Pierce my Ear

There’s a peculiar law in the Old Testament regarding slaves…

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” [Exodus 21:1-6]

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that God allowed slavery. What’s also strange to us is that a slave could submit himself to slavery (why would anyone do that?), and if he wanted to leave, the master had to let him go free. Even more strange to our sensibilities is that the slave could decide to remain with a master he loved. We’re most familiar with the brutal history of slavery in our own country where a person was stolen into slavery, or born into slavery and could never leave of his own free will. So, how could it ever be that a slave would ever love his master enough to stay?

As much as we detest the slavery we read about in history (and rightfully so), that slavery bears no resemblance to the master / servant relationship we read about in scripture. Some will say that any form of slavery is detestable, biblical or otherwise. Before you jump to that conclusion, let’s examine why God might use the example of slavery.

Slaves of Christ

The New Testament uses the biblical example of slavery to help us to understand our relationship with Him. Just as in the Exodus 21 passage, we come to Him of our own free will, and He BUYS us. The purchase price being His own blood.

For ye are bought with a price” [1Corinthians 6:20]

We can choose to leave this arrangement, also of our own free will. While nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39], we can separate ourselves from Him. [Hebrews 2:3, 10:28-29, Galatians 5:4; 2Timothy 4:10].

When we obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, [Believe, Repent, Confess, Baptism & Faithfulness] we are selling ourselves into permanent slavery. We’re essentially saying, “we will never leave Him, we are His slaves forever, and He alone is our Master!”

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” [1Corinthians 7:23]

Although the thought of becoming a slave holds a very negative meaning in our culture, the Holy Spirit had no trouble using this institution as an example. When you consider the love behind the sacrifice of Christ, you realize that God had placed an incredible value for your life.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]

This value wasn’t based upon how good you looked, or how good you were, or how much money you had. No, the cost of buying us was His own life. Additionally, Jesus promises His slaves an incredible and eternal reward. He said to His disciples…

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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

[John 14:2-3]

When we consider the price paid, and the promises made, it begins to make sense how a slave might Love a Slave Owner. Understanding these things will give us strength to endure this life.

Looking again at Exodus 21, we note verse 6; “and he shall serve him for ever.” Applying the picture of slavery to us, we need to note that by becoming a slave to Jesus, we are placing His will above our own. We will have no other master, including those things that tend to rule in our lives [e.g. sin Romans 6:6; money Luke 16:13]. Thy will be done, becomes our song.

When we truly understand this picture, our entire attitude should shift toward humble appreciation for our Master. Let us not be like those slaves who search for holes by which we can escape, for we serve a Loving Master. Rather, let us strive to serve Him in everything that He has commanded and when we’ve done all that we are commanded, let us say…

We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

[Luke 17:10]

 

 

“Pierce My Ear”

By Steve Croft

Pierce my ear O Lord my God

Take me to your door this day

I will serve, no other God

Lord I’m here to stay.

For you have paid

The price for me

With your blood, you ransomed me

I will serve, you eternally

A free man I’ll never be.

Chorus:

So, Pierce my ear, O Lord my God.

Take me to your door this day.

For I will serve no other God.

O Lord I’m here to stay.

What do I do Now?

After a person obeys the gospel, the most oft asked question is, “what do I do now?” However, this question is asked by both the new convert AND the members of the local congregation. The new convert, full of joy and gratitude, has a desire to serve and to do what is right. The older members want to help them, but where do you begin?

For the answer, let us turn to Acts 2, the place where the church of Christ began.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. That’s where we are with Margie, and all others who obeyed the gospel recently (a young man named Nick, was also baptized into Christ on the same day.) Nobody joins the church; the Lord adds to the church [47].

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Here’s where we find our answer to the question, “what do I do next?”

Continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine is Christ’s doctrine. Jesus said to the Apostles, that in addition to making disciples, as one who has all authority, teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mat 28:19-20]. Paul said about his letters, “let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” [1Cor 14:37]

So, the first thing we need to do is to continue to learn through study of the Scriptures what Jesus expects from us. The most effective way to do this is for the new convert and the “old” members to get together and study the scriptures. We need to note that “continue” means to do them. It’s not enough to learn what Jesus wants, we must obey Him [John 14:15]. We can also learn when we gather to worship on the first day of the week.

And Fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The new Christians worshiped together. They had fellowship, which means that they were in partnership with one another. This partnership begins when we, “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” [1Cor 1:10]. The partnership also includes the collection of money for the work of the church. (As you continue to study, you’ll begin to understand the work God has given the church is to spread the Gospel, Teach the saints and practice limited benevolence). The Philippians gave money to spread the gospel, and were in fellowship in the gospel [Phil 1:3-7].

One of the parts of worship (there are 5 activities in sound worship) the disciples ‘broke bread’ which is to remember the death of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Supper” the first Christians met on the 1st day of the week, Sunday, where they would take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul wrote the early Christians how to properly observe this important part of our worship [1Cor 11:23-34].

 

They also prayed. Prayer is the privilege of the saints. Christians are called saint in the Scriptures [Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1]. In obeying the gospel through baptism, we have “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27] and have been given access through Him to the “throne of grace” [Heb 4:16]. Prayer is an incredible part of becoming a child of God. We know that God does not listen to sinners [John 9:31] but He hears us!

God is not our “genie in a bottle,” to gift us with everything we want like a spoiled child. Rather, He wants to help us in our time of need. It says in Hebrews 4:16; “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Temptation doesn’t stop when we become Christians, neither do troubles & pains, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” [1Cor 10:13]. So, all Christians need to pray.

Finally, let us note one more thing from Acts 2…

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. As you begin your journey as a new Christian, and every Christian, let us never forget from whom we received the gift of grace. We received it from God through Christ Jesus [Eph 2:8-10]. May we never forget, may it never grow old and may we never grow tired of praising God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift.

2Corinthians 9:15

Three Things Sin Will Always Do

THIS WEEK Pampa held a gospel meeting with Guillermo Alvarez. His sermon, “3 THINGS SIN WILL ALWAYS DO,” inspired this article.

Hebrews 3:12-13 warns us of the “deceitfulness of sin” which can draw us into sin if we fail to watch. Sin looks enticing, but the pleasures pass quickly leading us to even more [Heb 11:25]. This brings us to the first thing sin will always do…

SIN WILL ALWAYS TAKE YOU FARTHER THAN YOU WANTED TO GO: No one who takes that first step into sin has the intentions of dying, but that is where sin leads according to James, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” [Jas 1:15]. Every alcoholic I’ve met had a first drink, usually without intending to get drunk, so too, the drug addict and the porn addict. The cool waters of sin look refreshing and so we dip our toes, only to find we’re soon up to our neck in sin. If you let the camel poke his nose under the tent, soon he’ll have his whole body inside.

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.”

[Psalm 23:31-32]

SIN WILL ALWAYS KEEP YOU LONGER THAN YOU WANTED TO STAY: I met a man caught up in drug addiction from his youth up. After each high fell, he went back on the search for another, then another until the entirety of his life was spent in search of the next high. It moved him into homelessness, having destroyed trust with his family and friends. As each high required more drugs to achieve, his own life tumbled further down until he eventually hit rock bottom. For nearly fifty years of his life, and for the rest of his life, he will be an addict. Friends, heed the warning, sin will keep you longer than you wanted to stay. Sin enslaves, it puts us into bondage.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

[Romans 6:16]

SIN WILL ALWAYS COST YOU MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO PAY: Wouldn’t it be nice if every sin had a price tag to warn us of the cost? Most would probably ignore it anyway. The Proverbs are full of warnings of sin leading to poverty, broken relationships, poor health and the like [Pr 23:32; Pr 7:22; Pr 10:8; Pr 18:6-7; Pr 20:3; Pr 26:11]. How many families have been torn apart by addiction? How many lives have been taken? True paradise was lost because of a morsel of food that looked “good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” [Genesis 3:6]

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

[Romans 3:23]

THERE IS A SOLUTION: You read of it earlier in Romans 6:16, “OBEDIENCE UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The only known cure for sin comes from the Great Physician, Christ Jesus [Mark 2:17]. We must ‘OBEY THE GOSPEL’ [2Thess 1:8]. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;” [Rom 1:16], and it must be obeyed [Rom 2:8]. The Gospel is the Death, Burial & Resurrection of Jesus the Christ [1Corinthians 15:1-4]. We obey the Gospel when we DIE to sin, are BURIED in a watery grave (baptism = immersion) and are RAISED up to walk in newness of life [Romans 6:1-6]. *see “What Must I do to be saved?” on the back of this bulletin.

Once we’ve obeyed the Gospel, we must continue to remain faithful and continue in the Doctrine of Christ. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” [John 14:15]. He commanded that His disciples be taught to observe His commandments [Matthew 28:20]. Paul, writing to Timothy said, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them,” “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2Timothy 3:14; 1:13; 2:2].

It’s a true saying, “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. Therefore, we’re all in need of a savior. How true are the words of the Psalmist…?

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

[Psalm 1:1-2]

Things We Should Know

WE ARE TOLD BY JESUS, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” [John 8:32]. He is telling us that there are some things we should know, namely the truth. Later, this is written to Christians, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” [Hebrews 5:12]. This demonstrates that there are some things a Christian should know.

Let’s see just a few things that every Christian should know:

You should know that, in the New Testament, the church is called

  • The temple of God. 1Cor 3:16
  • The bride of Christ. Eph 5:21-32
  • The body of Christ. Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:24
  • The kingdom of God’s Son. Col 1:13
  • The house of God. 1Tim 3:15
  • The church of the Firstborn. Heb 12:23
  • The church of the Lord. Acts 20:28
  • The churches of Christ. Ro 16:16

These are terms referring to the same institution.

You should know that the church was

  • Built by Jesus the Christ. Matt 16:13-18.
  • Purchased by His Blood. Acts 20:28
  • Built upon Christ as the only foundation. 1Cor 3:11
  • Not built upon any man. 1Cor 1:12-13
  • Fully established on the first Pentecost after Christ arose from the dead. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8; Mark 9:1; Acts 2.

You should know that members of the church are called

  • 1Cor 12:27
  • Acts 6:1
  • Acts 5:14; 2Cor 6:15
  • Acts 9:13; Rom 1:7; Phil 1:1
  • 1Peter 2:9; Rev 1:6
  • 1Jno 3:1-2
  • Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1Peter 4:16

You should know that the 3 permanent classes in the church are – All are to be Christians (saints). You cannot “join” the church of our Lord, God ADDS TO THE CHURCH those who are being saved. Acts 2:47.

  • Elders, who are bishops, overseers or pastors. Their duty is to oversee and feed the flock. Acts 20:28; 1Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1Peter 5:1-4
  • Deacons to serve the church if there are Elders. 1Tim 3:8-13
  • Evangelists to teach and preach God’s word. For their work and qualifications, see Ephesians 4:11; 1 & 2 Timothy; Titus.

You should know that Jesus Christ Himself

  • Loved the church. Eph 5:25
  • Bled for the church. Acts 20:28
  • Established the church. Matt 16:18
  • Called the church His. Matt 16:18
  • Is the Head of the church. Eph 5:23; 4:4; 1:22-23
  • Will save the church. Eph 5:23; 4:4; 1:22-23

You should know that the church and the body of Christ are

  • The same. Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18; 1:24
  • The only group saved. Eph 5:23

You should know that man did not

  • Purpose the church. Eph 3:10-11
  • Purchase the church. Acts 20:28
  • Build the church. Matt 16:18
  • Name its people. Acts 11:26; Is 62:2
  • Add to the church. Acts 2:47
  • Give the church its doctrine. 2John 1:9-10; Gal 1:11

You should know that in New Testament times there was

  • The family of God. Eph 3:15: 1Tim 3:15
  • The kingdom of Christ. Col 1:13-14
  • The body of Christ. Eph 1:22-23; 4:4
  • The bride of Christ. Rom 7:1-7; Eph 5:22-23
  • The church of Christ. Matt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23; 4:4; Rom 16:16

You should know that in order to get into the church you must

  • Believe in Christ. John 8:24; Acts 16:31; Heb 11:6
  • Repent of your sins. Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30
  • Confess your faith in Christ. Mat 10:32-33; Rom 10:10; Acts 8:37-38
  • Be Baptized. Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16; 1Peter 3:21; Gal 3:27

You should know that baptism requires

  • Acts 10:47
  • Much Water. John 3:23
  • Going to the water. Acts 8:36; Matt 3:5-6
  • Going INTO the water. Acts 8:38; Matt 3:5-6
  • A Burial. Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:12
  • A Planting. Rom 6:5
  • A Washing. Acts 22:16
  • A Raising out of the water. Col 2:12
  • A coming out of the water. Acts 8:39
  • A Birth. John 3:5

Salvation by Faith ALONE?

If we’re saved by faith alone, as so many denominational pastors teach, then how do you explain all of these verses?

Christ’s words (John 6:63). “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
The Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Titus 3:5). …renewing of the Holy Spirit
Faith (Romans 10:10). For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Repentance (Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9). “...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Baptism (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5). “…baptism does also now save us.”
God (John 3:16; Titus 2:11). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,”
Christ’s works (John 20:30–31).”And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Calling on His name (Acts 2:21). “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’ (cr. Acts 22:16)
Christ’s name (Acts 4:12). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Christ’s resurrection (Romans 4:25). “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
Christ’s death (Romans 5:6). “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Hope (Romans 8:24). “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?”
Confession of faith (Romans 10:10). “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Hearing (Romans 10:15–17). “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Preaching (1 Corinthians 1:18). “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
The gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1–2). “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”
Love (Galatians 5:6). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
Grace (Ephesians 2:8). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
Ourselves (Philippians 2:12). “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
The love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). “and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Christ (1 Timothy 1:15). “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Heeding and continuing in the doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
God’s mercy (Titus 3:5). “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,”
Obedience (Hebrews 5:9). “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” (cr. 2Thess 1:8)
Christ’s blood (Hebrews 9:14). “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Works of faith (James 2:24). “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

The question is not, “which one saves”, rather, “why have they ignored so many verses?

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? Hebrews 2:3

SHALL WE ADD TO OR TAKE AWAY FROM GOD’S WORD?

Deut 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deut 12:32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

Proverbs 30:6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

 

WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING

IT SAYS IN ROMANS 15v4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” It also says in 1Corinthians 10v11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

These passages refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. The meaning being, that we should read the OT and study how God deals with mankind, and gain knowledge of how God applies His laws.

One particular story of interest is found in Numbers chapters 13-14. It’s here we find the Israelites are approaching the promised land after just escaping Egyptian slavery. They were given permission to send in 12 men to spy out the land, each man a “ruler among them.” [Numbers 13:2]

Upon their return from spying out the land, all of them report that the land truly is a land as God had described, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” [Numbers 13:27; Ex 3:8]

However, 10 of the spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were, “strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great:”, thus giving a bad report. Caleb, one of the 12 spies, said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it;” but the 10 went against him and against Joshua.

The children of Israel were persuaded by the bad report and refused to take possession of the land as the Lord had commanded, complaining about how it would have been better to remain in Egyptian slavery. [Num 14:1-4] They even said, “If only we had come to our death in the land of Egypt, or even in this waste land!” To this God said, OK. He gave them what they requested. “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness;” [Num 14:29a]

So…What are we to learn?

There are some similarities between them and Christians today.

First, they had been freed from bondage. We Christians have also been freed from bondage, we were enslaved to sin. “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:18] We have been freed from a hopeless situation, enslaved to sin.

Second, they were between two places. Their previous condition and their future home. They were pilgrims heading to a wonderful place “flowing with milk and honey.” Christians are also between two places.  We are not in heaven, but want to go there, and we’re no longer in a lost condition. We are warned, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” [1Peter 2:11]

Lastly, some of them rejected the promises of God for this new home and refused to follow His commandments to attain it. God refused to allow these disobedient unbelievers to enter the land and obtain a rest. Christians can also reject the commands of the Lord and miss out on entering our rest, heaven. We do this be following their example of turning away from God’s commands. This comparison is drawn by the Hebrews writer in chapter 3, 7-19. This letter is addressed to Christians and has this warning, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)”

So you see, their example should teach us to remain faithful to God. To never neglect our salvation [Hebrews 2:3], and to obey Him by “continuing in the apostles’ doctrine” [Acts 2:42; Matthew 28:20]

Can a Christian so sin as to lose their salvation?

If we do as they did, disobedience and unbelief [Heb 3:17-19], then we will have what they had, no other options. There remains no more sacrifice for sins. 

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (KJV) [Hebrews 10:26]

Is God telling YOU what to do?

Is God Telling Me what to do?

Is God Telling Me what to do?

WHY ARE PEOPLE so ignorant about God’s word? I keep asking this question over and over. Can’t they see what I see when I read?

The answer is in the question; In my years as a Christian along with my time as an evangelist I have figured it out…. THEY’RE NOT READING THEIR BIBLES!

However, everywhere I speak to people about God and Jesus the Christ, I find that folks have very strong opinions about what saves and what doesn’t save. From where are they getting this stuff? I think they’re making it up and/or assimilating ideas from pop culture.

Some tell me that, “the Lord spoke to me.” I even found an organization, designed to encourage women, that has a direct quote on their website from God, that this founder heard in her mind.

This can be exciting for some folks, to actually have God speaking to you! How fantastic that would be, if it were true.

Being the open minded man that I am, I offer this flow chart to answer the question……

IS GOD TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO?

how do you know?

walk in truth

You say you walk in truth, but how do you know? 3 John 1:4

HAVE YOU ever noticed that when you ask folks about their church they’ll tell you that it teaches the truth? If that were true, then why are there so many denominations teaching different things regarding salvation, worship, godly living and sin? They will also tell me they read their bibles.

If I were to ask someone if they belong to a gym, or own a piece of exercise equipment, there’s a good chance that the answer will be “yes”. Do I need to tell you my thoughts about their answer when I can clearly see the results? LOL. [this coming from a man that owns an elliptical and frequents fast food]

You may think these two questions are unrelated, in fact they have more in common than you may at first realize. The only difference is that with the second question, the person has to admit their failure in “walking in truth” regarding their health. With the first question, they’re often ignorant of their spiritual health.

The Apostle Paul commanded the Corinthian church to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” [2Co 13:5] But how are we to do this “examination”? Let me suggest 3 things we should be examining regarding our faith.

EXAMINE YOURSELVES

We’ve already read the command to examine ourselves, but how and to what? First, let’s never make the mistake of comparing ourselves with others, this is a big problem. Paul had said in the same letter “..we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” [2Co 10:12] Our Lord told a similar story when he told us about the Pharisee that said, “..God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” [Lu 18:11]

No, other men are not the standard. The standard of comparison should always be Christ and His word. Paul also taught the Church at Corinth to, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” [1Co 11:1 (NKJV)]. So how does one walk in truth? You become a follower of Christ who said…

Joh 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Joh 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Mt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
Mt 22:29 .. Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Mt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

EXAMINE YOUR TEACHER

In order to know if you’re walking in truth you must also examine the information you’re receiving. I once had a math teacher that regularly made basic math errors because she wasn’t very good at math. How long do you think my parents kept me in that class? Yet we continually listen to people who are supposed to teach us biblical principles, making grievous errors because they don’t know, or don’t understand what they are teaching. [1Timothy 1:7]

I’ve met “bible teachers” that get upset when I ask questions about the bible, showing them scriptures for my assertions. I’ve met “bible teachers” that actually attempt to tear down the truth of the bible when I show them passages that teach the opposite of their own. A priest of a particular denomination even said, “We’re not encouraged to read the bible.”

The Apostle John himself wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1Jo 4:1 (NKJV)] Paul was himself subjected to this “examination” by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 when they searched the scriptures daily to see if the things he taught were true.

If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for your teacher, preacher or pastor. None of them should ever be afraid of sound doctrine, IF THEY’RE TEACHING IT.

EXAMINE YOUR CHURCH

This third step is just as important as the other two. Scripture teaches that the church is the people, it never refers to the building. [Eph 1:22, 23; 1Co 12:12] Read what our Lord, Jesus said to the churches in Revelation chapter 2 & 3….

Re 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Re 2:14 But I have a few things against thee,
Re 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Re 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee,
Re 3:1 …I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Re 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

A teaching in scripture that is often ignored is the teaching about purifying the church. Paul told the church to “purge out”, referring to the man that was a member of the church at Corinth, but was living in unrepentant sin. [1Co 5:7]

When we assemble together, we must assemble IN HIS NAME. [Mt 18:20] To do something in His name means that in order to worship, we must do it by the Lord’s permission. We must worship “in spirit AND TRUTH” and His “word is truth”. [Joh 4:24; Joh 17:17]

CONCLUSION

It’s wonderful to hear that folks want to walk in truth, but desire is only the beginning, we must act upon that desire and obey God. In every case of conversion in the book of Acts, when folks heard the Gospel and had a desire for the salvation it provides, they all REPENTED AND WERE BAPTIZED.

That is the truth.

spencer

Evangelist at the Franklin St. church of Christ in Borger, Texas.

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.