that love God – If you love me, keep my commandments (Joh 14:15; Heb 5:9)
  • to them who are the called –
    • God calls us through the gospel – 2Th 2:14
    •  The gospel of Christ concerning His death, burial and resurrection – 1Co 15:1-4
    • This gospel contains commands that must be obeyed – cf. 2 Th 1:8; 1Pe 4:17
      • The command to believe in Jesus – Jn 8:24
      • The command to repent of sins – Ac 17:30-31
      •  The command to confess Jesus as Lord – Ro 10:9-10
      •  The command to be baptized – Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38; 22:16
  • According to His purpose – Mrk 1:38 purpose to preach; to be sacrificed Joh 12:27; to destroy the work of Satan 1Jo 3:8; 2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God wants all of us to be saved. He wants us to go to heaven. He wants us to be reconciled to Him.

When you’re facing trouble, feeling low, thinking that life is just too hard and unfair…….Remember this about God…..

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth
and without iniquity, just and right is he. De 32:4

True wealth

There’s a story in the Bible about a wealthy man. This man’s labor brought him more than he needed or could use at one time. He had so much that he came up with a new plan…..

This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. Luke :18-19 KJV

This man had figured he was on easy street and could then retire. Let me tell you about another person, my mother. She lived her entire life working hard, raising a family and generally living life like most of us, struggling. When she reached her 63rd year, not quite ready to retire and “take thine ease”, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She was forced into retirement, spent her final 2 years fighting cancer with chemo, radiation and surgery. She died at 65. Let’s go back to our first story……

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? Luke 12:20 KJV

You see, both of these folks died. One wealthy, the other not so much. So what’s my point? If we continue to read the scripture we shall see the point.

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:21 KJV

Whether you have a lot of money or very little, all of us need to pursue a wealth that is not of this world, we need to be rich toward God. Why? Again let’s appeal to scriptures.

Mt 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
1Ti 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

You see, being rich toward God brings you eternal life. This is a true wealth. Our money here on earth can be lost or stolen. Even if you manage to keep it all, like the earlier example, it stays behind when you die. There’s a joke about a wealthy man that attempted to take his wealth with him. In his will he left instructions to have all of his wealth be converted to gold and be buried with him. As the joke goes, which is not very accurate to the way things will go, he finds himself walking around heaven with a suitcase full of gold. God asks him, “Why are you lugging around pavement?” Rev 21:21 It’s just a joke, that’s not how things are going to go when we die. All of our possessions will remain behind. All of our work and planning will cease. Ecc 9:10 Besides all of this there is one more thing……

Mt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Are you living near Borger, Tx and would like to know more about how to be rich toward God, drop me a note.

Spencer
preachinthegospel at gmail dot com