The prophet Isaiah pronounced a series of six woes upon the sinful nation of his day. One of those woes went like this: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
Isaiah’s words certainly fit not only his day but ours also. The broadminded stance of the modern world on moral and religious issues results in calling evil good and good evil. For example, it is not politically correct to speak out against the homosexual lifestyle that is being flaunted so openly. We are supposed to be accepting of this perversion which is so strongly condemned in scripture. Then again, it is considered bigotry to speak out against another religion. We are to have a pluralistic view that is broad enough to grant that all faiths are valid.
Yes, we live in a world much like Isaiah’s – one which calls evil good and good evil. But like Isaiah we must continue to proclaim the truth no matter how unpopular.
Last Tuesday evening some of our people participated in the local “Trick or Treat” event. Some of you have asked me about it so I thought I would at least report on the results and say a word or two about the rationale.
First, let me say that to start with I was not big on the idea though I did not think there was anything wrong with it. Here’s what happened and you can evaluate it for yourself. A few of our people gave out 1800 plastic bags containing a few small pieces of candy and two small tracts: one introducing the church and another advertising the Dull’s Monday Evening Bible class. Of course, the tract was not for the kids but for their parents. We have no way of knowing how many of the parents will read the tract but the hope is that some will. This means that 1800 people at least had the opportunity to learn about the church. Then after the candy supply ran out a young couple approached our group and said that they were not interested in the candy but wanted to know about the church. So at the very least two people were interested and received some information about us.
Now for the rationale. Jesus and the apostles seem to have taken every opportunity that presented itself to tell the gospel message. Paul, for example, stood in the city of Athens, a city filled with pagan idols, and spoke in the same arena as the pagan philosophers. On the same principle churches of Christ often setup booths at county fairs to distribute tracts and sign up people for Bible Correspondence Courses. This even though at such fairs there are things going on in which Christians would not participate. The point is that anytime and anyplace as opportunities present themselves so long as we are not engaged in wrong doing and so long as it is expedient. These are the two basic criteria.
We humans like to be sure. It’s just our nature. We want to be sure that the house is locked, the bills are paid, the children are safe and a thousand other things. We want to be sure. The most important thing about which we need to be sure is our eternal salvation. So how can we be sure? Peter tells us, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11)
Note: “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” But what are “these things?” They are the Christian Graces named earlier: “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance (self-control); and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Let’s be sure of our eternal salvation by adding these Christian Graces in our lives.
The apostle Peter in his opening words at the house of Cornelius stated two important truths about God. First, he said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34) The significance of his statement on that occasion was to show that God was willing to accept Gentiles as well as Jews. The broader meaning of the statement means that God makes no distinction on the basis of race, nationality, education, financial success, etc. And, of course, neither should we. The apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Rome wrote, “The righteous judgment of God will render to every man according to his deeds…for there is no respect of persons with God.”
Second, Peter said: “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:35) This is a very important Bible statement today in view of the prevailing doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Too many believe that all one must do to be acceptable to God is just accept Christ by praying the “Sinner’s Prayer.” The apostle makes it clear that our life must be one of working righteousness.
Philip is included in the list of disciples in Matthew, Mark and Luke but other than that, they tell us nothing about him. It is in the Gospel of John that we are given the few scant details that we know about this obscure apostle. We first meet Philip in John 1:43-44: “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, ‘Follow me.’ Philip findeth Nathanel, and saith unto him, ‘We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanel said unto him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip saith unto him, ‘Come and see’ “ (John 1:43-46)
“Come and see.” A simple invitation but it turned Nathanael’s life around. After meeting Jesus and seeing for himself, he confessed Jesus in these words: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” (John 1:49) It all started with a simple invitation, “Come and see.”
You never know what an invitation can do. Invite a friend or a stranger to church. In so doing you may turn someone’s life around.
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2) These are the words of Paul in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. They tell of his courage and determination in preaching in Thessalonica even after a bad experience at Philippi.
In Philippi Paul and his co-worker, Silas, were put in prison, not because they had done anything evil, but because Paul had healed a girl who was possessed with a spirit of divination. They were whipped, and that illegally and finally asked to leave the city. They were, so to speak, “run out of town.” A lesser man than Paul might have “called it quits”—at least for the time being. But not Paul—he came to Thessalonica and boldly preached the same gospel he had preached at Philippi.
God’s people have always had some trouble to come into their lives. Joseph was sold into slavery. Job lost his wealth, his children, his health and the respect of his friends. Jeremiah watched his people turn away from God and go into captivity. John was exiled on the isle of Patmos. We, too, can expect some rain to come into our lives. In the midst of trouble let’s have Paul’s attitude: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
At times serving God can be discouraging. Sometimes everything may seem to go wrong. At such times let’s follow Paul’s example. Let’s learn to “get up and try again.”
In the Winston-Salem Journal dated Tuesday, April 24, 2012 there appeared this news item: “A priest with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia…is trying to bring one of the oldest forms of Christiantiy—the Western Rite Orthodox Christian Church—to the Triad.”
The priest is correct in saying that the particular form of Christianity which he is trying to bring to the Triad is one of its oldest forms. However, it is not the original. The original form of Christianity is that which is found in the pages of the New Testament. Furthermore, this original form is the only one that has God’s approval. All other forms whether old or new are the inventions of men and are not acceptable.
Jesus made it clear that all who profess to worship Him but do so “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” are only offering lip service. (Matthew 15:8-9) The North Main Street Church of Christ does not follow any of the many different forms of Christianity based on the doctrines and commandments of men whether old or new. Rather we go all the way back to the original as found in the Bible itself.
The apostle Peter wrote: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) We might make several observations about this passage.
First, just as a newborn baby needs milk in order to grow physically, so Christians need the word of God in order to grow spiritually. This is why we need to attend church regularly and why we need to privately read God’s word. Forming these two habits ensures that we will have a regular diet of God’s word.
Second, note the word “sincere” –“the sincere milk of the word.” The New King James Version translates it better like this: “the pure milk of the word.” We certainly would not want to give contaminated milk to a baby. The same is true in spiritual matters. We need the pure, unadulterated, uncontaminated milk of God’s word. Everything else you read may be contaminated: books, articles, newspapers, etc. Only when we read our Bibles can we be sure that what we read is totally pure truth.
Third, note that Peter says “desire”. We really need a strong desire to know what God has to say in His word.
The Book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom—wisdom on how to live one’s life. One of its early pieces of advice is this: “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” The passage then continues to warn against joining with thieves and murderers. But the principle applies more broadly. We must not let a sinful world seduce us to do any kind of evil. Exodus 23:2 says, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” In Psalm 1:1 there is a blessing pronounced upon the man that “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
What we see and hear can have a tremendous influence on our lives. We must, therefore, always be on guard that the world does not draw us away from God’s standard. In speech we must not imitate the world’s profanity, in dress we must not follow society in immodest apparel. We must beware that we are not caught up in the world’s emphasis on material success. We must not let our secular society steer our eye away from heaven and things eternal.
In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul writes: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This passage gives some vital instruction on how Christians are to get along with each other.
The apostle presents the negative side first. There are certain things which are out: 1- Bitterness (long-standing resentment), 2- Wrath (outbreaks of passion), 3- Anger (long-lived anger), 4- Clamour (loud talking and insulting language), 5- Malice. As Christians we should work to remove all these from our lives.
Next the apostle presents the positive side. He says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” We are all imperfect human beings. We will not be able to live at peace with our brother if we demand perfection from him while we ourselves are yet imperfect. The Christian attitude toward an imperfect brother should be one of kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. When Christians manifest this attitude toward one another, Satan is hard pressed to disrupt the harmony of God’s people.