Love of Self

“Smile and say cheese!” the young lady says to herself.  She snaps the picture and promptly posts it to Facebook where it will join the dozens of others she has previously posted. Now, the entire world will be able to see and comment on how she is just the most beautiful young lady they have ever seen. The selfie is a disturbing trend for many reasons but at the top of the list has to be its relationship to the perilous times described by Paul in which he says people will be “lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3:2). As disturbing as this trend is I don’t see it as a new one among God’s people.  While smartphone cameras have certainly provided new opportunities for one to show their love of self, it has not led to a new problem in general. Consider the following examples:

A man writes a book; he has something to say and wants to share it with the world. He has information that everyone needs to read and in order to get it into the hands of the masses it must be marketed in just the right way. He asks himself, “What can I do in order to draw attention to the most important aspect of the book?” The answer finally hits him, “I’ll place a picture of myself on the front cover! What better to let the potential buyers know what the book is all about?”

A group of folks are sitting around after dinner one night telling stories of days gone by. Many stories are told but none of them compare to the adventures of one young man. In each round of stories he makes sure to go last so all can see that he has done more, been farther, ran faster, and jumped higher than anyone else could even dream of. He’s just sure that everyone is as interested in listening to his stories as he is in telling them.  After all, without the stories how could they ever come to love him as much as he loves himself?

A married couple sees that some other members of the church are being praised for their generosity and love of the brethren. They too would like to receive such praise so they devise a plan to draw some of this much coveted attention their way. They sell a piece of land and give part of the proceeds pretending that all had been given.  Surely now others will praise them for their wonderful example of charity. Much to their dismay we know how this story from Acts 5:1-10 ends. Instead of the praise of men they meet the wrath of God. Yes, lying is the sin pointed out in verse 4 but it’s easy to see that love of self was a motivating factor behind the lie.

The sad part is this, the first three stories could all end the same way. I realize not everyone who takes their own picture, has their picture on the cover of a book, or tells stories about themselves is motivated by a love of self. I also realize that if I find myself doing these things I need to really consider my motives as well as the impression I may be giving to others. Those found to be lovers of self will all face the wrath of God at some point unless they repent and become lovers of God.  May each of us take Paul’s warning seriously and instead of putting our self out there for all to admire we should be looking in the mirror and asking, “Who do you love?”

The Wisdom of The Proverbs

Solomon Quote“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:” – The opening verse of the book of Proverbs tells us a great deal about the book. Sure, it names the author of the proverbs, but in doing so it gives us much more.

In 1 Kings 3:4-15 and 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 we read that God visited Solomon in a dream and spoke to him saying, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kgs 3:5b) Of all he could have asked for Solomon requested wisdom from God – “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours.”(1 Kgs 3:9) The Lord granted Solomon’s request and said “I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.”(1 Kgs 3:12) Solomon was wiser than any other man because the wisdom he possessed was from God.

Yes, Solomon is named as the writer of the proverbs (at least most of them), but God is the author. As we read through the proverbs we are not just reading some wise sayings from a wise man; we are partaking of the wisdom of God passed down through His servant Solomon.  Lately it seems as if many have traded in the book of Proverbs for ecards and quotes from Facebook, Pinterest, and other popular social media sites. They are choosing the supposed wisdom of the world over the true wisdom of God. While some of those quotes have a biblical basis, many of them are simply wrong and if followed will lead people into sin and eternal condemnation.  Take for instance the following quote found on the internet: “If you can’t get someone out of your head, then maybe they’re supposed to be there.” It sounds pretty clever on the surface but compare it to what we find in Proverbs 16:2,3“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” The first quote may cause someone to continue in their lust or enter into a relationship they have no business being in.  The second quote will always lead us to God because it’s from God. Don’t ever mistake the proverbs as being just cute saying meant to entertain, and on the flip side, don’t confuse cute sayings with the wisdom of God which leads us in the ways of righteousness.

The Book of Proverbs is filled with practical advice, short illustrations, and simple truths to help guide us in our walk with God. In it we read of the source of righteousness: “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.”(2:6-9) We also find many blessings that may come as a result of living a righteous life: “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked. The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.”(10:6-7) Through the Book of Proverbs we have the wonderful blessing of being able to approach God, ask our questions, and receive clear, understandable answers. Do you have a question about God Himself, His wisdom, marriage, children, friends, business, economics, entertainment, or citizenship? Answers to all these and more can be found in the Book of Proverbs. Good, solid answers that we can have faith in; answers from the Lord Himself.

Many times when trying to teach others from the proverbs we are met with the objection, “Yes, I know that’s what it says, but these are just general truths and cannot be applied to every situation.” Are there exceptions to the truths revealed in the book of Proverbs? Yes.  Those who fear the Lord may die at any early age (10:27). The righteous may go hungry while the wicked has plenty (13:25). And there are those who love the finer things in life who are rich with this worlds goods (21:17). But do these exceptions nullify the truths given? Absolutely not!  Those who fear the Lord and pursue righteousness will be blessed by God and the wicked will ultimately perish: “The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” (10:24-25)

Again, yes there are exceptions to the things stated in the Book of Proverbs, but they are just that, exceptions. The principles set forth in the proverbs will prove true over and over again. They are God’s principles, His proverbs, His wisdom; handed down through his servant Solomon and revealed to us through His inspired word. Let us read them, implement them, and share them with others.

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man discretion – A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (1:2-7)

Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

What Was the Issue?

by Bill Hall

I don’t know how to thank you enough for the opportunity to come and deliver these lessons on these Sunday afternoons.  It has been a very challenging experience for me, and I hope the lessons have been challenging to you.  To see the number of people who have come each Sunday afternoon to visit with us, to listen to these lessons, and to study them and consider them has been an encouragement to me.  Thank you so much for this opportunity.

We are on our third of these lessons.  Two weeks ago we talked about the question of the orphan’s home, what was the issue?  And then last Sunday, the sponsoring church.  We included in that study questions concerning the Herald of Truth and the more recent “One Nation Under God” campaign.  What was the issue?

This one is a little different in some ways from the other two in that this one has gained acceptance for the most part in my own lifetime and in my own memory.  There were church-supported orphan’s homes when I was born.  There weren’t many of them, but there were a few.  There were some sponsoring church arrangements when I was born.  They occurred on a rather small scale, but they existed then.  But the general acceptance of dining areas and kitchens in the buildings owned by churches of Christ has come, not only within my lifetime, but within my memory.

In 1947, M. Norvel Young, on the lectureship in Abilene, encouraged churches to build new buildings, to build them in good locations, and to include in their buildings, among many other things, a large fellowship room and cooking facilities that would be near this large fellowship room.  He followed that up with some articles in some of the papers that were circulated, lending his encouragement to the idea of building fellowship halls and kitchens.  Now, that didn’t catch on very well.  I remember when I was in high school, one of the churches in the city where we lived built an addition on their building, and indeed, they put in it a place for eating.  But they felt a little pressure about this and defensively said, “We’re also going to have a Bible class in this room.” That’s the way they excused themselves.  But they felt pressure in doing that.  And I just couldn’t believe that a church of Christ would do that.

In 1954, I went to school in Montgomery.  I attended meetings in churches all around Montgomery.  To my knowledge, there was not a church in Montgomery in 1954 that had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its building.  Now, such might have existed, but I didn’t know it if it did.  For a number of years while I was in college and after I graduated from college, I would indiscriminately either lead singing in meetings or preach in meetings for churches that supported institutions.  I was not aware of it if any of these churches had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its building.  Few churches had them in those days.  But toward the end of the ’60s and on into the ’70s, churches that planned new buildings would include a fellowship room and kitchen in their plans.  It became an accepted practice.  But that is something relatively new among churches of Christ, and I think many people are not aware of that.

Now we raise the question, what was the issue?  On what basis did many object to this practice?

What Was Not The Issue?

Let’s first of all ask the question: What was not the issue?  The issue never was whether one could eat something in a building owned by the church.  There were people who said, “Why, if these people are right, a mother couldn’t even give her baby a bottle of milk in the building.”  Well, of course we never said anything like that.  That was never the issue.

Second, the issue was not whether or not the building is sacred.  Now, I’m not sure how we are using that word “sacred”.  The building is certainly built to be used for spiritual purposes.  If it is not to be used for spiritual purposes, then it has no right to exist in the first place.  But at the same time, if we’re talking about the brick and mortar, the roof, the carpet, and other materials that go into the building – No, they are not sacred.  That was never the issue.

Let me say again, that when differences arise, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s over these things that we’ve been talking about, or over divorce and remarriage, or whatever, one of our problems is we don’t listen to one another.  We either already have our minds made up, or we are thinking about what we are going to say next, or how we’re going to answer this person, that we really don’t listen.  And consequently, a lot of times, we try to answer an argument before we even know the argument.  We try to answer an issue before we even know what the issue is.  And we make a very sad mistake.  I may have been guilty of that.  Any of us may have been.  But we need to listen to one another.

What Was The Issue?

What was the issue?  Well, here basically is what the issue was:  Is there New Testament authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work?  There’s the issue.  Let’s read it again.  Is there New Testament authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work?  Now there’s the issue.

I want to emphasize what we have emphasized throughout this series of lessons: Is there New Testament authority?  Is there authority for that institutional board that stands between the churches and their work with the institutional board taking the oversight of the work for the churches?  That was our question two weeks ago.  Is there authority for one eldership to take the oversight of the work of a thousand churches?  That was our question last week.  We keep coming to the question of authority.

We’ve quoted all these Sundays II Timothy 3:16 and 17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If it is a good work, you’re going to find the authority in the Scriptures.  If you cannot find the authority in the Scriptures, it’s not a good work no matter how good it looks to us.

Consider Colossians 3:17, which we have just sung: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  But you can’t do anything in someone’s name unless that person has authorized it.  II John, verse 9: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”  Is it in the doctrine of Christ?  Can we do it in the name of Jesus?  Is it authorized by the Scriptures?  Those are the questions that we must constantly ask.

I have before me a list of activities that brother Franklin T. Puckett gave in the Arlington meeting concerning what a local church, a local congregation, ought to do.  And I’ve just borrowed that.  I have looked over it and agree with it, and I don’t know of anything else myself that a local church is to do.  Let me just give you some of the things that a local church is authorized to do.

He says, first of all, to have an assembly of the saints.  And he gives us a Scripture, Hebrews 10:24and 25.  I might add Acts 20:7.  The local church is to provide an assembly for the saints.  Now, in keeping with that, the Pepper Road church has a comfortable and commodious building.  Where is the authority for this in which we’re sitting right here today?  Well, it is in the fact that the church is to arrange for assemblies of Christians.

Then he says, number two: In such an assembly, the saints are to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week; Acts 20:7I Corinthians 11:33.  All right, in keeping with that, the church here has provided a table, bread plates, a tray with glasses, and buys bread and fruit of the vine.  Why?  Because that’s one of the things that the church is to do.

Number three: They are to sing psalms unto the Lord and with spiritual songs teach and admonish one another; I Corinthians 14:23, Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16.  All right, in keeping with that, the church here has furnished song books.  Where’s the authority for the song books?  We answer: One of the things the church is to do is to arrange for singing.  They arrange for Tony to lead the singing.  Where’s the authority for that?  The church here is providing for singing.

Number four:  They are to pray together.

Number five:  They are to preach and attend to the teaching of God’s word; Acts 20:7I Corinthians 14:26.  In keeping with that, a pulpit is provided and an overhead projector as an aid for our teaching.  There is a board here and a public address system.  What’s that for?  To enable us to efficiently teach the word.  Over on this other side there are some classrooms with various types of equipment there to help in the teaching of the word.  Where is the authority for these classrooms?  It’s in the fact that the church is to provide for the teaching of the word, and so this church has furnished an auditorium that is comfortable and commodious and classrooms where the teaching of the word can take place.

Number six: They are to lay by in store on the first day of the week as they have been prospered to finance their collective responsibilities; I Corinthians 16:2.  I don’t see them, but somewhere around here I guarantee you there’s a hat or something that can be passed around to collect some money.  Where’s the authority?  It is the command to give of our means.

Number seven:  They are to support the preaching of the gospel.  I suspect you’ve got a treasury, and you not only support Bruce, you support men in other places.  I think I know some of them that you support.  Where’s the authority for that?  Well, that’s exactly what the church is to be doing.

Number eight:  They are to provide for the fulfillment of needs of certain destitute saints; Acts 4:34,35; II Corinthians, chapters 8, 9 — we went through all those two weeks ago.  And we made the point two weeks ago that in keeping with the care of destitute saints, the church, under the oversight of its elders — let me emphasize that — the church under the oversight of its elders, could buy a house, pay somebody to supervise, buy groceries.  Where would the authority for that be?  It is in the command to care for the destitute saints.  Now, they wouldn’t send it to a board of directors, who in turn would take the oversight, but under the oversight of the elders they could furnish such things.  Are you getting the point?  When we see what the Lord has authorized the church to do, then that gives us the authority for providing whatever is needful for the efficient carrying out of what God has told the church to do.

Now, if we could just find the Scripture where the church is to plan and provide materially for social activities, then, in this building, we need to provide a room for eating together with a kitchen nearby.  How did Norvel Young say that?  A large fellowship room with cooking facilities near this room in order to facilitate this particular activity.  But if the authority is not there for this activity, then the authority is not there for building the nice fellowship room and the kitchen to go with it.  There’s the problem.  So in order to have our kitchen, and in order to have the large fellowship room, what we’ve got to find is the authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work.  That’s what we’ve got to find.  The issue is simply this: Do we add a ninth activity to the eight we have just listed, the ninth being that the local church is to plan and provide materially for social activities?  If so, we have authority for kitchens and dining areas.  If not, there is no authority for them.

The Water Cooler

Well, somebody says, “Surely somebody came up with some arguments that would favor that.”  Yes, that’s right.  Now let me just say that, as far as I’m concerned, at least the first argument should never have been taken seriously.  But some tried to compare the fellowship halls and the kitchens with a water fountain.  Those of us who were living back at that time will remember an article, and it was circulated widely, on “Willie the Water Cooler”.  Does anybody remember “Willie the Water Cooler”?  It was a satire type of thing.  Willie the Water Cooler in this article was getting very concerned because Willie had learned that some of the people thought it was wrong to eat in the church building, and if some of the people thought it was wrong to eat in the church building, they might decide it was wrong to drink in the church building, and therefore Willie the Water Cooler might be moved out of the church building.  That was the argument they made.  They missed the point.

The point is not whether we can drink some water in the church building.  The point is: Can we plan and provide materially for social activities as a program of the local church’s work?  Lynn Headrick, my brother-in-law, who, of course, passed away a little over a year ago, made a very astute observation when he said, “When we find the church planning social activities around the water cooler, then we’ll take the water cooler out.”  Now that gets right to the issue.

May I make another point with you: Nothing is right (and let me make sure we say this right) — nothing is right because it is consistent with something we’re already doing.  A thing is right or wrong on the basis of whether it agrees with this book.  Do you know how churches get into apostasy?  They don’t go into apostasy in one giant leap.  They take just a little step, sometimes it’s only a half step, in the wrong direction.  And then the first thing you know, they get to thinking, “Well, I don’t see any difference in that and this.”  And so they take another step.  “And I don’t see anything different about this and this.” And they take that step.  “Well, what’s the difference in this and this?”  And the first thing you know, each thing they do, they justify on the basis of something they have already been doing.  That is not how you establish authority for anything.  Everything we do in the Lord’s work must be established on the basis of what the Scriptures teach, not on whether it’s consistent with something we’ve already been doing.  If the water cooler argument proves anything, maybe it proves that the water cooler ought to have gone out.  But I don’t think it is the issue.  That was not a serious argument.

Love Feasts

Now, there were at least two serious arguments that were made.

One had to do with the love feasts that the Bible talks about.  If you have your Bible, turn to II Peter, chapter 2.  You remember that the book of II Peter is written to a great degree to combat false teaching that had arisen, and apparently these false teachers were just as corrupt as men could have possibly been.  And in describing them, Peter says, verse 13 of II Peter 2, they “will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.  They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you.”  While they feast with you.  Now turn to the book of Jude.  The book of Jude is almost a repeat of II Peter 2.  Look at verse 12.  In Jude verse 12, the writer says, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.”  Now, some looked at that and said, “Now, here are love feasts that people had back in the first century, and that’s basically what we have in our fellowship halls, so here is the authority for it — it is in the love feasts.”

In the first place, I don’t know that anybody knows what these love feasts were.  It’s interesting to me that Albert Barnes just says it’s the Lord’s Supper.  And he makes his argument as to why this just has reference to the Lord’s Supper.  I don’t know that that’s correct.  Others have said that they were dinners that wealthier people in the church gave for the sake of the poorer people in order to show their love for those who were poorer in this world’s goods.  That may be correct.  I don’t know what these love feasts were.  The one thing I know is, there is nothing in II Peter 2 or Jude that suggests that they were activities planned by the church.  And I seriously question that they were the same thing that’s taking place in the typical fellowship halls and kitchens of our day.  But that is one of the arguments that was made.  One thing is certain: We do not have enough information concerning love feasts for them to serve as authority for kitchens and dining rooms in our buildings.

Fellowship

Probably the argument that most of us who are sitting here are wondering about is simply: “What about fellowship?”  Doesn’t the Bible teach that the church is to have fellowship?  Indeed!

The Bible does teach that the church is to have fellowship.  But what a lot of people have overlooked is the fact that the word “fellowship” in the Scriptures has to do with spiritual activities.  I have before me a photocopy out of a book that I have which contains every Scripture that uses the Greek word for fellowship, koinonia.  An interesting thing about this is: not one time does it have reference to social fellowship.  Here really we’re getting to the basics: fellowship.  What does the word fellowship mean?  Sharing, communion, participation in, joining together.  The very definition itself suggests that we have to decide what we’re “joining in”, what we’re “sharing”.

One interesting thing is the word “fellowship” in the Scriptures — that is, the Greek word — is used for a business partnership.  Turn to Luke, chapter 5.  Let me show you this usage.  Do you remember the time that Jesus told Simon to launch out into the deep, and let out the nets for a catch — “a draught”, I believe the King James version says — and they caught so many fish that their nets began to break?  Now look at verse 10 of Luke chapter 5, “and so also were James and John the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon” —  Partners.  This is the same word that is translated “fellowship” in other places.  Business partnership.  They were having fellowship in the business of fishing.

Now, another usage of “fellowship” is social fellowship.  This is where we smell the doughnuts and coffee.  Friday night a bunch of us got together and had some elk stew, and I tell you it was all right.  We had a good time together.  We socialized together.  We shared in the eating of elk stew and a few other things that some of the people brought.  Are you aware that the Bible never uses the word “fellowship” in reference to such social activities?

Now, another use of “fellowship” has to do with spiritual things.  Every time, every time the word is used in regards to the church’s activity, it is always this.  And to my knowledge, there is not one Scripture in the Bible that uses the term “fellowship” in regards to eating elk stew, or whatever socializing we do together.  Not one Scripture that uses the word “fellowship” like that.  Let me show you, for instance, I Corinthians 1:9 (We’ll not turn to these).  We were “called into the fellowship of His Son.”  In Philippians 1:5, Paul commends the Philippians for their “fellowship in the gospel.”  Fellowship in the gospel.  He says in Philippians 2:1, “if there is any fellowship in the Spirit…” Philippians 3:10, he wants to know the “fellowship of the suffering of Christ.”  Notice none of that has anything to do with having a good time together.  It has everything to do with our relationship with God and our relationship with one another as Christians.

I John, chapter one.  I want to turn to that one with you.  Look at I John, chapter 1.  Here is the fellowship that the Bible emphasizes.  If we could ever learn this, then we’re going to realize that this term “fellowship hall” is really a misnomer.  It may be for social fellowship, but it’s not for the fellowship that the Bible talks about.  Now, I John 1, beginning with verse 1.  John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  John says, I am writing these things concerning Jesus Christ that you might have fellowship with us.  I want to tell you, there’s not a thing in the world you can read in I John that has anything to do with doughnuts and coffee and elk stew.  It has everything to do with our sharing together in spiritual things.  And then he says our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

What has happened to us, brethren, when every time we hear the word “fellowship” we immediately think in terms of fun and games and eating and drinking together?  What has happened to us that we see that, every time we see the word “fellowship”, when it’s never even used in the Bible that way?

No, you cannot find the authority for a local church, as a part of its program of work, planning and providing materials for social activities in the word “fellowship” in the Bible, because it doesn’t use the word “fellowship” for that.

May I make this point?  The church at Pepper Road has a fellowship hall.  Let me say that again.  The church at Pepper Road has a fellowship hall.  You’re in it.  We’re in it right now.  We are sharing in worship to God, in the study of His Word.  We are learning what John wrote to us, that we might have fellowship not only among ourselves, but that we might have fellowship with the apostles.  And indeed, our fellowship is with God and with Jesus Christ.  We must learn that this is the kind of fellowship that the Bible talks about.

May I make another point?  The Pepper Road church has a fellowship meal in this fellowship hall.  It’s called the Lord’s Supper.  Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 10.  Look at verse 16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, it is not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  What is the word communion?  Same word.  You know, sometimes we just refer to the Lord’s Supper as the “communion”.  I don’t know how we got started doing that.  That’s the same thing as saying “I’m going to go prepare the fellowship for Sunday.”  That’s what the word communion means.  And what that passage is saying is when we eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine, we are having fellowship, communion, with the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Now, let’s read further, verse 17: “For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”  Oh, now, that’s not just communion with the body and blood of Christ, but there’s communion among all of us within the one body.  And let me tell you, that one body is not a local church.  That one body is God’s people.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are having not only communion with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but we are having fellowship around a fellowship meal, if I may use that term, with all of God’s people, all over the world, who can legitimately eat of that bread and drink of that fruit of the vine.  There’s one bread and one body, and we all partake of one bread.  You may have five or six pieces of bread.  At New Georgia, we may have four pieces of bread.  But there is one bread, one bread, and all of us partake of that.  What a fellowship!

One of my favorite passages in the Scripture is that passage that talks about us all sitting together in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7).  It is as though this building were one huge building that is constantly expanding, and we look over here and we see Paul and Peter and Stephen and Barnabas and Lydia and Dorcas, and we see faithful Christians we’ve known in our lifetimes who’ve already passed on, and there are the faithful of our present generation, and all of us are sitting together.  And the central figure with whom we sit is Jesus Christ.  And we have a fellowship meal; it’s called the Lord’s Supper.  And what a fellowship!  And then somebody comes along and every time he sees the word “fellowship”, he thinks in terms of having a good time.  What we have done is just missed the whole principle of Bible fellowship. But somebody says, “Doesn’t the Bible talk about people eating together and enjoying one another?”  Yes.  Before the church was ever established, I remember Jesus went to a feast that Levi gave — Matthew.  A great feast.  Publicans and sinners were present.  I remember another time when Jesus went to a feast, and apparently Martha gave the feast.  Lazarus sat at the table, John, chapter 12.  You might want to look at Acts, chapter 2.  Here were Christians eating together.  In Acts chapter 2, verse 46, we read concerning the activities of some of those early Christians.  We are told, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  May I pause to say that the term “breaking bread” may sometimes refer to the Lord’s Supper, while sometimes it may refer to eating a common meal.  You have to let the context determine.  In this case, we’re talking about a common meal.  But notice they broke bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.  But nothing here would imply that it was part of the church’s program of work to provide for that.

Consider also I Corinthians, chapter 11.  The church at Corinth was not observing the Lord’s Supper as Jesus had instructed.  It seems that there were two problems.  First, they had turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal, and, second, in their divided state, some were eating while others had nothing to eat.  There was total disregard for the poor among them.  In dealing with this problem, Paul writes, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you in this?  I do not praise you.”  You have houses to eat and drink in, Paul said.  “But Paul is correcting abuses of the worship”, someone may be thinking.  That’s right.  But he did not say, “You should wait until after the worship for the church to provide for eating and drinking.”  He said, “You have houses for these activities.”

Turn with me to I Timothy 5:16.  Let’s bring all this, hopefully, to a conclusion.  I Timothy 5:16: “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”  Now, I’m going to take that and enlarge on it.  I’ve got a widowed mother.  Now, whose responsibility is that widowed mother?  Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s not the church’s responsibility.  It’s my responsibility, and my two sisters’ and Sewell’s to take care of my widowed mother.  Charlotte has a widowed mother.  Whose responsibility is Charlotte’s widowed mother?  Not the church’s responsibility.  It’s the responsibility of me and Charlotte, and Charlotte’s three sisters.  Let me do this so the church won’t be burdened.

May I just enlarge on that a little bit?  Suppose that I want my children to be educated in math and English.  Let me provide for the education of my children.  Don’t let the church be burdened with that, so the church can do the wonderful work that God has given the church to do.

Suppose I want my children to have recreation.  Suppose there are not only my children, suppose there are other young people within the group, and I want them to have good wholesome recreation.  Let me provide recreation for my children.  Don’t let the church be burdened with that, so the church can do those things that God has given His church to do.

Is there a place for social activities?  Indeed.  I enjoyed that good elk stew we had the other day.  I wouldn’t want to eat it every day, but that was good!  But let me provide for hospitality.  Let me provide for social events.  And if others want to join with me in that, that’s fine.  But let not the church be charged or burdened with providing for social activities, so the church can do the things God has told His church to do.  It’s just that simple.  And nowhere in the Scriptures is there anything to indicate that the church is to provide materially and plan for social activities.  That is the issue.  That’s where it lies.

Let me close this series of lessons with this.  We are either going to take this matter of restoration of New Testament Christianity seriously or we’re not.  We are either going to take the idea of “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent” seriously or we are not.  If we are not going to take the concept of restoring New Testament Christianity seriously, then by all means let’s quit giving it lip service.  Let’s just forget the whole thing and do anything we want to do, whether we have Bible authority for it or not.  But, on the other hand, if we are really serious about restoring New Testament Christianity — if we are really serious about making the local church according to the pattern given in the New Testament — then let’s rid ourselves of these things that have been introduced into the church for which there is no New Testament authority.  Let’s go back and become what the Lord intended His church to be.  It’s one way or the other.  We can’t have it both ways, talking about restoring New Testament Christianity while accepting all kinds of innovations for which there is no New Testament authority.  It just won’t work.

You have listened well.  I appreciate it.  And I hope you’ve understood where the issue lies.  That’s been our goal.  I hope you have been able to focus on the issue, two weeks ago, last Sunday, and today, to know what really caused all the divisions that took place in the ’50s and ’60s and created so much trouble among families and among churches — preachers being fired, churches being divided; it was a sad time.

Remove The Plank!

crowbar“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)  Oh, how people love this verse! It is the first line of defense for those who do not wish to have their sins brought to light. They might as well say, “Don’t bother me with the truth.” Or more clearly, “I don’t need you to point out that what I’m doing is wrong, I already know it and I don’t really care.” I guess they somehow feel that if others don’t point out the sin in their life that God will overlook it Himself.

Anyone who has read past verse one in Matthew 7 can see that Jesus was teaching against hypocrisy and not against pointing out sin in the life of another. When Peter, in Acts 2, told those gathered on the day of Pentecost to repent he was telling them they were in sin; he had called them murderers (v.23) and with many other words told them to “be saved from this perverse generation” (v.40).  In doing so he was making a judgment but he did not violate Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 7:1.

Many times our response to those who would misapply Matt 7:1 stops here. Once we have proven that we do in fact have the right to judge with righteous judgment (Jn 7:24) we move on without regard to the rest of the passage. Yes, we point out that Jesus was warning against hypocrisy but do we actually stop and apply the teaching?

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to see sin in the lives of others than it is to find fault in ourselves? We overhear Sally tell Suzy something that is really not her concern and we are outraged that she is gossiping. We then repeat the scene to someone else (because we are really concerned for her soul) and fail to see that we are now just as guilty as we thought she was. We should not overlook sin in the lives of others but we must first examine ourselves, perhaps we’ve been overlooking a few things within ourselves.

“Judge not”.  Those are pretty forceful words our Lord used. He did not say “be careful” or “judge, but make sure you judge yourself as well.” The command is for us not to judge so long as we have the plank in our eye. At this point some might suggest that there would never be a time that we could judge a brother properly; after all, none of us are perfect. Peter wasn’t perfect. He had denied Christ three times on the night He was betrayed.  However, between that night and the day of Pentecost, he repented. No, none of us are perfect; we have all sinned. But we can be forgiven of those sins and then live blameless before the Lord.

Each night when we go to sleep let us be forgiven and blameless. If the snares of the devil have caused us to sin we need to repent and take the necessary steps to make sure we do not fall again. We must pray to God for forgiveness; not presumptuously but with a humble spirit. Then we can awake the next day ready to walk blameless before the Lord and when we come upon those in need of salvation, those lost in sin, we can show them the error of their way without playing the hypocrite. We remove the plank and cast it away!

So often we think we can just stick the plank in our back pocket or place it on a shelf until we are finished removing the speck from our brother’s eye. We leave the brother, satisfied that we have kept the Lord’s command, and promptly place the plank right back where it was. How ridiculous! Remove the thing and get rid of it.

It’s easy to see how many in the world have a hard time taking “Christians” seriously. There they are with their specks while those who call themselves Christians are stumbling around with their planks trying to remove their speck; all they end up with is a sore eye. They will not be excused for rejecting God but neither will those who cause them to stumble. “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.”(Matt 18:7)

If we fail to see and remove our plank be sure that it will be seen. We will all stand before the Lord in judgment and there we must give an account for all that we have done. (2 Cor 5:10) He will not overlook our sin. It will be noticed and we will be judged accordingly. Christ shed His precious blood so that the plank can be removed. He has promised us help in removing it. When it is gone He will remember it no more. So what are we waiting for? Let us remove the plank!

Sinking In Sin

sinkingAs the prophet Jonah sank into the depths of the sea he prayed to God and described his condition like this, “I have been cast out of Your sight… The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever…” (Jonah 2:4-6) As he sank, Jonah recognized that death was closing in on him, and as hard as he might have tried to kick or fight against the water, there was no way he was going to save himself.

The words quoted from Jonah describe his feelings as he sank in the depths of the sea. Some may assume that he is describing his condition in the fish but notice what he says while in the fish, “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice…The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.” (Jonah 2:2,6)  We may not see the belly of a fish as a picture of salvation but Jonah realized that the fish which the Lord had prepared for him was indeed salvation.

Though we haven’t had a near death experience in the sea I think we can understand how Jonah felt; as if the deep is closing in around us with weeds wrapped around our head; sinking in the depths of sin knowing that death is imminent. Where is our great fish that will save us? In sin we can fell hopeless but all hope is not lost. God can prepare a way of escape for us too. If we want to get out of sin we must start where Jonah started, we have to cry out to God. Doctors can’t prescribe us a pill and our friends can’t give us advice that will save us from sin and death. If we truly want to be saved we will turn to the one and only, the true and living God who can and will save us. He can bring up our life from the pit and set us back on solid ground. However, we must realize that when we ask Him for salvation we must receive it on His terms.

When God provides us a way out of sin we must take it without hesitation. I’m not sure how Jonah felt as the great fish swam toward him but I doubt he was looking forward to what was coming next. Sometimes the path out of sin may be scary but we need to have the courage to take it. It may even hurt but it will be worth it in the end. “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”(Mat 5:29-30)

Having a sorrowful heart is necessary if we are going to be set free from sin but many times the sorrowful heart leads us to the point of change only to see us turn around because we don’t like what the change will demand on our part. God was willing to send His only begotten Son to die on the cross so that we could be made free. Jesus willingly went to the cross because He loves us and doesn’t want to see us die. Will we not also make sacrifices in order to be saved; to live for eternity with our Father in heaven?

When the fish vomited Jonah on dry ground (Jonah 2:10) he did not shirk his responsibility. He wasn’t looking forward to going to Nineveh any more than he was the first time but he realized that he had to faithfully carry out the Lord’s command. How sad it is to see some who have prayed to God for deliverance, gone through tough times to find a way out and then when they are back on solid ground they turn right back to the world. When our longsuffering Father gives us another opportunity to live then let us live for Him, doing His will and not our own.  The old man of sin must be kept in the grave and the new man must remain busy following Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isa 59:1-2)

God can and will save us if we are willing to put our sins away, cry out to Him, and accept the way of deliverance He has provided. (For information on God’s plan for one to become a Christian please see the back of the bulletin) We don’t have to sink in sin and drown, we can rise up and live, but only if we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and live for Christ.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The Jordan River

Beginning at Mt. Hermon, the Jordan River flows approximately 200 miles into the Dead Sea.  It is dwarfed by the Nile, the world’s longest river (at over 4000 miles long), and will not be found on any top 10 list of important or famous rivers.  The name Jordan means one that descends and points to the one thing the Jordan can claim over all others; at over 1300 ft. below sea level as it enters the Dead Sea, the Jordan has the lowest elevation in the world.  Though it may not be recognized by the world as famous or important, the Jordan has certainly played an important role in the history of man.

It was the gate into the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey.  In Joshua 3&4 its waters parted allowing Israel to cross over on dry ground.  The crossing of the Jordan is referenced time and again in Deuteronomy and Joshua as the defining moment when Israel would show her faith and take possession of the land God had promised. “For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it.” Deu 11:31 

Just over 500 years later the Jordan witnessed one of the most amazing things in the history of man. Elijah and Elisha had just crossed over the Jordan (the waters parted for them too!) when a chariot of fire swept up Elijah in a whirlwind and carried him into heaven. To be a gate into the Promised Land was a wonderful thing but now it could boast of being a gate into heaven itself. (2 Ki 2:8-11)

At that same time the Jordan saw the beginning of the wonderful work of Elisha the prophet which would include the story of Naaman and how he was cleansed from his leprosy, not in the rivers of Damascus which were better in the eyes of man, but in the Jordan River. (2 Ki 5:10-14) 

The Jordan, a place of healing, the gate to a land of rest, has at least one more great story to tell; undoubtedly its greatest story of all.  “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11  Jesus, the Son of God, stood in her waters and was baptized by John, marking the beginning of His wonderful earthly ministry (Luke 3:21-23).

Sure, other rivers of the world are larger, more beautiful, and maybe more important to the people of the world today.  But none of them can begin to compare to the Jordan and its historical significance in God’s plan of redemption.  There is nothing about the Jordan itself that makes it special.  It is special because of how God has used it to magnify His glory and to turn the focus of the people to Him.

You and I probably share a lot in common with the Jordan.  We are not notable among men for our physical attributes and will never make any top 10 lists.  But God has chosen us for a very special purpose and if we will do our part then we can also magnify His glory and turn people to the Lord.  We may be ordinary in the flesh, but in Christ we can be extraordinary in His service.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

(Col 1:9-14)

Love Your Neighbor

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” Matt 5:33-34  Here we find words of Christ that are easy to understand but sometimes hard to keep. I could focus on how difficult it is to treat our enemies the way Jesus describes in this passage and it would be a needful lesson for us all. But instead I want to focus on the first part of Jesus’ statement, “You shall love your neighbor”. It seems that many have forgotten this part of Jesus’ teaching. Yes, we need to work hard to love our enemies but we must work even harder to make sure we do not show hatred for our neighbors. We must love our enemies and our neighbors, is that what our actions show?

As Christians we can easily divide the two groups Jesus speaks of in this passage. Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” The Israelites’ neighbors were their own people. So the saying went that they should love the children of their people (Israelites) and hate all other nations around them. In Christ, all those surrounding nations have the opportunity to become neighbors, citizens of the kingdom – “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” Eph 2:19   Now if the surrounding nations have become neighbors, who is the enemy? In Matthew 12:30 Jesus says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” Those who are not with Christ are not with us and therefore are our enemies.

If am writing about love then why am I making a distinction between those of the world (our enemies) and our brethren (our neighbors) seeing that we are to love both groups? I make the distinction to show how some have not adhered to Jesus’ teaching. Instead of loving both neighbor and enemy some love their enemy and hate their brethren. I know it’s a bold claim but there is plenty of evidence to support it. Consider the following actions and ask yourself if they are a display of love or hate:

Gossip – Baseball has long been proclaimed “America’s favorite pastime” but I think gossip may have taken the top spot some time ago. You can’t turn on the T.V. news or the radio anymore without hearing the “celebrity scoop” with even a little hometown gossip thrown in every once in a while. The emergence of social media seems to have added to the gossip craze or at least has made what once would have been kept between a few close friends public.

The scriptures speak loudly against such – “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” Prov 26:20 “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends” Prov 16:28  In Romans 1:29 whisperers are placed with the likes of murderers and the sexually immoral.

We can turn our T.V.’s off, change the dial on the radio, and log off of facebook to escape some of the gossip that’s being spread today. But sadly, when we get together with brethren we find that we simply can’t escape it. And worst of all (as if gossip itself isn’t bad enough) the tales we hear are often about other Christians, our neighbors, the ones we are supposed to love!

Love does no harm to a neighbor (Rom 13:10) but gossip seeks to bring them harm.  Maybe harm isn’t the intent but it will surely be the result. Some think that as long as their facts are true then they are alright to tell. If I love my brother then he is the one I will tell. If he has sinned love compels me to try to pull him out. If I’m not sure if he has sinned love will lead me to get his side of the story and gather all the facts. If he has sinned and is unrepentant even after two or three have accompanied me to talk to him then I am to tell it to the church, not to three of my closest friends who can surely keep a secret. Let us love our brethren and not gossip about them.

Evil Thoughts – As a bible teacher I try to stress the importance of looking at the context. Without the proper context it is nearly impossible to draw the proper conclusions. Just as the scriptures have context so do our lives. Context: The set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc. (dictionary.com) Actions may be clearly seen and words can be clearly heard, but without the proper context we cannot know the meaning of the words or know the reason for the actions.

John rushed through the door with an angry expression on his face. He walked right past without even looking my way much less speaking to me. And that wasn’t the first time either, it’s been three weeks since he has said so much as hello. He must be mad at me; well two can play this game.

If we are honest with ourselves we’ve all probably ran through this scenario in our minds. We just know that John doesn’t like us and can’t believe that he would treat us that way. 1 Cor 13:5 says love thinks no evil and verse 7 says love believes all things. If we love our brethren then our reaction to the previous scenario would be concern for John’s well-being. Is he sick? Maybe something is going on at work that’s really troubling him. Surely there is a good explanation for his actions. If we knew the whole story maybe we could make a better judgment but without the facts any determination we make would only be speculation. If we are going to be in the business of speculation let’s err on the side of love; think no evil. Matt 5:22 speaks of those who are angry with their brother without cause and likens them to murderers. Many times this anger is a result of thinking evil about our brother.

Doing Nothing – We may take pride in the fact that we do not engage in gossip, neither telling nor listening. Maybe we can honestly say that we try to think the best of everyone and give them the benefit of the doubt so we can’t be accused of thinking evil. In fact there’s not one thing we have done that could be submitted as evidence that we hate our brother. I’m not sure if doing nothing actually counts as an action but it can certainly be considered as evidence of hatred.

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?1 Jn 3:17 “Shuts up his heart from him”, that’s a pretty strong statement but that’s how Jesus describes those who are unwilling to help a brother in need. In Matt 25:41-43 Jesus says those who fail to assist a brother in need will be told to depart from Him into everlasting fire. Eternal condemnation pronounced on those who did nothing.

It’s obvious that we have a responsibility to help care for our brethren’s physical needs and while I’m sure there are times when this is neglected, there are far more instances of a brother’s spiritual needs being neglected. Consider the Lord’s warning to Ezekiel, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” Eze 3:18  There are many reasons we might give as to why we fail to warn our brethren but the bottom line is, we don’t love them. When we don’t take the actions the Lord has commanded us to try and restore those who are in error, we don’t love them.

We need to follow the Lord’s command to love our enemies but let us not forget to love our brethren as well. Very few have kept themselves from the actions mentioned so there is not much room for finger pointing. I realize I need to love my brethren better and more consistently than I have in the past. Let us all work together and love one another as we should.

Written by Brad Sullivan

Proverbs and Avoiding Immorality

Written by:  John R. Gibson

09/02/12

(Unless noted, all references are from Proverbs).

 

Can a man take fire to his bosom,and his clothes not be burned?  Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29). While all sin can keep us from heaven and fornicators and adulterers, like anyone else, can be forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), we are giving special attention to sexual immorality because it tends to produce more suffering in this life than many other sins. As noted inour previous article, there are often physical, financial, and emotional costs associated with fornication and adultery. In this article we will continue our look at the first nine chapters of Proverbs and consider some of the things that may lead to sexual sin and how we can avoid those paths.

 

Listen to Instructions

After exhorting his son to keep the commands of his father and the law of his mother, Solomon added, “For the commandment is a lamp,and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life, to keep you from the evil woman… (6:20-24—please look up and read the entire passage). If we are to avoid paying the high price of adultery and fornication, we must listen to the teachings of God’s word, the counsel of parents, advice of godly friends, warnings of preachers and teachers, etc. When God and the people who love us instruct and warn us, they are not seeking to keep us from having fun, but instead seek the best for us. Listen!

 

Resist Flattery

Four times in this section of Proverbs we see flattery mentioned as that which leads to adultery (2:16; 6:24; 7:5, 21). Solomon also writes of lips that drip honey and a mouth that is smoother than oil (5:3). Though we tend to think of sexual sin as a result of the lust of the flesh, in reality it is the pride of life that often provides the opening by which the devil ensnares us in this costly sin (1 John 2:15-17). Pride can cause us to enjoy and revel in flattery, and as we dwell on the sweet words of flattery our resolve is being weakened and a door is being opened for the lusts of the flesh. To avoid this trap we must diligently maintain an awareness of the wages of sin, both now and in judgment to come, and we must develop a sense of humility that will not be deceived by flattering words. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly…” (Romans 12:3).

 

Don’t Be Allured by Physical Beauty

Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids” (6:25). If we would avoid sexual immorality, it should be obvious that we must guard the desires of the heart, which themselves are sinful if they reach the point of lustful, illicit desire (Matthew 5:2728). But how do we prevent the physical attractiveness of another from stirring lust and ultimately leading to fornication or adultery? Solomon’s counsel to his son on this matter was simple—understand the consequences. After warning his son not to be enticed by physical beauty, he immediately turns to the suffering and dishonor adultery brings. If we ever find ourselves beholding a beautifulBathsheba, it would behoove us to recall the suffering David brought to himself, his family, and his nation through his sinful, selfish, momentary pleasure (2 Samuel 11, 12). Let us by faith learn to see the ugliness of sin and not merely the physical beauty of one to whom we have no right. (Please see the previous article entitled You’ll Pay a High Price for more on the consequences of immorality).

 

Stay Away

Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door her house” (5:8). Many an act of immorality has been committed by good people who never intended to “go that far,” but they lacked the determination, resolve, and courage to remove themselves from places and relationships that were obviously dangerous. If your boyfriend or girlfriend does not share your determination to be pure—end the relationship. If a friend, especially a married one, shows an inclination to be a little too friendly—stay away. It may or may not be necessary to sever all ties, but it is folly to remain in situations where one is going to be subject to “innocent” flirtation, subtle hints, suggestive or risquécomments, etc., for, as already noted, such flattering attention may in time break down our resistance. And if we think we are strong enough to deal with any situation without having to remove ourselves from it, we need to hear the words of Paul, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Appreciate Your Partner

Rejoice with the wife of your youth” (5:18-20). In 5:15-20 Solomon points to a good marriage relationship, with emphasis on the sexual aspect, as a key to the prevention of adultery, but he did not say what some seem to think he said. Solomon did not tell his son that he could commit adultery without guilt if his wife were not all she should be. Instead, he exhorted his son to realize he had both an opportunity and an obligation to find pleasure within his own marriage.

 

But isn’t it true that some husbands and wives deprive their partners of the physical and emotional satisfaction that should result from the sexual union of marriage? It is, and it was an issue addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, but two wrongs have never made a right. No one should ever commit adultery and lose their own salvation because of the sin of their partner. And if one find himself feeling deprived of physical affection, it could be that he is perfectly innocent in the matter, but it would behoove him to be sure he is being the husband of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3:7 who seeks to nourish, cherish, and honor his wife. And wives who feel unloved, should honestly examine their commit to being the submissive, respectful wife described in the same Scriptures.

 

Every Secret Will Be Revealed

The first section of Proverbs concludes with a foolish man being led to his doom by the words, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9:17). For many the illicit nature of immorality, rather than keeping them from sin, is part of the appeal. They love the thrill of “getting away with” something, forgetting that though parents and spouses may be “in the dark,” God is not and every secret thing will be revealed (Ecclesiastes 12:1314). With God nothing is actually done in secret, and the truth is that the shameful acts of fornication and adultery are hard to keep secret from others and often have a way of coming to light in this life.

 

Sexual immorality approaches us in various ways, but it can be resisted. Like Joseph in his dealings with Potiphar’s wife, we can overcome. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

John R. Gibson

All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Nelson Publishing Co.

I Have A Tattoo

Written by Tadd Corder

I hope you don’t think less of me. I don’t tell you because I’m proud of it, or because I think that getting a tattoo is a great idea. I tell you because my tattoo is a testament to a time in my life when I didn’t make great decisions. We have all gone through such a time in our lives, and if we live long enough, we’ll probably make a few more bad decisions. Hopefully, they won’t be as permanent as a tattoo.

Unfortunately, too many people are making really important decisions with the same depth of thought that convinced me so many years ago that getting a tattoo would be a good idea. People are making important decisions about faith in God and His word, whom they are going to marry and whether or not homosexuality is a sin based solely on their own feelings. These people read a passage in the Bible and if it is contrary to what they already believe or what they want to believe, they simply disregard it. Such decisions are just as permanent as my tattoo, yet the repercussions of such decisions place their souls in eternal jeopardy!

Recently, my wife and I have been talking about running a 5K. Our family has even started training for it. When we discussed the length of the race I assured them that a 5K race was only about 2.2 miles. The next day my wife had done some checking and found out that a 5K was actually 3.1 miles. I assured her that this could not be right, but after doing some checking of my own I found out that I was wrong! Imagine my surprise, but, then again, we are talking about the same guy who once thought that getting a tattoo would be a good idea.

Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).” I was absolutely certain that a 5K was 2.2 miles, but I was wrong. I don’t know where I came up with my notion, and it doesn’t matter. It was wrong, in spite of how right it seemed.

Jeremiah declares that it is impossible for men to reach safe religious conclusions by relying only on themselves. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;

It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23).” Many of these same people who make important decisions without any regard for what God says reach the same point that I have reached in my life: they regret their tattoo. Yet, they do not take steps to correct the religious or moral choices they made during that time in their lives. Why is this? I mean, weren’t their religious and moral choices based on the same bad line of reasoning?

Still, other men and women do come very close to making the changes that are necessary only to be set at ease by the resounding reassurance of those who condone their practices. Paul warned Timothy that some people will only seek teachers who will scratch their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). But, finding people who agree with us is not hard. When I got my tattoo, many people that I knew thought it would be a great idea. My point is that taking religious or moral advice from people who have not demonstrated any type of knowledge or conviction is foolhardy…at best.

May God help us all to be more submissive to His word each day, and may He bless us with the depth of conviction to conform our lives to “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).”

Christ Lives In Me

I wonder which part of Paul’s life he was referring to when he said, “the life I live in the body”?  Which part had he crucified and given to Christ?  I ask because it seems that many have drawn the conclusion that there is some sort of separation between our spiritual life and our everyday, regular life.  Paul made no such distinction; Christ reigned in every aspect of his life.  When he said, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God”, he confirmed that he had authority from Christ for everything that he did, both in regards to working with other Christians and in his personal life.

Anything done “by faith” is done according to the word of God (Rom 10:17).  In Hebrews 11, Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Moses are all said to have done things “by faith” (Heb 11:4,7,8,23), that is, they did things according to God’s instructions.  If we are to live our lives by faith in Christ then we must have authority from Christ for all that we do.  Many articles have been written on authority as it relates to the works of the church.  Sermons have been preached showing the need for authority in all that we do as a church, showing from scripture that the silence of the scriptures is not authoritative.  Such articles and sermons are good and needful but we don’t need to limit the discussion of authority to the works of the church.  That’s not to say that every article written on the subject must go further in its scope, but as Christians we need to see that we need biblical authority for all that we do.

The following are some examples of how some fail to live by faith in that they have no authority for the things which they practice.

Weddings – “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb 13:4)  God has shown his approval for marriage from the very beginning (Gen 2:24) and along with the marriage, a wedding.  But what type of wedding do we have authority for?

From scripture we have authority for the wedding of a man and woman (Gen 2:24; Rom 1:26,27) who have not divorced a previous spouse (except for the cause of fornication (Matt 19:3-9)) and who have not been put away themselves.  However, we do not find authority for the bride and her maids to dress immodestly; for lasciviousness in the form of dancing; or having a drinking party after the wedding. In fact, the scriptures clearly teach against such actions. The works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21 are sadly found alive and well at many weddings today.  Such a beautiful occasion marred by unauthorized and condemned practices.

If Christ lives in us we walk after Him, wherever He leads.  Would He lead us to do such things? Special occasions are not occasions to lead ourselves.

Vacation – “and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God” (Eccl 3:13) God has blessed us and it is right for us to enjoy those blessings.  Vacations can be a time for families to draw closer together as well as a time for visiting brethren in other areas.  There is much good that can come from taking a little time off from our busy lives.

But do we have authority for taking a vacation from God?  Can we go where we will not be able to worship with brethren on the first day of the week?  Do we have authority to put ourselves in harm’s way (spiritually) by visiting places where sin and temptation abound? Certainly not!  We do not disconnect from Christ when we pull out of the driveway and say, “see you when we get back home.” He is Lord and Master of our life every step of the way, even while on vacation. Remember, we no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Gal 2:20).

Work – “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thes 3:10)  Not only do we have authority to work, we are commanded to.  But what type of work can we do?  Remember, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…”, which shouldn’t be hard since He is supposed to be leading the way.

“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet” (Eccl 5:12a) Hard work is good but is it possible some are working too hard?  Do we really have authority to regularly miss services for work? Many would point to Luke 14:5 and say their ox is in the pit and they must pull it out.  Before using that verse as authority we must ask ourselves, “How did the ox get there?”  Jesus uses the illustration of an animal that had “fallen” into a pit.  We should understand there are times when circumstances cannot be avoided such as an animal falling but there are times when we create the circumstance by pushing the animal in.  Jesus did not give authority for just any type of work to be done on the Sabbath, and we must not use Luke 14:5 as authority for all work related missing of services.

We cannot work all the time and we cannot work at just any job.  Where would we find authority for working in a business that provides sinful services to its clients?  Could we possibly find the authority to engage in sinful practices in the name of providing for our family?  We do not have authority for either of these yet many Christians have no problem going to work every day doing just that.  Is Jesus leading them there?

The list could go on but I hope the point is made.  Our relationship with Christ does not pause when we walk out the door of the church building.  When we have been crucified with Christ, He is to lead all the way, every day.  We must have authority from Him for all that we do, that is, unless we really haven’t been crucified at all.