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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Just As I Am"

“Just As I Am”

The song Just As I Am is a commonly used invitation song. The idea in the song is that we cannot make ourselves right with God on our own; apart from Jesus’ blood we have no hope. That is precisely the New Testament picture (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; etc.).

I fear, however, that some folks have an erroneous idea about Jesus saving us “just as we are.” They seem to think that He saves us without any change in our conduct. That is opposite to the New Testament picture.

Jesus’ charge to the apostles was “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). Forgiveness is extended to those willing to abandon sinful conduct, not to those who insist on continuing in it.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He did not say such are some of you, but such were. They changed their conduct in connection with being washed, sanctified, and justified (v. 11).

“Just as I am,” if referring to our own helplessness, is a comforting sentiment. But to suggest it means salvation without repentance is to hold out false hope.

- by Frank Himmel

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"It Is Not Reasonable"

Reason is an appeal to the mind, describing the mind's apprehension and evaluation. It is egotism gone to seed that declares everything untrue that man does not comprehend. How foolish in our world filled with incredible things.

Reason does not establish right and wrong. A musical instrument in worship is not wrong because it is unreasonable. It is without scripture and thus unauthorized. And all we do or teach must be authorized (Col. 3:17). A fellow proclaims the demand for baptism to be unreasonable -- "I do not see any sense in water baptism." So what? It is commanded (Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38). We do not look in our own mind (reason) for the answer to what is right; we look -- by revelation -- into the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-16).

There are also things that are true but entirely unthinkable. Just try grasping the speed of light -- 186,000 miles per second. Stretch your mind to envision the distance of a light year. Such thoughts defy the mind. While fact, they are absolutely too large to fit into our minds.

God is also several sizes larger than man's thinker. The finite mind will never fathom eternal existence -- though even the rankest skeptic must admit something has always been. Now add God's other characteristics -- omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Reasonable? Absolutely not! Small wonder man does not understand God; his thinker is far too small for infinite thoughts.

"It is not reasonable to believe in resurrection, instant healing; calming a raging storm, or opening a path through the sea. So I reject the Bible." Wait a minute! You have not considered all the facts. "Unreasonable" may be no more than "incomplete reasoning." You need one more fact before a conclusion -- God. With God and his power considered, the other things are quite reasonable.

Your neighbor abruptly quits his job of twenty years, forfeits his retirement, virtually gives away his possessions, leaves his friends and moves to the desert. Is that reasonable? Has he lost his mind? Now add this bit of information. The doctor advised him he would die in three months if he did not make that move. Ah, that is different! The unreasonable suddenly is perfectly sensible.

Consider another case: A family devotes most of their time to religious work. They go to church several times a week -- rain or shine. They constantly study and talk about the Bible. They have little time for recreation or hobbies. They spend much of their money on religion -- even sacrificing things they need to have more to give. Are these people unreasonable?  Crazy? Consider: Man is appointed a judgment with consequences as grand as heaven and as horrible as hell. The time at stake is eternity. Jesus died to give the forgiveness and happiness. Many are unaware of this. This changes the picture. It transforms a "living sacrifice" into a "reasonable service" by a "renewed mind" (Rom. 12:1, 2).

- by Joe Fitch

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

As a twig is bent, so will it grow

Be Careful, You're Bending That Twig

We are all aware of the old proverb that says: "As a twig is bent, so will it grow." And when we seriously consider this, we know it is true. But it is so easy to forget this lesson. For parents, Solomon expressed the same principle when he said, "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents, remember, you are bending that twig. One way or the other, to the right or to the left, for better or for worse, you are determining the course of life which that child will take. Be careful, lest you bend it in the wrong way!

Paul commanded parents to "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). This includes:

1) Train your children in morality--in clean thoughts, words, and deeds. "Wild oats" (corruption) that is practiced in childhood and adolescence cannot be productive of purity later. If you complacently watch their immodesty in childhood, you can expect to see impurity in adulthood.

2) Train them in honesty. It is still the best policy! Help them to regard truth and fidelity as precious qualities. Show them, by word and by example that half-truth is only a lie and that a man's word should be as good as his bond.

3) Train then to respect authority, always - the policeman, the teacher, the parent, and the Lord. If they do not learn to respect the first three, they will hardly respect the Lord either.

Your children deserve the best you can give them. They did not ask to be born, and their destiny is not really theirs alone, but in your strong or weak will. And the best you can give them is not just measured in education, culture, financial security, etc., but in character which you produce in them.

Yes, you are bending that twig. Be sure you bend it right.

- by Leslie Diestelkamp

 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In The Midst Of A Crooked And Perverse Generation

"Do all things without murmurings and questions; that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:14, 15).

The Philippian Christians had to serve God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. They were neither the first nor the last to find themselves under such circumstances. In fact, every person who ever served God did so "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and so must we.

Surely no-one would question the perverseness of the generation in which we live. We are surrounded by indecency. Moral filth lines the shelves of the neighborhood store and video shop. Drug scandals rock the sports and entertainment worlds. Christians working in factories are exposed to bad language, filthy stories, and rumors of immorality among their fellow employees. Our children attend schools that are filled with wickedness. We are not overstating the case - this is the world as it really is, a crooked and perverse generation indeed.

We face two possible choices as Christians: (1) try to clean up the society in which we live, so that we and our children can serve God without the pressures and evil influences that presently exist. We would not discourage reasonable effort on the part of individual Christians along these lines, but success in any such efforts will be on a small scale. It matters not how hard we work at it, by and large, the world will still be a corrupt world when we die: evil will still exist on TV and in the movies; pornography will still be a problem; corruption will still exist in government; and schools will still have their ungodly influences. Our purpose as Christians is to call people out of darkness through the gospel and into light. We can do that, but efforts to eradicate darkness will for the most part be futile. Fortunately, we have another choice: (2) make up our minds to serve God faithfully in whatever environment we find ourselves. Ths is the only viable choice for the Christian.

It can be done. Consider Noah's generation when "every imagination of the thoughts of (man's) heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5); or Lot's generation when ten righteous souls could not be found in all of Sodom; or Elijah's generation when wicked Ahab served as king in the wicked nation of Israel; or Daniel's generation when as a young man he found himself in a foreign land facing pressures to eat the king's meats and drink his wines (Dan. 1:8); or the apostles' generation when Rome ruled the world and the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees dominated the religious scene. What were these men doing in such crooked and perverse circumstances? They were serving God! That's what they were doing! The point is this: if these could serve God in the midst of the crooked and perverse circumstances in which they found themselves, and if the Philippians could shine "as lights in the world" in the midst of their crooked and perverse generation, so can we. Our eternal destiny is not determined by the environment in which we live, but by our own determination to be what we ought to be in whatever environment we find ourselves. We must lay aside our excuses, both for ourselves and our children, and make up our minds to say with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). This we shall do, and with God's help we shall overcome.

- by Bill Hall

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Prayer in the Book of James

The writer of the book of James has provided us with a great deal of information about prayer.

 

"Ask In Faith" – James 1:6

Praying in faith may well imply several things. First, it may imply that what we ask must be in harmony with what God has revealed to us in the faith. The faith is the gospel -- the will of Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, i.e. we pray in accordance with His expressed authority. In no other way can we pray in His name.

Second, it may imply that we must pray with full confidence both in God's ability and in His willingness to grant that which we seek. Certainly we could not intelligently pray with such confidence for those things, which God has not instructed us to pray for in His Word, or for those things that we know are in opposition to His Word.

Third, it may imply that our faith in God must be strong enough that we are willing to leave to His judgment the determination of that which is best for us. This verse tells us that we are not to doubt. This does not mean that we are never to ask for anything, which we are not positive is in our best interest. It means that we are never to doubt God's ability to do for us that which we ask, or his judgment as to what is best for us. It is in this area that we must remember the words of Jesus: ". . . nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).

 

Pray With a Willingness to Work – James 2:15,16

"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what cloth it profit?"

We must never lose sight of the fact that God wills that we work to accomplish that which we are able to accomplish, and ask Him for help in accomplishing that which we can not do for ourselves. It is not right to ask God to do for our brethren that which we are capable of doing for them. Neither is it right for us to ask God to do for us that which we are able to do for ourselves. I am confident that God is deeply touched by the prayers of those who have made great effort to provide for themselves.

Often we hear prayers offered up to God in behalf of the souls of men who have not heard the gospel, God's power to save. These prayers ask for additional time to be granted unto those outside the fold of God. Yet, many times those who offer up such prayers are the very ones who never make any effort to teach those for whom they so piously pray. Let us ever pray, but let us ever be willing and anxious to work for the accomplishment of that for which we pray.

 

Ask Not for Personal Pleasure – James 4:3

"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." There is a difference in asking for things, which we actually have need of and things, which we might enjoy for the sake of enjoyment. We may pray for the necessities of life, as Jesus instructed His disciples to do in Matthew 6. We may pray for these because we actually have need of them, and God is deeply interested in our needs. However, if we pray only for the satisfaction of our lusts, God will not grant what we seek.

 

Pray for Others – James 5:16

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." There is no place in prayer for selfishness. As members of the family of God we must be characterized by an interest in our brethren. As a part of God's creation we must be interested in every creature. In humbleness I must seek from God the satisfaction of my needs. Likewise I must seek from God the satisfaction of the needs of others. Every child of God should earnestly desire the prayers of his brethren. Each should be willing and anxious to pray for others.

 

Forget Not Righteousness – James 5:16

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  There is power in prayer. It is this fact that compels man to believe in the providence of God. Prayer is not simply a means of relieving our burden by telling our problems to someone else. Many people believe that the only value in prayer is in "getting the burden off your shoulders." They contend the only benefit is like that which a person may receive from telling his troubles to a friend in whom he has great confidence. There is much more to prayer than this. God's ears are open to the prayers of the righteous. If we are striving to do His will, willing to work to the limit of our ability, God is ever concerned with our deficiencies, and in His own way will answer our petitions.

 

Let us never forget that an effective prayer, one that "availeth much," is one that falls from the lips of a righteous man. Therefore by faithful service to God we must prepare ourselves to pray.

- by Bryan Vinson, Jr.

 

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