Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Obedience to His Will

“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 scripturally to 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.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Eternal Salvation to Those Who Obey Him

We often talk about the fact that we must obey God and for the most part every Christian will quickly agree that this is a fact. Unfortunately there are many Christians who are not obeying God in all aspects of their life. We cannot say that obedience to God is necessary and then not try to obey God. Jesus clearly stated that we cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). The disciples were willing to be severely persecuted, even put to death, for the honor and privilege to be able to proclaim God’s Holy and inspired word so that others may be saved (Acts 5:29).

Why is it so important that we obey all the teachings of God? Because Jesus clearly tells us that He will only save those who obey Him. The Hebrew writer says, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus will judge us by His word. He said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). We must take this very seriously. If we go through life here on earth understanding that Jesus will judge us according to what we have done, then we must DO His will and not just talk about it. We will only be able to reap the benefits of eternal life with our Lord when we are truly faithful to Him as we live here on earth (Revelation 2:10). I want to encourage all of us to please think about what we are doing. Does God really see us living in such a way that we are 100% committed in our life and service to Him. Remember, Jesus will judge us and His judgment is fair. Heaven or Hell - We make the choice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

"Make No Provision for the Flesh, to Fulfill Its Lusts"

Most of us probably have several Bible verses that have been among our favorites for many years. I can recall as a teenager one particular verse that helped me make good decisions in my life and service to Jesus. The verse for me was and continues to be Romans 13:14. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Once I put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27), this verse helped me tremendously in making the right choices as a young Christian. I was determined to remove myself from any situation that may cause me to succumb to sin. This verse should help every Christian in so many ways to do the same. If we don’t want to be a slave to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc., then we will not take that first drink, smoke that first cigarette, or begin using any illegal or dangerous drugs. We will not have to be concerned with fulfilling our lusts if we do not make any provision for those things in the first place.

In the 12th verse of the 13th chapter of Romans Paul begins the verse by saying "Let us walk properly, as in the day….” When we are walking properly, in the footsteps of Christ, then we will strive to not let anything cause us to fulfill our lusts and cause us to sin. Peter wrote, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 1:21). What would Jesus do? That is THE question that should be in our head constantly. When we are determined to follow in His steps, allowing Him to be our priority in life, then we will have peace of mind and a good conscience toward God, knowing that we are truly doing His will (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We must be determined to let our light shine brightly for Christ, making no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

We Are All Needed

The following story entitled “A Tool Conference” was written many years ago by Robert R. Hines: The Carpenter’s tools had a conference. Brother Hammer was in the chair. The meeting had informed him that he must leave, because he was too noisy. But he said, “If I am to leave this carpenter shop, then brother Gimlet must go too! He is so insignificant that he makes very little impression. Little brother Gimlet arose and said, “All right, but brother Screw must go also, you have to turn him around and around before you get him anywhere.” Brother Screw then said, “If you wish I will go but brother Plane must leave as well. All his work is on the surface, there is no depth to it.” To this brother Plane said, “Well, brother Rule will have to withdraw if I do for he is always measuring other folks as though he is the only one that is right.” Brother Rule complained about old brother Sandpaper and said, “I don’t care, he is much rougher than he ought to be, and he is always rubbing people the wrong way.” In the midst of the discussion the carpenter came in to begin the days work. He put on his apron and went to the bench to make a pulpit. He used the screw, the gimlet, the sandpaper, the hammer, the plane, and all the other tools. After the days work was over and the pulpit was finished, brother Saw arose slowly and thoughtfully said, “I’ve been thinking as I watched the carpenter working and I have decided that we are all laborers together. There was not an accusation made against any of us that was not true, but the carpenter used every one of us, and there was not a place where he used any one of us where any other would have done at all.

This little parable should remind us of what the Apostle Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 12, along with our own gifts as a congregation of God’s people. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-20). We need to make sure that we are not wasting time looking down on others because we each have a work to do. The Lord can even use us in our own shortcomings. However, the Lord does expect each one of us to do the work that He has given us the ability to do. Truly, we are all needed!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Imitate Christ

If we live "for Christ" as Christians are supposed to do, then we will not engage ourselves in anything that we could not picture our Lord engaging in. The apostle Paul wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). I want to encourage us to take a step back and honestly look at what this passage of scripture is telling us. That which is "true", "noble", "just", "pure", "lovely", "of good report", that is what we are to meditate on.

When Christians allow themselves to be influenced with worldly things and often times being led astray by so called "friends" who do not have our soul's interest at heart, then we are not truly meditating on the things that Paul just spoke about. We cannot be the right example to others when we are practicing anything that is displeasing to God. Why is it that the Lord's church is not growing as it should be today? Perhaps you can suggest a few reasons in your comments. But I will say that one main reason we are not growing is because the Christians that make up the church are not always living their lives as God would want them to live and as a result it sends the signal that there are many hypocrites in the church.

Paul did everything he possibly could to ensure that he was living "for Christ." He was so confident in his life's service to Him that he said "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Can it truly be said of us that we are really imitating Christ? 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Return to the Lord

These words are recorded in the book of Hosea; “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, And return to the LORD. Say to Him, Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips” (Hosea 14:1-2).

Robert Robinson had been converted out of a life of sin, and at the age of 23, wrote the hymn “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Sadly, Robinson wandered far from the faith and like the Prodigal Son, journeyed into the distant country of carnality.

One day – when he was traveling by stagecoach and sitting beside a young woman engrossed in her book. She ran across a verse she thought was beautiful and asked him what he thought of it. As tears swelled up in his eyes, Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, p. 52)

The story is told of a lamb that passed a pig pen each day on the way with its mother to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun, and on an especially hot day the lamb asked his mother if he could jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud. She replied, “No.” The lamb then asked the usual question, “Why?” The mother just said, “Sheep don't wallow.”

This didn’t satisfy the lamb. He felt that she had “put him down.” So, as soon as his mother was out of sight, he ran to the pig pen and jumped the fence. He was soon feeling the cool mud on his feet, legs, and stomach, as he wallowed deeper and deeper in the mud. After a while, he decided he had better go back to his mother, but found that he couldn’t move.

He was stuck from the weight of the mud which had gotten into his wool. His pleasure had now become his prison. He cried out and was rescued by the kind shepherd. When cleaned and returned to the fold, the mother told him, “Remember, sheep don’t wallow.”

Sin is like that. It looks so nice, and we think we can escape whenever we wish, but it just isn't so. Our pleasures soon become our prisons. We must always remember, “Christians don't wallow.” God tells us in 2 Peter 2:20-22, "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A DOG RETURNS TO HIS OWN VOMIT,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

When our life on this earth ends, all that will matter is if we have been obedient and faithful to almighty God, who will judge us (Hebrews 9:27). This life is very short, but eternity is without end. Live for eternity, not for the now.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Repair

Men, have you ever tried to fix something and just couldn't quite get it to work. You could not get the item fixed right. If so, you'll appreciate this sticker I recently saw on the side of a company truck specializing in home repair:

"We will fix what your husband fixed."

Whether the problem is the plumbing, electrical, flooring, or bathrooms, it's usually better off in the hands of someone who is skilled and trustworthy in those areas.

That's the way it is with sin – and the struggles within us that resist our efforts to mend it. Jeremiah denounced the greedy prophets and priests of his day who "healed the the hurt of God's people slightly, saying, Peace, Peace!" (Jeremiah 6:14). They did not change themselves nor lead the people to spiritual transformation.

So the Lord called the people to follow His way: Jeremiah 6:16 says; “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

Centuries later, Jesus, the Son of God said: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The parts of our lives that we have tried and failed to repair can be restored by the hand of God. Through faith in Christ, we can be made whole!

Life's fractures can be mended
By faith in Christ the Lord
At first the pain but then the gain
And usefulness restored.
— Hess

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I'm Just One

Have you ever thought: “I’m just one. I don’t have great talents. There are so many others. Someone else can do better than me. My work, my efforts, my contributions aren’t that significant?” Have you imagined that no one will notice if you aren’t there and don’t get involved?

If you have ever felt that “I’m just one”, perhaps you need to spend time remembering some familiar Bible stories. Consider the importance of one person (or just a few) when:

Noah saved the human race from total annilation in the global flood.

Joseph overcame being sold as a slave, rose to high office in Egypt, and ultimately helped his entire family in the midst of a terrible famine.

Moses stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the children of Israel from bondage.

Joshua (and Caleb) brought back a good report on the promised land.

Gideon (and his 300 men) won a battle against a huge army.

David defeated Goliath, and in the process encouraged the army of Israel to a major victory over the Philistines.

Elijah withstood the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and felt he alone was left (1 Kings 19:11-14). God said: “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Romans 11:4).

The prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) steadfastly proclaimed God’s Word even though they were opposed and persecuted.

Queen Esther saved the Jews from Haman’s plot to have them all killed.

Nehemiah single-handedly motivated and led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

And the ultimate example: Jesus – who suffered and died alone so that you and I could be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of heaven in eternity.

The next time that you start thinking “I’m just one. My work doesn’t matter”, remember, that the history of God’s people is the history of a faithful few who did what they could to serve Him. I suggest that we all get busy and remain busy for God and His kingdom while we have the opportunity to do so on this earth. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Importance of Knowledge

Knowledge is a very important aspect of life itself. Knowledge of life makes it easier to make right choices. Knowledge of our jobs will allow us to progress. Knowledge of the Word of God will help us gain eternity with Him. As we live day by day we are ever learning and gaining more knowledge.

In the religious realm, if we reject knowledge then we too will be rejected. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6). The Bible tells us that those who do not retain God in their knowledge will be rejected and will pursue worldly things. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).

Knowledge is something that must be gained, applied, and passed on. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered” (Luke 11:52). It is very important that we increase in the knowledge of God and be able to translate that knowledge into the wisdom we need to please Him. “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). May we all strive to constantly gain as much knowledge of God as we can. Through knowledge and proper application we can gain access into His eternal kingdom. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Flee from the Wrath to Come

Early one morning fire broke out in a house on a narrow street. The alarm was sounded by a policeman on duty. Before the fire engines could get to the scene, flames were leaping high into the air. Suddenly a young man appeared at an upper window in his pajamas. Firemen quickly placed a ladder against the burning building. But to the dismay of all, he refused to come down, shouting back that he had to get dressed first. The firemen pleaded, “Come as you are! Come as you are!” but to no avail. From below they tried to ascend the stairs, but were turned back as the wind fanned the flames into fury. When a rescuer tried to enter through a window, the heat and smoke forced him away. Suddenly the stairs gave way and the roof fell in. The man had waited too long and was buried beneath the ruins. (Author Unknown).

This short story should remind us of how much greater tragedy awaits all who fail to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). There is a great day of wrath coming. “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). A hard and impenitent heart will destroy us. The apostle Paul wrote these words in Romans 2:4-5: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

If you are not a Christian, I want to encourage you to “flee from the wrath to come” by obeying the Lord and be saved before it is everlastingly too late. Jesus does not make you obey Him, but he does invite you. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). He also says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Do not delay. Your delay could cost you your soul. Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. “Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It is unfortunate that some Christians are negligent in their service to the Lord. Once one becomes a Christian one must remain faithful to the Lord. “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away...” (Hebrews 2:1-2).

Jesus requires of everyone to bring forth fruits to show true repentance. “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance...” (Luke 3:8). Jesus is pleading for you to obey Him and come to Him now, before the fire of the evil one engulfs you forever!

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Deeds of Denial

“They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). If We Profess with Our Words That We Know God, We must Also Confess Him with Our Works. The apostle Paul wrote of individuals who claimed to know God but denied Him by their deeds.

This is one of the most serious mistakes that anyone can make. In a sense, it would be better to declare ourselves as opponents of God than to claim friendship and then betray Him by our way of life. As unfortunate as it would be to live in open defiance of God, at least there is some consistency in such a life. Speaking of certain Christians who were living licentiously, Peter wrote: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21). There is no worse denial of Christ than DEEDS of denial.

Our adversary would like us not even to acknowledge verbally the lordship of Christ. From his perspective, there is always the danger that at some point we might start taking it seriously. But even though it’s “dangerous,” he knows that all is not lost if we profess Christ. He is willing for us to do that — as long as we don’t practice our profession. But if we ever begin seeking God DILIGENTLY, then it is much less likely that he will ever get us back. He certainly doesn’t give up on us even then, but those Christians who confess with their lives what they profess with their lips are the toughest cases for him to crack.

It is not, however, just to worry our adversary that we ought to practice our principles. The more important reason is that this is how we glorify our Heavenly Father. Our neighbors have a right to look for evidence in us as stated in the Philippian letter: “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; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:12-15). Whatever we may SAY, it is our DEEDS that demonstrate that God really can redeem lost souls like our own and remake them in His image.

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Champion Marksman

Matt Emmons, Olympic gold medalist in rifle shooting in 2004, was set to win another event at Athens. He had a commanding lead and hoped to make a direct bull’s eye on his last shot. But something went wrong – he hit the target, but he was aiming at the wrong one! That wrong focus dropped him to eighth place and cost him another medal.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he expressed the importance of focusing on the right target in our Christian life. Please take a moment and meditate on these words of God delivered by the apostle Paul: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus(Philippians 3:7-14).

Paul used the term “goal” in an illustration of an athlete running a race. The same word was also used of a target for shooting arrows. In both cases, the prospect of winning depends on being focused. For the believer, that focus should be a lifetime pursuit of becoming more like our Savior Jesus Christ. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

What is your focus today? The believer’s target to be focused on should be Jesus – to be more like Him everyday. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). May we all ensure that we are aiming at the right target – Following Jesus!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Faith Responds

If you have not been feeling well and can’t seem to get better, you go to the doctor to get checked out. He then runs tests and discovers that you have a life-threatening disease. He calls in a prescription of the medicine you need that will save your life. You obtain the medication and what do you do? Do you take the medicine? If you have understood the doctor's instructions and you believed what the doctor has told you, you will take the medicine.

What you have just experienced is belief in action, better known as faith. What made animal sacrifice work in the Old Testament? It derived its power from the faith of the believers. The followers of God understood His instructions and they believed that killing the animal would remove their sins. So they acted and performed the animal sacrifice according to the instructions God had given them. One couldn't just believe in animal sacrifice any more than merely believing in medicine will make one well!

The origin of true faith is, and always has been by the instruction of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Additionally, sacrificing without understanding why, would have been useless. Sacrifice derived no power from superstition, tradition, or ignorant obedience. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This defines genuine faith as having two elements – belief and action: without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Obedience from the heart is the type of faith that God has always desired.

Here are some Old Testament examples of this type of faith as seen in Hebrews 11:

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice” (v.4).

“By faith Noah...moved with fear, prepared an ark” (v.7).

“By faith Abraham...obeyed...and went out” (V.8).

“By faith Abraham...offered up Isaac” (V.17).

We see clearly that the kind of faith required by God is action based upon belief. Saving faith has always required this belief-based action. James asks rhetorically: “can such faith (without action) save a man” (2:14)? James points out that even the demons themselves were believers! If belief alone saved, then the demons would be saved (James 2:14-26)! No stronger argument can be made against “belief alone.”

The action of obedient faith is not accomplishing some work that earns anything, but is doing what God has told us to do to accept His gift. True faith is made complete by action (obedience) from the heart (belief). God wants all of us to be saved and be with Him in heaven. However, only those who truly believe in Him and do His works of righteousness will be saved “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Poor Examples

In Matthew 23:13-36, Jesus pronounced various “woes” on the scribes and Pharisees. Let us first begin with what Jesus said in the first twelve verses of this chapter: “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

I read a story about a woman in Oregon who was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10 year old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to have a similar problem. Jesus had a scathing assessment of them: They were spiritually bankrupt. He held these two groups directly responsible for this sad spiritual condition.

As the successors of the lawgiver Moses, they were responsible for expounding the law so that people would walk in God's ways and have a genuine and vibrant relationship with the Lord. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)? Their personal interpretation and application of the law became more important than God's law. They did not practice what they preached! What they did observe was done not to bring glory to God but to honor themselves. Jesus exposed who they were – image managers, posers, and hypocrites.

The true test of the effectiveness of following Jesus is not just in what we say, but in how we live. Are we telling others God’s Word and doing what He says? We must model our lives by the words and actions and what it means to really follow Him. Peter wrote: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Christians, remember you bear His dear name,
Your lives are for others to view;
You are living examples – men praise you or blame,
And measure your Savior by you.
— Anonymous

“Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3).

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Be Not Conformed to This World

Every Christian should take note of what is recorded in the Word of God, penned by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This instruction given to the saints at Rome is greatly needed by Christians today. We live in a world which subjects us to various pressures, calling upon us to “conform” to the world’s standards. Just because “every one else” dresses immodestly, uses vulgar language, is involved in the mad pursuit of material things, is intent on the things of this life that are pleasurable, etc., etc., Christians should not involve themselves in these things.

The word “transformed” is the Greek word “metamorphose” which means “to change into another form, transfigure, transform.” The metamorphoses is often illustrated in high school biology by the changing of a worm into a butterfly. Transformed is also used of Christ to describe His transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2). As Christ was transformed into a divine radiance, Christians are to be transformed into the image of Christ (Colossians 3:8-11).

Let us always be aware that no matter how popular and widespread sin and ungodliness may be, it doesn’t excuse it or make it more acceptable. In Exodus 23:2 it says “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” In the New Testament we read these words; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). It is very important, in God’s eyes, that Christians continue to live their lives in such a way that others see us denying ungodliness, worldly lust, and striving to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. We must do this regardless of what those around us are doing. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The life of the Christian is to be different - a pure, clean, wholesome kind of difference that others may constantly see. It’s terrible when our conduct can’t be distinguished from that of the worldly people around us – we should know better! This is why we must be very careful to conduct ourselves correctly in all our relationships in life. Always strive to keep our lives clean and pure. Let us not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the image of God. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Truth

Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Whatever the truth may cost (time, money, lands, houses, family, friends, or physical suffering), it is well worth the price; and once obtained, should not be sold for anything.

Truth Is Necessary in the Practice of Pure Religion. It matters little what we think, feel, imagine, suppose, or would like to believe; the truth is what counts. Apollos was an eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, bold, convincing; however, he lacked the one thing which all need in order to be successful in preaching - the whole truth. Priscilla and Aquila had to take him aside and explain the way of truth more accurately (Acts 18:24-28).

There Are Many Deceivers in Our Religious World Today. Ephesians 4:14 says: “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Like people who find themselves victims of professional gamblers, so are the unlearned before the winds of error. Dishonesty and trickery are the name of the game for false teachers. They use an assortment of trickery, craftiness, and deceit to disguise their teaching as divine truth. Ephesians 4:15 says: “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—.” Let us always be on guard against those who lie in wait to deceive. Continue to speak the truth in love and grow in Christ.

Do Not Ignore Error. Let us not think that by ignoring someone's error we are being kind to them. The truth, and only the truth, can make us free from the bondage of the traditions and doctrines of men. If anyone has been overtaken by error, let us seek to save them from eternal death (James 5:19-20).

To disregard, neglect, ignore, reject, shun, or deny the truth can prove fatal to our souls. Let us have a genuine love for the truth, daily seeking to be thoroughly acquainted with it, for only the truth can make us free, and lead us to the joys of heaven. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Defining Failure

During the Great Depression, many people in the United States lived in shanty-towns made up of plywood, tarps, and blankets. These dwellings known as "Hoovervilles," housed those who had been evicted from their homes. Many blamed President Hoover for the economic woes. Ironically, Hoover's apparent ineffectiveness as a leader was in sharp contrast to his previous record.

Earlier, Hoover's expertise in geological engineering led to successful mining projects in Australia and China. He also spearheaded humanitarian efforts. When the stock market crashed in October 1929, President Hoover was in circumstances beyond his control. He would be forever tied with the economic depression of the 1930s.

One major fiasco, however, does not mean one's whole life is a failure. What if we remembered Abraham only as being a deceiver (Genesis 12:10-20). What if we remembered Moses only as being disobedient to God (Numbers 20:1-13). What if we remembered David only as being a murderer (2 Samuel 11). Despite their sins, these men are remembered for their persevering faith: “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:33-34).

The fact is, our life is not a failure, if we've repented of our sins. God can still use us to serve Him and His purpose. Everyone of us have made mistakes, sinned, and have many regrets. However, no matter what we have done in the past, all of that can and will be forgiven by God when we believe in Him (Romans 10:17; John 8:24), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9; Matthew 10:32), be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16), and then be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). We all have so much to live for and to look forward to. If we will set our minds on being obedient to Christ we can have the hope of being with Him eternally in heaven. “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

The lessons we learn from our failures
Are lessons that help us succeed,
And if we are wise and we heed them,
Then failure is just what we need.
---- D. De Haan


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Being Real

An antique dealer thought that the wrinkled old baseball card that she found might be worth $10.00. After posting it on eBay, she began to wonder if it might be more valuable than she had thought. She removed the posting and consulted a professional evaluator who confirmed that the photo on the 1869 card showed the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the United States. The card sold for more than $75,000. Even though the card was creased and discolored, the most important thing was its authenticity – it was real!

The apostle Paul and his companions suffered greatly while spreading the gospel of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6 he listed their outward trials, their inward traits, and their spiritual resources: “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7).

Please try to imagine the circumstances in which all these things interacted: The beatings, the patience, the prison time, the kindness, the distresses, and of course the great love. Although broken physically, depleted emotionally, and tested spiritually, the authenticity of their faith in Christ clearly showed through! He goes on to write, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

In our walk with Christ, there’s no substitute for spiritual authenticity – being real! It is not lip service that God wants, what He wants is our authentic love and devotion for Him which shows itself in our day to day living as we let others “see” Jesus in us through the lives we live — again, just being REAL Christians!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

What the Word of God Will Do

Many people don’t turn to God or rely upon God because they just don’t have an understanding of what God’s word can do and will do for them. The Hebrew writer says that “...the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No person on earth can do what God’s word can do for us. Therefore, we must let God’s word penetrate our heart so that productive and needed change can take place within us. Here is what God’s word will do for every person if they will read it, “C” it, and meditate on it:

It will CHARGE us. When one reads the Bible they will learn why Jesus Christ came to this earth. He performed many miracles to help people believe that He truly is the Son of God. The Israelites of long ago should have believed in Jesus but many turned from Him. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost charged them with sending Jesus to the cross to die when Jesus was just trying to get them to learn the truth. Peter said, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).

It will CONVICT us. The best thing that can happen to us is to read the Bible and allow it to convict us of unrighteousness (sin). As Peter preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts, chapter 2, the Jews who were gathered there began to understand that they were guilty of sending Jesus to the cross to die. They were convicted of their sin! Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

It will CONVINCE us. After we are convicted of sin, then we can be convinced that we need to do something about it. The Jews on Pentecost knew they had sinned but did not know what to do. They asked the all important question of Peter that day: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). This is the very same question that all of us should be asking now. Knowing that we have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we must now do what God instructs us to do in order to gain true peace of mind in Christ our Lord.

It will CONVERT us. Upon understanding that we are in sin and knowing we must do something about it, then and only then, can we be led to true conversion. The Jews, after asking Peter “what shall we do?” received the best answer ever by the beloved apostle Peter. “...Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The answer they received, is the same one we receive. What God’s word instructs of us is not difficult to do. If we truly want our sins forgiven and to be able to live with true peace of mind in Christ, we must obey God’s commands. We learn from this passage of scripture that we need to repent (turn from sin), and be baptized (immersed in water), in order to receive forgiveness of our sins. When we do that, then we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is the promise of salvation to all who are obedient to God’s commands. Another passage of scripture that mirrors Acts 2:38 is Acts 3:19 which says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). This passage also states that we must repent, be converted (baptized), to receive forgiveness of sins, and we will be refreshed knowing that we have the promise of eternal life if we remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10).

It will CHANGE us. As the Jews experienced a changed life after they were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:41-47), we too will experience a new life in Jesus Christ! It is such a blessing to walk through life daily knowing that through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully and completely, that we can look forward to eternal life with Him after we pass from this life.

I encourage all of us to examine the Bible and see what the Word of God will do for us. May God richly bless us as we diligently seek Him and allow Him to change our lives in a positive way through the power of the gospel message. Paul was convinced of it, and so should we! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Living for Christ

If we live "for Christ" as Christians are supposed to do, then we will not engage ourselves in anything that we could not picture our Lord engaging in. The apostle Paul wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). I want to encourage us to take a step back and honestly look at what this passage of scripture is telling us. That which is "true", "noble", "just", "pure", "lovely", "of good report", that is what we are to meditate on. When Christians allow themselves to be influenced with worldly things and often times being let astray by so called "friends" who do not have our soul's interest at heart, then we are not truly meditating on the things that Paul just spoke about. We cannot be the right example to others when we are practicing anything that is displeasing to God. Why is it that the Lord's church is not growing as it should be today? Perhaps you can suggest a few reasons in your comments. But I will say that one main reason we are not growing is because the Christians that make up the church are not always living their lives as God would want them to live and as a result it sends the signal that there are many hypocrites in the church. Paul did everything he possibly could to ensure that he was living "for Christ." He was so confident in his life's service to Him that he said "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Can it truly be said of us that we are really imitating Christ?