Webster defines the word influence as “the power of persons or things to affect others, seen only in its effects.” Though the word influence is only found one time in the King James Version, its meaning is on every page. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13-16). There are many interesting things you can say about this figure of speech. Salt is totally worthless while sitting on a shelf, it has to be applied. Salt can also loose its “saltiness.” When it looses its power to flavor, it is good for nothing and must be discarded. Paul told the brethren at Corinth they were an “epistle of Christ known and read by all men” (2 Cor. 3:1-3). Whether we like it or not, every Christian is an advertisement for Christ. It is rather scary to think the honor of Christ is in the hands of his disciples. Men of the world will judge Christ by the character of his followers. Have you ever considered what type of an advertisement you are? One of our songs suggests that “We are the only Bible the careless world will read, We are the sinners gospel, we are the scoffers creed, We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word, What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?” The majority of worldly people will pay very little attention to what we say, but our actions will always be scrutinized. When they think of our character and reputation, our actions will speak louder than our words. – by David Padfield
God has constantly required unwaveringness from His kin. While on earth, Jesus summoned it of Thomas (John 20:27) and showed that all who might tail Him must show loyalty (Luke 16:10-13). How might we know, however, in the event that we are really steadfast to the Lord?
There is an estimation by which loyalty can be resolved. In Matthew 25, Jesus showed that the two affirmed workers in the illustration of the gifts were “great and dedicated” while the other hireling was “insidious and sluggish” (v. 26). “Slothful” is utilized as the inverse of “dedicated.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words says of “lethargic” that it signifies “inactive, slow, equivalent word of “dull,” additionally ‘avoiding and maddening.'” The reliable worker, accordingly, gets the ace’s favoring and endorsement since he has done the ace’s offering. Then again, the indolent hireling is sentenced on the grounds that he has neglected to do what his lord expected of him.
Jesus is obviously showing that His hirelings will be called to give a bookkeeping of what they have done and will be judged by their loyalty (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10), i.e., regardless of whether they were devoted to the will of God.
Consider the charge to the individuals who included the congregation in Smyrna. The Lord, through John, revealed to them that in the event that they would have been beneficiaries of the “crown of life,” they would need to be “reliable” even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
Unwavering – Loyal
“Loyal” apropos characterizes “reliable.” Anyone who is dependable is faithful. A reliable American is one who is devoted to the standards whereupon this nation is established. He will protect his nation all around steady with his soul, to pay his expenses and to vote in favor of the one he accepts will work for the best advantages of America.
In a considerably higher sense, a national of the kingdom of paradise (Phil. 3:20 – “For our citizenship is in heaven…”), on the off chance that he is steadfast, must safeguard the gospel (Jude 3); contribute of his way to propel the reason for Christ (2 Cor. 9:6-7); work untiringly in the work of the Lord (Titus 2:14); and share in the obligations of the congregation (Eph. 2:10).
Consider the case of the unfaithful spouse. At the point when a wedded man has been “unfaithful” to his significant other, he has not been “steadfast” to the pledge he made to be loyal until they part in death.
The individuals from the congregation are the lady of the hour of Christ (Eph. 5:23-25). In that capacity, they are to be dependable unto the spouse. At the point when church individuals begin missing administrations, neglect to ask as they should, neglect to function as they ought to and spurn the congregation and bring up with the world, they are unfaithful. When they backpedal into the world they, as a result of their unfaithfulness, are sentenced to be lost unless they come back to their first love.
Dedicated – Steadfast
There is another thought in “dedicated.” It is being undaunted.
The steadfast Christian is one who is not hurled back and forth by each breeze of precept (Eph. 4:14-15). He stays consistent in his support of the Lord. He notices such entries as Galatians 6:9 (“And let us not become fatigued while doing great, for in due season we might harvest on the off chance that we don’t lose heart.”) and 1 Corinthians 15:58 (“Therefore, my dearest brethren, be resolute, relentless, continually possessing large amounts of the work of the Lord, realizing that your work is not futile in the Lord.”).
A few Suggestions for Faithfulness
Regard the educating of 2 Corinthians 13:5 (“Examine yourselves in the matter of whether you are in the confidence. Demonstrate yourselves…”).
Take steps to endeavor to dependably be better (Col. 3:9-10).
Help out the Lord each day and really hone the religion of Christ (Matt. 7:21)
Reliability is a day by day challenge which brings one into novelty of life consistently and at last gives the best reward possible. Give all of us a chance to be resolved to be loyal to Christ.
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Written by my friend Wayne Greeson
Before the beginning of this world God prepared a plan. Within that eternal purpose God designed His kingdom, the church, which would display to the powers of Heaven His divine wisdom (Eph. 3:10-11).
Through the Old Testament, God promised by His prophets to set up His eternal kingdom of peace which would never be destroyed (cf. Dan. 2:44; Isa. 2:1-4). In the New Testament, Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus promised to build this kingdom which would be His church (Matt. 16:18-19).
This long planned and awaited promise became a reality on the first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection. On that day the kingdom of God, the church of Jesus Christ, was established as those who obeyed the instruction of Peter to repent and be baptized were added to the church (Acts 2:36, 47). The church of Christ was and is built upon the immovable foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). It is a special body of people belonging to Christ, the head of this divine institution. In this relationship the church is the glory and fullness of Christ (Eph. 1:23; 3:21). To this special body, Christ has given a special work of universal scope and everlasting consequence. The church is to be the “pillar and ground of the Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The church is to support and uphold the eternal Truth of God’s Word in everything it is and does.
But how is the church to carry out this heavenly mission? The church has not been left to stumble in the dark. The God of heaven and earth revealed to His apostles and prophets His complete and final will to men (Eph. 3:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” (2 Pet. 1:3), leaving the church a perfect pattern to follow in all it does (Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 1:3). This pattern is not to be altered, added to, or diminished from (Rev. 22:18-19; Gal 1:6-10).
The work of the church in upholding the Truth, according to God’s pattern in the New Testament, is three-fold: evangelism, edification and benevolence. Evangelism involves preaching the gospel of salvation to those lost in sin. Edification refers to the work of teaching and building up those who are members of the church. Benevolence is the work of the church in relieving destitute Christians (cf. 1 Thes. 1:8; Eph. 4:12-16; Rom. 15:26-27).
Since God has given the church a complete pattern in His Word for the work of the church, then it naturally follows that He has thoroughly equipped His church to do everything He has commanded it to do. His church is all sufficient to perform its work of evangelism, edification and benevolence.
Jesus “gave gifts for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” which will bring us “to a mature man, the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:8-13).
There is absolutely no room for human “wisdom,” “organizations” or “improvements” to supplement any aspect of the work of the church. Unfortunately, there are those in the body of Christ who may make a claim to believe in the all sufficiency of the church, yet manifest contrary actions (cf. Matt. 7:15-20). Some churches contribute money to organizations to do the work God has given them to do. They make a mockery of Christ’s provisions for His church.
The church has been hacked to pieces by those who have distributed the church’s work to missionary societies, benevolent institutions, schools and colleges. These human organizations are not built upon the foundation of Christ nor are they charged with upholding the Truth as is the church. When the church distributes its work to human organizations it has repudiated the eternal divine wisdom and planning of God and destroyed the glory and fullness of Christ.
In the New Testament local churches did their own work of evangelism, edification and benevolence without human organizations or schemes. In evangelism they supported preachers directly rather than making contributions “missionary societies” (Phil. 4:14-18). In the work of edification and benevolence, churches never sent money to colleges or benevolent organizations, but carried out this work within the local congregation and under its oversight (1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 6:1-6; 11:27-30).
Let us recognize and return to the beauty, simplicity, wisdom, glory and perfection of God’s pillar and ground of the Truth.
by David Padfield
- All of the nations of the earth who have ever lived will be present (Matt. 25:32)
- The Word of God will be the standard of judgment — not the creed books written by men (John 12:48)
- We will be judged on the basis of our deeds and not just our attitude (Rom. 2:6)
- No “warning signs” will be given prior to the return of Christ (Matt. 24:36)
- Christ will return at an unexpected time, during normal circumstances upon the earth (2 Pet. 3:10)
- When Christ returns “every eye shall see Him,” not just the redeemed (Rev. 1:7)
- For some, it will be a day of unspeakable joy (Rev. 21:1-4)
- For others, it will be a day of horror (2 Thes. 1:6-8)
- When Christ returns He will deliver the kingdom back to His Father (1 Cor. 15:24)
- There is no passage in the Bible which states Christ will ever set foot on this earth again — the Bible teaches that we will “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes. 4:17)
- Once Christ receives His own they will “always” be with Him, not just for a 1,000 years as some teach (1 Thes. 4:17)
- While we wait for the Lord to return we have the opportunity to repent (2 Pet. 3:10)
- There is no second chance for men to repent after death (Heb. 9:27)
- Take comfort in the thought of His return (1 Thes. 4:18)
by Gene Taylor
While recently visiting the Chicago area, I took the time to go to the Field Museum of Natural History. They had portions of fifteen of the Dead Sea Scrolls and many archaeological artifacts from the area around the Dead Sea where the scrolls were found on exhibit there and I wanted to see them.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Israel over 2,000 years ago. They were discovered in a series of caves in Qumran in 1947. Written on parchment and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, they contain the earliest known surviving copies of the books of the Old Testament as well as apocryphal writings, legal documents and writings that reveal the beliefs and customs of the people who created them, the Essenes.
The museum was very crowded on the day my friend and I went there. Most were there to see “Sue,” the reconstructed skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex which had debuted the day before. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was crowded, the overflow finding its way to it.
The exhibit rooms were darkened. Exposure to light causes further deterioration in the scrolls. Each scroll was placed in a glass case. A small, dim light, controlled by a sensor, went on as someone stepped in front of each case. On the wall across from the case was a copy of the scroll and a description of it.
Though I had visited Qumran and gone to the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display, I was still greatly enjoying looking at this exhibit. I found each scroll fascinating. While looking at one that contained a portion of the book of Hosea, I looked up to find my friend in order to share some information with him. While glancing around the room, I observed something interesting. My friend and I were the only ones in the entire room looking at the actual scrolls. The rest of the people were looking at the copies of them and reading the descriptions about them but were ignoring the scrolls themselves.
I continued to observe for a few minutes and my initial conclusion was born out. I thought, “How could these people prefer the copies and not be focusing on the genuine articles?” Then it hit me. That is what so many people do in religion. They prefer man-made copies to the genuine article — the blood bought, divinely built church which belongs to Jesus Christ.
Which do you prefer, the copy or the real thing?
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Can The Bible Mean Just Anything?
We live in a society that seeks to “interpret” everything. When the President or some other important official makes a statement, news commentators are quick to point out what was said and what wasn’t said. Did he mean this or did he mean that? The analysis is endless. Many take words that were said, rip them out of their context, and “sound bite” them giving them an entirely different meaning than when they were originally uttered. And this is, more or less, an accepted practice among some because of the failure of many to believe that there is such a thing as truth. If there is no truth, then the words that I say can mean anything that you want them to mean and what you say can mean anything that I want it to mean and we just end up believing what we want to believe regarding someone else’s statements without ever having considered the possibility that someone might have meant something different than what we thought they meant.
The truth of the matter is that words have real significance or, as Rush Limbaugh says, “Words mean things.” Many people believe that they can say what they want without consequence until they are forced to face the facts of the words that they used and the meanings that those words have. At that point, many don’t like the idea that you have pointed out to them what their words truly mean because if words have objective meanings and their words don’t line up with truth, then they might just be wrong and that would be something that they couldn’t accept.
In that regard, the Bible is no different. The Bible has words and those words have meanings. Those words were originally uttered in a specific language and in a specific context, which, when we properly investigate, will render for us the objective meaning of the word. It’s not up to us to redefine those meanings to fit our own interpretations; it’s our task to understand what those words meant when originally uttered. So, the Bible just can’t mean anything. The Bible must mean certain specific things.
The Bible is a book that claims to be truth, not truth as we filter it through our subjective mind, but truth in the objective sense; it is true for everyone. Jesus said, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). It was through abiding in the word of God that the disciples came to know the truth. So, since the objective truth is in the words, then that puts objective meaning in those words. The implication of that is that the Bible can’t just mean anything.
And we can’t just understand the Bible to mean anything that we want it to mean. Look at what Paul said regarding revelation in Ephesians 3:3-4: “how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ” God’s words can be understood, Paul says, just as he, Paul, understood them. That means that there is no reason not to understand the Bible alike. That the Bible can’t mean just anything.
Yet, there are millions today who are convinced that the Bible can mean just anything. When individuals say things like, “You can interpret the Bible for yourself as long as you don’t force your opinions upon me,” they are in essence saying that the Bible can mean anything. When someone says, “Well, that’s just your interpretation” they are in essence saying that the Bible can mean anything. When others say things like, “This is what the Bible means to me, but it has it’s own meaning for you” then one is saying that the Bible can mean anything.
If the Bible is God’s truth for man, then it can’t just mean anything. It must mean that which God intended it to mean. And we can KNOW what God intended it to mean because he has revealed these things to us through the Mind of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12). It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to learn and believe God’s objective truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Purity of Purpose
It is clear from the scriptures that in order for one to be saved, one must be baptized (Mark 16:16). Since the word “baptize” is a transliteration from the Greek word “baptizo” the significance of the word is lost to us in the English language. So it is within the context of how the word “baptize” is used that we come to the conclusion that baptism must be immersion. Specifically in Romans 6:1-11, where we are taught that baptism is in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. To be buried, one must be completely immersed in the burial material, water. For one to be baptized in a way that is not burial (such as pouring or sprinkling) would not be a fulfillment of the requirement to be buried. To this, most members of the Lord’s body would agree. However, when it comes to the stated purpose for which one is baptized, many accept the idea that as long as the candidate is submersed, then they are saved, regardless of their state of mind. With this idea, many say that although one may not believe that baptism is necessary for remission of sins, if one is immersed God will forgive those sins regardless of the individual’s belief regarding baptism itself. Is this a correct understanding of the scriptures? Let’s examine the question in light of the plan of salvation. The Bible teaches that for a person to come into a state of salvation, one must: (1) hear the gospel message (Romans 10:17), (2) believe it (John 3:16), (3) repent of ones sins (Acts 17:30), (4) confess the name of Christ (Matthew 10:32) and (5) be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Each of these steps involves purity of purpose. Let’s look at some scriptures that indicate this.
When we look at the step of hearing the gospel, we recognize that not any hearing will suffice. It takes more than just letting the word go in one ear and out the other in order for a person to respond. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 that the person who hears and acts upon what he hears is like a wise man, but that the person who hears and does not act upon what he hears is like a foolish man. In other words, not only must we hear the gospel message, but also we must hear it in a certain way, with a specific purpose. We must hear the gospel with the view that we are going to act upon it i.e., obey it. So when one hears the gospel, one must hear it with the purpose in mind of obeying what one hears otherwise, hearing the gospel is useless.
When we look at the step of believing the gospel, we recognize that purity of purpose must be involved here as well. It is not sufficient to believe just anything, but we must believe the message of the Gospel. Moreover, we must not have ulterior motives for believing the gospel. One cannot believe something with the purpose in mind of simply making another person happy. One must believe with a view of salvation in mind. There are certain things that a person must believe in order to be saved and there is the proper motive for believing those things. Romans 10:10 states that with the heart man believes unto righteousness. The heart must be pure in order to believe the gospel. The purpose must be understood, otherwise the feigned faith is useless.
When we look at the step of repentance, the Bible is clear that it is more than merely being sorry. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” It is not sufficient to merely be sorry for one’s sins. The purpose of repentance is more than mere sorrow. The purpose of repentance is to stop doing the sinful things that one once did and to reform the pattern of one’s life after righteousness (Acts 26:20). So repentance must be with the proper attitude and correct purpose or else it is no repentance at all. Again, the purpose must be understood for one to be saved.
One’s confession as well must be pure. Does saying the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” regardless of one’s attitude fulfill the requirement of confession? No. An atheist can say the words, but that does not make him a Christian. The words in and of themselves contain no “magic” formula that works salvation upon an individual. These words must come from the heart; they must be meant. Again, Romans 10:10 says that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. That presupposes that one has already believed. Confession must be done with purity of purpose and that purpose must be understood for one to be saved.
Now we get to the step of baptism. Should we conclude anything different regarding this particular step of salvation? Should we conclude that in all the other steps one’s motive and purpose must be pure, but that when it comes to baptism that we do not have to have a pure motive and purpose? There is nothing magic in the waters of baptism. The water is just water. So dunking a person under the water just for the sake of dunking someone under the water is not going to cut it. If the proper motive and purpose is not present, it is meaningless just like all the other steps of salvation. If a person is not baptized for the proper motives and purposes, he is just getting wet. The Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).
At this point many will ask, “What if a person is being baptized to obey God, but does not understand that baptism is for the remission of sins.” Well, would God allow the other steps of salvation to be “obeyed” without an understanding of their purposes? Clearly God would not. He expects us to hear, believe, repent, and confess with a proper understanding of what these things involve when we do them as illustrated above. Why should we think that baptism is any different and why should we think that a person can “obey God” without a proper understanding of baptism? Would God accept an atheist who says the words “I believe Jesus is the Son of God” when he doesn’t really mean them? No, because confession is not a magic formula, it is based upon faith. So also immersion is not a “magic formula” with intrinsic value, it is based upon faith.
The Bible teaches that when a person is baptized, they must believe that baptism is for the remission of their sins–that is the act of faith in baptism. Colossians 2:12 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Without that act of faith involved in baptism, one is merely getting wet. If a person is just baptized “to obey God” what is the act of faith? Wherein are you putting your trust when you are baptized “to obey God?” Someone says, “I am putting my trust in God.” Great! So what are you putting your trust in God to do? When faith trusts God, it trusts God to do something (Romans 4:20-22; Hebrews 11). Baptism doesn’t need to show that one merely believes God; confession accomplishes that! Baptism is not just a restatement of one’s confession. It is more than that. Notice what Peter says on the matter of baptism. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Notice what is said in this passage. (1) Baptism saves us. (2) Baptism is not merely taking a bath. (3) Baptism is the response to God of a good conscience. (4) Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus. Notice item number (3). When we are baptized, we have to have a good conscience about it–we must do it with the right purposes in mind. The good conscience when taught properly is going to understand that baptism is necessary for salvation and is going to motivate the individual to take the appropriate action. To say that one can be baptized correctly without understanding the purpose of baptism denies the role of the conscience in baptism.
Many have asked me the question: “Can you be taught wrong and baptized right?” In response, I ask, “Can you be taught wrong and hear right?” “Can you be taught wrong and believe right?” “Can you be taught wrong and repent right?” “Can you be taught wrong and confess right?” If we cannot do these things, then what makes us think that we can be taught wrong and baptized right? The bottom line is that God has clearly identified the purity of purpose for baptism. There is no reason for someone not to know what the purpose of baptism is when they are baptized and if they are not following the purposes that God has clearly set forth, they are just getting wet.
The Bible is the greatest book ever written for man and the words of the Bible prove this fact over and over again. It has been said that it is the “owner’s” manual for life. Certainly it was written by the one who knows man best-his Creator. Just as we would look to the owner’s manual for our automobiles, houses, and other items we possess to become more intimately acquainted with these items, so also we should look to the Bible to become more intimately acquainted with ourselves. Modern psychologists have nothing to boast greater than the principles set down for man’s well being in the Bible. Perhaps no clearer example of this can be found than in the book of Philippians.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians to thank the brethren in Philippi for the monetary gift that they had sent Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus (1:4,5; 4:18). But Epaphroditus also brought some additional news to Paul regarding the church a Philippi. They had heard about Paul’s current imprisonment and were worried about him (1:30). Paul comforts the church by letting them know that this situation he is in resulted in the increase of the gospel (1:12). He also relates to them that he hopes that he will soon be released from his imprisonment and will visit them again (1:25, 26). However, Paul wants them to know that whether he lives or dies all will be well (1:21). Their concern for Paul’s situation had evidently lead to a congregational anxiety that was preventing them from living according to the principles of the gospel. The rest of the book of Philippians is addressed to the concern that Paul has regarding the Philippians-that they should
set their minds on matters over which they can control, not over matters that lead to worry and depression. This would bring them out of their “blue funk” and bring them back to greater service to the Lord.
The crux of the book of Philippians in this regard is found in chapter four. It is in this chapter that Paul discusses the action one can take to bring one’s self into the peace of God. The prescription that Paul gives to the brethren is a combination of mental and physical exercises. First, they were to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). This is a mental exercise. The Christian has everything for which to be thankful and nothing for which to be ungrateful. This should lead to a perpetual spirit of joy in the Christian’s life. The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins should humble us into recognition that nothing is so important in this life so as to be cause for anxiety and depression. The Christian has everything! For this reason, he can rejoice! Psychologists have stated that in times of extreme tension, one should picture oneself in a place of happiness. The principle was first iterated long ago in the sacred scriptures.
Second, Paul says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (4:5a). This is a physical exercise. The Christian is not to be caught up in the extremes of the world. There is on the one hand the extreme of debauchery in all its forms and practices and it was prevalent in the Philippian’s society as well as ours today. On the other hand there is the extreme of isolationism. This is the concept that we must completely cut ourselves off from those around us who are not Christians and never have anything to do with anyone. Both of these are extreme choices that Christians faced then and face now. The Christian must exercise moderation in living a life that includes interaction with society, but does not participate in its sinfulness. Balance is certain one of the fundamental principles of modern psychology and here it is clearly stated in God’s word.
Third, Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand” (4.5b). Many have interpreted this phrase to have reference to the second coming, but the context suggests that this more likely refers to the ever-present awareness within the Christian that God is with us. This is a mental exercise. Hebrews 13:5c states, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” The expression, “The Lord is at hand” indicates to the Christian that God will always be there for him in time of worry or depression. It is a great comfort to recognize that God is always by our side and is not going to leave us as long as we don’t leave Him. With God, there is no problem or trouble or worry or fear that can’t be overcome, for all things are accomplishable with Him (Philippians 4:13). Modern psychology is replete with the principle that you are never alone. The self-help group is a common occurrence in today’s society. The Christian’s ‘self-help group’ has
a Member the likes of which this world cannot boast.
Fourth, we read, “Be careful in nothing” (4:6a). This is a mental and physical exercise. The word “careful” should really be translated “anxious” as indicated in the American Standard Version. Anxiety for the things of this life can become a big problem for the Christian. Jesus taught us to understand that God knows the things of which we have need and that he will supply those things if we but seek Him and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:25-34). When we start to dwell on the cares and concerns of this life, let our minds and our actions turn to things of the kingdom. What can we think and do to further the cause of our Lord upon the earth? We can study the word. We can visit the sick. We can help the poor. And the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of activity. Today we hear from psychologists these words, “Get involved.” Being involved in something goes a long way toward eliminating anxiety that crops
up as a result of eating the bread of idleness.
Fifth, Paul states, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6b). Here is a mental exercise. Prayer unburdens the Christian from the ceaseless parade of events about which he is concerned, but has no direct control. Prayer provides a means whereby the Christian may exercise a heart of thankfulness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. Prayer provides opportunity for the Christian to divest himself of wrong choices made in the course of the days events. Prayer motivates the Christian to act in ways that will improve his relationship with his God and his fellow man. There is much blessing in prayer. Modern psychology acknowledges these activities as being therapeutic and helpful to an individual’s mental state. Oh, if we as Christians, would only acknowledge the power of prayer in times of trouble how great burdens would be removed from our weary shoulders and what great
relief would be obtained from the troubles of life.
The conclusion of enacting these five exercises in one’s life is this: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is a certain peace that comes through understanding and applying these five principles in one’s life. Modern psychology may be able to provide a measure of peace and tranquility, but not to the extent that can be provided by God. The peace that God gives ‘surpasses all understanding;’ that is, no efforts on the part of man solely through his own mental abilities are going to be able to provide the type of peace that God can provide. This is because modern psychology cannot supply God. Faith in God comes through hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17) and ultimately the peace of God depends as much upon our faith in God as it does upon the principles that God sets forth in this passage. Faith must always be presupposed when applying the principles of having a healthy
mind to us as individuals. Without faith, none of these exercises will prevail to bring peace to our troubled souls. The hearts and minds of the Christian will only be guarded through Christ Jesus. As great as this promise may sound, however, there is yet more that the apostle wishes to address regarding our mental health.
Sixth, we read, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8). The exercise in this verse is mental. It is an exercise of focus upon the spiritual. It is the proactive exercise of the mind to think. The exhortation is not to just let your mind drift upon any and every old thing that comes along, but to purposefully and deliberately concentrate upon good things. When we fill our minds with positive thoughts, there will be no more room for negative thoughts. Worry, anxiety, depression, and despair are all negative thoughts that seek, almost without invitation, to invade our daily consciousness. It is a fight and struggle to battle these things, but we must. When we bring our focus back upon the true, honest,
just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous, there is no lack of things about which to cogitate. One of the great failures of modern psychology is that while it can help you understand what you are thinking and bring you to a greater awareness of your thoughts, it cannot provide content for your mind. The gospel, however, does this very thing.
Seventh, Paul has this to say, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (4:9a). Here is a physical exercise. When we have done everything that we need to do mentally to prepare ourselves for Christian service, we must make application. Paul says that his teaching and example constitute an example for us as well. If we are looking for ways to behave, let us look to the example that Paul left as he followed Christ in his life (1 Corinthians 11:1). We have half the book of Acts to let us know how Paul behaved as well as many of his epistles in which we find great teaching regarding how to live the Christian life. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Again, while modern psychology can suggest a course of behavior, it cannot suggest a lifestyle that will so thoroughly meet our needs as that which we find within the gospel of Christ (2 Peter 1:3).
The grand conclusion to these seven steps of mental health is found in the words, “and the God of peace shall be with you.” This is yet in addition to the previous promise. Not only do we have the assurance of the peace of God being with us, but also we have the assurance of the God of peace being with us. Greater blessing can no Christian have than to know that the very God who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves will provide a life that is filled with contentment and peace as well as provide the companionship that we need to finish such a life in His service. May we ever seek to apply these seven steps in our time of need.
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One might think upon seeing the title of this article that we are about to discuss something extremely positive. After all, what could be more appealing that freedom and what could be more motivating that unity? However, we have an adversary who is very deceitful and rejoices in calling wicked things by righteous names. This is exactly the case with the title of the article today.
As many of you know, we (five of us) took a mission trip to Costa Rica at the beginning of December, 2003. Being in a different culture for a week is enlightening because you can see how different people do things differently. However, there are some things that are universal to mankind. One of those things is the problem of sin. Changing cultures did not imply that we changed standards for what is right and wrong. Sin is as much a problem in Costa Rica as it is in the United States, Europe, Russia, or anywhere in the world.
One interesting thing, however, that did not change from our culture to theirs, is the desire to place a nice sounding name upon sin by those who engage in sin. We see this happening in our society as well. Abortion has been changed to “pro-choice.” Homosexuality has been changed to “gay” or “an alternate lifestyle.” The murder of the elderly has been changed from euthanasia to “death in dignity.” And the sin of fornication has been changed to “recreational sex.” The effort to change the name of something that is evil to something that sounds good is merely an effort to justify that which is evil.
Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Without a doubt we live in a world that would make sin appear palatable so that the masses would swallow it whole. This is, in fact, the very goal of Satan himself. He deceived Eve at the beginning and he continues to deceive today.
So what is deceptive about “Free Union?” “Free Union” is what the non-Christian people in Costa Rica refer to what we would call “living together” or “living in sin.” But “free union” certainly doesn’t sound like such a bad concept upon the surface of it. In fact it sounds pretty good, and herein ought to be the warning for us. Just because something sounds good or looks good, doesn’t necessarily meant that it is. Even Satan would change himself to appear as an angel of light if he thought that it would advance his cause (2 Cor. 11:14).
Let us take warning and be sure that we give ourselves to things that we know are right (Phil. 4:8); things that we find approved within the word of God (Col. 3:17). Let’s make an effort to avoid trying to have our ears scratched with soothing words (Isaiah 30:10). The alternative, of course, is to have the honestly to grapple with our own failures and seek the appropriate changes in our life regardless of how difficult it may be.
Which will we choose? Deceptive words which make us feel good? Or words of truth and sobriety that cause us to examine our lives? Would to God that we choose the later because the situation that sin presents to us is anything but free and united.
Worship God | We Worship God As He Desires, Not As We
We read within the Bible that Christians assembled together upon the first day of the week to worship God through His Son, Jesus (Acts 20:7). When they met together, they studied God’s word, prayed, sang hymns of praise, gave of their income, and partook of the Lord’s supper. We have examples for each of these practices within the New Testament (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:15; 16:1-2). We see in these simple, yet powerful, actions of worship, how God desires to be worshiped in the name of His Son, Jesus.
Why We Worship God As We Do In The Churches of Christ
The worship observed within the churches of Christ is one of the biggest differences that are noted by those who are not members of the church of Christ. Many want to know where the “music” is. Many want to know why the Lord’s supper is observed every Sunday. Many want to know why such emphasis is placed upon Bible study. Many want to know why we do not “tithe.” The answer is really quite simple, though many do not accept it. We seek to worship God upon the terms and conditions that God has set for worship within the New Testament.
One will not find the word “tithe” in the New Testament. One will not find the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church in the New Testament. One will not find the Lord’s supper being observed once a quarter, or month in the New Testament, but every Sunday. One will not find within the New Testament “self-help” motivational speaking, but rather the preaching and teaching of the word of God. It is our desire to worship God in the way that God would have us worship Him, not in the way that makes man feel good. We seek to serve God in our worship, not to serve self.
We Worship God Because He Is Worthy
We worship God not to gain an emotional experience, but because God is worthy of our worship. Revelation 4:11 states, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The reason for our very existence is to give pleasure to God; it makes no sense for God’s creation to fashion worship practices which give pleasure to the creature rather than the creator.
We Worship God in the Way He Desires to be Worshiped
Indeed, who ought to determine how we are to worship? The one who worships? Or the one who deserves to be worshiped? Certainly, the creature has no right to tell the creator how he/she is going to worship Him. God Himself must tell us what we may do to worship; we dare not approach God with our own righteousness (Romans 10:1-3).
Jesus said that God desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Spiritual worship is worshiping God out of a humble, respectful, and subservient attitude. Truthful worship means to worship God according to His word, for God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
So as we worship together this day, let us focus upon God as the one toward whom we are worshiping; let us acknowledge His wishes in the way in which He would have us to worship Him; and let us be content to satisfy God in our worship as opposed to satisfying ourselves.