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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm too tired

"I'm Too Tired"

I could have come to worship services this morning. I'm not sick. I'm not incapacitated. My alarm clock works fine Monday through Friday; it would've worked today. It's just that I worked too hard last week. I stayed up too late last night relaxing from my hard week. I'm too tired.

I could have come to Bible class this morning. I could have taken my children. Then there might have been two or three in their classes instead of one or two. Of course, we haven't worked on their Bible class lesson this week. (I haven't worked on mine, either.) I suppose we could have gotten up fifteen minutes early and still gotten their lessons done - maybe mine, too. But I'm too tired.

I could have gone to Bible class on Wednesday. I could have made sure we had a quick dinner. We could have left the dishes for later that night, I suppose. But it was an especially tough day at work Wednesday, I seem to recall. I just wasn't ready to get back in the car again. I was too tired.

I could be making plans to attend our gospel meeting, just like I made plans six months in advance to go on vacation. The kids will get plenty of sleep, since it's summer. And I stay up way past 10 every night anyway. But I like to save my evenings for myself. Five days in a row of worship is a lot to ask. I have a feeling I'll be too tired.

I could put Jesus first. I could teach my children to make time for God, no matter what is going on in our lives. I could be in my place whenever possible so I could give as much glory to God as I could manage. I could set a good example for my brethren so that they, too, would be motivated to put their priorities in order. I could encourage and instruct the ones who come so often and yet are not members of Christ's body. I could show them what a Christian really looks like. I could lift up my spirit by singing familiar songs of praise and instruction, as well as learn new ones. I could be available to assist in the worship. I could be there to hear about who needs my prayers and visits. I could show God how much I love Him. -- But I'm too tired.

- by Hal Hammons

 

Sermon outline on reactions to the Truth

When Paul preached his famous sermon on Mars Hill, in Athens, his teaching received three distinct reactions.  "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.  So Paul departed from among them.  Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed..." (Acts 17:32-34).  Do you see it?  Some rejected the teaching immediately.  Others procrastinated or withheld judgment, and did nothing.  But some enthusiastically accepted the truth and acted upon it.

The same three reactions are in evidence to this day - even among members of the Lord's church.  Consider this scenario: The preacher preaches a ‘hard’ sermon that exposes sin and worldliness.  It’s one of those sermons that "steps on toes" and hits "close to home."  Some Christians will grow angry.  The things taught suggest the need to change, and they are not willing to do so.  They are happy to hear preaching on things they already agree about, but if a lesson contradicts their existing views or practices, they get mad.  They are like those in Athens who "mocked."

Some other brethren hear this same sermon and, while it plainly shows that there are things they need to change in their life, they postpone any action.  These are the ones who commend the preacher as they go out the door: "I really needed that!", or "You really stomped on my toes today!"  And, yet, they do nothing.  They continue in their former ways.  In effect they are saying: "We will hear thee again of this matter."

Thank God that there are those who are tenderhearted; those who are always looking to bring their life into closer harmony with the will of God.  These are the folks who, upon hearing the truth, respond by putting it into practice in their lives.  If it means changing from what they previously believed, they will do so.  Their commitment is to the Lord.  Serving Him is their first priority.  May their tribe increase!

- by Greg Gwin

 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Joshua Allen Harris

His Workmanship

 

He makes art out of trash bags and shopping bags.

 

His name is Joshua Allen Harris.  He is a “street artist” and his art has been viewed at various places in New York City.

 

What appears to be trash lying on a subway grate springs to life as a subway passes below.  The air produced by the passing train causes the “garbage” to inflate to become a 15-foot-high Minotaur, or a polar bear, or the Loch Ness Monster.  Here’s a video of some of Harris’ art:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH6xCT2aTSo

 

“I guess it's inflatable street art,” Mr. Harris told New York Magazine.  “A sculpture that works on the street, that inflates with subway and exhaust air… Part of the magic of it is that it looks like trash on the street and then it comes to life.”

 

Harris' first work was a white polar bear.  “I figured with four paws it would give me enough wind to stand up and it worked,” he said.  “He looked really cool and had a lot of nice animation with his life and his death, in his inflation and deflation.”

 

Harris’ art illustrates what God can do with the lives of those who have been “trashed” by sin – and that includes ALL lives.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

 

We are redeemed by the grace of God:

 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship [or His art], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10

 

And through the cleansing and atoning blood of His Son Jesus, who paid the price for our redemption from sin, God can make something beautiful and lasting (eternal) out of our lives.

 

“Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion He understood

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful of my life.”

-- Bill Gaither, “Something Beautiful”

 

God will redeem those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

He can redeem YOU from sin and make something beautiful of YOUR life, if only YOU will respond to Him on His terms.

 

Won’t YOU?

 

-- David A. Sargent

 

* From “What a load of rubbish! Street artist turns trash bags into inflatable animal sculptures.” www.dailymail.co.uk.

 

David A. Sargent, Minister

 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Swiftly we're turning life's daily pages

I'm sitting at our dining table looking out the back patio door. On the patio I see a leaf, dried and brown, but that is not unusual, especially at this time of year. It's the time we celebrate Thanksgiving and remember all of God's blessings. In reality, our yard is filled with leaves, it's part of nature, part of how the world works. I understand that some folks don't really appreciate this change, but I like to think of it in a positive light and enjoy God's beauty.

 

The thought the leaf brought to my mind is that only a short time ago it was on a tree, bright green and shining. That of course led me to thinking about the course of our life also. Things change so very quickly don't they? I mean, where has the time gone? I have been re-reading Melody and My book, "Living the dream, our life and adventures in Africa." I just read a paragraph that spoke of my celebrating my 47th birthday in Kenya. That's been 23 years and it is covered in just a few pages in a book. What happened? How did I get from there to where I am at now?

 

Yes, I could detail all of the steps it took to get where we are now, but isn't that the question we all ask at some point? We are in school, maybe teenagers, maybe just married and suddenly we have grandchildren and many of the friends of our youth have already passed from this life.

 

There is an old hymn that has some very pertinent words for us about this process. The hymn is titled, "Swiftly we're turning" and the words go like this:

 

"Swiftly we're turning life's daily pages, Swiftly the hours are changing to years. How are we using God's golden moments? Shall we reap glory? Shall we reap tears?"

 

What happens to us is just that life happens as it is supposed to, as is according to God's plan. You are probably familiar with the passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 where we are reminded that:

 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

 

Yes, an old, dried, brown leaf can have a lot of meaning if you just stop and think about it… especially when you think about it in relationship to the length of and purpose of your life. How are you doing?  How about choosing to think about the eternity God has planted in our heart. There is only one way to get that and that is through change. Rather than trying to stop it we need to embrace it… after all, the pages are turning swiftly, aren’t they.

 

--Russ Lawson

 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Dealing with problems

Are you undergoing some struggle in your life right now? If not then give it time, because you most likely will at some time in your future. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but I've seen how the world (and living in it), works. Yes, I'm sure that some folks have what we perceive to be "the perfect life," but I doubt that is really the case.

 

I remember hearing a story about our problems that went something like this: A man was deeply troubled having a very serious problem in his life. He looked at those around him and did not see anyone who seemed to suffer as he was. That night when he went to bed he prayed to God to lift his problem from him. When he went to sleep he began to dream. In the dream he saw people walking in a circle throwing their problem in a pile in the center. Each person was then free to choose a problem someone else had discarded to replace their own. He joined the circle and walked around the pile of problems. As he circled searching for a problem he would choose to bear he discovered that many people who he had thought had light problems actually had heavy burdens. In the end he chose to pick up the problem he had discarded and bear it once again. Sometimes it is true, the trouble we know is better than the devil we don't.

 

How many times have you heard someone say, "Just hold on a little longer," or "It's always darkest before the dawn," or "It will get worse before it gets better," or "God has a plan for you," or "You just have to believe," or perhaps one of the thousands of other variations of these sayings.

 

When you are dealing with a deep hurt, a struggle that causes pain in your heart, those words often aren’t of much comfort, are they? And yet if we claim to be Christians we face the battle around the question of Faith don't we? One of passages which troubled me for many years is Matthew 17:20where Jesus said:  "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

 

What Jesus is saying here is that Faith is the most important thing we can have in our lives, it is central to our relationship to God. Did Jesus literally mean that we are supposed to try to move mountains with their minds? No, not at all; Jesus was using a common phrase from their society which all Jews knew. A Rabbi would talk about resolving difficulties as "uprooting or pulverizing mountains". Jesus never meant for this to be taken literally, but the passage is talking about the power of even just a little bit of faith to heal our lives.

 

Having even "Just a little bit" of faith implies that you have a relationship with Jesus to start with. It is impossible to "cast your cares (or burdens) on him," (1 Peter 5:7), if you have let the relationship with him slip away. He is not asking for a mountain sized faith, he is begging you for have the faith of a mustard seed.

 

So where are you in dealing with your problems? Where are you in your relationship to Jesus? You can't deal with the problems without having faith, even just a little bit of it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Matthew 6:33

God Comes First (Matthew 6:33)

Loving Him with our whole heart is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-37). We say it and sing it, but do we practice it? What do our calendars say? What about those Sundays when the kids have a ball game or when we are on vacation - does He come first those Sundays? What do our checkbooks say? Does He come first in finances or is He somewhere down the list, perhaps even beneath what we spend on recreation? What do our closets say? Do our wardrobes reflect godliness or worldliness?  In the Apostle’s words, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

- by Frank Himmel

 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cape Newenham Air Force Station

His Parting Gift

 

It was during the Cold War in a place where the temperature was often brutally cold.  The place was the Cape Newenham Air Force Station on a remote Alaskan coast of the Bering Sea.  Sergeant Sammie Morris, Sr. and a crew of about 110 men of the United States Air Force operated an early warning radar site and a communications link.  Their base was located in the mouth of an inactive volcano, and the radar was mounted up on the rim of the crater.  It often experienced near hurricane force winds kicked up by winter storms.  Men on rotating shifts rode an open cable tram from the base up to the rim to operate and maintain the radar.  Conditions were often brutal due to the biting cold, the bellowing winds, and the blanketing snow.

 

There were few outdoor activities during off time, besides fishing for salmon and dodging sea lions on the warmest summer days, which still required heavy jackets with fur-lined hoods.  Sgt. Morris often filled his down time by reading his Bible.  This made an impression on the fellow members of his squadron.

 

Sgt. Morris completed his assignment at Cape Newenham AFS at the end of 18 months.  As a parting gift of appreciation, several men gave him a new Bible.  Many of them signed the front leaf of the Bible.  They had observed that his Bible had been his constant companion during some very difficult days, and his men wanted him to have a new one to continue with him.

 

That same Bible was buried with Master Sergeant Sammie Morris, Sr. yesterday.  He passed away on October 29, 2017, at the age of 95.  This very special copy of his constant companion accompanied his body to the grave.

 

Sammie Morris, Sr.’s parting gift to his family and friends is a legacy of not only reading and studying the Bible but also living it out in his life.  He was “a doer of the Word and not a hearer only” (James 1:22); he was a Christian.  His life reflected the admonition of James chapter 1:

 

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” – James 1:21-22, 25

 

This Word is able to save YOUR soul when it is appropriated and applied to YOUR life, for the Word tells of God’s love in giving His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we can have forgiveness of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:7).

 

The Word will save our souls when we follow the Word by placing our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as we continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7-9).

 

Won’t YOU receive through your trusting obedience the implanted Word which is to save YOUR soul?

 

-- Sammie Morris, Jr. and David A. Sargent

 

* In Loving Memory of Sammie Ray Morris, Sr., until we meet again. December 12, 1921 – October 29, 2017

 

David A. Sargent, Minister

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From all harm safe in His sheltering arm. I'm living by faith and feel no alarm

 

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.--Luke 17:5

 

Sometime when I am alone and beginning to feel tired and lonely, I will begin to sing and one of the songs that means  a lot to me is "Living By Faith". Every verse of that song is a proclamation of a strong faith in God--And how wondrous is that chorus:

 

  "Living by faith in Jesus above, Trusting, confiding in his great love

   From all harm safe in His sheltering arm. I'm living by faith and feel no alarm."

 

The importance of faith in God can never be overstated (Heb. 11:6). I only pray that we understand the need  for our faith to grow stronger as we travel on this side of eternity. We are weak, frail human beings and without a strong faith in God we will falter. The word of God describes faith using four different words: Little (Matthew 14:31; Weak (Rom. 14:1; Great (Luke 7:9) and Strong (Rom. 4:20). As you think about your faith today,  ask yourself which of these words best describes your faith? Just what kind of faith do you have? I pray we all understand two things about our faith. First, our faith will grow stronger and greater only in proportion to our zeal and enthusiasm in feeding ourselves spiritually and then doing the will of God to the best of our ability. Secondly, never forget for a moment that faith based upon God's promises can accomplish wondrous things.

 

Today, does your faith cause you to have confidence in some of the great passages of God's word. Before you answer that, think about Matthew 6:33,"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness". If that is not a description of your faith, none of the other great passages will mean anything to you. Passages such as Col. 3:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17; Matt. 5:14-16; Matt. 6:19-21; 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:12. In fact, study the entire 12th chapter of Romans, the entire chapter 4th chapter of Ephesians and once you do, ask yourself again, What kind of faith do I have? Is it little or great? Is it weak or strong? Hebrews 6:19 speaks of our having an anchor for our soul, one that is sure and steadfast and tells us that hope is that anchor. The strength of that anchor lies entirely in the kind of faith we have in God. Without a strong conviction and trust in God there will be no hope and if there is no hope there is no anchor and if there is no anchor then we will drift aimlessly through this life and one day die unprepared to meet God in judgment. Again, I ask, What kind of faith do you have in God?

 

Charles Hicks

White House, Tennessee

 

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Differences between Christians

Where Differences are Allowed and Where they are not Allowed

 

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:1-9

 

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or

whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:1-8

 

Not everything each Christian holds dear is also held as God’s unchangeable decree by every other Christian. God allows for conscientious differences of conviction among believers. In the context of Romans 14, and also seen in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, the issue of eating food that had been offered as a sacrifice in an idol temple, was causing problems. While Paul and others knew that it was just meat, and that idols were just that – idols and no god at all – there were Christians who could not conscientiously eat such meat - regarding it as corrupted by idolatry. To eat such food would be to betray their conscience – even to be participating in the idolatry. Paul stated that these convictions or scruples must be respected, and those who didn’t hold the same opinion should not judge these brethren, nor should they do anything that would cause them to go against their conscientious convictions, which the Bible refers to as “stumbling.” In fact, both parties were to equally respect the convictions of the other party.

 

Some brethren believe it is wrong to work on the Lord’s Day. Some brethren would never walk into another’s home without taking off their shoes. Others frown on wearing a hat while eating, or elbows on the table, or eating meat on Friday. Some believe birthdays are so important, while others don’t. Everything from conscientious objection and pacifism to always putting yourself last in a food queue. While many of us don’t hold to those scruples, and may even think some are trivial and inconsequential, others think they’re important, and we should respect them.

 

So if you are visiting my home, then please take off your shoes before entering – out of respect for my scruple, and to maintain love and unity between us, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17.

 

This kind of godly behaviour contributes to unity in the church, but if our attitudes are not right, there’s going to be disunity and even ill-feeling … even if you’re so thick-skinned and broad-minded  you claim nothing upsets you! Ha! ha!

       And must I say it? It’s also a good test of whether you love others more than yourself! Even if you don’t believe it has anything to do with conscience, you do believe in submitting to others’ wishes, at times, don’t you?

 

If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:27-33.

 

Of course, some who hold to these scruples, may reach a point in life where they no longer hold them. And that’s ok, as well, isn’t it?.

 

Finally, remember, we are not talking about standard, non-variable doctrines held by the church  and which are to be held the same by all Christians because Jesus has commanded them. Matthew 28:20; John 4:23-24; Romans 16:17-20; Galatians 5:19-6:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:12-14; Hebrews 2:3; 10:24-25; 12:12-15; 13:1-10. We are talking about a doctrine which allows conscientious differences of belief and practice in certain areas of life.

 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. Philippians 2:1-16

 

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

 

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Philippians 1:24-26

 

Are you making joyful progress in your faith … growing in grace and knowledge? Philippians 1:25; 1 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18.

 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Faith in John; Baptism in Acts; Variety in How Jesus Offers Life?

 

When you read John 3:16, you hear God say this:

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

When you read Acts 2:38-39, you hear /God say this:

 

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

 

So in one place, Jesus says that whoever believes should have eternal life, while in the other place, Jesus’ apostle says that God forgives the sins of everyone whom the Lord calls to Himself through repentance and baptism.

 

What is going on here? Which one do we listen to?

 

The gospel of John shows what Jesus told people while he was with them on earth 2000 years ago.

 

The Book of Acts shows what Jesus told people after he had returned to heaven and was no longer personally

teaching people on earth. In fact, Acts reveals Jesus’ followers telling the world what Jesus’ parting instructions

were, after His death and resurrection, for all people for all time until the end of time. See Acts 1:8 and the following:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

 

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16

 

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:45-47

 

The only thing here that is really different, from what Jesus taught during his ministry, is baptism into His name, because Jesus personally taught of the need for belief and repentance. We’ve seen the belief taught in John 3:16. Here’s the repentance:

 

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-5

 

Baptism is into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Romans 6 explains this clearly. It wouldn’t have made sense to baptize into Jesus’ death and resurrection before Jesus had died and been resurrected!! Baptism brings about a union of the saved sinner with the dead and raised Christ. It’s where the new birth to resurrection life occurs. A new life in Christ.

 

The mistake many make today is in applying Jesus’ salvation teaching while he was in Israel to the world’s people today, but ignoring how Jesus adapted this to fit His New Covenant. So, using John 3:16, they say all we need to do is to believe in Jesus to be saved, missing born again of water and the Spirit. John 3:3,5. Justification has always been by faith in God and not by Law-keeping, under the Old Covenant, Habakkuk 2:4; Ps 32:1-6 – in fact a universal principle. See Abraham and Jonah.  They take this principle – salvation is by faith in God and not works of Law – and ignore Jesus’ applying it through baptism as the mechanism for the new birth under the New Covenant. John 3:3,5; Romans 6:3-4; Titus 3:5. These people see water baptism as an example of working for your salvation. This contradicts Jesus’ command for faith and baptism as essential in the New Covenant. Let’s look at a typical example of this erroneous thinking when applied to an example often used from Acts.

 

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:25-31

 

What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. See! Just believe and you’ll be saved, as in John 3:16. But this isn’t the complete account of what the Philippians were told to do!! What does “believe in Jesus” mean? Let’s continue the account:

 

32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:32-34

 

Notice:

1.     After telling them if they believed on the Lord Jesus they would be saved, the preachers then “spoke the word of the Lord to him … and the same hour of the night he was baptized at once.”

2.     Why? Why teach them more after telling them to believe? Why baptize them … and at once??

3.     Because the household needed information about who Jesus is and what Jesus did before they could believe, but also, in order to be saved, they needed to know what Jesus commanded, as per Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24. This would have been part of “they spoke the word of the Lord to him.”

4.     Observe that after being baptizedhe rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

5.     Believing included being baptized, as in Acts 18:8,27. Rejoicing happened only after baptism, as in Acts 8:39.

6.     Remember Jesus teaching “if you love Me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. Cornelius, in Acts 10:33,47-48, said, “We are all here present before God to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” Then Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not a work of human merit.

7.     Baptism is practised everywhere throughout Acts as an essential part of the salvation package. See 22:16.

 

Now that we’ve put the cat among the pigeons with that one, let’s return to the time of Jesus’ ministry and note

how varied on eternal matters his teaching is with different people:

1.     Mark 2:1-12. Some men bring a paralytic to Jesus, who sees their faith and says to the paralytic, “Your

sins are forgiven.” Let’s look at this a bit closer.

(i)     Yes, I know Jesus uses this to show the Pharisees He is God – having the power to forgive sins, and heal paralysis, but I want to concentrate on the granting of forgiveness.

(ii)    Notice that nobody asks for forgiveness.

(iii)   Also, Jesus notices they all have faith.

(iv)   And yet Jesus grants forgiveness, but only to the paralytic.

(v)    Why? Is it just because the paralytic presents an easy example to display his divine power?

(vi)   Would Jesus “use” the paralytic just to prove a point to those stubborn Pharisees?

(vii)  After all, we’re talking about a man’s eternal future, aren’t we, when we speak of God forgiving sins?

(viii)  Also, Jesus makes no demands of this man – such as “Repent,” “Follow me,” “don’t sin any more”!

 

2.    Let’s leave that example, and look at another one.

 

John 8:21-32, So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

Let’s discuss this and compare it a little with the previous example:

(i)     Jesus tells some Jews he is going where they cannot come, and they will die in their sins if they don’t believe “I am.”

(ii)    The Jews ask Jesus who He is. Jesus tells them He is just as He has been telling them from the beginning.

(iii)    After a little while many believed in Him.

(iv)    Jesus told those who had believed in Him that to truly be His disciples, they must abide in His word, whereby the truth they learn will set them free from sin.

(v)     There is no mention of forgiveness of their sins, or the free gift of eternal life. Instead, to repeat, if they continue in His word (implying obeying His word) they will be set free from sin.

(vi)    As the encounter continues, we learn that these “believers” actually want to kill Jesus!

(vii)   Their earlier believing in Him is a farce.

 

So, you see, there’s more to believing in Jesus than just saying “I believe.” Surely Jesus would not promise eternal life to or forgive these so-called believers in John 8. To truly believe in Jesus unto eternal life includes contrition, obedience, whole-hearted commitment. See Matthew 5-7; Mark 4:20-25; Luke 9:23-26; 18:9-14; 19:1-10; John 15:1-17.

 

So let’s return to the paralytic. There must have been much more to the paralytic’s faith than meets the eye. Jesus is not about to forgive someone who does not have a serious turning to God and trust in God, and a willingness to obey Jesus’ commands. Jesus isn’t so flippant about salvation that he would just say “I forgive you” only because he feels sorry for someone! Even John the Baptist required of his disciples a change of heart and life when they were baptized in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Malachi 3:14-18; 4:5-6; Mark 1:4-5;  Luke 3:7-18. Note that Jesus is teaching when the paralytic arrives. Jesus obviously knew a lot more about the paralytic than is revealed in the account. For example, we do not know if he had been previously exposed to more of Jesus’ teaching – even heard him teaching as he arrived, but Jesus would have known this. Perhaps this is why he doesn’t forgive the men who brought him, though He saw their faith, too.

    These are all things Jesus would have personally observed in people he granted eternal life to. But Jesus is not personally communicating with those he forgives today. What he requires now for salvation he requires equally of all people. He gave these requirements to his apostles and commanded that they be passed on to all men everywhere in the world for all time until he returns to judge the world. This is the problem with applying the sinner’s prayer from Luke 18:9-14 in today’s context. The penitence and humility is spot-on, but it must be set in the context of baptism in Jesus’ name in the New Covenant, and not temple worship under the Law of Moses when there was no requirement by Jesus for baptism in His name.

 

This brings us back to the first point in this essay. Let us be careful to check what it is Jesus requires of us, now, and not simply assume that an example in Israel 2000 years ago is also ok for us today. What Jesus told the thief on the cross, and the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30, are other examples of Jesus fitting His grace to someone personally, yet who today would use what Jesus told the rich, young ruler as an example to emulate?

As a final excellent example, why do we believe we today must be born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3-7? Ah, good question! The answer? Because being born again  is found everywhere in the New Testament. See Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 4:20-24; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3,20-25. Jesus was telling Nicodemus what would soon be standard practice! In one way or another, the repentant, changed life, from self to Christ, is what receiving Christ and believing in Him means. The Baptism of John the Baptist, trust in Jesus, being born again, and repentance. Baptism into Christ brings the believer into saving union with Christ’s death and resurrection.

Salvation is God’s Way of Providing for Our Access to His Life: Escaping the Rottenness of the World to Partake of the Divine Nature

 

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:1-4

 

In John’s gospel, Jesus is God who has come to show the world who God is, so they can believe in Him for eternal life. John 1:1-34; 6:35-40; 14:1-9; 20:26-31. The Good Shepherd has come to guide us to still waters and fill our cup with the good life. John 10.

 

In Matthew, Jesus again is “God with us,” Matthew 1:23, to bring us back to Himself. Matthew 11:27-30. God - teaching His commands from a mountain, Matthew 5-7; God - transfigured on another mountain to show His supremacy over Moses and the prophets, Matthew 17:1-8; God, whose teaching, when heeded, results in sinners baptized into the possession of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 4:4; 7:29; 28:18-20.

 

Salvation is a remarkable thing. Yes, a rescue from sin and condemnation, but it’s more than that.

 

Israel knew that God alone is Saviour. Isaiah 43:10-11. Jesus comes into the world as God and Saviour, Matthew 1:20-25; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:1-4, whereby they can see, face to face, the God who will take them to the heavenly Father to live forever. John 14:1-11; 17:1-26; Colossians 1:19-23.

 

He saves us by atoning for our sins with his own body and blood, thus granting us eternal life and access to God the Father and heaven. John 6:45-57.

 

Access into God’s very presence … the greatest of all possible gifts.

 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5

 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6

 

For through Jesus we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:18

 

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:19-23

 

The saying is trustworthy and everyone should believe it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … 1 Timothy 1:15

 

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

 

Take in the full import of Colossians 1:19-23, my ‘Scripture of the week’. God’s fullness was in the flesh and blood Jesus when he died on the cross so our friendship with God could be restored forever, provided we maintain the faith and hope of the gospel. God personally stooped to enter our corrupt world, bear our sins, earn death as the wage for this humiliation, be raised from this death to live in glory forever, thus save us from our sins, and be with his redeemed people forever. Then compare with Philippians 2:5-16.

 

“The saying is trustworthy and everyone should believe it! Christ came to our world to save sinners.” Dear friend for whom Christ died: consider believing, since there is no other way to live forever and escape God’s condemnation.

 

--David Hunter

 

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