The following parody by an unknown author lists some lamentable activities that occur in the Lord’s church. If any of the listed activities hit a nerve, perhaps it’s time to look at our commitment to the Lord and His church.
One function of the church bulletin is to inform members of congregational activities. However, there are lamentable activities about which the bulletin can make no announcements. But what if it did so? It might read like this:
“Brother and Sister Grumpy hurriedly leave services every morning just as the last ‘amen’ is said. They refuse to meet anyone, but complain about the unfriendliness of the church.”
“Brother and Sister I.M. Slipping were present last Sunday. It has been something like four months since they last attended.”
“Brother and Sister N. E. Glect have never attended Bible classes. They are anxious, however, to know more about the Bible and its wonderful message.”
“The Tar Dee family arrived just in time for the second prayer. This was a little earlier than they usually arrive.”
“Brother and Sister T.V. Gazer and children reported a fine family type program on TV last Wednesday evening. Other saints were assembled for Bible study and missed the show.”
Church bulletins do not report on such activities, but our Lord knows all these things about Christians and it will be reckoned to them at the last judgment (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
While dining in the company of publicans (tax-collectors) and sinners, Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees. They asked his disciples, “Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners?” Jesus answered, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
We understand the concept of mercy. It certainly includes reaching out to those of our fellowman who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. It means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, etc.
But there is really no reason to think that these publicans (tax-collectors) were in the depths of poverty. The fact is they were usually well to do. So what is Jesus’ point? These publicans and sinners had a deep spiritual need. They needed the salvation Jesus came to offer. If the Pharisees had had hearts of mercy, they would have rejoiced that Jesus put forth an effort to teach them.
The application – we need to be merciful not only those who are poor in this world’s goods, but especially to those who are lost in sin. We need to extended mercy to others by sharing the gospel with them.
The last words penned by the apostle Peter for his fellow Christians are these: “But grow in grace and, in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We certainly understand what it means to grow in knowledge and that it is accomplished by reading and studying God’s word. But what is meant by growing in grace?
It might help to think of grace as having two sides. On the one hand there is the forgiveness of sins. This is what we usually think of when we speak of being saved by grace. But forgiveness of sins is only one side of grace. The other side of grace is the eradication of sinful practices from our lives. God’s grace is not only about forgiving us of our sins but also about lifting us up out of a life of sin. Growing in grace means developing in our lives the virtues that are pleasing to God.
Consider this passage: “And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brother kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7) These are usually called the Christian Graces. Growing in grace means developing these Christian Graces in our lives.
Words are power. A word can incite anger or calm tempers. Words produce both laughter and tears. They instruct, guide, encourage, the list goes on and on. The often repeated statement, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” is not about the writing instrument but the words written.
Yes, words are power, but if this is true of the words of men, how much more so the word of God. James in chapter one of his epistle emphasizes the word and its power. He tells us that God “begat us with the word of truth.” (James 1:18) Just as the starting point of one’s physical life is when he is begotten, so also of spiritual life. It is God’s word of truth that starts each of us on our spiritual life. James also tells us that the word “is able to save your souls.” Yes, God’s word is power.
But James is quick to point our that we have a responsibility. He says such thing as: “Receive with meekness the engrafted word” and “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:21-22)
God’s word is power. Let’s read it, study it, meditate upon it, and live by it ,for so doing, its power will work effectively in our lives.
That one statement was what introduced my great grandfather to the gospel and is a big reason my mom was raised in the church and why I was, too. A “Campbellite preacher” (so named because of Alexander Campbell, a leading figure of the 19th century who pleaded with people to throw off the division of denominationalism and restore simple NT Christianity) was in their community, preaching at the local school house. Several teenage boys, including my then 19-year-old great grandfather, conspired to stand outside and throw rocks at the preacher. The big talk apparently came to nothing harmful, but standing out there my grandfather was convicted by the preaching. So he studied more deeply and carefully the Scriptures and found that the denomination he was part of did not teach the same plan of salvation he read in the New Testament.
Plain, New Testament teaching and preaching, which faithfully and accurately handles the Scripture, has a profound effect on an honest heart. One who is already persuaded that the Bible is the inspired Word of God can see from gospel preaching what God’s will is for “matters of life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Such allow the powerful Word to operate upon their hearts, being persuaded of its penetrating truths (Heb. 4:12). Even one who may start out angry at the messenger but who is “fair-minded” (cf. Acts 17:11) will “receive the word with all readiness, and search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so.” Such an unprejudiced, open-minded attitude will serve individuals well not only in learning how to become a Christian, but also in how to live the Christian life. We must keep an honest and good heart if we will be the “good soil” Jesus praises in His parable of the soils (Luke 8:15).
Whatever your age, position in life, race, or education level, are you teachable? Do you receive the word in humility (Jas. 1:21)? James says that your soul’s salvation is ultimately at stake. Whether it regards becoming a Christian or living the Christian life, keep an open and tender heart! You’ll be eternally grateful that you did. So may many of your descendants!