February 28, 2016

Defending and Confirming the Gospel – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

“…I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.” (Philippians 1:7)

I’ve just returned from an effort in Oklahoma, defending the truth from attacks against our Creator, promoted as propaganda in most of our colleges and universities. That’s nothing like being in prison, as Paul was, but I can relate to his thoughts toward the Philippians as I anticipate being with my brethren in Hot Springs tomorrow.

Paul was writing this letter in chains because he had been defending and confirming the gospel. Later in this chapter he says this was his job. “…I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:16). It’s our job, too. The same word is used by Peter when he exhorts Christians, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you,…” (I Peter 3:15).

The term “gospel” is used comprehensively. It involves all the essential truths associated with and founded on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-3). It is used this way when Paul rebuked the Jews’ misunderstanding of the role of circumcision. He claimed this was a gospel issue and “did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” (Galatians 2:5). Paul taught that immorality, including homosexuality, is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel,” (I Timothy 1:10-11).

Therefore, “defending the gospel” is defending revealed truth comprehensively related to Christianity, which is founded on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. When we fail to do so, we fail to do our job.

Martin Luther, who was viciously attacked for defending truths distorted by the Catholic Church, pointedly emphasized the Christian’s responsibility when he said…

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God, except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not professing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.”

Paul was also imprisoned for “confirming” the gospel. The word is translated from a word that means…

“…process of establishing or confirming something, confirmation, validationconfirmation, establishment of the gospel Phil 1:7;” (BDAG)

Expositors Bible Commentary says, “Defending and confirming the gospel” could be understood as negative and positive aspects of Paul’s preaching ministry—i.e., defending the gospel from attacks and proclaiming its message with proofs.”

Christianity is foolishly misunderstood by both those who oppose and many who practice Christianity, when they consider it irrational. Paul says the gospel is that which can and must be defended and proved. This is not merely a job for certain theological or scientific specialists, however. Paul said the Philippians were “partakers” of this grace (literally “convinced co-participants”). Real “partakers” do not just go along for the ride but are firmly committed and fully comprehending supporters.

Consider the comments on this point in the Pillar New Testament Commentary. “Paul’s reference to the defense and confirmation of the gospel could be interpreted as a way of describing his entire vocation: his whole life was dedicated to the defense of the gospel. … While he was in chains, defending and confirming the gospel, they shared with him. So Paul commends them in the final phrase of this sentence: all of you share in God’s grace with me. This phrase gives the reason for Paul’s joyful gratitude and heartfelt affection for them: because they all shared with him.”

The brethren at Hot Springs support my efforts to defend and confirm the gospel. I deeply appreciate it. I believe God does as well.

“For they went out for the sake of the Name…Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” (III John 7-8)

 

 

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February 21, 2016

You Can’t Take It With You – Philip C. Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

We’ve likely all heard statements to the effect that “Hearses don’t have trailers.”  The basic idea, that you can’t take it with you when you die, is a scriptural one.  The ecclesiastical writer put it this way, “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came.  He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand,” Ecclesiastes 5:15.   While the concept and quotes seem to primarily refer to “material possessions,” there are a few other things that we can’t take with us when we die- especially if the intended destination of our after death journey is heaven.

Sin-filled lives.  In this life we all sin and fall short of God’s glory and expectations, Romans 1 –  3; 3:21-23.  But it is also true that if heaven is our goal, these sinful habitudes must be left behind.  We cannot be content to “continue in sin,” Romans 6:1ff.  We must be willing to be transformed and renewed to a new life of obedience to Christ rather than continuing in conformation to and with the world, Romans 12:1-2.   Yes, Jesus will forgive us and pardon our sins, if we will repent and follow Him in righteousness.  You can’t take a sin-filled life with you to heaven!   “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure,” 1John 3:4.

“Minor” sins.  Unfortunately, we often classify sins like this: Mine are “minor,” but yours are “major”  (kind of the opposite of how we classify surgeries).  So, failures to love as we ought, and forgive as we ought, are viewed as only “minor” offenses.  By comparison to these sins of omission, there are also other sins of commission that we also consider “minor”- such as gossip, slander, course jesting, or being factious or dissentious, cf. Ephesians 4:29-32; 5:4; Romans 16:17.  Make no mistake about these “minor” sins.  The Scriptures are clear regarding these types of sins regardless of how we may classify them- that these sins can’t be taken with us to heaven any more than immorality, impurity, covetousness, or idolatry, Ephesians 5:5.

Time.  Virtually everything we do here in this life, and even our existence here, is bound by time.  This makes it somewhat difficult for us to even imagine a timeless eternal existence in heaven.  But nonetheless, “time” will be “no more” in heaven.  Revelation 21:25 and 22:5 explain that there will be no night there, but one continuous day in which the glory of God will be the light forever.  “Time” will, therefore, be left behind.
Loved Ones.  As much as we love our families, and as strong as our desires are for them to spend eternity in heaven, we can’t take them to heaven with us. We certainly can and should do all that is within our power to influence them to want to go, and to teach them the gospel that enables it, but they must make that decision and pursue the course themselves.  No one will be in heaven because of your desire alone.  This is true for everyone- including God.  Though He “desires all men to be saved,” such is, by His decree, dependent upon them and their willingness to “come to the knowledge of the truth” and its obligations, 1Timorthy 2:4.  In this regard, “each will bear his own load,” Galatians 6:5.

Tears.  I’ve often been asked how there can be “no tears” in heaven when one recognizes the absence of friends and loved ones there (cf. Revelation 21:4).  This is one of many things about heaven that I confess ignorance.  My best guess is that in heaven, with mortality and time stripped away, and in the presence of the glory of God and the Lamb, we will then see things from the divine perspective.  But tears, and the things that cause them, will not be taken with us to heaven.  Note from the same verse, “there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain: the first things have passed away.”  The things that cause tears and mourning are part of this life that we simply cannot take with us.  For while they are certainly part of the corruption, groaning, and futility of this life, they are not part of heaven!

Jesus Christ came to this earth and lived and died as a man, but was resurrected to eternal life proving Him to be the Son of God, Romans 1:4.  He has gone to prepare a place for those who are willing to hear, learn, and follow Him in obedience, John 6:44; 14:2-3.  But of the things of “this life,” it is indeed true that “you can’t take it with you” there!

February 14, 2016

Intolerance by the Super-Intolerant – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Wikipedia describes G. K. Chesterton as “…English writer, lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist.” He’s not always right but is almost always interesting and sometimes absolutely profound. My favorite quotation is following:

“The One value that you have left when you have lost all your principles is tolerance.”

There are many of these unprincipled people among us who take great pride in their “tolerance,” but are in truth extremely intolerant.
The slogan of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” Isn’t that nice? However, last month the UMC officials demonstrated what appears to be closed-minded intolerance by banning the Discovery Institute, from sponsoring an information table at the denomination’s upcoming General Conference planned for May of this year. Intelligent design is the idea that life and the universe show evidence of being the result of purposeful design rather than unguided processes. The UMC is very tolerant (supportive) of Southern Methodist University professors who dogmatically teach Evolution. I can personally testify that several of these supported professors are viciously opposed to the presentation of scientific evidence that supports Creation.

My brief experience at Cambridge exposed me to the pride the English take in their open-mindedness. It is strictly a surface phenomenon. I was amused by the recent blatantly intolerant reaction to the appointment of a new commentator on the BBC’s daily morning news programme, when it was learned that he was of all things, a creationist. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, said, “Dan Walker’s creationism is an affront to reason, science and logic. The BBC has done nothing to explain how someone who believes in the literal truth of Genesis can present the news accurately. …And while I have no doubt that Dan Walker is, in every other aspect, entirely qualified for his role as a presenter of the BBC’s morning news show, his appearance on BBC One and BBC News as the creationist face of the Corporation to millions is problematic. …Indeed, creationism is so silly that the government has de-funded schools which teach it. They are not eligible for taxpayer support, because they are promulgating an unscientific myth. …To believe that God literally created the earth in six days is to deny basic elements of logic. It may not be as offensive or insensitive as holocaust denial, but it is as logically defensible. The BBC’s mission to inform, educate, and entertain requires it to ensure that it handles news with impartiality, objectivity, and reason.”

The newspaper’s amazing reaction is the direct result of years of the censoring of evidence against evolution from public education systems, both in the US and England. The reporter appears genuinely convinced that such evidence does not exist. After all, he is well educated and he never heard of such. We contribute to this attitude when we sit with duct tape firmly affixed over our mouths and do nothing about it.

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.” (Philippians 1:27-28)

February 7, 2016

When Church Is Boring – Frank Himmel

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

What do you do when you find that church is boring? It’s time for a change! Now the question is, change what?
Many folks think the answer is to change the church. I just read an article about a new church created for men only, men who find church boring. Discarding more traditional environments, they meet in a gymnasium one Saturday evening a month. A rock band provides entertainment.  The preacher speaks in front of the scoreboard, with the clock running. He guarantees to have them out in one hour! This sort of innovation is not unusual. Many religious leaders hail it as a positive development, a way to reach out to those who otherwise would have no interest in church.
Some might not go that far, yet they still insist on change. Contemporary music, drama, and short sermons that are little more than pep talks are the order of the day. Clapping and cheering have replaced old fashioned amens. Celebration and praise are the buzzwords, with the world’s calendar dictating the subject celebrated.
Malachi lived at a time when people found “church” boring. Speaking of Israel’s worship, God said through the Prophet,“You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it” (Mal. 1: 13).

God proposed two changes to these who turned up their noses at His worship. One was to just stay home. “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you” (v. 10). The better solution, the change He preferred, was to repent.  “‘If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘then I will send the curse upon you’” (2:2). Notice what God did not approve: changing the structure or activities of worship to accommodate individual tastes.
The preacher can work to make his sermons more interesting, the song leader can try to select more meaningful hymns, and the one who leads in prayer can give more thought to what he says. However, when worship as God directed is boring, the main change that is needed is in the heart of the worshiper.