September 28, 2014

Friends of God – Gary Henry

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15).

THE MAGNITUDE OF GOD’S GRACE IS SEEN NOWHERE MORE CLEARLY THAN IN HIS DESIRE FOR US TO BE HIS FRIENDS. We, of course, may reject the terms of His friendship. And when we refuse to remain within His purpose for us, we put ourselves in a place where our Friend’s goodwill can do us no ultimate good. “You are My friends,” Jesus said, “if you do whatever I command you.” A choice must be made between the world’s friendship and God’s (James 4:4), and the statement in John 1:11 is a sad one: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Yet as long as life lasts, God is still inviting us to be His friends. No one has ever rejected God without breaking the heart of a Father who wishes to show us His love. We are staggered by this love when we hear Jesus say, even to Judas who led the mob when they came to arrest Him, “Friend, why have you come?” (Matthew 26:50).

So God’s desire to be friends with us is a truly amazing fact. But we should respond to this fact with more than mere amazement. We should seek God in a way that shows our gratitude for His offer, and our seeking should be characterized by the same faithfulness and obedience that God saw in His old friend Abraham. “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ AND HE WAS CALLED THE FRIEND OF GOD” (James 2:22-23). All these many years later, friendship with God must work the same way in our own lives. To be His friends, through His Son Jesus Christ, is no passive or slothful thing. It is the active enjoyment of all the thoughts and words and deeds that flow back and forth between those whose love is strong enough to govern their character and their conduct. It is in His gentle friendship that our Greatest Friend is always asking, “I GAVE MY LIFE FOR THEE, WHAT HAST THOU GIV’N FOR ME?” (Frances R. Havergal).

 

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September 21, 2014

Spiritual Math Quiz – Philip C. Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

This quiz has only one problem to solve:

Bible + ______________   = Christian.

Since most people prefer “multiple choice” to “fill in the blank” questions, here are some possible answers: A) Creed; B) Grace; C) Faith; or, D) Obedience. Please take a moment to think about your answer before reading further.

A) Creeds are man-authored documents meant as statements of faith that wind up dividing potential bible-believers along denominational lines. For instance, if one who seeks to adhere to the Bible plus the Catechism, he becomes a Catholic. Likewise, if he takes the Bible plus the Manual, he becomes a Baptist; and if he takes the Bible but adds the Discipline, he winds up a Methodist, etc.   But, and this is vitally important, the Bible alone will not make one a member of a denomination- it takes the Bible plus devotion to a man-authored creed to make a denominational member, cf. Matthew 15:1-9.

B) Grace. The grace of God (somewhat simplistically, but adequate for our purposes here, defined as “unmerited favor/good will”) is absolutely essential to becoming a Christian. But note Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,”.   Are “all men” saved? If the Bible plus God’s grace is all that it takes to become a Christian, then the answer would have to be “yes.” But notice that the sentence in Titus 2:11 regarding “the grace of God” continued in the following verses, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age…” The grace of God that brought salvation did so in the form of instructions (and the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, v.14)! Instructions are only beneficial if they are followed. So, the Bible plus God’s grace alone does not a Christian make. If the Bible- given by inspiration to man, plus grace- given by God to man, equals salvation as a Christian, then man has no input or participation in his own salvation. But this “God only” salvation completely contradicts what Jesus had to say about the matter in Matthew 25:31-46!

C) Faith. The faith of man is absolutely essential to becoming a Christian. Not only is it the foundation of our conviction and hope, Hebrews 11:1, and “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 seek Him,” Hebrews 11:6. However, this is very different from “faith only” salvation. The only place in the N.T. that the words “faith” and “only” appear together is James 2:24 (KJV) “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” In fact, Jesus said that even faith was itself a work, John 6:28-29. Therefore, it is impossible for salvation to be by faith alone with no mixture of works whatsoever because faith is itself a work. “Faith only” no more equals salvation than did “God only” salvation. The Bible plus faith is where one begins to become a Christian, but is surely not all there is to the matter.

D) Obedience. Finally, here is the correct answer. How so? Man’s obedience does not nullify God’s grace, because as we saw from Titus 2:11-12, the grace of God brought salvation to man in the form of instructions, and instructions are only beneficial when Neither does man’s obedience negate faith, for as we saw from Hebrews 11:6, in order for man’s faith to be pleasing to God, and thus be rewarded by Him, it must lead him to seek God. How does man by faith seek God? Listen closely to Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:21, “Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven.”

So, the Bible (God’s instructions by grace) + Obedience (man’s faith in action) = Christian (those saved by Christ).   In some ways, this is a simple restatement of 1John 2:3, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

 

 

September 14, 2014

Go Make Disciples – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This Great Commission is central to Christians all over the world ever since it was issued by the Lord Jesus just prior to His ascension back to heaven after “He had by Himself purged our sins” and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Christians should know that this is fundamental to their responsibility to serve the One who is Head of the church (see Ephesians 1:22).

“Make disciples” is the translator’s choice for the Greek verb matheteuo, which is simply the verb form of the noun mathetes, “disciple.” Together, the words for disciple and its companion term manthano, “to learn,” are used nearly 300 times in the New Testament. Hence, the obvious application for the commission to “make disciples” is to “make learners” of those who would embrace the person and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are actually three key action verbs in this commission. They were commanded to “make disciples”, to “baptize” and to “teach.”

Basic Requirements for Disciples of Jesus

Although one could easily make the case that the entire Bible holds the requirements for the disciples of the Lord Jesus, there are several key passages that provide summaries of the responsibilities of those who claim to be disciple-learner-followers of the Creator.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you are you truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31).

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35.

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:8).

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).

Simply put—stay in the Word because it has great power in it (Colossians 3:16), demonstrate godly love especially for the brethren (I John 4:11-12), produce godly fruit in your life (Ephesians 5:8-9); and love the Lord Jesus more than anything in this world (Mark 12:30-33). Being a disciple of the Lord Jesus is much more than merely being “saved.”

Thinking Like a Disciple of Jesus

The apostle Paul wrote a large portion of the New Testament. Many of his letters were written to specific churches and addressed various aspects of living as a disciple of the Lord Jesus. The letter to the church at Philippi was especially poignant and personal since Paul had been instrumental in starting that church, and he had developed a lasting friendship and fellowship with many of those folks. He loved them. As Paul wrapped up that letter, he summarized most of the instructions with a concise command to “think” on the things that they had “learned” (the disciple’s responsibility), “received” (taken to yourself), “heard” (paid attention to), and “seen in me” (watched me)—we are to “do” (practice) them!

Notice that disciples are supposed to think about the things that will enable them to do what they have learned from an “older” brother or sister:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Obviously, being a disciple of the Lord Jesus is a lifelong and seriously conscious activity of paying attention to the truth of God’s Word, submitting to those who are responsible for teaching us about that Word, and conducting our lives so that we are continually participating in the work of the Kingdom.

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris III

 

 

September 7, 2014

What God Has NOT Given Us

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:46 am by sranderson0103

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7)

We talk a lot about what God has given us in Christ, but we don’t think as much about what God has not given us.

We might wonder what the point would be since God hasn’t given it. So we don’t have it; so what? However, the point is that we are to accept, embrace, and live what God has given—so the converse is also true; we are not to accept, embrace, and live what God has not given!

In the context of II Timothy 1:7, Paul is reminding Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (1:6). “Be all you can be” and “Serve God with your all” is what he’s writing.

What could stifle that? Fear!

God Has NOT Given Us A Spirit of Fear

Yassar Arafat was a leader of several Islamic nationalist groups which influenced Arab countries from the 1960s to about 2000. He was accused of masterminding Middle East violence and terrorism. A man tells of meeting Arafat and talking about Jesus. He was surrounded by heavily armed men at an undisclosed location. He said he didn’t know if he would live or die. Some present tried to stop him, yet he continued. Arafat silenced those who interrupted. Arafat was kind and appreciative and continued contact afterward. When asked about being scared, the man said he wasn’t afraid. He said, “If I died, what better way to go to the Lord?”

What would fear have done to the above story? Sometimes what we call “political correctness,” “tact,” and “taking it slowly” is really just fear on our part.

In order to “stir up the gift of God which is in you,” we are going to have to stop being afraid. Fear causes reluctance. It causes us to hide our lights.

Our spirit is the thinking, reasoning, choosing part of us. It’s that part of us that makes us what we are: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). That inner part of us is not afraid because God has re-created our spirit to not contain fear—fear is contrary to its nature. God has not simply emptied our spirit of fear, He has replaced it with a spirit that doesn’t contain fear. He has crowded fear out by giving us a spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).

God HAS Given Us…

Power — We aren’t afraid like other people because God has given us not a spirit of fear but a spirit “of power.” Thayer’s lexicon tells us that this word has the idea of “strength, ability, power”; and then he says, “power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature.” When we plug this into II Timothy 1:7, we see that the power to overcome fear doesn’t reside in our own abilities. We don’t fear because God changes our inner person and the inner person He creates in us is not by nature fearful. It is by nature strong, able, and powerful! Do we open ourselves up enough in faith for God to change us at this level? What, that God asks of us, can we not do if our spirit is 100% of God and for God?

Love — It’s easy to welcome the spirit of love God gives us, but we may fail to recognize how it removes fear and motivates action. Having a spirit of love means more than not hating. It moves us to do positive acts of love. We love God and others because who we are has changed and there is now no place for hatred in us. When our spirit is given us of God and is “of love,” our thoughts and actions will follow!

A Sound Mind — Disciples of Christ aren’t crazy. We haven’t abandoned reason. We are clear thinking and self-controlled. We don’t live in fear, not because we avoid all fearful situations, but because we remain clearheaded even in intense situations; and we know something that fearful-spirited people don’t know. We know that we don’t live for this life. We know our hope is based on infallible truth and the guaranteed promises of God. Nothing can shake our spirit to divert attention from the Author of our faith or separate us from His love. What fear could intimidate a spirit like this?