December 29, 2013

It’s a Choice – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you:

continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9 KJV)

Jesus said these words when he spoke to his disciples, and they ring true for us even today. But recognize that these words involve a choice. They could have chosen not to continue in His love. Judas in his betrayal of Jesus did not. (Matthew 26:47-49)  Peter did not when he chose to deny Jesus three times. (Matthew 26:69-75) We can continue in His love or we can choose not to do so. But, if we choose to continue in His love, we understand from the scriptures that nothing can separate us from the love God and Christ Jesus his son.

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,

nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,

nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,

shall be able to separate us

from the love of God,

which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

The scriptures further strengthen our recognition that it is our choice to continue in His love.

“If ye keep my commandments,

ye shall abide in my love;

even as I have kept my Father’s commandments,

and abide in his love.”  (John 15:10)

The word “if” implies that we have a choice to make. We can keep his commandments or choose not to. But, Jesus is not asking us to do something that He would not and did not do.

“And being found in fashion as a man,

he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,

even the death of the cross.”

Philippians 2:8 (KJV)

Jesus goes on to explain what benefit there is in remaining in His love:

“These things have I spoken unto you,

that my joy might remain in you,

and that your joy might be full.”

(John 15:11)

At one time Jesus reminded the Pharisees to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind; and to love their neighbor as themselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) Later, speaking to his disciples He even heightens this command to love by saying to them in John 15:10-14:

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another,

as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this,

that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Let us all strive to keep his commandments and abide in his love forever and ever.—Amen



December 15, 2013

Penalty of Unbelief – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 5)

This is the first of many examples Jude provides of those who refused to respond to the powerful evidence of God’s love. God’s chosen people witnessed awesome miracles, and a several very public, stunning judgments, before the twelve spies were sent out to investigate God’s Promised Land that “flowed with milk and honey.”

The Passover was a marvelous and fearful event. God showed His powerful, invincible hand both in salvation of those who humbly obeyed and in His swift, unflinching judgment on those who rebelliously refused.

Even from a great distance, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute, was impressed with the power God demonstrated in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Not only did God enrich the nation in one day, but demonstrated His awesome power at the parting of the Red Sea and the sudden destruction of the fearsome army of Pharaoh. Everyone in Israel experienced this power firsthand.

They smelled the spray, they felt the raging power as they marched between the pillars of the sea.

On the way to Mount Sinai, the bitter water of Marah was made sweet for them to drink even after they complained—bitterly. The daily miracle of the manna was given to feed the nation every step of the way. Their life threatening thirst was satisfied by water provided out of the rock. God’s grace and mercy followed everywhere they went.

The nation arrived at the holy mountain and they stood trembling amidst terrifying quaking, thunder and lightening as their God spoke to them, giving His commandments. Just days later, Israel rebelled with the celebration of the golden calf. Then they saw the swift judgment of God. They helped bury thousands of their kinsmen that died as a result.

Their feeble faith revived while giving for and building the physical tabernacle, but the nation had not learned their lesson. Demonstration after demonstration of God’s power was quickly forgotten. Moses sent out the 12 men to “spy out the land.” When the nation refused to trust God, He condemned everyone 20 and older to die in the wilderness, except for faithful Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:29-30). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Of course, when the Holy Spirit says God “destroyed those who did not believe,” He is not telling us that after all these demonstrations, all Israel had become atheists. Rather, we see the comprehensive use of the word, “believe.” When he said they did not believe, he was talking about their disobedience. Notice the parallel passages that illustrate this broader sense of the word.

“So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:19)

“… those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of  disobedience,” (Hebrews 4:6).

When Jude says that God “destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 5), he was using the term in the same way Jesus used it when he said,

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Yes, we have to assent to the fact that Jesus was the resurrected Christ, but we must also be obedient. While our deeds are worthless, in terms of earning our salvation, they are necessary. Remember, God “destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 5)

December 8, 2013

I Believe The Bible – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

A good portion of my youth was spent in North Alabama, at a time and place where most people believed the Bible. My father was a gospel preacher. Growing up in this home was a privilege that afforded me innumerable blessings.

I have often reflected on the benefit of attending dozens of religious debates. I have vivid memories of a fascinating debate when I was 12 years old. It resulted in over 100 souls baptized into Christ. Unfortunately, times have changed and this doesn’t happen much any more.

The last public, religious debate I attended was in 2007 in Dallas, Texas, initiated by a North Alabama preacher, brother Pat Donahue of Harvest, Alabama. He debated Mr. Steve Morrison of Fellowship Dallas Baptist Church on the subject, “Is Water Baptism Necessary To Salvation.” Brother Donahue did a good job, demonstrating from a host of passages that the Scriptures clearly teach that water baptism is “for the remission of sins,” as we read in Acts 2:38.

We appreciate the fact that Mr. Morrison was willing to defend what he believes publically. Most seem unwilling to do this today, though the Bible makes it clear that this kind of activity was typical in New Testament times.

“So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.” (Acts17:17)

“And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)

“…I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3)

Mr. Morrison was willing to follow these examples and we commend him for that but we wonder about his followers. With very few exceptions, they didn’t show. The West Allen church (Allen Texas), which graciously provided the auditorium, attended well. Many from the Melrose congregation, where I preached, were there. Mr. Morrison is from Dallas and is associated with a large congregation but they did not attend.

There are a number of possible explanations for the rather dramatic difference in attendance of the two different groups. We cannot know for sure, but I suspect that at least a major factor in the difference is reflected in the results of polls that reveal what the people in America think about the Bible. They say they believe the Bible is God’s Word but…you really don’t have to pay close attention to what it says “word for word.”

A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll asked about the following statement: “Creationism — that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” 66% said this was either  “definitely true” or “probably true.” That’s encouraging.

Another Gallup Poll indicated that 49% in America believed the Bible was the “inspired Word of God.” But when the same people were asked if they believed “the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word,” only 28% agreed.

When these attitudes are projected on the issue discussed in this debate, perhaps we can see at least one reason one group didn’t show. Let me paraphrase. “After all we all believe in Christ and the Bible. We all worship and try to please God. So, why do we have to be concerned about just what the Bible says. That’s just unimportant.”  Most were just not interested in what the Bible actually says about the proposition, “The Bible teaches that a person must be baptized (immersed in water as a believer) to be saved, that is, to become a Christian.” The particulars of the Bible just really didn’t matter.

Years ago attitudes were different. Large auditoriums overflowed and 100’s were baptized as a result of Bible debates. Today it doesn’t appear to matter. Maybe we were debating the wrong subject in this debate. Perhaps we should have been defending the proposition, “What the Bible actually says, word for word, will determine your eternal destiny.” Affirmed: Don R. Patton



December 1, 2013

A Devine Lamentation – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice,…You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; …speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’

Considering the awesome display of God’s power, we understand the appropriate, commendable response of the children of Israel. But, God knew these people and His response was a lamentation.

 “…and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!’” (Deut. 5:22-29)

Israel’s correct reaction made God sad. He knew Israel would not keep her promise, that she would in fact repudiate the covenant through idolatry and immorality and provoke His wrath and punishment.

God’s statement also demonstrates what He really, deeply desired for His people and for all men. If they are lost, they are lost because of their own free choice, because of their bad decisions, not because God willed their damnation. The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:3-4).

Furthermore, God’s statement demonstrates the anguished love of a parent who profoundly loves His child but is sorrowfully disappointed. Paul understood and described Him as “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all,” (Romans 8:32). God yearns over lost humanity with the tender care and concern of a heartbroken father over the profligate ways of a prodigal son.

In Jehovah’s lamentation, there is a divine description of true religion. The core of religion is the human heart: “O that there were such a heart in them…” True religion is religion of the heart. It cannot be inherited, practiced by proxy, nor expressed by mere outward observance of ritualistic forms. It must emanate from the heart, hence must engage the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It is at once intelligent, sincere, and purposeful.

True religion is motivated by the fear of God: “That they would fear me.” The fear of God is not the craven fear of a condemned criminal, but a deep-seated respect and reverence for God as our maker, our ruler, our judge, and our savior. Our religion must spring from reverence for Him, His laws, and His institutions. Conversely, every human innovation that has plagued the people of God from the beginning has been born of a lack of proper reverence and respect for Him. The propagator may make loud protestations of sincerity, love and devotion as the basis for his invention, but at its root, consciously or unconsciously, there is a lack of reverence for Jehovah.

True religion will express itself in the keeping of God’s commandments: “That they keep all my commandments, always.” This suggests that one cannot separate religion from revelation. There is no way man can know the will of God apart from revelation. Man does not and cannot know the will of God intuitively. Jeremiah understood, “I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10: 23)  Paul expressed the same insight this way, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (I Corinthians 1:21)

God’s statement also demonstrates that neither preferences nor special situations change the application of His law. Divine grace provides for human imperfections, but not partiality. Imperfections result from man’s being “weak… through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), whereas partiality results from a willful rejection of God’s right to rule over us. God expects and has provided for our failures through the offering of his own Son, but he will not tolerate disregard for His law. To do so would be subversive of the majesty of His law and the vitality of His government.

The expression, “all my commandments,” precludes our partiality. The word, “always,” rejects the possibility of situational modification and application. It is, therefore, neither legalistic nor incompatible with true religion to demand a “thus says the Lord” for every act of work or worship.

Finally, the blessings of true religion are eternal. They are “forever!” Therefore, whether or not our religion is true religion is a matter of greatest concern to us. Do we have such a heart? “…that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”

Adapted from an article by James W. Adams