Saturday, September 2, 2017

Matters of True Importance

Most of us at some time, have taken some trivial, unimportant matter and treated it as a matter of utmost importance. The apostle Paul indicated to Timothy that some in the church of his day were doing that very thing. He said in 1 Timothy 6:20-21, “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith....” He also said in 2 Timothy 2:23, "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife."

The Holy Scriptures thoroughly equip us for every good work according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We have been given everything that pertains to life and Godliness according to 2 Peter 1:3. We need to give diligence in presenting ourselves approved unto God as is commanded in 2 Timothy 2:15.

We should really be spending our time concerning ourselves with matters of real importance rather than wasting time with things that don't concern our spiritual well-being. We should stop concerning ourselves with various things that don't really matter, and focus on things which are truly important. When all is said and done, the most important thing of all is that we are live our lives in such a way that Jesus will say to us at the judgment day, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Repentance is Necessary

One of the hardest things for men and women to do is to repent of their sins. Repentance is a direct challenge to man’s will power. It demands that he humble himself before God, and give up everything that is contrary to His will. God’s demands of repentance have kept many of the high minded out of the kingdom of God.

Repentance is a duty imposed upon all mankind. It is a plain command of God, and no man can refuse to repent without bearing the responsibility that must come upon him. When Jesus gave the world-wide commission, He said, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations . . .” (Luke 24:47). Paul said “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts  17:30). Can anyone read these scriptures and conclude that he can be saved without repentance? I would hope not!

Let us clear away some of the misunderstanding about repentance by learning what it is NOT. In the first place, repentance is not simply being afraid. Paul convicted Felix of his sins, Felix trembled with fear but he did not repent and turn (Acts 24:25). There are many people today who are afraid when they think of their sinfulness, but they, like Felix, refuse to repent, and die without hope.

In the second place, repentance is not simply being sorry that one has sinned. The murderers of Jesus sorrowed on Pentecost at Peter’s preaching. They were pierced in their hearts by godly sorrow. Yet they were told to repent (Acts 2:38). In the third place, repentance is not simply and solely a reformation of life, A man may quit sin and yet not repent toward God. He may quit because that particular sin renders him unpopular in his business or among his associates. Thus, he may reform his life for selfish reasons, but such reformation is not repentance. Simply stated, repentance is a change of mind, or will, based upon godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and resulting in a manner of life directed by Christ (Acts 26:20).

Our Lord gave us an example of repentance which we can all understand. He said, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went” (Matthew 21-28-29). This boy began to reflect on what he had done, and he realized that he had disobeyed his father, He became conscious of the fact that he sinned against his father, who was responsible for his very existence, and when he came to himself, he acknowledge that wrong, and then corrected it. He changed HIS MIND (repented) and did that which he said he would not do. Jesus said that was repentance.

Christ said to the Pharisees that, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Jesus here says that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas. The Bible says: “God saw their works and that they turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10). The preaching of the prophet of God changed the mind of the Ninevites, and this change led them to turn from their evil way. This change of mind was repentance.

The Lord has given men two motives as the means of bringing them to repentance. The first motive is fear. The Bible writers say, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). This statement, and all the warnings in the Bible are intended to move us to repent of our sins.

The second motive God uses to bring about repentance is love. The Bible says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)? The goodness of God is revealed in the life and death of His only Son, Jesus Christ. As we study the life of our Lord, and see the beauty of holiness manifested through His earthly pilgrimage, then follow Him to Calvary and watch Him suffer there, dying for our sins, making it possible for sinners to be saved, and to become children of God, we ask why all this flow of love, why all this display of goodness? The answer comes back to us in the Bible, “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We Are Not Saved By Faith Only

The doctrine most commonly taught in the world is that a person is saved at the very moment that they believe in Jesus Christ, without any further acts of obedience. However, the Bible says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). In addition to this, there is a general misunderstanding of the essentiality of good works to salvation. People often confuse the good works of the gospel of Christ, which the Bible defines as essential, with the works of the law of Moses, or the meritorious works of men in an effort to earn salvation. 

The Bible does not teach that people are saved by works of the Old Testament law of Moses. In Romans 3:20, it says “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” In Colossians 2:14 it says, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” We know that the only hope for salvation for everyone today is through the gospel of Christ. We are not saved by the works of the law, but through the works of faith, through love, in obedience to Christ.

While the Bible says: "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified,” it also says in James 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” These works that James is talking about are not the works of the law of Moses, but the works of faith revealed in the gospel of Christ. The law of Moses is dead and its works mean nothing today, but the works of the gospel mean everything!

A person is saved by the blood of Christ, through the grace of God. One is not saved by faith alone, but through obedience to the commandments of Christ. Jesus “....became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). This does not mean that the obedient soul earns, merits, or deserves salvation, but that he qualifies for the mercy and the grace of the Lord, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Bible makes it clear in that same passage that while we are being saved through the washing of regeneration (or baptism) and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, that it is not by works done in righteousness which we have done ourselves. But if we do not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God in obedience to his word, we cannot be saved.

There are many Bible passages that show that faith is essential and that we are saved by faith and justified by it. Every one of these passages is to be believed and accepted. But there is one similar thing about all these passages on faith and that is that not one single passage ever says we are saved by faith only. There is no such passage in the Bible.

Here is a point that we need to remember: Never in any age or dispensation in human history has God saved man by faith alone. God has always required faith and obedience. No other formula for salvation has ever worked. None ever will. Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). It must be faith plus obedience. This is the embodiment of the principle under which God has always worked in saving man. It is foolish to expect God to make an exception to the rule now and to save anyone by faith only and without obedience to His word. May we all have a soft and understanding heart that will motivate us to ensure that we are striving to please our heavenly Father in all things so that we can look forward to a home with Him forever.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Importance of Obedience

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Not only did God create the heavens and the earth, God also, “created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Every person of the whole human race is loved mightily and tenderly by God our Creator. Whatever God has ever done for the human race, He has done out of genuine love, and with an intense desire to see man happy. In the Book, the Bible, our loving heavenly Father and Creator has revealed to the human race His divine will.

Everything God has ever said to us in His Holy Book has been said for our own good, and is conducive to our happiness here in this life, and in the life that is to come. Our obedience, therefore, to God’s holy will as revealed in the Bible, is for our own personal happiness and eternal welfare.

A study of the Bible and of human history reveals that man’s obedience to God’s will has always brought man happiness, and disobedience has always brought unhappiness. For this reason we have in the Bible an emphasis on obedience. God said, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32). Again, “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).

Christ himself set the example of obedience to the Father's will. “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Christ said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Again Christ said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The inspired Apostle John said, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Man must come to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). We learn that eternal life depends on our knowing God. But how do we know that we know God? “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3). We cannot claim to scripturally know God, if we refuse to keep His commandments. Obedience shows we know God.

Man needs friendship with God and his Son. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Obedience is an expression of our friendship with Jesus. What a marvelous friend we have in Him! Every human being needs this close friendship with our blessed Lord. Obedience shows our friendship. Faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son is essential to our salvation from sin. “So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). But our faith is not a saving faith unless it expresses itself in obedience to God’s will. The inspired James said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Saving faith expresses itself in obedience to God’s will. Certainly we know that love for God on our part is indispensable. But love expresses itself in obedience. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Vocal claims of love for God and His Son are empty sounds unless they come from the hearts of faith, finding expression in willing, loving obedience to God’s will and not our own will. Faithful obedience to God is what truly shows we love God.

May God bless us richly in our obedience to His will.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Lasting Influence

Our influence is something we possess and others use. Do you know who is watching you? Do you know how big of an influence that you have on other people? No you don’t. And because of that we must be very careful how we conduct ourselves every minute of every day because we don’t know who is watching --- besides God. Our influence is represented in different ways. In the book of Matthew alone, Jesus points out three ways that indicate how strong our influence is. First of all our influence is represented by light. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14,16). This passage tells us that we will be seen no matter what. Therefore we must be the kind of influence or example that others will be able to see Jesus Christ in us. Our influence may only seem like such a little thing to us but Jesus says “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). It doesn’t take much influence to make a BIG impression on someone else who is watching you without you even knowing it. The third way that our influence is represented is stated again by Jesus in Matthew 5:13 when He says “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men”.

As we know from our experiences in tasting salt that it is only as good as it is salty. Once it has lost its saltiness, then it is good for nothing! We also know that just a little bit of salt will add spice to many different foods. Is our life characteristic of the light, leaven, and salt? We may not have all the knowledge and wisdom that we would like to have, but there are a lot of little things that we can do to be the RIGHT influence for others to follow. Because it is the little things that others see in us that may make the difference in their eternal salvation.

The three different influences represented above could be good or bad. We know from reading 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 that we should not have a corrupting influence but rather one as Paul describes in Romans 14:21 when he says “It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles”. To be able to truly do this as a Christian we must first have the attitude that we “DO CARE” about what kind of influence that others see in us and then to do all we can to keep our brothers and sisters from seeing something in us that would lead them to fall away from the truth. We have a responsibility to ensure that we do EVERYTHING according to the will of God!

We should never try to influence others by physical force (Philemon 14), or by bribery (Acts 8:20; 24:26). But rather by our words (Acts 11:14) and by the example that we lead (Titus 2:7-8; Romans 14:21). We can see from the scriptures that each individual Christian has the responsibility to have a good influence on others (Matthew 5:13-16).

Each Christian should want to influence others in a positive way ALL THE TIME. We need to influence the world (Matthew 5:16), the other brethren (Romans 14:21; 1 Timothy 4:12), our companions (1 Corinthians 7:16; 1 Peter 3:1) and of course our children. Our children see us every day and know what we are really like. If you want to know what your children think is the most important thing in your life just ask them - they’ll tell you. But hang on, it may surprise you also. That’s where your influence is showing, either in a good way or a bad way. And this is the type of influence that will be “A LASTING INFLUENCE”. We all need to ensure that our influence is a godly influence.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Kindness

I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper stickers and signs that say, “Don’t tell me what kind of day to have!” Anybody with that kind of attitude probably won’t have a good day. Nevertheless, if we truly want to have a good day, a day filled with joy and happiness, let us try kindness.

I know that being kind is not the habit of many people today, and unfortunately our society sometimes looks with contempt on those who practice kindness. However, we ask, “Who says we must fashion followers rather than style setters?” Just because many people are selfish, critical, unfriendly, and cold doesn’t mean we have to be, especially when being like them is what tends to make us unhappy, lonesome, and down in the dumps.

Don’t be like the rest of the world! Be like God’s Son, Jesus Christ. For three years He went about doing good, and if we want to be pleasing to God, we’ll do the same. We’re told in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” If we follow this advice, we’ll find that kindness gives birth to kindness. 

For us to be kind doesn’t mean that we need to have a lot of money, or do great deeds. Anyone can express concern and care for the feelings of others. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Also, anyone can speak in a kind tone to others. The writer of Proverbs praised the worthy woman by saying, “And in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26). 

Consequently, if we desire to be happy and wish to contribute to the happiness of others, let us try kindness. Kindness will work wonders for us as well as others. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

No Hope Without God

Without God we would have no hope whatsoever of life after death. He offers us the hope of a life hereafter. Those who are in this life without God cannot entertain the hope of eternal life in heaven with God. Paul said of the Gentiles who were once without God, “At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

There is a sharp contrast between the Christian’s view of eternity and that of those who reject God! To the faithful Christian eternity is not a leap into darkness, but is something to desire and look forward to. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Paul was ready to die. He wanted to go and be with Christ.

How about you? Are you living in this world without hope? If so, why not make the changes necessary to be pleasing to God? Paul went on to say regarding the Gentiles, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). By being in Christ, we can be redeemed by His blood, and have the hope of eternal life.