January 30, 2022
The Kingdom of Heaven
In the last two sermons on the Parables of Jesus we have emphasized that being a disciple of Jesus comes with trials and temptations. However, the parables I want to present in this article express that whatever it cost to be a disciple of Jesus, it will be worth it.
Matthew 13:44-46 reads, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In these verses, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure and a valuable pearl. Matthew often uses “kingdom” to refer to the rule of God within man. He also uses it as the rule of God on earth i.e., the church. Matthew also uses the word kingdom to refer to the eternal kingdom. This is the way we should read the “kingdom of heaven” in these verses.
The first parable tells of a man who was strolling through a field and came upon a treasure that had been hidden. This man was not searching for the treasure, he simply stumbled across it. Yet he recognized the value of it and the joy it would provide. So, he hid it again and went and sold all he had and bought the field. Now, many want to make a big deal out of the idea that he never told the original owner about the treasure he found. But the point of this parable has nothing to do with what is legal or ethical. It has to do with the joy the kingdom of heaven provides.
The second parable tells of a merchant who was looking for valuable pearls. When he found one, he recognized it was more valuable than all his own possessions. Likewise, the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than all of our earthly possessions.
The “man” who found the treasure and the “merchant” who bought the pearl refer to every person who recognizes the value in being a disciple of Jesus. I often wonder if we really recognize how joyful and valuable spending eternity with God will be? We are often tempted to put our treasure in earthly things and neglect the fact that these things are only temporary (see Matt. 6:19-21). Therefore, Jesus emphasizes that there is more joy (v. 44) in spending eternity with God than all of one’s earthly possessions can provide. He also emphasizes the same point in that spending eternity with
God is more valuable than all of man’s possessions.
Do you recognize the joy and value of spending eternity
with God? Think about it!
January 23, 2022
The Parable of the Unworthy Slave
Jesus begins this parable saying, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard” (vv. 1-3a)!
Jesus assures His followers they would face difficulties in life. He then warns them not to be the cause for someone stumbling. Maybe Jesus is thinking of the Pharisees and how they were a constant source of stumbling by constantly seeking honor, submission, authority, and wealth. While Jesus doesn’t tell us what the consequence is for causing a little one to stumble, He does tell us that it would be better to have a millstone hung around one’s neck and thrown into the sea. His point is for them to be on their guard not to be stumbling blocks for others. Jesus also instructs that they were to be on guard not to tolerate sin, rather to rebuke one who sins (v. 3b). Finally, they were to be on guard to forgive one who sins. If one sins and repents, they were to offer consistent forgiveness (vv. 3b-4).
It appears that the apostles felt they were incapable of living up to the instructions of Jesus and pleaded with Him to, “Increase our faith” (v. 5)! Jesus responds, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (v.6). Jesus seems to be saying that it is not about needing more faith, it is about putting your faith in the right place. Faith is simply trusting God to do what He said He will do when we do what He asks us to do. Too often people put more faith in themselves, or their own ability than in God. Jesus teaches the rich ruler that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. He closes by saying, “with man all things are not possible, but with God all things are possible” (see Luke
What Jesus is saying by His words to the apostles in Luke 17:6 is that they should stop trying to trust in their own ability and trust in God. It is often the case that we do not need more faith, we simply need to humble ourselves before God and fully trust Him. To emphasize this point, Jesus tells the parable of the unworthy slave. Jesus begins emphasizing the point that the master does not serve the slave; nor does the master thank the slave for doing what the slave is responsible to do. God is not indebted to us for doing His will! We obey God because we trust Him to do what He said He would do when we do what He asks us to do.
January 9, 2022
The Cost of Discipleship
Each time we consider a large purchase, we ask the sales-person, “What does it cost?” Then, we ask ourselves, “Can I afford it?” This is exactly what Jesus is imposing with these parables. He is simply asking us to consider what it cost to be His true disciple. Jesus is in no way trying to dis-courage us, but He wants us to fully understand what we are getting into when we choose to follow Him.
Jesus points out the cost of discipleship saying that every-one who comes to Him must “hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life” (v. 26). He also says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (v. 27). Then in verse 33 Jesus adds that to be His disciple one must “give up all his own possessions.” Now, does Jesus really mean we must hate our family and our-selves? Does He mean that we can have no help in dealing with life’s difficulties? And, does He literally mean that we must give away everything we own? Of course not! This would be a violation of the command to love (Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31). It would be contrary to Paul’s instruction to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). It would also undermine the rule of good stewardship. So, what does He mean by these parables?
It is obvious that Jesus is simply emphasizing the cost of discipleship; in so doing He presents two parables. The first one is about a man building a tower. The tower is irrelevant. Jesus simply emphasizes that anybody will estimate how much it will cost to build a tower before starting the build. It would be embarrassing to lay the foundation and then not have the ability to finish the tower, house, barn or whatever structure you may be wanting to build. The application is that any one who wants to follow Jesus must understand that it will not always be easy; and he must consider if he is willing to pay the price.
The second parable is about a king who is being attacked by an enemy. No king would set out against an enemy without counting the cost of going to war. Obviously, a king with ten-thousand men would not go to war against a king with twenty-thousand men without careful planning and a significant strategy. If it is determined that he cannot win the war, he will try to initiate terms of peace. This parable differs slightly from the first in that Jesus is teaching that if anyone wants to be His disciple, he must determine if he is willing to keep the terms for eternal peace.
January 2, 2022
You are the Light of the World
Last time we looked at how Jesus compliments and challenges kingdom citizens to be the salt of the earth. Without the Christian influence the world would be worthless, and tasteless. Jesus also compliments and challenges Christians calling them the “light of the world.” Consider a few things that light does.
First, light shows the dangers in life’s path. In letting our Christian light shine, we show others the dangers along life’s path as well as how to avoid them.
Second, light provides direction. Judean cities were built on summits or along sides of mountains. Perhaps Jesus pointed to such a city as he said, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” In letting our Christian light shine, we are like a city set on a hill. Our influence is always working. We are always providing direction to a life of peace, joy and eternal salvation for everyone we meet.
Third, light dispels darkness. Darkness is repeatedly used as a metaphor for sin. Without the Christian influence, the world is lost in sin. Therefore, as the light of the world Christians help to disperse sin in the world.
Fourth, light provides life. Nothing can survive for long without light. We often hear about the “healing rays of the sun.” It is not so much the sun that provides healing as it is the light the sun provides. Therefore, when Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” He is saying, Christians provide life to the world. When we let our Christian light shine, we enlighten a world of dying sinners with the life found only in Jesus.
When we take note of the fact that “God is light” (1 John 1:5), and that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and, we accept that Jesus calls us the light of the world, we can understand that Christians are to show the world who God and Christ are by their own character. Therefore, Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Christians direct and guide people to the Father by their Christian influence.
We should be thankful that Jesus has looked on us with favor and given us the privilege of flavoring, preserving and enlightening the world. Therefore, may we all resolve to be a greater influence for God in our homes as we teach our children; may we resolve to be a brighter light in our communities as we provide direction to life with God by our Christian example; and guide our friends and neighbors the way to peace, joy, and eternal life with the teaching of God’s word.
December 26, 2021
Jesus Teaches on the Christian’s Influence
One of the best passages on “Christian Influence” is found in Matthew 5:13-16. With His disciples gathered around
Him and a crowd of people listening in, Jesus teaches them the character and blessings of God’s children (5:1-12). He
then tells them the importance of the Christian influence on the world (5:13-16).
Salt and light are two of the most common elements on earth; yet, they are two of the most important. Jesus uses
these common and crucial elements to compliment and challenge Christians: “You are the salt of the earth. . . .”
Salt was used as wages in Jesus day, hence the phrase, “worth his salt.” Even the word “salary” is a derivative of
the word salt. As salt of the earth, Christians are the ones who make the world valuable to God.
Salt gives flavor to food. Job asked, “Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the white
of an egg?” (Job 6:6). We flavor the lives of the people we meet every day so that life is good.
Salt is also used as a preservative. When Jesus says that Christians are the salt of the earth, He is saying that the earth
will spoil without the Christian’s influence. Without Christians exhibiting the characteristics of the beatitudes (Matt.
5:2-10), the world would have no moral values; and thus, would rot just as the world in Noah’s time (see Gen. 6:5).
Yet, the world is preserved when Christians display their influence.
When Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” He is not only complimenting us, He is challenging us to be a greater
influence in flavoring and preserving the world for God. He is insinuating that Christians are different from the world,
because salt is different from the food it flavors and preserves. If we cease to be different, we lose our godly influence
in the world.
Christians must remember that they are a valuable, flavoring and preserving influence for God at work, home, market, highway, etc. So as we face the world, let us resolve to be the influence Jesus says we are. Jesus also compliments and challenges us calling us the “light of the world.” In letting our Christian light shine we reveal dangers along life’s path, direction to happiness and eternity with God; and we dispel the darkness of sin and
provide the light of life.
As a Christian, you are called upon to be an influence for God in this world. Your good influence makes the world
valuable to God; it makes life on earth worth living, and it preserves the world from destruction.
December 19, 2021
Jesus Teaches on Family
“Then His mother and brothers arrived” where Jesus was (v. 31). “A multitude was sitting around Him” (v. 32a), and Jesus “was still speaking” to them (Matt. 12:46). The crowd was pressed so tightly around Jesus that His mother and His brothers were “unable to get to Him” (Luke 8:19). Matthew’s account reveals they were “standing outside seeking to speak to Him” (Matt. 12:46). When they could not get in, “they sent word, and called to Him” (Mark 3:31b). The word passed through the crowd until it arrived to the ones nearest to Jesus. Then they reported to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You” (v. 32). But Jesus did not regard His physical family more important than the message He spoke; and turned this untimely interruption into a great lesson on the value of spiritual family: “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And gesturing to the crowd sitting around Him said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!” He then expounds on His gesture, “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother, sister, and mother.” Jesus wanted to explain that there was a relationship that went deeper, and was more meaningful than our physical relationships and declared “Whoever does the will of God” is My family. In Luke’s account Jesus emphasized that His family consists of those “who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21).
However, Jesus did not break all ties with His family. As a matter of fact, Jesus taught the scribes and Pharisees the necessity of caring for their parents (see Matt. 15:1-8). He even provided for His mother, by designating John as her caretaker as He hung dying on the cross (John 19:26, 27). His brothers eventually came to believe in Him. His mother and His brothers were among the crowd who waited for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem (see Acts 1:14).
Even though we may not fully comprehend the idea that spiritual families are more important than physical families, Jesus wants us to understand that the nature of the gospel is so great that it cannot take second place to anyone or anything. Jesus promises, “[T]here is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). At this time of year, we tend to celebrate family. We give gifts and reminisce about times past. Let us
not neglect our spiritual family during this time either.
December 12, 2021
The Life of Christ, the Early Years
When Jesus was about 41 days old, he was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. (Bethlehem to Jerusalem is about 5.5 miles). The purpose for this visit was twofold: One was for the purification of Mary. According to the law, a woman was to remain in an unclean condition for 40 days after the birth of a male child. Then, the woman was to make an offering at the temple for her cleansing (Lev. 12:1-4). The other purpose for this visit was to present Jesus. The Bible tells us that every firstborn Jewish male child is holy to the Lord and must be consecrated (Exo. 13:1).
Apparently, they returned to Bethlehem and stayed for about two more years before fleeing to Egypt. There is no way of knowing how long they stayed in Egypt; but upon returning to Israel, they did not go back to Bethlehem, but, rather, back to Nazareth (Luke 2:39). This was likely to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23).
The next time we hear anything about Jesus, He is twelve years old and in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41). Jesus remained in the temple when His parents began their journey back to Nazareth. Realizing He was not in their caravan, they returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple amazing the lawyers with His questions and answers. They then returned to Nazareth where Jesus “continued in subjection to them . . . and kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52). Nothing else is said about Jesus other than John’s preaching about the coming Messiah (Matt. 3:1-12) until Jesus left Nazareth to go to John on the outside of Jerusalem to be baptized (Matt. 3:13-17).
John was baptizing “in Bethany beyond the Jordan” when Jesus came to be baptized (Matt. 3:13-17; John 1:24-34). John was reluctant, but Jesus insisted saying, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Upon coming out of the water, John saw the “Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).
Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Matt. 4:1-11). He was tempted three times by Satan, and these may represent the idea that He was “tempted in all things as we are” (see Heb. 4:15). Yet, Jesus did not give in, providing us a perfect “example that we should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). After the forty days in the wilderness, John saw Jesus and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
December 5, 2021
The Story of the Birth of Jesus
The familiar story most often told in plays, movies, children's books, and displayed in nativity scenes goes some-
thing like this: The setting is a little over 2000 years ago on the evening of December 25. Mary rides into Bethlehem on
a donkey, undergoing labor pains. Although it is an emergency, the innkeepers turn them away. So, they are forced
to bed down in a stable with animals. Shortly, the baby Jesus is born and laid in a feeding trough. Then angels sing to the
shepherds. Afterwards, they all join three wise men in worshiping the newborn king. Most people, even believers in
Jesus see this as a true story. But I wonder how much of this story is actually true?
Did Mary actually ride into Bethlehem on a donkey? Perhaps she did, but the Bible does not say that specifically.
We are only told that Joseph went up to Bethlehem “along with Mary” (Luke 2:4-5).
A second assumption the familiar story makes is that Mary arrived in Bethlehem in labor and gave birth to Jesus that
very night. The Bible does not say this either. They could have arrived days or possibly even weeks earlier. Luke
simply records, “while they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (Luke 2:6). There is no reference to how
long they had been in Bethlehem before she gave birth. A third question I have is, “Was Jesus really born in a make-
shift stable as is often portrayed in movies, pictures, and nativity scenes?” The answer is that the Bible does not say this
either, at least explicitly. What we are told is, “she gave birth . . . and laid Him in a manger because there was no
room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). The word “manger” is likely best described as a feeding trough. This probably
implies some sort of facility for animals, yet many scholars argue it was a cave, and not a wooden structure at all. A
cave is what you will be shown in Bethlehem today as the birthplace of Jesus.
Another false depiction in the familiar story is that three wise men came at the birth of Jesus. First, it must be noted
that shepherds came from the same region and saw the baby Jesus lying in the manger (Luke 2:8-17). The wise men did
not come for some time later and visited Jesus in a “house” (Matt. 2:11). Furthermore, we are not told how many wise
men or shepherds there were.
A final misnomer is that Jesus was born on December 25. The Bible has no reference to the birth date of Jesus; and it
is highly unlikely He was born in December. Join us Sunday as we present proofs for our claims, and explain why
December 25th is the date chosen for this celebration.
November 28, 2021
On December 11, 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Harbor Beach, in what they later called, New England. They had left the old country in search for religious freedom. The first winter was hard and costly. Hunger, disease, and violent weather claimed the lives of all but 57 of the 102 pilgrims (17 being children) and half the ship’s crew. In spite of the death and suffering, not one pilgrim asked to return when the ship set sail for England in April. Hope for a better life motivated them to stay and persevere. In the spring of that year, the pilgrims that remained met friendly Indians among which was Squanto who taught them to hunt, fish, and grow corn and other vegetables. He also taught them what berries and nuts were eatable and where they could be found. The first year’s harvest was plentiful and the pilgrims were thankful. They were thankful for the divine providence that brought them safely to this land. They were thankful for their new friends who had taught them how to survive in this strange new world. They were thankful for the bountiful harvest from their first crops in this new land of freedom and opportunity. 242 years later (1863), Abraham Lincoln designated the 4th Thursday in the month of November as a day of national thanksgiving.
Just as the pilgrims suffered hardship and death, Christians from Nero (64 AD) to Diocletian (305) suffered persecution and death, yet Christianity grew and suffering Christians expressed thanksgiving largely because of their hope of a new and better life with God.
The Thanksgiving holiday is used to remember our blessings and be thankful for them. No doubt many things need changing in our world today, but the New Testament encourages thankfulness as a prevailing attitude: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything giving thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called into one body, and be thankful” (Col. 3:15). “. . . always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:20). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Sunday, we will explore Romans 5:1-11 and see that we are to be thankful for “peace with God,” “grace” of God, “Hope of the glory of God,” the ability to “rejoice in tribulations,” “the love of God,” salvation “from the wrath of God,” and “reconciliation” to God.
November 21, 2021
The Lord’s Supper
1 Cor. 11:17-34; 10:16
Some in the church in Corinth were treating the Lord’s Supper as a common meal and excluding the underprivileged from their fellowship (see 1 Cor. 11:17-22, 33, 34). This prompted Paul to rebuke them saying, “Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you” (1 Cor. 11:22). While few churches today take the abuse of the Lord’s Supper to the point of a common meal, many Christians still neglect to treat this meal with the respect and dignity it deserves. In this lesson, we will address the question, “What is the Lord’s Supper?”
First, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial (1 Cor. 11:23-25). The bread does not become the literal body of Jesus, as some claim. Eating the bread is a memorial to the life that He sacrificed so that His followers might live. Neither does the fruit of the vine become the literal blood of Jesus, but rather a reminder of His death. Therefore, as we assemble together to eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine, we are remembering the life that Jesus sacrificed as He willingly died on the cross at Calvary.
Furthermore, eating the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). The context suggests the Greek word that translates “proclaim” is best understood as an indicative, that every time you eat the Lord’s Supper “you are proclaiming . . ..” As each Christian carefully “examine[s] himself” (1 Cor. 11:28), and eats the bread and drinks the fruit of the vine in a worthy manner, he is making a proclamation, a declaration, to those with him that he believes in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Finally, Paul states that eating the Lord’s Supper is sharing the death and life of Christ, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16)? This “sharing” has two implications. First, it is sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus as the Christian dedicates his own life to God (see Matt. 16:24); and, it is Christians celebrating the hope they have in common through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
The Lord’s Supper, then, is to be eaten as a memorial to the life and death of Jesus, proclaim the benefits of His sacrificial death, and celebrate the fellowship that comes through His death and resurrection. We continue this until He returns because of our hope in the resurrection.
November 14, 2021
Worship in the Church God Approves: How?
Lesson 1: In Spirit (John 4:23-24)
The New Testament implies that the first churches that belonged to Christ (the only God approved church in the NT) worshiped when they came together. They did not observe all acts of worship every time they came together (Acts 2:46-47). Hebrews 10:24-26 can be used in the context of an assembly on the first day of the week, but it also applies to other times when the church came together for encouragement, and prayer (see Heb. 3:13; Acts 12:12). 1 Corinthians 14 is in the context of a first day of the week assembly; yet, it also applies to other times when the church came together for teaching and edifying. It seems certain that the church worshiped God in these assemblies even if every “act of worship” was not performed.
In this study we learn that God Approves Worship “In spirit”. The Greek word, “must” (v. 24) denotes a moral obligation, a necessity. One cannot be a true worshiper without worshiping the Father in spirit. “In spirit” is meeting God in His place. John was “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day” when Jesus appeared to him (Rev. 1:10; cf. Rev. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10). John had tuned out his personal hardship, the suffering of the church, and every other thing that belongs to this world. He was “in the spirit.” His mind was with God and solely on spiritual things. For our worship to be approved by the Father, we “must” tune out the cares and troubles of this life, and meet God in his place.
“In spirit’ reflects a worship that is sincere, heartfelt (cf. 1 Cor. 14:15). Jesus expresses the importance of the sincerity of our worship when he condemned the Pharisees saying, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me . . .” (Matt. 15:8-9). These Pharisees may have used all the right words, but they were not worshiping in spirit.
Also, “in spirit” implies that worship is a matter of intent. When we are in the spirit, our full intention is to worship God. We may eat unleavened bread and drink grape juice as a snack at home, or we can use these to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in the assembly. The difference is one has no intent to worship the other is to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
“In spirit” also means we engage our minds in worship. Paul exclaims, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15-19, 26). The mind implies understanding. The worship God approves must be understood by all present.
November 7, 2021
Worship in the Church God
Approves Jimmy Jividen declares that worship can mean different things to different people. To some it is simply an attitude. To others it simply involves acts. Still to others worship involves both attitude and acts. Jividen even acknowledges that some people view worship so subjectively that it can mean anything they want it to mean (More Than a Feeling: Worship That Pleases God,13). Some want to put on a concert and call it worship, but worship is not about entertainment. Some want to use skits and drama and call it worship, but skits and drama are not worship.
The most common Greek words that translate “worship” in the New Testament are: latreuo and proskuneo. Proskuneo is defined, “to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to” (BDAG). Latreuo is defined as the carrying out of religious duties, especially those of a cultic nature, by human beings (BDAG). This word is used most frequently in reference to acts offered up to God such as sacrifices in the Old Testament; and is commonly translated service in the NT (see Rom. 12:1). Therefore, for the purpose of distinguishing service from worship in the English language, I suggestthat worship is what we do to God with reverence and submission; and service is what we do for God as we go about our daily lives. Notice what Jesus said using both words in the same verse: “You shall worship the Lord your God and Himonly shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). Therefore, worship, as we understand it, is declaring our humble submission to Godthe Father with acts that He alone authorizes. With this background, let us begin the study on “The Worship God Approves” (John 4:19-24).
The first of the ten commandments that God gave Israel is, “You shall have no other god’s before me” (Ex. 20:3). Jesus
refused to worship Satan saying, “. . . you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). Paul criticized the Athenians for worshipping idols; and introduced them to the one true God who alone is worthy of worship (Acts 17:22-23). Too many people today worship money or what money can buy. True worshippers are those who worship the Father alone (4:23).
God is so great and so mighty that it is only natural for His children to worship Him alone. In actuality, “Worship is the only thing we can give to God that is uniquely our own” (Jividen, 84). Who or what do you worship? Think about it!
October 31, 2021
Family Day 2021
One of the great highlights of every year is our annual Family Day. Most churches refer to an occasion like this as
Friends and Family Day. While this may be a more appropriate description (we do invite friends and family alike),
we chose to call it “Family Day” when we first started it, to emphasize family. While not every series of lessons
through the years have been about “Family,” most have been. This year our theme is “The Home God Loves.”
BJ Clarke is our speaker and he will be presenting lessons at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, and 1:00 PM. His 9:00 lesson will
discuss the origin of the home asking, “Where Did the Home Come From?” I assume he will show us that the idea
of a home that God loves originates with God. Any “home” that does not originate with God is not the home God loves.
At 10:00 BJ will discuss the roles of those in the home God loves asking, “What Am I Supposed to Do in the Home?”
Our world seems to think there is no difference between the husband’s role and the wife’s role in the home. But in the
home God loves there are significant differences.
As always, at 11:00 we will have a potluck meal (meat provided). This is a great time to meet and greet visitors and
show them what a friendly and loving church family we are. It is also a good time to make contacts for potential Bible
At 1:00 BJ will present his third and final lesson he has entitled, “Where Will My Home Lead Me.” I assume that this
lesson will show that the home God loves will lead us into eternity with Him.
While I cannot consider myself a perfect husband or father, I do want to fulfil my God-given role to lead my family
into eternity with God. While my boys are grown and have families of their own, I hope that Bonita and I have
instilled in them the same goal for their families.
My dear brethren, it makes no difference how much money you make, and how many things you provide your children,
if they lose their souls. As a Christian parent, I can imagine nothing more horrifying than knowing my child is lost. On
the other hand, I can think of nothing more gratifying than knowing my adult children are serving God and leading
others into the family of God.
I hope we will all be present and listen carefully to what BJ has to say about “The Home God Loves.” It is my earnest
prayer that we will all make the proper application to our own lives and become more of The Home God Loves.”
October 24, 2021
The Church God Approves
Last Sunday night, we showed that Jesus instituted only one church. Everyone entered that church by obeying the gospel
of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-7). The question many people ask today is, “How is it
possible to identify the church God approves among all the religious groups today?”
First it must be the church that originated with God. The church was God’s plan in the beginning. Paul declares, “that
the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church . . .. This was in accordance with the
eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11). God’s plan was to save the world
through His Son and to use the church to spread that good news. The church was not an afterthought. It was God’s plan
from the very beginning. More than eighty-five times the New Testament refers to a church as belonging to God.
Eight times, the New Testament explicitly calls this church “the church of God” or “God’s church” (1 Tim. 3:5 ESV).
Luke explains it as “the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Considering these facts,
any church that cannot trace its origin to God cannot be the church God approves.
Second, it must be a church that gets authority for everything taught and practiced from Jesus (Eph. 1:22-23;
Acts 2:42; John 17:8; Gal. 1:6-8; Col. 3:17). Even though the church Jesus promised belongs to God, God gave all
authority for her to the resurrected Christ. He raised Jesus from the dead and “put all things in subjection under His
feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). At the “Great Commission” Jesus told His
disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given Me” (Matt. 28:18). Even the prophecy of Daniel
presents “dominion” over the kingdom as having been “given” to the resurrected Christ (see Dan. 7:14). The
church is the body and Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22-23). Just as a physical body has no direction or movement unless
directed by the head, the church has no authority except from Christ. He alone holds all authority for everything
taught and practiced by this church. “Whatever you do, in word or deed,” Paul admonishes, “do everything in the
name of the Lord Jesus . . .” (Col. 3:17). All authority for what the church teaches and practices belongs to Christ. If
a church devises its own teachings and practices it cannot be the church God approves.
Any church that does not originate with God, or get all authority from Christ cannot be the church God approves.
Accepting Our Differences
I am different from you. But if you will allow me my own emotions, and actions, and open yourself to my differences; someday, my ways might not seem so wrong. Someday you may even learn to accept me. To accept me is the first step to understanding me. Not that you embrace my ways as right for you, but that you no longer criticize me for our differences. And in time, rather than trying to change me, you might come to value our differences.
Three basic factors make us who we are: genetics, temperament, and training. Genetics determine our unique DNA. DNA is the chemical compound in our cells that determine our physical features. Temperament is a term used to describe our unique psychological structure — emotions, reasoning, and behavior. Training is the outside forces that shape and mold our temperaments and play a large part in developing one’s personality. Every temperament has an inherent unique blend of strengths and weaknesses that are shaped and molded by our individual circumstances, influences, education, and other factors. Understanding these simple facts could save multiple relationships in marriages, relationships at work, relationships between parents and children, and even relationships in the church.
We are all different — both physically and psychologically. Yet we all have the same maker. Jeremiah 1:5 along with Psalms 139:13-16 states four facts about man: We are created in God’s heart. We are crafted by God’s hand. We are consecrated for God’s service. We are called to God’s purpose. Although we are all called to God’s purpose, and set apart for God’s service, He made us all different. My physical features are different than each of yours, my temperament is not the same as yours, and I have had different circumstances that have trained me. None of these factors make me better or you better. They simply make us different.
Paul writes, “For the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12: 3-5).
In our lesson Sunday, we will look at three different bible characters and see how God used each one of them to do what He wanted done. We will apply this to our own place in the church, and emphasize that differences are essential for the church to accomplish God’s will.
This Man Called Jesus: Our Risen Savior and Lord
“He has risen” may be the most meaningful words in the Bible (Matt. 28:6, 7; Mark 16:6). The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son or God and the Savior of the human race (see Rom. 1:4). The resurrection confirms that life conquers death (1 Cor. 15:26); and since death is the penalty for sin (Rom. 6:23), the resurrection conquers sin (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54-57). The resurrection confirms that joy replaces despair and hope overcomes fear. The resurrection confirms complete forgiveness is available. In this lesson I want to show three significant things about Jesus’ resurrection.
First, I offer proof for His resurrection. On the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter acknowledged that the tomb of Jesus was empty (Acts 2:22-35), and many were eye witnesses to the risen Jesus (Acts 2:32; 1 Cor. 15:5-8). Paul further declares that Jesus is the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that life conquers death (see 1 Cor. 15:26). Everything we stand for and every blessing we receive in the church are based upon the death, burial and resurrection of this man called Jesus (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Without the resurrection of Jesus our convictions, our lives, our hope are no more than a twisted set of lies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:15-17).
Second, because of His resurrection, Jesus is the reigning Lord. On that first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Peter declares that God made this man called Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). By His resurrection, God gave Him authority to rule over the church (see Eph. 1:20-22). Paul confirms, “For God has put all things in subjection under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:27a).
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus would be meaningless if He were not coming again? Paul declares to the Thessalonian church, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18). The fact that Jesus is coming again establishes our hope for our own resurrection to eternal life free from temptations, anguish, suffering, pain and death.
The only real question that remains is: What will you do with this man called Jesus? Will you embrace Him as your risen Savior and Lord and hold on to the hope of the resurrection to life?
October 3, 2021
The Humanity of Jesus
We proved last week that Jesus is distinct from God the Father, but He can rightly be called God because He never gave up His Deity. One comment that may need to be cleared up from last week is from John 1:18. The NKJV reads, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” While the NASB reads, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The oldest manuscripts read, “. . . only begotten God . . ..” What is significant is there is no article with the word God anywhere in this verse. This further supports the idea that I presented last week that Jesus, “the only begotten God” explains or reveals the very nature of God, but He is clearly distinct from “the Father.” This week we will prove, that even though Jesus was fully God (Col. 2:9), He was also fully human.
In noting that “. . . the Word was God . . .. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” (John 1:1, 14), we recognize that the same Word that was God in the beginning became flesh. John goes on to explain, “and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “The Word became flesh” emphasizes that He took on a human appearance. Yet, He maintained a glory that could only belong to the Son of God.
Paul declares that when God was made flesh, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8, NASB). Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity, but of the equal authority as God. As a servant, in the appearance of a man, Jesus was completely obedient to the Father (cf. John 14:31).
Jesus’s humanity is seen in His birth. He was born of a woman like every other human. Commentators and scholars often use the word “incarnation” to describe God in the flesh. It specifically refers to the miraculous physical birth of Jesus who was called “Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:23). Mary carried Jesus in her womb, and gave birth to Him in the same way as every mother (see Luke 2:7).
Jesus was educated and grew in knowledge and understanding like every human (Luke 2:40, 52). Jesus was tempted like every human (Heb. 4:15). Even though, Jesus knew things that were humanly impossible to know, there were some things He did not know (see Matt. 24:36). Jesus suffered and died like every human (Luke 23:46; Heb. 9:27).
September 26, 2021
The Deity of Jesus
We are astounded and appalled at some of our religious friends who go door to door teaching that Jesus is a created being. They seem to camp on Colossians 1:15 which reads, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Being “the firstborn of all creation” does not imply being the first thing created. The word “firstborn” sometimes translates a word that means “priority of existence.” We see this term used in connection with David in Psalm 89:27. We know that David was the youngest of eight children; not the firstborn. The phrase in Paul’s letter to the Colossians means that Jesus existed prior to creation. The following verses confirm this understanding saying, “by Him all things were created (v. 16); “He is before all things” (v. 17).
Also, just as appalling are those who try and argue that Jesus and God are the same being. That God left heaven and came to earth. In this article, we will prove that Jesus and God are two distinct beings.
One of the basic points that must be admitted is that Jesus never explicitly calls Himself God. However, He repeatedly claims to be equal with God. Without going into detail about the Greek grammar, I want to impress on you that John declares the Word being God in the beginning (John 1:1-2). The Greek grammar does not allow us to translate the Word as being “a God.” Neither, does the Greek grammar allow us to understand the Word as being the same as “the God.” It is clear that the Word was “with God” making Him a distinct entity in the same sphere or scope as “the God,” but not being “the God.”
Jesus did accept the idea that He was God’s Son. John 5:18 — “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” He also accepted His own preexistence. John 8:58 — “Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” He also admits, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). It is clear, by the use of “I and the Father” Jesus is distinguishing Himself from the Father. However, by the phrase “are one,” in context, Jesus is showing that He and the Father have the same protective care for the sheep. Also, the phrase shows that Jesus and the Father have the same mind, purpose, and action. Jesus does not claim to be the Father, only that He and the Father have the same goals for mankind. Jesus rebuked Philip saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9a). Jesus, again distinguishes Himself from the Father. They are not one in the same being. More to come on Sunday.
September 19, 2021
This Man Called Jesus: Introduction
More than 2000 years ago a baby boy was born contrary to the laws of nature (Matt. 1:18). This boy grew up in poverty in a place considered insignificant (John 1:46). (Nazareth is not even mentioned in the Old Testament or the Talmud). As an infant He worried a king (Matt. 2:3); as a child He confused lawyers (Luke 2:46-47); as a man He walked upon the violent seas (Matt. 14:26), quieted the tempestuous waves (Mark 4:39), healed the sick (Matt. 8:14), and raised the dead (John 11:43-44).
There is no record of a book or a letter written with His own hand, yet all the libraries in the world could not contain the books that have been or could have been written about Him (see John 21:25). There is no record of Him ever writing a song, yet He has been the theme for more songs than all other songs combined.
Every first day of the week millions of people make their way to church buildings all across the world to worship Him. We praise Him in song (Eph. 5:19), we honor Him in prayer (John 14:13), we teach His word (Acts 2:42), we commemorate His life and death by eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 11:23-26, Acts 20:7), and we show our devotion to Him by contributing sacrificially to His work (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
Names of past poets, kings and presidents have come and gone; names of scientists, philosophers, educators, preachers, and theologians have been forgotten, but the name of this man continues (see Heb. 13:8). Herod could not destroy him (Matt. 2:13), Satan could not persuade Him (Matt. 4:1-11), the Pharisees could not silence Him (John 18:19-24), and the grave could not hold Him (Acts 2:24).
He stands above the highest summit of heavenly glory. He is acknowledged by God as His own “Son” (Matt. 3:17), testified by angels as “Savior” (Luke 2:8-11), foretold by prophets as the “Redeemer” (Jer. 50:34), and feared by demons as the “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5).
Time has surpassed 2000 years since the wonderful yet tragic event of His crucifixion, but He still lives. He lives in the heart of every faithful Christian. He is the influence that motivates us to love one another. He is the courage that strengthens us in difficult times. He is the peace that floods our souls in face of death. He is our victory (1 Cor. 15:54-57). He is the man called Jesus. Join us Sunday as we begin a series on This Man Called Jesus.
September 12, 2021
After the death of Joshua, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). This sad statement is followed with an even sadder one, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals” (Judges 2:11). When an entire group of people do not know the Lord or the work He has done, it raises the question of how effective the former generation was at teaching them. We know that God instructed Moses to tell the Children of Israel to teach their
children to love God and keep his commandments (Deut. 6:4-9). Yet, time and time again the Children of Israel did what was right in their own eyes rather than what God desired them to do (see Deut. 12:8; Judges 17:6; 21:25). When the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, God had instructed them to destroy all of the people in the land that he would give them as an inheritance (see Deut. 7:2). They failed to do this; and the people that were left in the land had a greater influence on them than the word of God. So, they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” But even so, God did not abandon them. At least seven times it is recorded in the book of Judges that the Children of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord”; each time, after a period of suffering, the people cried out to the Lord, and each time God raised up a savior to deliver them. Are we not much like Israel? Most of us know what God has done for us in sending His only Son into the world to deliver us from the pain and penalty of sin. Yet the world has such a great influence on us that we often neglect to follow what He has instructed us to do. God has instructed us to train our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). If we do not do this, what chance do our children have of knowing God and doing His will? Maybe it is time for America to repent and cry out to God for deliverance. Think about it!
September 5, 2021
Be a Teacher of the Word
It has been argued that all Christians should not be teachers (James 3:1-12). This statement is in the context of controlling the tongue; and implies that if one is not careful with what he says, he can cause great trouble in the church (3:5-10).
Because of the responsibility of guarding the tongue, a teacher will incur a stricter judgement (3:1). However, the Hebrews writer adamantly declares that all Christians should become teachers (see Heb. 5:12). So, while there is a time for maturing in the word, no Christian should continually use James 3:1 as an excuse not to teach.
I understand there are different ways to teach. One can be an evangelist, literally, “One who preaches the gospel” (see Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5). However, every member of the church is to live so that they point the way to the Father (Matt. 5:16; see also1 Peter 3:15). When Jesus called His first disciples, He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). To be fishers of men is to be people who teach others the good news of Jesus.
To be a teacher, we must learn to love the lost. In Luke 15 Jesus tells three stories showing the value of a lost one. The lost sheep was so valuable that the shepherd would leave 99 sheep and go in search of the lost one; and would rejoice when he found it. The lost coin was so valuable that the woman cleaned her house thoroughly until she found it and then rejoiced. The lost boy was so valuable, that even though the father could do nothing to find the boy, when the boy came home, they all rejoiced and celebrated. What better way to show our love for lost people than to share the good news of the hope of eternal life with the joy, peace, health and security it provides?
The early church was about teaching the gospel (see Acts 8:4; 11:19-20). Paul made it clear that his mission in life was to win the lost (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul declares, “just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33). Immediately following this statement, he says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (11:1). Jesus
declared that His whole reason for coming to this earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). There can be no doubt that Paul is calling the whole church to follow his and Jesus’ example in sharing the gospel with the lost so that they may be saved. To be a teacher for Jesus, sharing the gospel should be our purpose in life.
My friend, be a teacher of the gospel. Learn to love the lost like Jesus did. Let saving the lost be your purpose in life.
August 29, 2021
I Have Learned to Pray
For years I thought I knew how to pray. I talked with God regularly. I petitioned Him with requests according to His will (1 John 5:14). I laid my burdens on Him (1 Peter 5:6-7; Matt. 11:28-30). I gave Him thanks for everything (Phil. 4:7). I even tried to maintain a dependent and persistent prayerful attitude (1 Thess. 5:17). And, although I may not have realized it, something was missing in my prayers. I certainly did not have the kind of peace and contentment Paul had as he faced uncertainty in his Roman imprisonment (Phil. 4:7, 11-12). I think Jesus’ disciples must have felt something was missing in their prayers when they petitioned Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Perhaps they were missing His contentment, His persistence, or His faith. Whatever it was, they wanted it. I do to! Don’t you? There are at least two challenges to our prayer life: our minds have a tendency to wander; and we often get caught up in meaningless repetition (see Matt. 6:7). Prayers must come from the heart, and when our minds wander or when we start regurgitating a canned prayer, it is easier for those prayers to become meaningless.
To help me stay focused and guard against meaningless repetition, I started Praying the Bible (see book by Donald S. Whitney; Crossway, 2015). (Jacob Evans, one of our speakers, introduced us to this book). Praying the Bible means I started letting a passage of scripture frame and guide my prayers. This method of praying has biblical precedent: Jesus prayed Psalm 22:1 on the cross when He “cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me’” (Matt. 27:46). Jesus also prayed Psalm 31:5 when He said, “. . . Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). The early church used several verses from the Old Testament (cf. Psalm. 146:6; 2:1-2) as they prayed for boldness in speaking the word of God (Acts 4:23-31).
Following are a few benefits I have gained by praying the Bible: My mind does not wander as much. I do not pray the same prayer as often. I find myself praying more frequently. I am growing in my knowledge and application of Scripture. I pray about things I had previously neglected. I am developing a deeper relationship with God.
Through my reading and prayers, I am learning to trust God more, and therefore I am more at peace and content in whatever situation I am in. It seems that every day I get a little better at praying. I feel a little closer to God; and I am becoming more at peace in life’s challenges.
August 22, 2021
Evangelism Through Benevolence
There is no doubt that Christians are to help one another. The whole idea for the collection by Paul from churches in Macedonia was to help the poor saints in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:4). Even the early church “were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45; cf. 4:32-37). Seven men were selected to see that certain widows who were being neglected were taken care of (Acts 6:1-3). But even among Christians God set limits as to who was to be helped. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Further there were stipulations for widows who would be helped by the church (see 1 Tim. 5:9-10).
Some argue that there is no example or command that give the church responsibility to help anyone who is not a faithful Christian. However, we are instructed to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19. Therefore, if we can use benevolence to help us accomplish this task, I can see no violation of scripture in this. As a matter of fact, Paul declares, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Furthermore, before feeding 5000 men plus women and children, Jesus “felt compassion for them . . .; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34b). After teaching them, He fed them.
This is a good example for how we should practice benevolence with those outside the church.
Three points should guide any benevolence. First, reaching the lost for Christ must be our ultimate goal in everything we do. Second, taking care of our own church family. Third, anyone who is able but unwilling to work should be taught that God desires us to work; if they refuse the word of God, we are under no obligation to help (see Matt. 10:14; John 6:26, 66).
Over the past couple of years, our policy has been that one would qualify for help if, 1) he or she was recommended by a member of this church. If you know of anyone in need, please write the name and contact information on a card and turn it in to the office. We will try to help, but will also do our best to set up a Bible Study with them. 2) Anyone who called or stopped by asking for help was asked to be present at the next appointed assembly to discuss the chance that we would help them. Join us Sunday as we discuss evangelism through benevolence and how you can be a part of this work.
August 15, 2021
Knowing You Are Lost
The Bible tells us that “there is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). Jesus also explains that there are two distinct paths in life. One path leads to eternal life; the other path leads to eternal condemnation (Matt. 7:13-14). God never leaves man guessing which way is right. He plainly reveals that the right way is the way of truth. No one can be approved by God apart from truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Furthermore, Jesus said, “truth will make you free” (John 8:32). In His prayer to the Father, Jesus declares, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
The first thing we must do is accept the fact that anyone who is not following truth is lost. I am not judging anyone by this conclusion. God has not given anyone the responsibility to condemn another soul (See James 4:12). However,God has preserved His word to guide us into all righteousness (see 2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, apart from the word, we cannot know the way to life (2 Peter 1:3). Religion will not save you. Church attendance will not save you. Feelings will not save you. Only truth can save you. This is where we must begin. Are you following the truth?
Second, we must admit to ourselves that if we are not following the word of God, we are lost. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he asserts, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It does one no good to be told they are lost until they accept that fact. I remember once at about age 4 or 5 being lost in a Sears and Roebuck store. I searched the store over and could not find my parents. The thought ran through my mind that they had abandoned me. They did not want me and had just left me there alone. I had an overwhelming feeling of being empty and alone. When we get to this point, when we have this kind of lost feeling, we can accept the fact that we are lost and separated from God and the hope of living with Him eternally.
Third, we must turn to the truth for salvation. When we turn to the truth, we expel tradition, feelings, and family from our minds; and open our hearts to what is revealed in the word. Paul expresses to the Romans that they had “obeyed from the heart” (Rom. 6:17). When the eunuch asked Philip if he could be baptized, Philip responded, “If you believe in your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37). Jesus explains the importance of the heart in obedience when He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Accept truth, accept you are lost apart from truth, and turn to truth with your heart and you will find the way to God.
August 8, 2021
Why I Believe the Bible
A wise man once said, “You open your Bible and read, ‘In the beginning God . . ..’ ” He added, “If you don’t believe that, the rest will mean nothing.”
While his point is well taken, our belief in God, His Son, and His word is not a blind leap in the dark. It is built on evidence. Admittedly, this evidence is partly incomprehensible. No one can comprehend how something can be made from nothing. Neither is it humanly possible to comprehend an eternal nature. These things cannot be logically or reasonably explained outside the realm of faith. However, the very existence of the world, and the fact that it cannot be reasonably or logically explained any other way supports an eternal, omniscient Creator. If one believes this Creator exists, and that He has a plan for His creation, then one must believe that a special revelation from Him is necessary. If this revelation is written, it is applicable to everyone who has the ability to think and reason.
However, admittedly, the simple fact that our Creator would reveal His plan to His creation does not give creditable
evidence to the Bible being that revelation. There were criteria that must be met for any ancient letter to be added
to the canon (the books accepted to be Holy Scripture). Without going into great detail, three basic criteria must have been met before a letter was included in the canon. First, the information must be from by an eye witness. Second, the letter must have been widely received by the churches of the first century. Third, the historical authenticity of the letter must be confirmed. If early
Christian writers such as Polycarp, Origen, Eusebius and others regarded the work as inspired, this is remarkable
early evidence to support the inspiration of the letter.
In addition to the 39 books of the OT (canonized between 200 BC and 200 AD), the 27 books of NT were accepted as
Holy Scripture in AD 393. These are the same 27 books we have as our New Testament today.
We must remember, however, that every part of the Bible we have today is inspired in so far as it is correctly preserved
and translated. Wayne Jackson admits that although all translations are not of equal value, “it is not a spiritual act
to castigate someone simply because he is using a less-than-perfect translation. The important thing is this: Is he
teaching the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” (Bible Controversy, 30)? Remember Jesus says, “. . .
Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Let us learn and accept the truth at all costs. Truth is worth every sacrifice; nothing
but “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32b).
August 1, 2021
2 Peter 3:10-18
Last week we reviewed 2 Peter 3:1- 9 and noticed that God has always done what He said He would do. Therefore,
they should not listen to the mockers, because Christ is not coming when man thinks He should. God is patient with us
giving mankind opportunity to repent. So, don’t be fooled. Christ will return and judge the ungodly and destroy the
world with fire.
Then in 2 Peter 3:10-18 Peter declares how Christ will come, and the fact that we must be ready. Peter first says
Christ will come “as a thief in the night.” The idea is that the Lord will come unannounced and unexpected. A great
noise will mark His arrival: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16a). The “dead in Christ will be raised first” (1 Thess. 4:16b).
Jesus Himself speaks of the resurrection saying, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are
in the tombs will hear His voice, and come out; those who have done good to a resurrection of life, those who have
done evil to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). We are also told that those still alive on earth at His coming will
be changed: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we
shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Finally, the final judgment comes when the books will be opened and man
will be judged according to what is written (Rev. 20:11-14). Sometime during the process of the second coming, “the
heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will
be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10b). My friend, the Bible teaches that most people will be caught off guard, and unprepared
for this judgment day (cf. Matt. 7:13-14).
Peter then offers some advice for Christians to be ready for His coming (2 Peter 3:11-18). He encourages us to “live
holy and godly lives”—separate from the way other people who do not know God lives (v. 11). He encourages us to live
with an anxious expectation, looking forward to His coming and a better life (vv. 12, 13). He encourages us to “be
diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (v. 14). He cautions us to “be on your guard”—
watching and waiting (v. 17). Finally, he instructs us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ” (v. 18).
Christian, are you ready?
July 25, 2021
2 Peter 3:3-13
Many Christians were growing weary and losing confidence in the promises given, because of the
persecution they faced and the mockery that was being inflicted on them (see 2 Peter 3:4). They were looking
intently for the coming Messiah. (Do we long for the second coming of our Lord? Do we feel this kind of confidence)?
Unlike the first epistle, which addresses persecution from outside their family, the second epistle addresses
persecution from within their own people, the “false teachers” (2 Peter 2:1). Peter's warning would help them
to defend the accusations made by the false teachers by telling them to “remember” what the prophets and
apostles had said about the coming of the “scoffers” (3:3). In other words, Peter is saying, do not let these
mockers and know-it-alls discourage you. Yet Peter warns that these false teachers would come in among
them saying, “Where is the promise of his coming” (3:4). In other words, they would argue that the promise
of the coming of the Lord is a fallacy. It is evident that the implication of the false teachers would be that if the
Lord were coming, he would have already come.
It is at this point that Peter reminds these Christians of the great power of God. He tells them that God spoke and
the world came into existence, God spoke and the world perished in the flood, and it is by the same word that God
will announce the coming of the Lord (3:5-7, 10).
Peter further encourages them by saying that they could not conclude that since a little time had lapsed that God
was not going to keep his promises because God does not count time by years (3:8). God counts time by
opportunity. Notice Peter says that God is “longsuffering, not willing that any should perish” (3:9).
This means that God will allow opportunity for the ungodly to repent. It was disheartening for Peter to see
his fellow Christians depressed and discouraged because the Lord had not yet returned. He reminded them that
God does not want anyone to be lost. Therefore, by His delay, He was continuing to provide opportunity for men
to repent (3:9) and “grow” (3:18).
Think about your own spiritual condition. Is it possible that the Lord has not yet returned so that you might have
an opportunity to repent? Think about it!
July 18, 2021
Several different Greek words translate an idea of patience. Sometimes the same Greek word will translate different words in different contexts, also in different versions of the Bible. For example, the same Greek words may translate patience, or steadfastness, or perseverance, or persistence, or long-suffering, or endurance, or, maybe even waiting. It is important to recognize that patience is the attitude you have while waiting for something. Therefore, patience, or any one of the other words, begins with learning to wait.
We live in an impatient world. It seems that no one wants to wait for anything. Many car salesmen thrive on this mentality. They are told, “Don’t let an interested customer leave the lot”! Our society has built this mentality. We have self-serve checkout lanes at the grocery, fast food and drive through restaurants, self-serve gas pumps, home shopping, all intended to keep us from waiting. And, we get frustrated, even angry when we have to wait for almost anything.
Yet the Bible often commends waiting. The Psalmist avows, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). He further advises, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him, do not fret because of him who prospers in his way” (Psalm 37:7). He also prays, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (Psalm 62:5). James instructs, “There fore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits patiently for the precious produce of the soil . . .. You too be patient” (James 5:7-8). In His letter to the Colossians, Paul instructs, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).
A third point that is necessary to understand is that patience is learned. No one is born patient. You have never seen a baby that patiently waited to be fed when hungry, or to be changed when wet? When Paul said that he had learned to be content in all circumstances in which he found himself (Philippians 4:11), he was explaining that he had learned to be patient. Patience is necessary to be content. It was suffering hard times and good times that taught Paul the patience necessary to be content.
Finally, learning patience takes time. Noah waited at least120 years to see the wicked punished. Abraham and Sarah, as well as Zacharias and Elizabeth, waited a lifetime to have a son. Caleb waited for forty years to receive God’s Promised Land. We too must wait and learn patience. Paul reminds us that “if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom. 8:25). “Be patient until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7).
July 11, 2021
Three fundamental and eternal principles must characterize the framework for a study on "grace." First, all people are sinners. Paul asserts, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All have sinned (in the past) and all continue to come short of God's glory. (I take this to infer that we continue to fail in showing God the honor and respect that He deserves; i.e., we continue to sin. Maybe not habitually, or intentionally, but we still sin).
Second, sin deserves to be punished. Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). Death was the pronounced judgment on Adam and Eve because of their sin (Gen. 2:17), on the children of Israel (Ezek. 33:11), and it is the pronounced judgment on people today (Rom. 6:23).
Third, salvation is available. Zechariah prophesies that his son, John, would go before the Lord to “To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:77-78a). Paul confirms this saying, “. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23).
Yet, how can one reconcile these truths? If we all sin; and sin demands death; how can anyone be saved?
God has always required a blood sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:22). When Jesus shed his blood as the atoning sacrifice, He paid the price for all men for all sins for all times (Heb. 10:12). Herein the truths are reconciled for our salvation: Jesus became the blood sacrifice for our sins! Because I am a sinner, and death is the penalty for sin, I deserve to die; but God provided a permanent solution —the perfect life of His own Son. Herein is the grace of God —that He gave His own Son to die in my place.
Paul further explains this concept saying, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus not only took our place in the penalty for our own sins; He gave us His place in righteousness i.e., He was made sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The grace of God is that Jesus lived a perfect life that God acknowledges for us; then died the death we deserved because of our sins. Peter explains it like this: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Join us Sunday for a fuller discussion of God’s Grace.
July 4, 2021
Sunday is July 4th, Independence Day. It is the day our nation celebrates its birth, and our independence from Great Britain. Besides fireworks, lakes, and cookouts, what do you think about regarding this special day? You may think about Patrick Henry who questioned the council, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God -I know not what course others may take; but as for me -give me liberty or give me death!” You may think of Paul Revere who rode through the streets shouting, “The British are coming.” You may think of the Declaration of Independence. You may think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union address on January 6, 1941. In his message Roosevelt proclaimed, “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” Roosevelt presented these freedoms as: First, world-wide freedom of speech and expression; second, world-wide freedom to worship God; third, world-wide freedom from want; and fourth, freedom from fear.” When Roosevelt made this speech, Hitler was tyrannizing his way across Europe; and Japan was attempting to occupy China. Roosevelt’s speech was a declaration that we would not allow Hitler or Japan to conquer the world and take away our freedoms.
Freedom is the founding principle of our nation. Freedom is really what Independence Day is about—what being an American is all about. But freedom is a word that should strike Christians for a different reason. Freedom from sin and death should be the reason for our celebration, not only on July 4th, but every day of the year.
There is no more powerful enemy to our freedom than sin. Donald Guthrie once wrote “Sin is a debt, a burden, a thief, a sickness, a leprosy, a plague, a poison, a serpent, a sting. Everything that man hates, sin is. ”Yet, we still allow sin to wreck our lives and condemn our souls. People weep and wail to be free from sin, but it holds on like a leach, sucking the life out of us. We often run and try to hide from the guilt it causes, but we cannot break free.
God gave mankind all the information necessary to be free from sin and death when He instructed, “. . . but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen.2:17). They ate from the forbidden tree and the sentence of death for sin was carried out. But it was God’s plan to redeem man from sin and death (see Gen. 3:15). Sin enslaves us. But God sent His Son to free us from sin and death (see Rom. 6:1-23-8:1-8).
June 27, 2021
Jesus, King of Kings
When we think of a typical king, we think of a one who is born into a royal family and in a royal palace. We think of one who is born and groomed to be served, and has authority over a country. A typical king can and will eventually lose his authority, His kingdom can be overtaken by another king; or, in any case he will lose his authority at death.
Yet, the King of Kings is different. We learn from prophecy that Jesus would be born a King (2 Sam. 7:12-13; Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:26-33). We learn that He was born a king because when the magi came from the east they asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2)? Also, when Jesus was on trial before Pilate He confirmed, “I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37a, b).
But unlike a typical king, Jesus was not born in a palace, but a manger (Luke 2:7). Also, unlike a typical king, Jesus was not born into a royal family. Luke declares that when they came to Jerusalem to dedicate Jesus to the Lord, they offered sacrifice according to the law, “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). Going back to the recorded law in Leviticus 5, we learn that the two turtle doves or pigeons were accepted alternatives if one could not afford a lamb (Lev. 5:7). Thus, they were not royalty.
Unlike a typical king, Jesus was not born to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Furthermore, unlike a typical king, Jesus was born a king without a kingdom. His kingdom did not come until after His resurrection and ascension. Daniel prophesies that the kingdom would be given to Christ after He had ascended to the “Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7:13-14). His kingdom would not be one nation alone, but the world (Matt. 24:14); having authority over all people (Matt. 28:18; Col. 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:22; John 17:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:24). Jesus’s kingdom is not made up of an earthly territory like a typical king, but it is a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36). His kingdom would not be a temporary kingdom subject to be overthrown, but an eternal kingdom (see Luke 1:33; Dan. 2:44).
Whose kingdom do you want to be a part of? One that is over one country or one that is over the world? One that will be destroyed or one that stands forever? Do you want to be subject to a king that wants to be served or one whose sole desire is to serve His citizens? Do you want to be subject to a king that has temporary authority or one who has eternal power? I choose Jesus, king of kings! There is no greater king than Jesus. He is “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (1 Tim. 6:15).
June 20, 2021
The Belt and the Bible
Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., got the idea to set aside a special day to honor fathers in 1909. She got this idea after listening to a sermon to honor mothers on Mother's Day. Her mother had died, and her dad had raised six children on his own. She wanted to honor her father, so she drew up a petition recommending adoption of a national Father's Day. The Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) supported it. Through Sonora Dodd's efforts, Spokane celebrated the first Father's Day on June 19, 1910. Over the years, many resolutions to make the day an official national holiday were introduced, but it was President Richard M. Nixon that signed Father's Day into law in 1972.
I thank God for fathers. We learn so much from the time we spend with our dads. Most of us who’s dads have died cherish the memories. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dad.
But among the many things that often remind me of my dad, none are more settled in my memory than the training he provided. I want to share with you two items that remind me of that training.
First is the belt. Now I have to tell you it wasn’t always a belt that was used to drive the demons from me. Daddy often used whatever was handy. I remember once being “whipped” with the legs of a pair of blue jeans. I think most of us, at least those who grew up in my generation, remember their dads as the prominent disciplinarian in the home. This is a biblical principle (see Heb. 12:7-11). However, there are boundaries for discipline (see Eph. 6:4, Col. 3;21). Fathers must be self-controlled.
The second thing I remember about the training from my dad is the Bible. Daddy used to keep the old Family Bible in the top drawer of the hutch right behind his chair at the dining table. Every morning as we were gathered around the table for breakfast Daddy would take out the old Bible and read a passage to us. I remember many nights my daddy would come into my brother’s and my bedroom, pull up a chair from the desk, set it between our twin beds, and read from the Bible. My daddy taught me that the Bible will guide us through life (see Psalm 119:105). He taught me not to be ashamed of the Bible (see Rom. 1:16). He taught me to trust in the Bible (see Rom. 10:17).
My daddy trained me in the ways of righteousness using the belt, and the Bible. Young fathers, use the belt and the Bible to train your children. They will thank you when they are old.
June 13, 2021
What Do People See in You?
Preparing people to live as Christians, Jesus taught: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). Within these three verses lay the distinct purpose of Christians. We are to bring glory to God in everything we do. The Christian purpose is not to glorify self, son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, or even grandchildren (cf. Matt. 10:37). The plain and simple purpose of a Christian is for the world to see you bringing glory to God our Father.
Later in this same sermon, Jesus taught, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). The word “first” is a very explicit word. It is unqualified yet grossly misapplied in our world. We often use it as in “First on Sunday.” Or maybe even, “First unless something comes up that I had rather do.” The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament observes that when referring to God, in at least one of his writings, Philo uses the same Greek word Matthew uses to denote exclusivity. I think this harmonizes well with what Scriptures reveal about the conduct of the Christian. The immediate context of Matthew 6:33 discloses that Christians should live by faith in God alone (see Matt. 6:19ff). Paul explains it, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” (Col. 3:17). In addition to authority, “in the name of . . .” means that we are to bring glory and honor to Jesus in everything we do. This is the exclusive purpose of a Christian.
Paul makes it plain that the Christian should live every aspect of his life in such a way that he can spend eternity with God (see 2 Cor. 5:4-7). Paul explains the life of a Christian saying, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
One who desires to be known as a Christian must pattern his life after Christ. Christ set the example in Christian living saying that even in difficult times, he “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23). As Christians, we must follow the example that Christ set in every aspect of our lives. Do others see Christ in you? Think about it!
June 6, 2021
Love in Marriage
Many people in foreign countries have arranged marriages; and they have fewer divorces. When asked why there were fewer divorces in the arranged marriages they said, “You Americans fall in love then get married, we get married then fall in love.” Regardless when love takes place, it is a confirmed fact that love must be present for a marriage to survive.
Examining four Greek words that translate love can help us understand what love in marriage is supposed to be. The first two words are not used in the New Testament. However, the first word carries the idea, “I like you.” Liking your spouse is essential for love to grow.
The second word carries the idea of desire i.e., “I want you.” Often, a couple wants to get married after dating for a short time. They think they are in love. In reality, it is only lust. Although the word is not used in the New Testament, it is obvious that this kind of love should be in a sustained marriage. We should desire one another (see 1 Cor. 7:1-5).The last two words are found in the New Testament and both are used in the context of marriage. The inspired apostle Paul writes, “Husbands love your wives . . .” (Eph. 5:25, 28); and he instructs “young women to love their husbands” (Titus 2:4). While the two words for love may have slightly different applications, the two words do not differ in the amount of love extended.
The word used for the wife’s love for her husband (Tit. 2:4) carries the idea of a close personal relationship, such as a friend. The wife is to be a friend to her husband. She is to love him in spite of his faults. She is to stand by him no matter what may happen. With this word Paul is instructing wives to be friends to their husbands. One of the top reasons given by couples with fulfilling marriages is that they are best friends.
The word Paul uses for husbands to love their wives carries the idea of a sacrificial and unconditional love. It is the love that Christ had for the church (Eph. 5:25). It is the love that a husband is to have for his wife (Eph. 5:25, 28). As the head of the wife, the husband is to give up his will for the good of his wife. I have seen more couples divorce because the husband was not willing to give up what he wanted for the good of the family. This is called selfishness, the exact opposite of the love he should have.
Love in marriage begins with liking one another. It grows into friendship, and develops into a selfless offering of oneself for the other (cf. 1 Cor. 13). How is the love in your marriage?
May 30, 2021
A Memorial Day
Monday is Memorial Day. This day is also called Decoration Day. Originally, this day was to honor military personnel who died in the Civil War, by decorating their graves. Now, this is a day to honor all Americans who gave their lives to defend the freedoms that citizens of the United States enjoy.
Although I have never been privileged to serve in the military, I offer my sincere thanks to all who have and are serving our country to defend the national and religious freedoms from which I benefit.
While it is true that Memorial Day does not have its roots in Christianity, Christians all over America are touched by the memories of someone who gave their lives for our freedom. Many families will gather at the gravesides of their loved ones, or gather for a special meal or some other family tradition and honor the memory of their loved ones.
Every Sunday, we have the privilege to remember the One who gave His life for the freedom of every person on earth. In the upper room, the night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus took the bread and told His disciples, “This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 NASB). Then He took a cup of fruit from the vine and instructed His disciples to drink from it saying, “[T]his is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).
When Paul addressed the Church at Corinth he told them: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
We remember Christ every Sunday in this memorial feast because of a war with Satan that we could not win (Heb. 10:1-4, 11; Eph. 6:11-12). No other sacrifice could destroy sin. Christ’s sacrifice provided the victory for all men for all time (Heb. 10:12). The last words Jesus said while hanging on the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19.30a). This was the victory cry for mankind. Every Sunday, as we are assembled, we remember the sacrifice our Lord made for our freedoms. We eat the bread as a memorial of his body and drink the fruit from the vine as a memorial of his blood. We do it with solemn thanksgiving and reverence.
May 23, 2021
Love Your Neighbor
Luke’s account regarding the greatest commandment seems to be a different occasion than Matthew’s and Mark’s. Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts have the lawyer asking the question and Jesus citing the law; Luke has Jesus asking the question and the lawyer citing the law. Luke is the only one of the synoptic gospels that has the illustration of the “Good Samaritan” to explain what it means to love your neighbor. A lawyer “put [Jesus] to the test” and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” (10:25)? Now, Jesus must have known he was being tested, so he turned the question back on the lawyer and asked, “What is written in the Law?” You can almost hear the pride in the lawyer as he quickly and correctly cites the foundational principle of the law, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (10:27). Jesus responded, “you have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (10:28). But the lawyer, wishing to show himself even more righteous, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29)? Under the Law of Moses, a neighbor was anyone who was an Israelite. It would also include anyone who embraced the covenant of the Jews (Lev. 19). Yet, anyone, even if they lived nearby, who did not embrace God’s covenant with Israel was not considered a neighbor. So, this lawyer was still trying to trap Jesus, even with this question. To answer the lawyer’s question, Jesus told the parable called “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37).
The parable begins, “A certain man . . ..” the Greek word that translates “certain” often goes untranslated. I think it should be translated in this case, because it better explains that Jesus is referring to the man that fell among thieves as a Jew. This makes this parable more significant to the Jewish lawyer who is trying to trap Jesus. With this parable, Jesus presents three pertinent issues regarding our love for our neighbor:
First, he revealed the true meaning of “neighbor.” A true neighbor is not simply one who lives close by. A neighbor is not simply one who has previously shown kindness to another. A neighbor is not simply a friend or relative. A neighbor is not simply one with the same religious persuasion. A true neighbor does not distinguish by color, religion, political party, social status, or anything else. He simply sees one in need and moves to help.
This parable also shows the heart of a neighbor – he desires nothing in return. It also shows what it truly means to love your neighbor – to give yourself.
May 16, 2021
Loving the Erring
James says that an erring brother is one who “strays from the truth” (James 5:19-20). One can stray from truth by blatant disobedience (2 Tim. 4:10), by ignorance (Acts 17:23, 30), or by negligence (Heb. 2:1-2; 3:12). Whatever the reason, a straying brother or sister is in need of restoration and the one who attempts to restore them must be motivated by love.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he instructs that if anyone does not obey, the church is to “admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:15). To admonish is to correct, but the correction must be done with the same genuine love we have for a brother (see 1 John 3:14-18; 4:7-12).
Too often though, we allow a brother or sister to continue in sin. We do not want to offend anyone, so, we make excuses. We say things like, “They know better.” “They know what the Bible teaches.” Maybe they do know better; maybe they do know what the Bible teaches. But maybe they need to know someone cares enough to say something. When you love someone, you cannot tolerate their sin. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because they tolerated the sin of a brother. He instructed them to deliver the immoral man to Satan “for the destruction of his flesh so his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). Later, in the second epistle, Paul noted that he rebuked them so harshly so that they would “know the love” he had for them (2 Cor. 2:4b).
Second, it is often easy to be hard and unkind when correcting a wayward brother, but Paul instructs us to have the “spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). We must be gentle and understanding, even empathetic to the erring brother or sister. No one is above being ensnared by sin. We must not lead the erring brother to think that we think we are better than them. A loving brother must be firm in his declaration of the truth, but gentle in his heart as he expresses God’s displeasure with sin. He must express understanding without expressing tolerance. We must never lead the erring one to believe his sin is acceptable to God or the church. Yet, we must never lead a brother or sister to think they cannot be forgiven by God and the church. When we attempt to restore an erring brother, we must approach them with genuine love, gentleness and understanding. James writes, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Are we loving the Erring? Think about it!
May 9, 2021
Learning to Love One Another
Last Sunday night we looked at some selected verses from 1 John 3 and 4 and emphasized that children of God are identified by the love they have for God and for their brethren. We also saw that loving the brethren is just as essential to be identified as a child of God as believing that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 3:23). In this lesson, we learn how to love one another.
We begin by looking at John 13. While eating the Passover meal in an upper room the disciples engaged in a “dispute” about who among them was greatest (see Luke 22:24-27). Maybe this argument began on the way to the upper room. Maybe it started over who was going to be a servant and wash the feet as they came into the room. Maybe it started over who was going to sit closest to Jesus. Whatever the reason, Jesus found opportunity to teach a lesson on how to love one another.
Jesus teaches that loving one another demands humble service. Jesus acknowledged that He was their teacher and Lord (John 13:13). Yet, He humbled Himself to be a servant to all of them by washing their feet (John 13:5-12). He then instructed, “If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15). Jesus explains that this humble service is an expression of love saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). Paul reiterates that loving the brethren requires humble service explaining that no one should think that he is more important than any other person in the church. Each person has a gift and that gift is to be used in humble service to God and one another (Rom. 12:3-8). We must learn to humble ourselves to serve one another if we are going to truly love one another.
Paul then teaches that one who truly loves his brethren is genuinely devoted to them (Rom. 12:9-10). He says, “Don't just pretend that you love others” (12:9a NLT). Be genuine. He further declares, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (12:10 ESV). The Greek word that translates “brotherly love” (NASB) or “brotherly affection” (ESV) reflects the caring benevolent affection a mother has for her children. A child of God is as devoted to his brethren as a loving mother is for her children. Paul sums up the love we should have for one another saying, “Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the law . . .” (Rom. 13:8-10 NKJV, cf. Matt. 22:37-40)
May 2, 2021
A Series on Love
My sermons for May will focus on “Love.” The key verses for this series are found in Matthew 22:37-39: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (cf. Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).
I fear we often use the word love rather flippantly. We may tell someone we love them when it is not really love at all. It may be more akin to lust, or possibly infatuation. Furthermore, we may often say we love God, but do we really? Jesus declares, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15; cf. 14:21, 23). True love is easily recognized by putting one’s own desires aside and giving himself completely for the one he claims to love. The first lesson in this series is “God Shows Us Love.”
True love cannot be determined by one’s words alone. John writes, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). This is a simple yet complex statement. Telling someone you love them is not condemned. As a matter of fact, people like to hear those words occasionally. But the words alone are not sufficient to prove love. True love is reflected in one’s actions. One’s love is only determined by how he gives himself. Notice that John writes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John also writes, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). Jesus declares, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, emphases mine). When God loves, He gives Himself.
Furthermore, true love is free and unsolicited. John writes, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10a). God loves us because He has chosen to love us. He is under no obligation to do so; except that it would be contrary to His nature not to love us, because “God is love” (1 John 4:8b, 16). God has loved us, and expects nothing in return. He only wants us to love Him by our own free will.
If we truly love God, we will show that love by giving Him our hearts, our souls, our minds, and Mark and Luke add our “strength” (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Do you truly love God? Think about it!
April 25, 2021
The Death of John the Baptist
By this time in this study of John the Baptist, I hope you have gained great respect for this man. He was a special man, chosen for a special mission. He fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies; and he was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was a powerful and fearless preacher sent from God. Jesus testified that “among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” (Matt. 11:11a).
When Herod heard about the ministry of Jesus and all the miracles He performed, he assumed that Jesus was John the Baptist who was raised from the dead (Mark6:16). Mark fills in the gap explaining the previous arrest and death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-29).
Herod had taken Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and married her. He had John arrested because John “had been saying, it is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herod was angry and wanted to put John to death, but was afraid the crowd would rebel “because they regarded John as a prophet” (Matt. 14:5). But Herodias “had a grudge against [John] and wanted to put him to death” (Mark 6:19). Yet, Herod “kept him safe” in prison (Mark 6:20a). He did this for three reasons: One, he wanted to keep John from continually exposing his sin; two, he knew John was “a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20); three, he enjoyed “listening to him” (Mark6:20).Herod might not like what John said, but it always gave him something to reflect on.
Mark 6 verses 21-29 tell of the tragic death of John the Baptist. It was Herod’s birthday and a great banquet was given in his honor. Herodias had been waiting for an opportunity to see John the Baptist put to death. This chance came when Herodias sent in her teenage daughter to dance for Herod and his friends. Robertson suggests the dance was a lewd promiscuous dance designed to incite lust in the hearts of all the men in the room. Herod was so enamored by the young girl’s dance that he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half his kingdom! The girl ran to seek advice from her evil vengeful mother, who told her to request the head of John the Baptist. The girl ran back and asked for John’s head on a platter. Herod realized his mistake immediately. But, afraid of embarrassment in front of his guests, he sent for the executioner and John was beheaded and his head placed on a silver platter and given to Salome. John’s disciples came and took his body away for burial. Join us Sunday as we look at some applicable lessons gleaned from this text.
April 18, 2021
A Witness for Jesus
For anyone to be a credible witness in a court of law three specific characteristics must be notable. First, one must be respected. If his character is called into question, his testimony is disregarded. Second, one must have truthful testimony. If he cannot substantiate his testimony with believable evidence, his testimony will be disregarded. Third, one must be unpretentious. If it is determined that he is looking for any glory, or reward his testimony will be worthless. As I thought about this, I thought if Jesus was on trial, and He is, could we be called upon as a credible witness for Him?
When Jesus called upon John the Baptist as a witness for Him (John 5:33-35), He knew that John was highly esteemed as a prophet. People knew John was a prophet from his birth (Luke 1:76). Jesus affirmed it (Matt. 11:8-9). Herod accepted it (Mark 6:20; cf. Matt. 14:5). Jewish leaders refused to deny it (Matt. 21:25-26; et al.).
Also, Jesus knew that John’s testimony was truth. Jesus confirms what his accusers already knew using two prefect tense verbs (John 5:33) indicating that John’s message never changed (cf. John 1:19-28). Furthermore, he was an eyewitness. God had told John that “upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33). John saw “the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him” (John 1:32); and John heard “a voice out of the heavens [saying], This is my beloved Son . . .” (Matt. 3:16-17). Therefore, John declared before the Pharisees, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). John’s testimony was also true because it was of divine origin. Jesus declares to His accusers, “The testimony which I receive is not from man” (5:34a). John writes, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (John 1:6).
Finally, John was a perfect witness for Jesus because he was unpretentious. John never claimed to be anything more than one who was to prepare the way for Christ (John 1:19-28). John even told his disciples regarding Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
All Christians are called upon to testify for Jesus every day. Are you a credible witness? Is your testimony heard? Is your character such that people respect you? Do they see you as as truthful and unpretentious? Think about it!
April 11, 2021
The Ministry of John the Baptist
All four gospels speak of the ministry of John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:1-2; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:2; John 1:6).
After being raised in the wilderness, John came forth wearing a garment made of camel’s skin with a leather belt around his waist. His diet was locusts and wild honey. He was living the life of a pauper. Yet, when he came preaching, people flocked to hear him. His message was not a soft, permissive message. His tone was not gentle and understanding. His tone was harsh and demanding. His message was clear and condemning: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7; Matt. 3:7). Without fear John demanded, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8; cf. Luke 3:8).
One might ask why so many people came out to hear this hard speaking, intolerant pauper? It might be that many still remembered the miracles that surrounded his birth when Zacharias’ mouth was opened and he “began to speak in praise of God. Fear came upon all those who were living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, ‘What then will this child turn out to be’” (Luke 1:64-66). Maybe Zacharias’ prophecy concerning John (see Luke 1:76-79) had been heard and spread throughout Judea. Along with these points is the prophecy of Isaiah that one would come “crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord’” (Mark 1:3, Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4, and John 1:23).
Many times, a “forerunner” would go before a king to announce his coming. The Jews were looking for a savior, a king to rescue them from Roman rule, and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. It is no surprise that people would flock to hear this man herald this coming kingdom.
John’s message included repentance, and baptism for the forgiveness of their sins (Mark 1:4). It was clear and precise: If you want to be in the coming kingdom, you must repent, and be baptized to have your sins forgiven.
Today, people get offended with preaching like John’s. They scream, “You are judging me.” They seem to want nothing but stories and sermons that make them feel good. But John demanded people to repent or perish. There is only one way into the kingdom of God. One must repent and be baptized to have his sins forgiven. This was true in John’s preaching, and it is true in the preaching of the apostles. Luke records the sermon on Pentecost after Jesus was raised from the dead, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
April 4, 2021
The Announcement of John the Baptist | Luke 1:5
Zacharias, the father of John, was from the tribe of Levi. He was of the division of Abijah (1:5). Abijah was of the eighth division of the twenty-four divisions into which David had divided the Levitical priesthood (see 1 Chr. 24:1-18). Each division was called upon to serve at the temple in Jerusalem twice a year from Sabbath to Sabbath. On the three major feast days (Passover, Pentecost, and Booths) all 24 divisions of priests were required to come to Jerusalem to participate in the sacrificial rituals. The priest that would perform the priestly duties at these festivals were chosen by lot (Luke 1:9). Therefore, this might be a once in a lifetime privilege for a priest.
Elizabeth, the mother of John, was from the “daughters of Aaron” (1:5). A Priest could marry a woman from any tribe, but it was most commendable to marry from the Levitical linage. Elizabeth was barren, and they were both “well advanced in years” (1:7). Yet, both had faithfully kept the commandments and requirements of God and were blameless (Luke 1:6). These were the kind of parents God chose to raise and train the forerunner for the Christ.
It is interesting that the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias while he was burning incense to the Lord on the altar to tell him that his barren and aged wife would have a son (Luke 1:11-13). This incense was a symbol of prayers to God for the righteousness and protection of Israel (cf. Psalm 141:1-4; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). It is not likely that Zacharias had been praying for a child at this particular time (see Luke 1:7, 18). The angel also informed Zacharias that the name of the child would be John (Luke 1:13). John comes from a Hebrew word that means “the Lord is gracious.” When Zacharias questioned how it was possible to have a child at their age, he became mute (Luke 1:18-20). Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months and thanked God for the favor of giving her a son (Luke 1:24-25). Mary became pregnant with Jesus in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and came from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah (approximately 90 miles) to be with Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice the baby leaped in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:39-41). When Elizabeth heard Mary, she called her “the mother of my Lord” and said, “the baby leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:43-44). This is clearly the joy of salvation to be provided by the Messiah. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for “about three months” (Luke 1:56). The implication is that she stayed until John was born.
March 28, 2021
The Compassion of God | Deuteronomy 4:25-31
Moses told Israel to listen and obey the statutes and judgements from God (Deut. 4:1-4). They were warned to “give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently” that you do not forget what you have seen and heard from God. They were to teach all those things to their children and grandchildren so the next generation would not forget who God is and what He had done for them (Deut. 4:9-14). They were to remember that there is only one true God and they were not to worship any other gods (Deut. 4:15-24).
But God knew they would worship foreign gods; and He would have to punish them for their disobedience (Deut. 4:25-28). But He also knew that when things got bad, they would remember the one true God. So, Moses relays God’s message, “from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice” (4:29-30). God would hear them and deliver them because He “is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them” (Deut. 4:31).“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (Josh. 24:31). But after that they did not destroy all of the inhabitants of the Land as God had commanded (see Judges 1-2:2), and they intermarried and took on the worship of the foreign gods just as God had said they would (Judges 2:11-13). But we learn that when the children of Israel realized that the hand of the Lord was against them because of their wickedness, they cried out to Him and He raised up judges to deliver them (see the book of Judges). In this we see a number of lessons. First, we see that God never leaves His people without proper instructions. He always tells us what He desires from us. It is basically the same thing for us as it was for Israel. We are to love Him with all of our hearts (Deut. 10:12; Matt. 22:37). We are to seek His righteousness first (Deut. 4:40; Matt. 6:33).
Second, we see God will let people choose to follow Him or not (Deut. 4:25-28). God will also let us make that choice (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9).Third, God shows His compassion. Seven times in Judges we learn that God heard the cry of Israel and raised up a judge to deliver His people. Likewise, when were without hope (Eph. 2:11), God raised up His Son to deliver us.
March 21, 2021
Never Forget God | Deuteronomy 4:9-14
In this text Moses instructs Israel to be very careful not to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you, and to share these things with all of your descendants so that they will not forget (4:9; 6:7).
Moses reminded the children of Israel what they had seen at the foot of Mount Sinai as “the mountain burned with fire” (v. 11). Some of them remembered the fire on the mountain, the “darkness, cloud and thick gloom” (v. 11). This would have certainly been a memorable experience. They knew this experience was God revealing Himself to them. As we look into the New Testament, we see how seeing the glory of the Lord on a mountain had a profound effect on John (John 1:14) and on Peter (2 Peter 1:17-18). As we apply this to our own lives, we too must never forget what God has done for us by sending His only begotten Son into this world to die so that we can live.
Moses provides two things they were to do so that they would never forget God. First, Moses instructs Israel to teach their children and grandchildren all they had seen and heard from God (4:9,10). We too must not forget to share this good news with our children and grandchildren (Eph. 6:4). This story of Jesus, the gospel, is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). We must never stop hearing it, believing it, sharing it, and applying it.
Second, Moses emphasizes not to forget what they heard and saw when assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai. I do not think it a coincidence that Moses asks his audience to remember what they saw and heard from God when assembled together (vv. 10-14). The most effective way to “keep your soul diligently” is to assemble to hear the word of God (4:9). How many people do you know that have a history in the church, but no longer attend the assembly? It is much easier to fall away when we stop assembling together (see Heb. 10:24-25). To remember who God is and what He has done for us we must assemble to hear the word of God --not only when it is convenient, or only when the weather is gloomy, or only when we are feeling depressed. Assembling is to be a priority in our lives. It should be the thing that we look forward to most. It is certainly one of the most important factors in helping us to be all that God desires us to be. Reading the Bible and praying in private are indeed helpful, but we also need teaching and encouragement. So, don’t forget to teach your children at home and bring them to Bible Class for more teaching; and don’t neglect your own assembling to learn and grow.
March 14, 2021
“Listen and Obey” | Deuteronomy 4:1-4
Reminding Israel of the penalty for disobedience of the former generation, and knowing he too will not be allowed to enter the promised land because of his own disobedience, Moses pleads with Israel to obey God’s laws. He begs, “listen to the statutes and judgments” of God (v. 1). The word “listen” means to pay careful attention to what is said. This is required of us today. You will remember that Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 5:24). Furthermore, when Jesus took Peter, James, and John upon a high mountain to witness His transfiguration, a voice out of the clouds said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). Therefore, just as Moses implored Israel to listen to what God had said, the inspired writers of the New Testament plead with us to listen to Jesus.
Yet, to pay careful attention to what God says is not enough. We must put it into action. Moses instructs his audience to “perform,” “do,” “observe,” or “obey” God’s statutes and judgments. “Statutes” are the laws that are written. For us, while we are not under the law of Moses, we still have statutes we must keep. For example, we must love God more than anything or anyone else (Mark 12:30). We are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). There are many others, but when we get these down, the others will likely fall into their proper place. The judgments likely refer to the punishment for disobeying. For Israel they were not allowed to enter the promised land because of their disobedience (see Heb. 4:6). In like manner, if we do not obey, we will not be allowed to enter our promised land of eternal rest (see Heb. 4:9-11). Furthermore, Moses emphasizes the importance of God’s word just as it is saying, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Likewise, we cannot add to or take away from anything that we have been commanded (see Rev. 22:18-19).
Moses closes by reminding his readers that God had condemned to death every man of Israel who had joined in the worship of Baal at Peor (v. 3; see Numb. 25:1-5). But everyone who held fast to the commandments were still alive (v. 4). If we will hold fast to the commandments of God and not persuaded by the world, we too will spend eternity with God.
March 7, 2021
Gospel Meeting at Covington
Speaker: Robby Eversole
Friday, March 5, 7PM
Saturday, March 6, 4PM
“As I Pass By, I See Your Devotion”
Saturday, March 6, 7PM
“Do You Really Want to Go to Heaven”
Sunday, March 7, 9AM
“Reasons to Rejoice”
Sunday, March 7, 10AM
Sunday, March 7, 5:30PM
February 28, 2021
Paul’s Appeal to Philemon
A wealthy Christian named Philemon had a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus went to Rome and met Paul who was in prison there. Some have suggested that Onesimus had stolen from Philemon and ran away. Some have suggested that Philemon had sent Onesimus to Rome with support for Paul as the Philippian church had sent Epaphroditus. For whatever reason, while in Rome Onesimus was converted and became a useful servant to Paul and for Christ. Paul then sent the converted Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter.
After commending Philemon for his faith and love (vv. 4-7), Paul begins an appeal to him (vv. 8-9). He insists that he could command Philemon to do the right thing (v. 8), but for love’s sake, he made an appeal instead (v. 9).
Paul’s Appeal (vv. 10-17): Paul begins by saying that he is making an appeal for Onesimus who, was once a useless slave but in his absence has become a Christian, and is now useful both to Philemon and Paul in the service of the Lord (vv. 10-11). He then says, “I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart” (v. 12). This shows the love and respect Paul has developed for Onesimus. Paul continues his appeal by saying that he wanted to keep Onesimus with him, but that decision was not his to make (vv. 13-14). Paul further reminds Philemon that Onesimus’ extended absence, or possibly desertion could be a good thing (v. 15). Paul finally gets to his appeal and pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus as a useful Christian in service to the Lord; not as a useless slave in service to his human master (vv. 15-17).
Paul’s Pledge (vv. 18-19): Paul took the pen from the hand of his amanuensis and, in essence, signed a promissory note which read, “If Onesimus has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (v. 18). Exactly what or why Onesimus owed Philemon is speculation. Whatever the reason, Paul may have been promising to pay any monetary losses Philemon may have incurred in the absence of Onesimus. But think how Philemon must have felt as he reads this pledge from the one to whom he owed his own soul (v. 19).
Paul’s Confidence (vv.20-21): Paul’s confidence is first seen as he affirms that his appeal will be carried out saying, “Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ” (v. 20). Then further in the next verse as Paul says, “I know you will do even more than what I say” (v. 21). Paul’s confidence comes from his personal relationship with Philemon (see v. 19b), and for the faith and love Philemon “had toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” (v. 5).
February 21, 2021
Challenges to a Faithful Church
The church in Colossae was addressed as a faithful church (1:2). Yet, the church faced many challenges from people who were deceiving them with “persuasive argument[s]” (2:4). They were arguing for “philosophies and empty deceptions according to the traditions of men” (2:8). They were judging them in regard to what they should eat and drink, and the holidays they should keep (2:16). Even some who were bragging about their humility and supporting angel worship, even arguing for inflated visions were deceiving them with these persuasive arguments (2:18).
Paul stresses to his readers that these human philosophies are void of truth and full of tradition. They have the “appearance of wisdom in self-made religions . . .,” yet, they deceive and they cannot provide what they promise; and they can even rob one of his salvation. He argues that they follow a worldly priority and put their faith in “elementary principles” (vv. 8, 20) rather than in Christ.
As a matter of fact, he declares that Christ “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross” (2:14). His point is that these traditions are no longer in force and neither is the sin of violating them. With His death, Christ replaced the old Law with a better law. He shows this declaring that these are only a shadowy copy of God’s true blessings; Christ is the “substance” i.e., real thing (v. 17). Therefore, Paul pleads with his readers, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize” (v. 18).
With regard to tradition (2:11-17), Paul deals specifically with the Hebrew doctrine of circumcision, arguing that true circumcision occurred when they were buried with Christ in baptism (vv. 11-12). He also mentions the food, drink and holidays regarding the Hebrew tradition (vv. 16-17). He argues that these are no longer in force.
Paul also specifically discusses those promoting themselves bragging about their humility, the worship of angels, and inflated visions (vv. 18-19).
Paul acknowledges that extreme devotion to any of these elementary principles may sound good, and have “the appearance of wisdom,” but to be certain, it is a “self-made religion.” Devotion to Christ does not include “self-abasement and severe treatment of the body” and they have “no value against fleshly indulgence” (v. 23).
We face many similar challenges today. But the true answer is the same for us as it was for this faithful church: In Christ we are “made complete” (2:10). There is no hope for glory except in Christ (1:27).
February 14, 2021
Love in a Faithful Church
Sunday is Valentine’s day, a day that has been set aside to celebrate love. In this lesson, we are going to look at love in the faithful church at Colossae.
First, Paul says, “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints” (1:3-4). This faithful church had “love for all the saints.” Have you ever visited a church where you had never been and felt like you didn’t belong? Maybe no one spoke to you, or greeted you. You found your way to the auditorium and took a seat only to have someone glare at you as if to say, “how dare you take my seat.” On the other hand, have you ever visited a church you had never been yet immediately felt like one of the family? You were surrounded by people welcoming you, asking where you were from and insisting that you sit with them. Which church would you want to be a part of? The church at Colossae strikes me as being one of the latter churches. They had “love for all the saints”; not just the saints in Colossae, but for all Christians everywhere. They had “love in the Spirit” (1:8). This is the “love of God” that Paul says “has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). These Christians had the same love for all Christians that God has for all of us.
Second, in spite of the confusion, Paul agonized that “their hearts be encouraged, having been knit together in love . . .” (2:2a). This church had love for one another; and this love would help them overcome those who were deceiving them with plausible sounding arguments (cf. Col. 2:1-23). Paul even encourages them to remember that as Christians they “have put on the new self . . .” (3:10). So, continue to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (3:12), and forgiveness (3:13). But even more than these things, Paul reminds them to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (3:14). Perfect unity in a church will never exist without loving one another with the love of God.
Finally, Paul addresses love in the home. A faithful church begins in a faithful home. The wife is to “be subject to her husband as is fitting in the Lord” (3:18). She is to accept her responsibility as a serving wife just as it is her duty as a Christian. Husbands are to “love your wives and do not be embittered against them” (3:19). A husband who is a Christian must have the self-sacrificing love (love of God) for his wife. He must be willing to give up his own desires for what is best for his wife and do not turn sour or become bitter against her. How does our love measure up?
February 7, 2021
Prayer for a Faithful Church Col. 1:9-14
Last week’s article was a simple overview of the letter to the Colossians that emphasized, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). One of the things that strikes a modern reader is that even in possible confusion, Paul still calls this church “faithful brethren in Christ” (1:2). He had heard about their “faith in Christ . . ., love for all the saints,” and their growth in the gospel (1:3-8). This reputation prompted Paul to pray unceasingly for them (1:9-12). While Paul recognizes the faith of these Christians, he also knows they are, or at least will be, facing opposition from worldly forces (2:8). Therefore, he made four requests necessary for overcoming these forces.
First, Paul prayed that they all be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). This knowledge can only be realized when one has an awesome respect for the Lord. Paul did not want them to have a little knowledge of the will of God. He wanted them to be “filled” with it. Paul wanted them to know all that God desired them to know and apply the knowledge with complete “spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
Paul’s second request is that the faithful church would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). Paul lists three things that qualify what it means to “walk in a manner pleasing to God.” 1) “To please him in all respects,” 2) “Bearing fruit in every good work,” 3) “Increasing in the knowledge of God.”
Paul’s third request is that they be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” (1:11a). Paul prays that they have the strength of God. This strength provides the “steadfastness and patience” necessary to stand against the “persuasive arguments” (2:4) from those men imposing human wisdom and deception “according to human tradition” and “the elemental spirits of the world” (2:8). Paul’s concludes his prayer “joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (1:11b-12).
To maintain a joyful attitude, we should focus on our deliverance from Satan’s kingdom (v. 13), and the redemption, and forgiveness found only in God’s beloved Son (v. 14). Maybe we should imitate Paul’s prayer for the faithful brethren at Colossae and pray this prayer for one another.
January 31, 2021
Christ in You, The Hope of Glory | Col. 1:24-29
The church at Colossae was “faithful” (1:2), but they were being confused and deceived with “Philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men” (2:8). Judaizing teachers were persuading them with regard to what they could eat and drink, the festivals they should keep, and the new moon or Sabbath day (2:16). They were also persuading them with mystical religions, such as worship of angels, and inflated visions (2:18). They had faith in Christ, and love for all saints (1:4), yet were still in a confused state of mind, wondering if their faith in Christ was sufficient.
Paul had heard of the condition of the church at Colossae from Epaphras who had traveled to Rome to consult Paul about this situation (1:4-8; 4:12). Therefore, Paul writes this letter to this church, also to be read in Laodicea (4:16), “that their hearts may be encouraged” (2:2a), and that they might have the “full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2b-3). Paul encourages them and assures them that Christ is sufficient by stating that the riches of God’s glory is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27).
Christ comes in us upon baptism (Col. 2:11-12). When Christ is in you, you must “walk in Him” (2:6). Paul has already explained what this means saying, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10). He further explains this saying, “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, . . .. Set you mind on the things above, not on the things of this earth” (Col. 3:1-2). He goes on to say, “Put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (3:8-9). A summary may be expressed as he instructs, “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and establish your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (2:7); and “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (3:17).
When Christ is in you and you are walking in Him, then there is nothing else necessary to have “the hope of glory” (1:27). With this, Paul declares, “we may present every man complete in Christ” (1:28).
January 24, 2021
The Peaceful Mind | Philippians 4:1-9
Paul describes the peaceful mind saying, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (v. 7). The peace of God is provided when we have the right relationship with Christ (vv. 1-4). Paul instructs: “Stand firm in the Lord” (v. 1), “. . . live in harmony in the Lord” (v. 2), and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice” (v. 4). It is obvious that Paul finds his peace “in the Lord” and instructs his readers that to have Jesus as their Lord and “rejoice” in that relationship. In this context “always” means no matter what your circumstances, or how you are treated you can find joy “in the Lord.” Paul was a great example of joy to his readers (see 4:13; 1:21; 3:7).
Second, we can have the peace of God when we have the right relationship with others (v. 5). Paul instructs, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (v. 5). The Greek word used here that translates “gentle spirit” seems to have the meaning of empathy, i.e., seeing things from the other person’s perspective (cf. 2:3-4).
Furthermore, we can have the peace of God because “the Lord is near,” i.e. He is never too far away to extend His strength (cf. 4:13). This implies that in order to have the peace of God we must have faith in Him. Paul gives another imperative statement saying, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Paul instructs us not to worry about anything, but trust God and put your worry on Him (cf. Matt. 6:25ff; 1 Peter 5:6-7).
After a series of imperative statements that inform us how to have the peace of God, Paul declares that this peace of God will protect us and guide us (vv. 7-9). The Greek word that translates “guard” is a military term; it means stand guard, to put a garrison around, to protect. When we have the right relationship to Christ, and people, and put our trust in God, He will surround us with His peace as soldiers guard a fort. This peace is impossible for humans to understand, but we can rest assured it will protect the Christian no matter what circumstance befalls him, no matter what people say or do to him. Also, the peace of God will guide us (vv. 8-9) when we practice positive thinking (v. 8), and right living (v. 9). Positive thinking is letting our minds dwell on the good things rather than our problems; right living is putting all of the things that Paul has instructed into practice. Do you have the peace of God protecting you and guiding you? If not, maybe you should apply Paul’s principles.
January 17, 2021
Humility of Mind | Philippians 2
Paul faced his trouble with a positive attitude that showed his single-hearted devotion to Christ (Phil. 1). This single-hearted devotion to Christ allowed him to maintain a positive attitude even in his dreadful circumstances. We often allow circumstances to rob us of our joy and contentment. But Paul refused to live to enjoy circumstances. He lived for Christ (1:12, 21-22). This is why circumstances could not rob him of his joy and contentment.
In Chapter 2 Paul declares that one must face every circumstance of life with humility (i.e., thinking of others first), because another thing that often robs us of our joy and contentment is the way we respond to people. Paul could have been angry at the Jews for his circumstances, but he wasn’t. He could have been frustrated with the church at Philippi thinking they should have sent help sooner, but he wasn’t. He could have been angry with the Roman soldiers guarding him, but he wasn’t. He could have been angry with those who were preaching the gospel for personal gain (1:15-17), but he wasn’t (1:18). Paul was able to maintain his joy and contentment even when falsely accused and mistreated by people because of his humility, putting others before himself. We often allow people to rob us of our joy and contentment because we are more focused on ourselves than on others. One who has humility does not expect others to serve him; he serves others. He considers the good of others to be more important than his own plans and desires. In chapter two, Paul tells his readers to follow the example of Christ in humility. The key verse reads, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (v. 3). In this chapter, he builds upon the example of Christ (vv. 5-7) who put others before Himself.
In chapter 2 we find four wonderful examples of humility: Jesus Christ who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (2:7-8), Paul who was “being poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of [their] faith” (2:17), Timothy who was “genuinely concerned for [their] welfare (2:19-20), and Epaphroditus who was “longing for [them] and was distressed because [they] had heard that he was sick” (2:25-26). Each of these examples proves the principle, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). If we develop a humble mind, we can refuse to allow others to rob us of joy and contentment no matter what they may do or say.
January 10, 2021
A Life of Joy and Contentment | Philippians
Paul had wanted to go to Rome as a preacher (Rom. 1:13-16); instead, he had gone as a prisoner. Acts 28:30-31 indicates that Paul was a prisoner in his own hired house, chained to a Roman soldier and not permitted to preach in public. He also was dependent on friends and family for the necessities of life.
Epaphroditus, a member of the church in Philippi, was sent to Rome to bring a special gift to Paul that would help him in his time of need (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:10-20). Epaphroditus fell ill along the way and was delayed in reaching Paul (Phil. 2:25-28). Yet, even in his time of desperation, Paul remained positive (see Phil. 4:11-13).
His letter to the Philippians is a thank-you letter for the love and support provided by the church in Philippi, but more than that, Paul shares the secret of Christian joy and contentment. At least 19 times in these four chapters, Paul mentions joy, rejoicing, or gladness. He uses the word content once for a total of twenty times that Paul refers to remaining positive in his time of trouble. There is no apparent human reason for him to be rejoicing, or to be content. He is a Roman prisoner possibly facing the death penalty. Yet Paul’s message is laced with joy and contentment.
The secret for Paul’s joy is found in another word that is often repeated in Philippians. It is the word mind. Paul uses mind or attitude 10 times. He also uses the word think 5 times. Add the time he uses remember and you have a total of 16 references to the mind. In other words, the secret to Christian joy and contentment is found in the way one thinks—his attitude (cf. Phil. 2:1-7). After all, outlook determines outcome. The wise King Solomon wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
Paul found his strength by thinking on Jesus (4:13), and positive things (4:8). Jesus was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Yet He possessed a deep joy that was beyond human imagination. As He faced the cruel death of crucifixion, he said to His followers, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Those who have Christ as Lord have the privilege of knowing true joy. The Psalmist writes, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). Paul presents the joy and contentment in times of trouble as, “the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). Do you have this joy? Think about it!
January 3, 2021
A New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Forget God | James 4:13-17
As we read this text, it is obvious that verse 13 serves as the foundation for verses 14-17. So, James’ first point is: don’t forget God in your plans. James does not condemn making plans. As a matter of fact, everyone must make plans for the future. A good plan involves a goal – “make a profit,” what we will do to accomplish our goal – “engage in business,” when we will start to accomplish our goal – “today or tomorrow,” and where we will start to accomplish our goal – “go to such and such a city.”
Second, James warns us, don’t forget God in your business. One of the great issues of 2021 is ethics in business. This involves right and wrong behavior in every aspect of business life. It involves individual behavior, how we relate to others, and how we represent the business in general. Two issues of business ethics set for discussion in 2021 are: Systemic racism (an oversimplified definition is discrimination that is accepted as a normal practice), and “gay rights.” But if everyone would just follow the word of God, these discussions would be unnecessary.
James’ final warning seen in verse 13 is don’t forget God in your profit. God provides everything we have or can ever hope to have (James 1:17). God even provides our ability to work and earn a living (Deut. 8:18). As we give, we must first think how God has blessed us (see 2 Cor. 8:3-5; 9:6- 9). James then points out why we must not forget God (v. 14). We have no idea what challenges we will face – “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” We have no idea if we will live to see our goals accomplished – “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
Then James turns his attention to the proper attitude we must have as we make our plans and work toward our goals (vv. 15-17): “For you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Their attitude was – “You boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (v. 16). The arrogance is planning to accomplish a goal without including God. Not including God in our plans is evil. Furthermore, if we don’t change our arrogant attitude, and put our trust in God, it is sin, and the implication is that if we die in this situation, we will be lost.
I do not know if God intended for COVID-19 to be a wakeup call or not, but we can certainly use it as such. May each of us make a resolution to include God in every aspect of our lives in 2021. May we resolve to grow in our humility and desire to please God in everything as we enter 2021.