October 27, 2013

When Men Hate You – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22)

The word translated “blessed” (makarios) is defined:

“… fortunate or happy because of circumstances,…privileged…” BDAG

Is this how you feel when you are persecuted because you are acting like a Christian? “How fortunate I am.” This reaction would be considered absolutely bizarre to the worldly minded, focused on success in this life only.

Most Christians are extremely reluctant to do anything which might make them less popular with their peers, let alone anything which might lead to social ostracism or even physical suffering. Yet Jesus said that this can bring true happiness.

He did not say that this blessing comes through suffering for foolishness’ sake, or for carelessness’ sake, or for sinfulness’ sake. Rather, He said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matthew 5:10).

The principle is amplified by Peter:

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (I Peter 4:14-16).

It hurts, of course, when friends “ostracize you…as evil,” when you are sincerely seeking to do right and to honor God. This was the experience of the blind man to whom Jesus gave sight. The religious authorities responded to his testimony with:

“You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.” (John 9:34).

Nevertheless, he now could see! He could see the physical world and he could see much more. He could see the blindness of his “teachers.” Would it be more appropriate for him to be “down in the dumps” or rejoice?

Likewise, the religious leaders at Pisidian Antioch “instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” One might imagine that their new converts would be devastated, yet we read, “And the disciples were continually  filled with joy…” (Acts 13:50, 52).

The mystery that magically transforms this apparently bizarre conduct into infinitely reasonable, divinely wise conduct is the realization this present life is like a vapor that will soon be gone (James 4:14) and that faithfulness in this life procures for us an eternal life of unimaginable glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:18)

For many years we have enjoyed protection from religious persecution in this country (a rare privilege, almost unique in the history of mankind).  Unfortunately, we see ominous signs that our protection is eroding. We see death and deprivation imposed on Christians today in many countries—soon perhaps in America. If so, may the Lord enable us to honor His name in suffering without compromise and with JOY.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (I Peter 2:21).

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris

 

 

 

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October 20, 2013

The Battle Is The Lord’s – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:47)

These were the ringing words of faith uttered by young David as he faced the Philistine giant, Goliath. Without armor, or spear, or shield, and with only a sling and five smooth stones, David confronted the nine-foot champion of the pagan army in the name of the true God, and soon the giant lay dead with his face in the ground.

The battle must always be the Lord’s.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against…the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Ultimate victories, in spiritual battles, are not won by bullets, nor by ballots, nor by any human means.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

“There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength… Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:16, 18).

We have a mandate to attack the enemy in His stronghold, not with our weapons, with super powerful, spiritual weapons, that will produce a victory that is not ours, but is the Lord’s.

“for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

It is easy, in trying to do a work for God, to rely on human abilities and devices, but these will fail, for the battle is the Lord’s. When the battle is going well, we must not boast, for the battle is the Lord’s. When the battle is going hard, we must not despair, for the battle is the Lord’s.

He is our strength. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful… ” (II Corinthians 10:3-4).

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris

 

October 13, 2013

Balanced Preaching – Craig Bradley

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

When speaking about balanced preaching the subject can refer to a number of important ideas.  By balanced some may think of paying attention to both the Old and New Testaments. Preachers may think of a balance between topical and expository sermons. Yet others may refer to complex versus simple lessons. Some may think of a balance between edification and admonition, or what some would call positive or negative. Recently I have become concerned with the balance needed between practical and doctrinal preaching. All preachers and elders should consider these things.

I have encountered congregations in which the teachers have focused all of their attention on the New Testament. Apparently this seems reasonable to many since we are no longer under the old covenant, but the new. Yet consider what Jesus says in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” Many of the wonderful things we learn about Jesus are found in the Old Testament. Never mind the fact that when we disregard the Old Testament we are ignoring about two thirds of the revealed word of God, things which He clearly wants us to know.

Too many preachers preach too many topical sermons. I once worked with a preacher, one who had been preaching for many years, who, after he had heard me preach a few expository lessons, asked, “What kind of lessons do you call those?” He wasn’t being critical; he had never really heard lessons based on the biblical text and context. The problem with topical lessons is that this approach has a tendency to use the scriptures as nothing more than a “proof text” to support an idea that may or may not actually be scriptural. It is not uncommon for passages to be lifted completely out of context and used to prove a point that the speaker wants to make rather than one God wants to make.

There is a time and place for topical lessons, yet care must be exercised to rightly divide the word of truth and make sure that we are teaching God’s will and not our own. Good expository preaching lets God communicate His will to us through His word. A good definition of expository preaching is found in Nehemiah 8:1-8. Verse eight says, “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

Another point that is sometimes overlooked in Nehemiah 8:1-8 is found in verses four and seven. Two distinct groups are mentioned in each of these verses. We see in verse four that when Ezra stands up to read the word of God he is not alone. There are leaders of the people standing with him to his left and right. Why? What does it mean? It means that Ezra is not alone in his commitment to the word of God. The leaders of the people shared in that commitment. It reminds me of Exodus 17:12 in which Aaron and Hur stood to the right and left of Moses to support him as Israel gained the victory of the Amalekites. Verse seven speaks of another group who helped Ezra in his teaching. The leaders of congregations need to stand and work together in the commitment to and teaching of God’s word, and this must be clearly so.

Not long after I began preaching I was chastised by an older gentleman for not preaching the Gospel. By that he meant Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, and be Baptized, Many are of this mindset. Yet, there is much more to the word of God than just the plan of salvation. God gave us His word so that we might know how to live our lives, so that we can be Christians in every aspect of our life, not just in name or church affiliation. God wants us to be His children, not just act like them. So much of our preaching is reduced to do this, or don’t do that. Many of our children leave home and the church with an overwhelming desire to do all the things that were forbidden to them because they were never taught to BE a child of God. They spend the first eighteen or so years of their life associated with the church, but leave it with no sense of Christian identity. We need to hear what God has to say about living our everyday lives. We need practical spiritual answers to the problems that we all encounter from day to day.

Having said that, we must absolutely pay attention to the doctrine concerning the church that Christ built. If what we preach and teach cannot be differentiated from the multitude of self-help books on the market, we stand in danger of losing our identity as true worshipers of God. There are congregations in which this balance of preaching and teaching was lost. Lessons on the distinct identity of the Lord’s church, authority, the need for and the means of salvation, and the perils of worldliness fell by the wayside. This has led to the ruin of once sound and strong congregations. This balance must never be neglected. We must heed the words of Peter when he said in 2nd Peter 1:12-133, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in the tent, to stir you up by reminding you.”

Adapted from Online Focus May 16, 2013

 

 

 

October 6, 2013

Restoring The Fallen – Ron Boatwright

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Restoring The Fallen

By Ron Boatwright

There are a number of members of the Lord’s church that through spiritual weakness have fallen away and become unfaithful.  But in eternity they will be “Having damnation because they have cast off their first faith” (1 Timothy 5:12).  And because of this “Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

We should not ever want to see anyone lost in Hell.  But Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  Here we see that only few will go to Heaven, but the vast majority of people will be eternally lost in Hell.  “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).  Those who depart from the faith were once faithful Christians who had given up.

But what should we do when we see one of our brothers or sisters depart from the faith?  “Brethern, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).  The Lord is depending on us, those of “you who are spiritual”, to help restore one back to the Lord.

What causes one to become unfaithful?  “Beware, brethern, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today”, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).  It is when our faith becomes weak to the point of unbelief that we fall away.  If we fall away, wouldn’t we want another brother or sister in Christ to help encourage us to become faithful again so we would not be lost in eternal torment?  When one falls away, he usually begins to forsake the worship assembly.  God’s word commands us who are faithful, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:24-27).  We are to encourage and exhort one another to be faithful.  Unless that brother or sister, who is forsaking the assembly, repents there no longer remains any sacrifice for forgiveness of his sins.  If one dies in that condition, he/she will be eternally lost.

God’s word tells us, “And above all things have fervent love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8).  If we really love one another, we would not want to see any of our brothers or sisters in Christ lost.  “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).  The good we have opportunity to do includes helping to restore an unfaithful brother or sister.  What greater thing could we do for another?  “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  “Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).  The Lord doesn’t want anyone to be lost, but He is depending on us to help save the unfaithful and lost.

We should be like the apostle Paul who said, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).  We should encourage others to be faithful to the Lord, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ….So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10, 12).  We too will have to answer for what we did or failed to do.

In trying to restore the unfaithful we should actively “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  In our service to the Lord we should not be like the church at Laodicea to whom the Lord said, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

God’s word tells us, “Brethern, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).  When this happens, that unfaithful brother or sister in Christ can now go to Heaven and not Hell.  And Jesus tells us, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Let’s look around and see who is missing from our number, who have become unfaithful and visit with them to encourage them to be faithful so they can go to Heaven and not Hell.  The Lord will be very pleased if we do this.