June 26, 2011
The Church: Then & Now
Anyone who would take a serious look at the modern church in comparison to the church of the first century as portrayed on the pages of the New Testament would in all probability be able to see that something is awry. The face of the church in today’s world is quite different from how it was in the days of the apostles of Christ. Why is there such a wide disparity between the apostolic church and that of the 21st century?
he Epistle of Paul to the church at Ephesus is a good place to start in order to get a handle on the problem. Paul wrote and reminded them that they were “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20) Furthermore what was true of the church at Ephesus was true also of all the individual churches scattered throughout the first century world so that all of them together formed a “holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
By way of contrast in today’s Christian world we have a host of different denominations not content to be built simply upon the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” with Jesus Christ himself as the “chief corner stone” but rather have added two additional things which were not a part of God’s original design. First, each individual denomination has its own distinctive rule of faith and practice called either a creed, manual, discipline, or catechism, etc. This rule of faith and practice spells out how the denomination and each congregation is to function. Second, each denomination has its own central governing body which exercises varying degrees of authority over the individual congregations. Neither of these two is authorized in the Bible.
Would it not be better if all the man-made rules of faith and practice were dropped and we all stood upon the Bible and the Bible alone as our only rule of faith and practice in religion? Also would it not better if all denominational governing bodies were dissolved and each individual congregation became answerable to Christ and Christ alone as the only head of the Church? Furthermore should not each individual step out of the whole denominational system and be a part of a congregation subject only to Christ as its head and the Bible as its only rule of faith and practice. Many of us have done just that.
February 27, 2011
Under God’s Command
Somehow religious people seem to have forgotten the fundamental importance of obedience to the law of God. It seems to many that as long as they are sincere and serve God in their own way, then surely God will be pleased and their personal salvation will be assured. However, the Bible promises salvation only to those who are obedient. Jesus himself was obedient and we must be also. The Bible says of Jesus: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
The original Greek word translated “obey” in this passage is hupakuo. It is a compound word the first part of it meaning “under” and the second part meaning “to hear.” Therefore its literal meaning is “to hear under.” Or as we might say: To be under someone’s command. We certainly understand this usage in the military. It means to obey orders. And that is exactly what it means when the Bible speaks of obeying God. It means to follow orders.
In the famous Sermon On the Mount Jesus made it clear that just calling upon him as Lord was not enough, rather we must go about doing God’s will. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
What about your moral life? Are you conducting yourself according to God’s standards? What about your religious life? Are you worshiping as God directs?
What did you do in order to be saved from your sins? Did you follow God’s plan or one of today’s popular fads? Are you living your life under God’s command?
January 23, .2011
God Has Spoken
The way in which God revealed himself in the past is not the same as the way He does today. The Scriptures say: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2a) So in the past God spoke to men in a variety of ways – sometimes in a dream, sometimes in a vision, sometimes through an angel, etc. But not so now, because now all of God’s revelation to man comes through His Son Jesus Christ. So if you want to know God’s will for your life don’t expect it in a dream or vision – don’t expect an angel to appear. Today all revelation from God comes through the Son.
But Jesus has not appeared and spoken to each one of us personally, so how can we know God’s will and the way of salvation? Again the Scriptures tell us. In the very next chapter of the Book of Hebrews we read: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Hebrews 2:3)
Jesus selected certain men to be His apostles and prophets and commissioned them to be His official spokesmen. They are the ones whom he appointed to convey the message of salvation to us. And we have their words in our New Testament. So do not expect God to speak to you in a dream or vision; do not expect an angel from heaven to bring his message to you. In fact, do not even expect to get a direct word from Jesus himself. Rather, read the New Testament. It is the medium which God and Christ have chosen to reveal the way of salvation to us.
December 12, 2010
Do You Know the Lord?
A question often heard in religious circles is: “Do you know the Lord?” It’s a good question. It’s a question to which every man owes it to himself to gives an answer. The question is usually asked looking for a personal testimony of some kind of religious experience. Furthermore the person asking the question is often eager to give their own testimony.
But what does the Bible say? “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that sayeth, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4) That’s clear enough. It’s all a matter of whether or not we keep the Lord’s commandments. If we do, we know him. If we do not, we do not know him. It’s as simple as that.
The next time you hear someone ask, “Do you know the Lord?” you might reply, “How is it that one can know that he really knows the Lord? If they answer: “The Sinners Prayer” or “a religious experience” or “an inner feeling” or “a dream” or “a vision” etc. All these answers are wrong. The right answer is: “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
December 5, 2010
Carl Henry in his book Christian Personal Ethics quotes James A. Pike as saying, “It is safe to say that God generally wills that there be no adultery.” Mr. Pike’s statement is not unique but rather representative of the moral code of much of our society. In contrast to this watered down stand against evil compare the teachings of the Bible.
In Galatians 5:19-21 we read, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in the past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” In this passage Paul list seventeen works of the flesh and takes an absolute stand against them. He does not say they are “generally” wrong but rather they are always wrong. He insist that all who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
In Revelation 21:8 we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” In this passage John list eight sins and takes a firm stand against them. Those who are guilty will have their part in the lake of fire.
These two passages are just samples of what is found throughout the Bible. Much of modern thinking tends toward a relative and changing moral code. The Bible presents an absolute and changeless standard.
November 14, 2010
Some Cried: Lunatic
The first century Jew living in Palestine did not know what to make of Jesus of Nazareth. Some thought he was a prophet. Others rejected Him completely. The Bible says, “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for…many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21)
It’s a lot easier to call a man an idiot than to refute his claims. Thus some of the Jews not knowing what to do about Jesus simply said – the man is mad, he’s a lunatic. Certainly as a general rule we might say that any man who claims to be the Son of God is crazy. But with Jesus of Nazareth there are two reasons why we cannot dismiss His claim to divinity by crying, “Lunatic.”
First, there are the works of Jesus. When some began to say of Jesus, “He hath a devil, and is mad,” others replied, “Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” Jesus not only restored sight to the blind, he also caused the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and even raised the dead. Therefore many of his contemporaries rightly concluded that he could not be dismissed by crying, “Madman.”
Second, there is his teaching. In reply to the charge, “He hath a devil, and is mad,” others said, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil.” Jesus was the master teacher. It is He who gave us the golden rule. It is He that taught us to love not only our friends but our enemies as well. Even infidels often admit that Jesus was a great teacher. Those who heard Him in person as well as those of us who read His words 2000 years later know that these are not the teachings of one who is mad.
What are we to make of Jesus of Nazareth? Certainly the combination of His words and works, His miracles and His teachings, are consistent with His claim to be the very Son of God.
October 31, 2010
Life Begins at Sixty
No! I’m not joking. Sometimes there really is something good on television. One evening last week Jo and I watched a classic film entitled: The Magnificent Yankee. It was one of those old black and white things from 1950 and it told the story of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. not to be confused with his father the famous poet. And where did the story begin – not with his childhood, not with his military service during the Civil War, and not with his life in Boston as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Rather the story began in Washington, DC when at age sixty he was appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the USA where he served until he reached the age of ninety. The most distinguished part of his life, the part that earned him a place in history, began when he was well on in years.
I thought of another man – one from the Bible. A man named Caleb. He is best remembered as one of the twelve spies sent out by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. Caleb was forty years old at the time. Only he and Joshua stood against the nation and said, “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with mild and honey.” (Numbers 14:8) But that is not the part of Caleb’s life that I’m thinking of – rather I’m thinking of the old man Caleb at the age of eighty-five when the Israelites finally did come into the land of Canaan. At that time Caleb reminded Joshua of the fact that forty-five years earlier Moses had promised that he and his children would receive Mount Hebron for an inheritance. Caleb said to Joshua, “Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land on which thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s forever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God.” (Joshua 14:9) Caleb continued, saying, “And, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years…Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou hearest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord saith.” (Joshua 14:10b, 12) Caleb at the age of eighty-five knowing full well that the enemy was strong but having faith in his heart said, “Give me this mountain.”
If you are young and still in the prime of life, then model Caleb – the man who at the age of forty trusted God and stood against the crowd. On the other hand if like some of us, you are getting along a years, look again at Caleb this time at eighty-five. He with faith in his heart and trusting God’s promise was ready to step up and take his mountain. Who knows what God may have in store for you in the later years of life. It may be that your greatest work in the kingdom of God is yet ahead.
October 24, 2010
The God of Abraham
God made a promise to a man named Abram – better known to us as Abraham. God said that he would multiply his seed (descendants) and make of them a great nation. Furthermore, he promised to give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance. But more important to us is the promise concerning all mankind. God told Abraham that in his seed a blessing would be brought to all people. God not only made this promise to Abraham but renewed it to his son Isaac and to Isaac’s son Jacob. You can find all this elaborated on in Genesis 12-35.
The rest of the Old Testament is the story – the history – of this man’s descendants. It is the story of how God developed them into a great nation, gave them the promise. land (Canaan) and preserved them as a distinct people so as to bring about the blessing upon the whole world through the promised seed. Not only that, but all along the way God continued to give detail after detail, clue after clue concerning the coming promise. Furthermore, God had his people to carefully record and preserve a written record thus leaving a paper trail for all future generations to read and investigate for themselves.
After fifteen centuries had passed the Old Testament record was closed. Then for about four hundred years it was read and pored over by generation after generation as the people looked for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Not only did the Jews, the direct descendants of Abraham, read and anticipate the promise but men of other nations throughout the world did also. Then at the time chosen of God, Jesus of the seed of Abraham came into the world to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. (Matthew 1:1-17)
That Jesus is the promised seed should be obvious to any observer for while there have been a number of Jews (descendants of Abraham) who are known for their contribution to mankind, none have made such an impact on the world as has Jesus Christ. In fact no other person has so affected mankind. Cynthia Pearl Moss in Christ and the Fine Arts is correct writing, “More poems have been written, more stories told, more pictures painted, and more songs sung about Christ that any other person in human history.”
It should be obvious to everyone that only God could do such a thing. Only God could make a promise, then so control the events of human history for nineteen-hundred years so as to bring about its fulfillment. Plus, all along the way continue to reveal more and more details and then cause it all to unfold at the very time before appointed. And all the while ensure that every piece of the puzzle was carefully recorded all long the way. There is nothing else like it in all the world. None of the other world religions can boast of such, nor can any of their sacred books. Neither can pseudo-prophets such as Nostradamus and others match it. The Bible is unique in the world – only God could give us such a miraculous book.
October 17, 2010
Our National Illiteracy
No, I’m not talking about that segment of the population that cannot read nor those who have limited education. Rather I’m talking about an illiteracy that runs through every educational level of our nation reaching from the least to the most highly educated of our people. I’m talking about Bible illiteracy.
The Winston-Salem Journal dated October 1, 2010 carried a news article entitled “Religious survey finds few knowledgeable.” The lead paragraph read: “Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.” While the survey was not exclusively about biblical knowledge but rather covered religion in general, it nevertheless points up a lack of Bible knowledge within our nation.
When a people no longer have a good working knowledge of the Bible, one of two things happens. Either they reject Christianity altogether as many in our nation have done or else they are misled by some perverted form of it. In either case the fundamental problem is a lack of knowledge. Whenever one is lacking in Bible knowledge he becomes an easy prey for whatever religious charlatan comes along.
The prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It was true then, it is true today.
October 10, 2010
The Druids and Sun Worship
The Winston-Salem Journal on Sunday, October 3, 2010 carried a news story on the Druids. The lead paragraph begins, “Druids have been worshipping the sun and earth for thousands of years in Europe.” The article further elaborates on this ancient religion saying, “They worship natural forces such as thunder and the sun, and spirits they believe arise from places such as mountains and rivers. They do not worship a single god or creator, but try to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world.”
How is it that ancient people such as Druids came to worship the Sun and earth and other natural forces? We might enlarge the question to include not only the Druids worship of nature but other ancient practices such as idolatry, witchcraft, astrology, divination, etc. For that matter we might ask how is it that so many people in modern society are turning to these same pagan practices.
The Bible gives a very clear straight-forward answer – when a people reject the one true God, the Creator, they just naturally turn to one foolish thing or another. The apostle Paul states the governing principle in his letter to the Romans: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beast, and creeping things…Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-23, 25)
Now take a look at the modern world and you can see the same thing happening all over again. As people today reject the one true God, they turn to the same foolish practices so prevalent in the ancient world. Some like the Druids worship the forces of nature. Others turn to such superstitions as astrology or divination or witchcraft or necromancy. This is all the natural out-growth of forgetting the one true God.