We have heard of names like Johnny Appleseed, Pacos Bill the cowboy who could rope a twister, and John Henry the freed slave who could drive a railroad spike faster than any man alive. These folk heroes have helped mold our society for over 100 years. One of the most famous such tall tails is about a giant lumberjack named Paul Bunyan. The stories differ from place to place but typically it was said that Paul could chop down a tree with a single swing, and that he could cut one down with his swing coming or going! It was nothing for him to cut down one million trees in a day’s work, then he would stomp the stumps down into the ground! What a story! Now, here is a silly question: How would you feel if one of those trees had been you?
John was standing in the Jordan river baptizing people from Jerusalem, all of Judea and the region around the Jordan, as they came confessing their sins (Matt. 3:5-6) when a group of Pharisees and Sadducees came to meet him.
The Pharisees and Sadducees represented a large portion of the Jewish religion. The Pharisees numbered around 6,000 at the time of Christ and most likely took their name from the Hebrew word “Pharesh”, meaning “separated”. They separated themselves from other groups by holding strictly to the traditions of the Law of Moses. They were hypocrites, speaking one thing and practicing another. They were never concerned with doing what was right in the sight of God, only making sure that others did.
The Sadducees were a smaller sect of the Jews. Sadducees did not believe in angles, or in the coming Kingdom, or resurrection. We remember that because they were “sad-u-cee”. The two groups were at odds with each other for the majority of their history, and even at this point in time were not friendly with each other.
Here is a question: Why were they coming to John this day? The obvious answer is that they wanted to discourage him, or even run him off. But take a closer look: John greets them by saying “O ye generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (v. 7). This writer takes that to mean that they had come to the river that day to be baptized! Think about it, they had studied the Old Testament from their youth up, they had read, and re-read, and memorized Isaiah 61:1 which told of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. They believe the Messiah was going to come, no doubt they believed He would have a forerunner. At this point, they have yet to reject Christ.
The mind of a Pharisee would say “If this the forerunner to Messiah, and he says to be baptized, I am going to be baptized.” The problem is, they missed the point of baptism. John, through either common sense or divine inspiration discerned their motive, hence his calling them “generation of vipers”.
John would of course correct their misunderstanding by telling them to “bring forth fruits unto repentance”. These Jews thought being the seed of Abraham would get them into the Kingdom to come, and into the grace of the Messiah, but John has a message for them.
“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (v. 10). John paints a word picture of a woodsman who has marked a tree for removal, and has laid his axe to lean upon the tree while he removes his coat. The image is truly one of a dead tree in an orchard that is ready to be removed, and the axe-man is ready to chop it down.
John is telling these hypocritical Jewish sects that their religion is dead, and they have killed it by their unwillingness to repent! Soon, the Jewish system of religion, and government, and style of life would be destroyed when the axe of God, in this case the Roman army would wipe Jerusalem, as they knew it, off of the map.
Remember our question at the beginning? How would you feel if you were a tree, and you were about to be chopped down? There is a message form Matthew 3 for us, as well as there was for those old Pharisees and Sadducees. Repent of our disbelief, misdeeds, and our half hearted attitude toward God, because the axe is already laid to the root of the trees, and the axe-man is ready.
When one considers the state of which the church is in today, we have both reason to boast and reason to be concerned. It is common for some to mention the “good ole days” of the church. However, bragging about the “good ole days” is not the answer.
When one talks of the “good ole days” it seems that they are convinced that those days are over. Some will boast of the great debates, the great preachers and their lessons, and the many conversions of the lost. Has that much really changed? While we may not have one every week, is it not true that we still have debates today? Yes. Is it also true that we still have tremendous preachers who bring powerful lessons from God’s Word? Yes. Do we still have events that result in several being converted? Yes. It’s also true that the church grew by large numbers during these “good ole days”. However, the church is still converting souls today. It’s still proclaiming truth and it’s still refuting error. The growth of the church may have slowed, but the good days are far from over (Gal 6:9). I believe that we could be on the verge of a great surge if we, as Christians will work together. If, and only if we will stand for truth, expose and refute error and humbly proclaim God’s Word, giving Him the glory for all that is done.
It seems, that there are multiple reasons for the problems we face today. First, man has more to be distracted by today than ever before. The vibrant color and temptation of sin is literally at the fingertips of man, every second, of every day. It flashes in the face of men, women, & children throughout the day. Many, because of this constant 24/7 onslaught, have created for themselves a heart of stone for religious matters. However, at the same time, the church has been able to use similar venues for the cause of Christ. The internet in general (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc) have allowed the church to reach more people, more easily than ever before. It seems that the use of such tools for the cause of Christ are often grossly underestimated or completely ignored.
Another problem we still face today, sadly, is our own brethren. It’s curious that some encourage debates like in the “good ole days”, but when we ask Bible questions of our own brethren who are teaching error, many times we are met with ridicule, anger and contempt for doing so. Yet, these still maintain we should have more debates? How confusing! On the same note we have many who when teaching error have no desire to discuss it with those who disagree. For these teachers of error the possibility of debating the topic is out of the question.
Today we must realize that if we are going to reach the lost, we must use the venues available to us, without compromising the cause of Christ. We must warn, encourage repentance and when necessary, remove ourselves from the fellowship of those who refuse to repent. We must encourage and support those who proclaim the truth without compromise. More will be accomplished if we labor together to do what was done by the Apostles; proclaim truth, expose and refute error, and warn the sinner and the apostate. That’s not enough though, we also need to support those who do such acts, who “fulfill their ministry” (2 Tim 4:5b) and save souls from hell by doing so (James 5:19-20).
Let’s not reminisce about the “good ole days” let’s work so that those days never end. After all, didn’t the good days begin in Acts 2? The church EXPLODED in size, adding thousands on just one occasion alone! We must labor together while respecting the ways things were done before and the way things can be done today. Those good days can and will continue if we labor to please God in all we do as evangelists and as members of the body of Christ. It’s time to stop comparing then and now, it’s time to work together as fellow laborers and heirs together in Christ (Rom 8:17).
Being “different” or “being an oddball” does not sound too enticing, does it? Most folks do not want to be identified as odd or different. Yet, that is just what a Christian is supposed to be! In Titus 2:14 we read, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The word for “peculiar” is a compound word made up of Strong’s numbers G4012 and G1510; meaning being beyond usual, that is, special (one’s own): - peculiar (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). In the Old Testament we read that God’s people are a special people, “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Of course, these verses state that the child of God will be different from the world.
God’s people must never be conformed to the mind-set that is of the world. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). To conform to the things of the world is to lose the “special” identity that we have as children of God. We are told “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” (1 John 2:15). Noah lived during a time when “… the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The difference between Noah and the rest of the world is that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Do you think those around him might have considered him just a little peculiar, an oddball? Most likely they did. As he and his family labored, building the ark, his countrymen must have thought they were different. And he certainly was different because he found “grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
The Christian should not seek popularity at the cost of their purity. The older women are to teach the younger to be “…chaste…” (Titus 2:5). “Chaste” means “clean, innocent or modest.” Sometimes our spelling gets mixed up, and we use the word chased instead of chaste. We see many that are dressing and acting in ways that are improper. It is far better to teach and demonstrate modesty to our children while they are young than to try and change their thinking after they mature. The younger men should be taught to be sober minded and godly. Our language should never be laced with profanities like we often hear. Our entertainment ought to be clean and wholesome. Holding to the Bible standard of right and wrong will cause many to think of us as oddballs. Be thankful they can see the difference, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
Blogs, such as this one, are common. In fact, perhaps thousands of blogs by brethren of the Lord’s church exist today. Numerous writers contribute and write on various subjects. Thus, over time authors gain “followers” who subscribe and “follow” them. No doubt there are many bloggers in the brotherhood who provide sound and encouraging material week after week.
However, there are those who are followed because their ideas are different, writers who only search for something “new” to discuss or write about (Acts 17:21). Sadly, some are more concerned with commercializing their “brand”, instead of promoting sound Bible truths. Thus, they gain followers who not only read their flawed writings week after week but followers who also promote such commercial minded individuals and their flawed ideas.
It seems many are promoting & sharing materials by those who are teaching things that are not just “different” but are completely contrary to God’s Word. Sadly, some only read and promote the writings of some individuals because they are “well known” in the brotherhood and not because of any sound teaching. Everyone would do well to compare any writing with God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
When sharing, and promoting articles and their authors online and elsewhere one must consider what they are sharing and why. Are you sharing something because it is truth or are you sharing and promoting something simply because a “well known” brother has written the article? Sadly, some have promoted writings of some “well known” brethren and in doing so have also promoted false teachings.
Let us be encouraged to promote and share sound doctrine and remember by doing so we promote the person who deserves it the most, Christ.
Click HERE to learn more about our blog writers.