By Russ Earl
Everyone at some point in their lives try to “find their place in the world”. This is a common phrase and idea that many use when deciding what they “want to do”. Those who are still in junior high, high school and college try to decide not only who their friends should be but how they should spend their time and, for those that are old enough, what job they should hold.
What does the world offer to influence you in these areas? When we say “the world” we are referring to those are not New Testament Christians. The world offers friendships that involve sinful activities: drugs, sexual activities outside of marriage, pressures to be dishonest, the use of foul language, selfishness and the pressure to condone other wicked lifestyles. The Bible however says things such as these will only separate a person from God. Notice what Peter says “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” 1 Peter 4:3-5. God warns that those involved in such things will have to give an account to the Him who judges all.
While the pressure and drawing power of such things may be strong we must remember that such pleasures of this world are only temporary. Moses was wise enough to recognize that such pleasures are short lived and that it’s much better to live for God than to live for temporary pleasures. Remember the words of the writer of Hebrews “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” Hebrews 11:24-25. Worldly pleasures and the hardships one faces when trying to abstain from sinful activities do not compare to what God has to offer those who love Him. This is what Paul was referencing when he spoke of hardships, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18.
The question remains, what does God have to offer? Christ provides the answer “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” John 10:10. This is accomplished by a life of faithfulness to Him who is only filled with goodness, righteousness and love. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5. God offers not only forgiveness of sins and eternal life as a result of obedience to Him, He also reminds us that we do not need to worry about material things. Unlike the world, God & His Son do not pressure us to gain earthly possessions. Consider the what Christ says “And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” Luke 12:15. While the world says you need this and that to be happy Christ says the opposite. He says life is more than possessions. The man with the “most toys” does not win. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:19-21 that the sinful actions of this world do not provide happiness and will separate us from God. Those who belong to Christ do not do such things but instead live for Him “And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” Galatians 5:24.
Our true place in this world is in the body of Christ because outside of His body there is no hope only spiritual death. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” Revelation 22:14-15. Therefore, let us do what God requires of us to have our place in the Heavenly home that awaits the faithful.
By Toney L. Smith
One of our most beloved gospel songs is Tell Me the Story of Jesus. The song speaks of the life and works of Jesus Christ. As the song says, it is “the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.” It is precious and sweet because it tells of Jesus and His sacrifice for our salvation.
Chapter one reveals Jesus (pre-incarnate) before He became flesh. There has never been a time when He was not in existence. When the universe was barren, Jesus was an important part of creation’s plan (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17). Before He became flesh, He was deity, an equal part of the Godhead. Jesus is said to be the word (John 1:1-3), and that word took on human form, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).The story of Jesus tells how He descended the heavenly stairway to be the savior of all men. He came from heaven to do the will of His Father (John 3:17; 10:10; Luke 19:10).
Chapter two shows us the incarnate Immanuel. The word Immanuel means, “God with us” or “with us is God.” He would be born of a virgin, thus taking on the attributes of a human being (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26- 35). All men needed justification, because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). God had a plan for our salvation. Christ came from heaven to be our sacrificial Lamb (Galatians 4:4-5; Mark 1:15). Christ emptied Himself of His glory and demonstrated a life of service (Philippians 2:5-11). In the flesh, He experienced sorrow (John 11:35), temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), torture and rejection (John 1:11, Mark 14:50; Matthew 27:46). Jesus, who knew no sin, died because of our sins (1 Peter 3:18).
Chapter three reveals Jesus in Paradise. Nailed to the cross, Jesus cried, “it is finished” (John 19:30). This statement meant that He had completed His given task. He had said to the repenting thief, “… Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). He would be buried and raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4). The story of Jesus assures victory to the faithful child of God. Everyone will taste of death (Hebrews 9:27; Job 30:23). However, God has promised a day of resurrection for all (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The faithful will enjoy and obtain victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Chapter four tells of Jesus the risen Savior. This chapter continues the narrative of the risen savior. This fact further verifies the words spoken by Christ (John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 15:4). We sing, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a victor from the dark domain…” He then showed Himself to certain disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). During this time, He gave the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:36-40). After these thing Jesus ascended back to heaven from whence He had come (Acts 1:9-11).
Chapter five of this story pictures Jesus as the exalted King. In Peter's sermon in Acts 2, we read the summation of Christ's life. This teaching concludes with Peter telling the Jews that “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Just imagine what that homecoming would have been like! The Son of God returns to His divine realm (Hebrews 1:3). To this very day, Jesus sits upon His throne still ruling His kingdom, the church (Colossians 1:13).
Chapter six will present Jesus as our righteous judge. Make no mistake; there will be a day of judgment for each of us. We cannot determine just when that day will be, but none of us will miss it. The time of that day is to be determined by God the Father (Matthew 24:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1- 3). He will come “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). We must all appear before the judgment seat (Matthew 25:31-34).
Chapter seven reveals things after judgment. Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24); the last enemy will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26); Jesus will Himself be in subjection to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28); and the saved will be in their eternal home (Revelation 22:1-5). There is a “crown” waiting for all faithful children of God (2 Timothy 4:6-8; Revelation 2:10).
This is a beautiful story. It reveals the amazing truth of God’s love for mankind.
There are various events that take place throughout the religious world. The Christian no doubt receives notices and invitations of such events. This raises the question, is it permissible to participate in joint activities with any of the denominations? I think it’s important to define what makes a denomination.
A denomination is a religious group that abides by traditions, creeds and doctrines of men rather than the Word of God (Mt 15:9). These teachings become clear in worship, what is taught concerning salvation and other areas. It’s also important to note that a congregation that wears the name “church of Christ” can also become a denomination if they have departed from the teachings of Christ and the pattern found in the New Testament (2 Tim 1:13).
Since a denomination is a religious group that teaches things that are in opposition from what we find in the Word of God, it is only logical to conclude that the same teachings will be found and promoted at their various events. This brings up the question “Why would the Lord’s church join in with, thereby condone, false teaching?” The Bible warns about having fellowship with those who teach doctrine that is contradictory to God’s commands. Consider what Peter says: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1-2). Since denominations teach that which is false they fit the group of people to which Peter was referring.
The Lord’s church cannot go along with teaching that will separate man from God. We are told to have no fellowship with denominations, but instead to expose such “unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:11). A congregation can have no fellowship with denominations without accepting, condoning or ignoring the false teaching of such groups.
It’s just innocent fun! I see no harm in it. What’s the big deal? These are just some of the questions and statements you may hear when discussing joining in activities with denominations.
One must remember that part of a being a part of the Lord’s church is recognizing the dangers of partnering with those who teach damnable error. It continues to be astonishing the amount of people who fail to see the dangers in such things. Is having fun worth condoning error and appearing like “just another denomination” worth it? Is it worth it if we fail to see the harm in it? Is it worth it if we say it’s not a big deal, it seems innocent? The church is not separate from denominations to be harsh, rude or unloving. The church is separate from denominations because we understand that what denominations teach is harmful to the soul of man.
Instead of joining with denominations in their events why not plan activities at our local congregations that provide opportunities for us to teach the truth? Why not invite children and teens to biblical sound events that provide a time of learning Bible truths and fun, so long as learning Bible truths is our priority.
If the Lord’s church begins attending and/or become a joint-partner in denominational events, then we begin down the path of becoming a denomination ourselves. When this happens, we are no longer the Lord’s church, we are no longer pleasing to Him, and we no longer will have the hope of heaven. Is it worth it?
When discussing the Holy Spirit, a person will come to find that there are many different ideas and viewpoints on the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this writing is to examine the work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation.
Let’s first consider together how one gains salvation. Some today teach that one receives salvation when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Statements such as “I felt led to respond” are not uncommon. A doctrine known as the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. However, does this doctrine fit with scripture? Notice what Paul says in Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The Greek language of the New Testament is more literal “Faith comes out of hearing”. What is it that is heard? The answer is the Word of God. Thus, Paul says by inspiration that Faith comes from hearing God’s Word. Faith is not gained because the Holy Spirit has operated upon them in a direct way but because they have heard the Word of God, the Gospel, and believed it. Thus, faith in Christ as the Son of God begins here. After hearing & learning the gospel.
So what role does the Holy Spirit play in conversion. Let’s look together at Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The “gift of the Holy Spirit” in this verse is not the miraculous gift. The “gift” of the Holy Spirit is what it brings, salvation.
It’s important to note what Paul says in Ephesians 3:16-17, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”. In verse 16 we find man is strengthened by the Holy Spirit, but how? The answer is in verse 17, “through faith”. How do we get the faith that brings the strengthening we receive from God? By His Word (Rom 10:17). It all goes back to God’s Word. The Holy Spirit today works through the medium of God’s Word. Thus, man is strengthened in the inner man (his heart or mind) by the Spirit that works through the Word of God.
If we are not careful man can become guilty of falling into the trap that he requires a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Such an idea teaches that man cannot obey the Gospel without the miraculous help of God. The truth is God has already provided miraculous help for man in the form of His Son.
Christ, the Son of God, came into this world by way of virgin birth. He fulfilled prophecy after prophecy concerning Him. He lived a sinless life and died on the cross, shedding His precious blood for the sins of all mankind. He then rose from the grave three days later conquering death and instilling in the faithful the hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
Man does not require the miraculous today. Instead God requires we obey His Word and not put requirements on Salvation which He never made. May we always turn to the Word of God for the answer and in doing so we will find not only salvation but the truth on every matter.
People have debated the topic of mechanical instruments for many, many years. Our topic today is can a Christian use mechanical instruments in worship and, be pleasing to God while doing so?
It is key to keep in mind that anyone who wants to be pleasing to God must follow the standard of authority that God has revealed in the New Testament. Before considering any topic the individual must decide how important it is to them to be pleasing to God. If mankind has no desire or concern about pleasing God than the discussion of Bible topics will accomplish nothing. Let us have the mind that we want to please God and not simply ourselves or anyone else.
Let’s begin by pointing out that the Old Testament is not authoritative today. What was done in the Old Testament time period does not mean that action is approved of or commanded today. The Christian should remember that Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:16 that the old law was taken out of the way when Christ died on the cross, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,”. That being said David’s use of the instruments in the Old Testament has no impact on what we do in worship under the New Testament law today.
When a man offers worship to God it must be done according to His commandments. Failure to do so makes worship vain or worthless before God (Mt 15:9). Though a man may do things that they think God would be pleased with we must remember that man’s standard is not God’s standard (Mt 15:8).
As we look at the New Testament, we find no evidence of mechanical instruments being used in worship to God. From Matthew through Revelation, there is no evidence of mechanical instruments in worship. We find no command, no example and no reference that would indicate the use of such things in New Testament Worship. While some may point to Revelation and the references to harps it is important to remember that the book of Revelation is one of the most figurative books in the Bible. With that in mind, when we see the use of physical objects in a spiritual place this only points to figurative language and not literal harps. One would do well to remember that the incense was figurative of prayers in Revelation 8:3 and that it is only logical that the mention of harps is figurative of praise being offered to God.
In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 we are reminded that the praise offered to God today comes from our hearts. The literal idea is plucking the strings of ones own heart in praise to God. It is important to point out that the only instrument mentioned is the heart and that any mechanical instrument is not justified by these verses as none are mentioned. Also, remember that in the Old Testament the mechanical instruments are mentioned by name each time they are used. The same is done today in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. The instrument is the heart.
Since there is no support for the use of mechanical instruments in New Testament worship today. It would be logical to conclude that the use of them today would be sinful. We would do well to remember the price of sin that was paid by Nadab and Abihu when they offered profane fire before the Lord (Lev 10:1-2). Let us always be willing to do what is pleasing to God and not try to please men.
Guest Writer: Jack Williams
Believe it or not, that is what many people desire our world to be like without God. They feel that without the “hinderance” of God they can move forward and be free from what they feel are the shackles and shortcomings of “traditional” religion. For example, we find that humanism is making great inroads in our society as far as denying and working against religion as most people would view it. Humanism itself has been ruled a religion by the United States Supreme Court (Torcaso Case, 1961; Seegar Case, 1964), yet it denies the need or existence of God, thus a no God religion. Notice what is said of “traditional” religion in the Humanist Manifesto II:
As in 1933, humanists still believe that traditional theism, especially faith in the prayer-hearing God, assumed to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers, and to be able to do something about them, is an unproved and outmoded faith . . . Reasonable minds look to other means for survival. (13)
No deity will save us; we must save ourselves. (16)
As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity. (16)
Obviously such people feel that there is no place in man's needs nor should be in his desires for a God in heaven. In the same Manifesto the statement is made that, “The next century can be and should be the humanistic century” (14).
We need to ask, “Is their desire coming true? Is the next century destined to be the 'humanistic century'?” OPEN YOUR EYES! Have you noticed the continual degradation of morals in the media? Adultery, cursing . . . every kind of immoral act is now glorified in the name of human pleasure. The Bible (which has withstood attacks throughout the centuries and is able to withstand them for centuries to come) is under renewed attacks. Biblical events are ridiculed as being “myths.” Even in “traditional religions” there are divisions as to whether the Bible is inspired and they are even voting to decide! Various so called translations are written, not with the desire to set forth plainly the will of God, but to remold the Bible to fit man's needs.
Biblical beliefs, long held as dear have been rejected, not because they have been disproved, but because they do not meet the needs and wants of man. For instance, recent polls among “traditional religions” show that over half of those religious leaders questioned do not believe in heaven or hell. Many do not believe in God or the inspiration of the Bible.
It seems that such “ungodly religion” is making much headway maybe more than we would like to admit. Many ask, “Why? Why is such making the advances that it is in our society?” I think there are two basic reasons.
First of all, we have failed to realize how and by whom this “religion without God” is promoted. If we notice the signers of the Humanist Manifesto, both I and II, we see some enlightening things. Notice the list below of those who signed and the position they filled at the time they signed the Manifesto denying and deriding the existence or need of God.
John Dewey. He was a professor at Columbia University from 1904 until 1929 when he retired. Most authorities believe him to be the single most influential individual on the public education system in the 20th century. Thousands are guided by his ideals and teachings in public education, yet have not even heard his name.
Alan F. Guttmacher. President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Corliss Lamont. Chairman, National Emergency Civil Liberties Commission.
Betty Friedan. Founder, N.O.W.
In addition to these there were numerous authors, including such men as Isaac Asimov and Francis Crick. Well over half of the 200 asked to sign were professors at well known universities. The point is, we should not be surprised at the “anti God” influences surrounding us. Many of those in “power” or positions of influence and public trust hold to such ideals and they use their influence to bring about the “humanist century.” Many times the very people we select to lead us in studies, government and such will use their position to propagate this “no God” philosophy.
But secondly, we have failed. Perhaps the area of greatest failure it to show the result of this desire for a world without God. In God's word He many times uses the power of the negative result to prompt people to go the right way. He did so with Adam and Eve (“thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]), the Israelites (“these curses shall come upon thee” [Deuteronomy 28:15]), and those in the first century (“ye shall likewise perish” [Luke 13:3]). We too, realize the value of such “negative reinforcement” in such instances as telling the consequences of touching hot things, running into the street, driving carelessly and the like. It would thus be beneficial for us to examine the “negative consequences” of a world without God. In other words, we need to ask (and answer) the question,
What would it be like to live in... A World Without God? We would live in a world filled with immorality. In the book of Romans we read of those people who “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (1:28). Notice what is said of their “lifestyle” in the verses that follow. They were “filled” with such things as fornication, wickedness, covetousness, murder, despiteful, disobedient to parents, unmerciful .... How tragic! But of course they could say, “I did it my way.” Perhaps the saddest epithet given these people is found in verse 32 where we are told that they “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” They desired that others join them in their way of life a life without God.
We would live in a world without answers. Have you ever wondered where everything came from? Without God there is no answer to that question. Every “answer” that man derives at by himself contradicts his own knowledge. But God gives the answer (Genesis 1:1-31; Exodus 20:11). Have you ever faced a choice and didn't know which was right men were giving different answers to the same question. But God can give the answer (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). You see man's answers change depending on what he wants. God's answers stay the same because He looks to what man needs.
We would live in a world without hope. Have you noticed the rising suicide rate those who say life is not worth living? Have you noticed the rise in the number of homeless those who simply decide life is not worth the effort? Have you seen the increase in the number of those overcome with depression who see no way to cope with the pressures of life? A world without God is a world filled with hopelessness and despair. Man cannot find in himself the answer to “Why should I keep on?” Life without God has no purpose that gives hope. God has the answer (Revelation 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 3:14).
We would live in a world of loneliness. How many of those who want a life without God have someone they can truly trust. Someone they can say loves them above all else? Paul painted the sad picture of those who lived for self and left God out when he said “all seek their own” (Philippians 2:21). Without God there is no reason for anyone to seek anything other than their own reward or self gratification. God has a better answer (John 13:35; Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrew 3:12-13).
A world without God? A world of loneliness, immorality, puzzles with no answer, hopelessness.... How terrible that so many think that is the way things should be. It is obvious that in the world in which we live there are many who have fallen prey to this horrible way.
Something though, that is stranger is that so many go headlong into a world without God because they look at the world about them and think, “If there is really a God, how can the world be like this?” Because they see a world filled with all that is ungodly they reject God. But what they fail to see is that the world is “like this” because so many still refuse to “retain God in their knowledge.” The distressing things we see in the world are not the result of an unloving God, but the result of a people who do not love God. Life with God is never lonely, it is moral, it has the answers we need and long for and is filled with hope. I pray all mankind will see the need to live there and go to God that they may.
Guest Writer - Bill Goring
After God created man in Genesis chapter one, we find that God immediately set out to create a helpmeet for him. Genesis 2:20 says, “And Adam gave names to all the cattle and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.” Thus God begins His plan to bring woman on to the scene as a companion for man. Woman was created from the rib of man (Genesis 2:21,22), and took her God-given place by Adam's side as his wife and help meet. It isn't quite that easy to find a mate today. Since God doesn't create a mate for us, we must do our best to find that “Mr. Right” or “Miss Right” on our own. We do not have the prearranged marriages which were so often seen in Eastern countries where the parents did the picking of the mate and the children went obediently to the marriage altar.
So where is our rule book for selecting a mate? Is there any such book? Unfortunately, no, there is no such book that will conveniently select the perfect soul-mate for life. However, there is a book which will be the most excellent guide that you will ever have; that book is the Bible!
THE PURPOSE OF DATING
Dating or courtship was designed for young people to have an opportunity to become better acquainted with other young folks so they could find out what they had in common and to see whether or not they enjoyed one another's company. If they did, it would be a relationship worth pursuing, the ultimate goal of which would be marriage. Today, many young people do not specifically date with the thought of marriage in mind. However, it is important for those who are dating to realize that anytime you are dating, the possibility of a permanent relationship might occur. People have been known to fall in love even when it is least expected. Therefore we could say that dating is a “prelude to marriage.” Keeping this thought in mind, let us consider some other subjects.
If we agree that it is possible for one who is dating to fall in love with the one they are courting, then we can logically assume that it is of the utmost importance for a Christian to be dating one who is of like faith. If dating ultimately leads to marriage, what Christian would want to be linked for life to an unbeliever? This is not to say it is sinful to date one who is not a member of the Lord's body, but my question would be, “Why would you want to?” Once we establish that an individual is a Christian what are some other qualities that would be good to have if you were going to spend the rest of your life with someone? Although not specifically named in the Bible as desirable characteristics for potential mates, there are a few qualities every Christian should possess: kindness, a loving nature, patience, unselfishness, humility, gentleness, purity, soberness, sincerely. All of these are Biblical examples of a Christ-like nature. That is what we should gravitate toward — one with a Christ-like nature.
Obviously, we would want to be physically attracted to one who we were about to begin a relationship with. Although physical attraction is not the main criteria for a relationship, it is a very important part as we see in Genesis chapter 29. Jacob loved Rachel; she was beautiful and well-favored, as opposed to Leah being “tender-eyed.” Jacob was attracted to Rachel — he loved her. It is very important that couples be attracted to one another.
Once we have reached the point where we have found someone that we wish to date, there are a few rules that need to be followed .
There are a few things that need to be remembered when a couple is dating. Most of them can be summed up in the big word RESPECT, but we will try to be a little more specific.
1. Always honor your parents wishes — no matter how ridiculous you think they are! If they tell you to be home at a certain time — be there. If they tell you not to go to a certain place — don't go.
2. If you are a young man: go up to the door, meet her parents, don't be rude.
3. If you are a young lady: be considerate enough to be ready, on time.
4. Courtesy and kindness demands that you hold doors for her, pull out chairs, treat her like a lady — the same way you would want your mother or sister treated. Boys, always remember your date is someone's daughter or sister. How would you want your mom treated?
5. Girls, act like a lady! Don't embarrass your date by being loud-mouthed or by bossing your date around. He will not appreciate it.
6. Dress appropriately. Discuss ahead of time where you will be going and the appropriate attire. It is very embarrassing to show up under-dressed or over-dressed. Always wear modest apparel (I Timothy 2:9). If you are ever in doubt as to whether you should or should not do something, a good thing to remember is: “Does this violate any Biblical principle?” “Would I be ashamed for Jesus to see me?”
The next and probably the most important message that daters need revolves around the topic of dating behavior. That would be: Places to Go, Things to Do, and Your Physical Conduct.
With regard to places you go: again, it cannot be emphasized too much that you need to remember that you are a Christian. Rated R movies with sexual content, vulgar language and such are bound to be an embarrassment (hopefully) to both of you. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't watch it with your mom or dad, don't take her to see it. If she asks to go, tell her you wouldn't feel comfortable, and suggest another movie, or miniature golf, or something. James 1:27 says, “Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” It is difficult to keep oneself unspotted while filling our hearts and minds with lewdness and vulgarities. Beaches, swimming pools, dances, and other places where the dress is skimpy and the body movements are lustful, will only be an enticement to young people. These are not acceptable types of entertainment. They only lead to problems.
Things to do while dating runs right along beside places to go. Again, there are many ways of having fun without putting yourself in a place that will compromise your Christian standards. You should always try your best to fellowship with other Christians. Take advantage of the youth rallies in your area and the skatings and Bible camp activities. When it is possible, have another Christian couple go with you — it takes the stress off of a one-on-one relationship, and often you will find you have more fun in a group setting. Go to ball games, miniature golf, bowl, school functions, skate, ice skate. Find out what is available in your local area — perhaps there are even museums or galleries you would both enjoy. Find out each others hobbies and try to cultivate an interest in that area. There are many things that you can find to do that is good, clean fun!
That brings us to physical conduct or displays of affection. As we mentioned before, it is always best to stay with a group of friends or another couple, especially if you feel there will be pressure to become physical with your date. When you are unable to be with others, avoid any compromising situations such as being alone in a house, unchaperoned. Allowing yourself to become entangled in an intimate relationship before marriage will only cause pain and heartache. It creates a stressful situation and you will carry the guilt of your sin. Few relationships ever work out that are based upon sex prior to marriage. As a young person it is difficult to try to remain pure as God would have us to be, but it is possible. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Also, I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” How comforting it is to know that our Lord has experienced everything we have and can feel what we are feeling. We are not alone! We can overcome our temptations, but we must put forth an effort to do so. The more we resist, the easier it becomes to resist the next time. One of the benefits in dating another Christian is that both of you are struggling together. You will both be trying your best to remain pure. That is why it is so important to choose your dating partners very carefully. Dating is serious business — we need to treat it as such!
The Lord’s church has been blessed with great lectureships, gospel meetings, summer series lessons, and the like. These activities take place throughout the country. Brethren come from near and far to attend these events and enjoy the great fellowship and Bible lessons. These events provide an opportunity for the lost to hear the gospel as well the faithful to be encouraged.
When planning for any event, the leadership in the local congregation discusses the requirements to make such an event available. Generally, such planning includes discussions about speakers, accommodations for the speakers, other expenses for the speakers, and expenses for other things for the event. These would include lots of things, including the cost of making lessons available on DVDs, etc. Many congregations make such media available online. The Bible tells us payment for any work of the church should come from free-will offerings (1 Cor 16:1-2).
It is important to keep in mind that some works are overseen by an eldership while others are not. Bible camps are under a board of directors. Children’s homes, many times, also are under a board of directors. The men who write and publish books often do so without an eldership overseeing the work. What’s the difference? Events under the oversight of elders are part of the church. Those that are not under the oversight of elders are not part of the local church work. Churches of Christ may be associated with such works under a board of directors, but it is not equal to those under the direct oversight of an eldership.
Can you imagine the apostle Paul going to a congregation and preaching a lesson and the congregation charging those who want to hear the lesson? That is what some are doing today. There are events taking place across the country charging individuals to hear lessons from God’s Word. I have heard some say that it is okay because we are only charging the brethren and not the lost. Why do we think that is okay? The Bible tells us we should encourage one another, not charge one another. Still, some will say “if we did not charge, this event would not be possible.” Is there an alternative to charging for events? Should a congregation decide what it can afford to do before undertaking a work? We are told to give attention to exhortation, however, how encouraged can one be if they have to pay for it (1 Tim 4:13)?
Having recorded many meetings, lectureships, and the like, one becomes familiar with the cost of recording video and audio and the cost of making things available to the public through various forms. It is not just the charging that is a cause for concern for many, but the amount being charged is also a concern. It seems now, more than ever, we have brethren who are hosting various events, charging individuals who attend, and if they want a copy of a lesson or lessons, they must pay for them also. Some have attempted to listen to a lesson on their home computer from an event only to be told they needed a subscription. However, if they go to a different website where a similar event was recorded, they can listen, view, or download the lesson for free. So, why are some charging while others are not?
While these things are not made into a matter of fellowship. It is a cause for concern. Many congregations across the country and the world work together in making seminars and meetings available to those who wish to attend and do so without having a fee to attend such. Surely, brethren can sit down and discuss ways to do such works without having to include a fee; this will be the subject of the next article.
In Acts 3:19 we read, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” We notice that “sins being blotted out” are conditional, based upon repentance. Without repentance our sins will not be blotted out. God has always desired that men repent (2 Peter 3:9), for without repentance we can never be forgiven. The word repent means, “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). Jesus made it abundantly clear that the sinner must repent or perish (Luke 13:3, 5). We notice that He said “EXCEPT ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” The word except carries the meaning of “if not or unless” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).
It seems that we are going through a time when many are seeking to forgive and forget without repentance being in the conversation. Individuals as well as congregations transgress God’s word and live in that condition for years without repenting. Then after a period of time someone decides to forget and forgive those who have lived in that condition for years. Biblical forgiveness it dependent upon repentance. Anyone who has sinned must repent BEFORE forgiveness can be obtained. When an individual or a congregation is withdrawn from, that fellowship can only be restored through repentance. Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and IF he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
Sin separates men from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). To be separated from God means that one is walking in darkness and thus out of fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7). God does not overlook any of our sins. He requires confession of sins (1 John 1:9) and repentance (Acts 8:22).
What Does Forgiveness Mean? It does not mean that we can forgive even when one does not repent. We pray that repentance will come so that fellowship can be restored. However, our desires or prayers will NOT remove the guilt of sin for the one who has sinned. If such were possible why did Jesus give clear instructions in Matthew 18:15-17? He commanded, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15). If forgiveness can be granted without repentance, why would we be required to “go and tell him his fault?” If we can forgive without repentance He would have said, “just put the fault out of your mind and forgive him.” Why did Nathan say to David, “Thou art the man” in 2 Samuel 12:7? The answer is clear. David had sinned and needed to repent so as to obtain forgiveness!
When we ignore God’s commandments concerning repentance and the forgiveness of sin, we cause people to feel secure when they are not secure at all. It is impossible for us to forgive sins without the acknowledgement of sin and repentance of those sins. Just how many souls will be lost because we did not require repentance from those who were guilty? How many will be lost due to sins in their past which have never been forgiven? We have already observed that sins can never be forgiven “except ye repent.” Why is that hard for some to understand?
One person said he would just go ahead and forgive a transgressor even though there was nothing said about repentance. The person said I love them and want them to be forgiven. I believe that every faithful Christian wants the sinner to be forgiven. However, a faithful child of God will confront sin and never try to dismiss sins without repentance. Truth is… we cannot remove any sin without repentance coming from the guilty party. To try to do so will cause a soul to be lost! The faithful child of God must seek to restore the unfaithful (Galatians 6:1-2). Question: If we can forgive without confession and repentance why do preachers offer the invitation seeking to restore the erring child of God? We could just skip that part of the sermon if sinners do not need to repent!
Truth is --- God will not overlook sin and we dare not overlook or dismiss that which God will not.
A question that is asked frequently and deserves an answer is “Can a person be a Christian and not be a member of the Church of Christ?” What we must always keep in mind is that such questions require a Bible answer. Answers based on the standards or the traditions of men are not equal to the word of God. We must always look for what God has said and not what man thinks.
In Matthew 16:18 we see that Christ reminds us of what He built, the church. Not “a church” but the church. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27 that it is in baptism that a person is added to the church, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Paul also tells us in Colossians 1:24b that Christ’s body, which we are placed into at baptism, is the church, “… for the sake of His body, which is the church,” In addition to what Paul, an inspired man of God has said, Peter tells us and shows us that baptism is essential in Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Therefore, we see what the Bible has revealed and we can determine that 1) Baptism is essential, 2) Baptism places one into the body of Christ, the church, and 3) since these things are true then a person cannot be a Christian if they are not a part of Christ’s church. We can also add that since baptism is also for the remission of sins, then salvation is only in the church which Christ founded, and He only founded one (Mt 16:18).
These things being true not because of what I or any man has said but because of what we see in scripture. Since the Bible reveals that a Christian cannot be found anywhere but in Christ’s church then the answer is clear we must be in Christ’s church in order to fit the definition of a Christian as it is found in scripture.
When man is faced with such truths it can be difficult to accept for many reasons. However, if you are to know the truth and want to obey the truth as it is found in God’s Word, then we must accept what God’s Word reveals. A refusal to do so we only result in us being separated from God. Think about it.
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