RSS

What Every Christian Should Know About Grace – Titus 2:11-14


Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. {12} It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, {13} while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, {14} who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

As a Christian husband/father, I appreciate so much what’s occurring in the United States:
· advertising groups are producing catchy, appealing presentations teaching our children to ‘say no’ to drugs
· there are now bans on public smoking in most places because we’re finally admitting the harm done by secondary smoke
· there’s a constant public outcry against drunk driving and many groups are trying to enact stricter laws and pressure is being put upon the court system to see that the penalties are carried out

I thank God for the progress!…though it’s only treating the symptoms of the real problem: the worship of self.

But I’ve said that to make this statement to us today: we can’t expect society “to clean itself up.”

It is, however, a role the church ought to assume, though the method might be surprising:
· we’re to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world
· and those who become Christians must bring about dramatic lifestyle changes in their lives!

A simple question: is Christianity a “yes” religion or a “no” religion? What do I mean? Do you see the requirements put upon us by Christ as mainly negative or positive?

We say “YES:”
· to God and His authority
· to Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord of our life
· to the Bible as our only map to eternal life
· to the purpose of the church and the need to make it important in our families’ life
· to the responsibility we have as parents “to give our children back to God”

I hope we also realize that pleasing God involves both “yes” and “no.”

Matthew 12:43-45: “”When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. {44} Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. {45} Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and
live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.””

This side of grace is powerful beyond words:
· It appears to all men
· It brought the death of Christ 
· It makes those dead in sin alive in Christ.
· leads and guides us…it doesn’t throw us into confusion
· redeemed us from all wickedness
· purifies us as His people
· inspires us to the extent that we’re eager to do what’s good and right!

It teaches us what to avoid and what to follow! 

There is another side of grace, grace as it relates to the Christian, the “us” side of grace…it teaches us some truths we all need to learn:

1. GRACE TEACHES US TO LEAVE 
Jesus said, “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

This is not some initial act once performed that should never be considered again. It is an ongoing act! 

We must constantly deny (say NO!) to “ungodliness and worldly lust” 
· Ungodliness is a lack of reverence for the spiritual and a lack of worship and devotion that results from not living like the Lord. 
· To deny ungodliness is to strive always to avoid that which pulls you away from God. 
· This demands ongoing evaluation. Worldly lusts are those desires which lead one further from the kingdom of God.

Salvation is not only a change of position as we’re set free from the slavery of sin…it’s also a change of attitude, ambition, and action.

And if God’s gift of grace doesn’t change us, and give us a different lifestyle, then something is eternally wrong!

Anything I do that Christ wouldn’t do…or anything I do which would bring reproach upon God and the church, I must say “NO!” to it!

1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. {17} And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the
one who does the will of God abides forever.”

2. GRACE TEACHES US TO LIVE
We must live “under control”…..it’s a way of life. This isn’t the idea of being “in control” but being “under control.” They key is a surrender or yielding to God in a dignified, reasonable way:

· God tell us that man cannot direct his own steps
· the key to winning is losing
· to way to be first is to be last
· the way to be great is to be least
· and if we think we can control our lives, the devil smiles in hell and God weeps in heaven!

Second, we must live righteously. This is a matter of our relationship with the Lord. It’s the concept of “clothing ourselves with Christ” We’re made righteous because of the constant cleansing in the blood of Christ.

We live according to a standard…and first and foremost, God wants us to know that that He sent us a man to follow.

Third, we are to be godly. 
The idea here is to include God in all our plans…God must not be the “third man out” with the Christian. We should have a reverence, respect, worship, and devotion that moves into daily life and causes us to live as the Lord wants us to live.

When we yield, study and follow God’s Word and God’s will, we become people-centered…which leads us to ask “what does God like?” (we answer that by looking at God incarnate):
· Jesus liked little children
· Jesus liked people who innocently and completely trusted in Him
· Jesus liked to forgive prostitutes and “sinners”
· JJesusIsLordofthisWebSiteesus liked to spend much time in small groups teaching and training people
· He loved His mother
· He was willing to die for His friends but also His enemies
· He was comfortable with His friends (He could tell Martha to get out of the kitchen and spend more time with people)
· He was involved and interested in people and spent little time worrying for material things or things which would bring Him comfort

Notice the text: we’re eager to do good!

  1. GRACE TEACHES US TO LOOK
    We look for Jesus’ return. This is our blessed hope, our fulfillment. It will be a glorious appearing. We will get to see Jesus, our great God and Savior. It is a shame that we have so preached on the second coming that even Christians do not look forward to it. We must remember who is coming. He is the One who redeemed us from the lawlessness of sin and purified us as
    His own special people. Our specialty is good works. When we live by grace, the world can see our specialty.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Article

 

Marks of a Cult


Authoritarian. There is almost always a central, charismatic, living human leader who commands total loyalty and allegiance.

Oppositional. Their beliefs, practices and values are counter to those of the dominant culture.

Exclusivistic. They are the only group that possesses the “truth.”

Legalistic. Rules and regulations abound governing spiritual matters and the details of everyday living.

Subjective. They emphasize the experiential, the feelings and the emotions. This is usually accompanied by an anti-intellectualism.

Persecution-conscious. The groups feel they are being singled out by mainstream Christians, the press, parents, and the government.

Sanction-oriented. They require conformity in practice and belief, and exercise sanctions against the wayward.

Esoteric. They promote a religion of secrecy and concealment. Truth is taught on two levels, inner truth and outer truth.

Anti-sacerdotal. There are no paid clergy or professional religious functionaries.

Signs of a cult

(1) Secrecy is employed; seldom is there full disclosure.

(2) Elite leadership does all the thinking. Others follow.

(3) Followers are the only ones who possess the whole truth.

(4) Scripture is never taken at face value.

(5) Loyalty goes to a leader or a system.

(6) The concepts lack historical roots.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 12, 2019 in counsel

 

10 Reasons to Believe Christ Rose from the Dead


Do you find the doctrine of bodily resurrection a bit of a stretch?

A Public Execution Assured His Death.

During the Jewish Feast of Passover, Jesus was swept away by an angry crowd into a Roman hall of justice. As He stood before Pilate, the governor of Judea, religious leaders accused Jesus of claiming to be the king of the Jews. The crowd demanded His death. Jesus was beaten, whipped and sentenced to a public execution. On a hill outside of Jerusalem, He was crucified between two criminals. Brokenhearted friends and mocking enemies shared in His deathwatch. As the Sabbath neared, Roman soldiers were sent to finish the execution. To quicken death, they broke the legs of the two criminals. But when they came to Jesus they did not break His legs, because they knew He was already dead. As a final precaution, however, they thrust a spear into His side. It would take more than resuscitation for Him to ever trouble them again.

 A High Official Secured the Grave site.
The next day, religious leaders again met with Pilate. They said Jesus had predicted He would rise in three days. To assure that the disciples could not conspire in a resurrection hoax, Pilate ordered the official seal of Rome to be attached to the tomb to put grave robbers on notice. To enforce the order, soldiers stood guard. Any disciple who wanted to tamper with the body would have had to get by them, which wouldn’t have been easy. The Roman guards had good reason for staying alert-the penalty for falling asleep while on watch was death.

 In Spite of Guards, the Grave Was Found Empty.
On the morning after the Sabbath, some of Jesus’ followers went to the grave to anoint His body. But when they arrived, they were surprised at what they found. The huge stone that had been rolled into place over the entrance to the tomb had been moved, and Jesus’ body was gone. As word got out, two disciples rushed to the burial site. The tomb was empty except for Jesus’ burial wrappings, which were lying neatly in place. In the meantime, some of the guards had gone into Jerusalem to tell the Jewish officials they had fainted in the presence of a supernatural being that rolled the stone away. And when they woke up, the tomb was empty. The officials paid the guards a large sum of money to lie and say that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers slept. They assured the guards that if the report of the missing body got back to the governor, they would intercede on their behalf.

 Many People Claimed to Have Seen Him Alive.
About A.D. 55, the apostle Paul wrote that the resurrected Christ had been seen by Peter, the 12 apostles, more than 500 people (many of whom were still alive at the time of his writing), James and himself (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). By making such a public statement, he gave critics a chance to check out his claims for themselves. In addition, the New Testament begins its history of the followers of Christ by saying that “after his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, NIV).

 His Apostles Were Dramatically Changed.
When one of Jesus’ inner circle defected and betrayed Him, the other apostles ran for their lives. Even Peter, who earlier had insisted that he was ready to die for his teacher, lost heart and denied that he even knew Jesus. But the apostles went through a dramatic change. Within a few weeks, they were standing face to face with the ones who had crucified their leader. Their spirit was like iron. They became unstoppable in their determination to sacrifice everything for the One they called Savior and Lord. Even after they were imprisoned, threatened and forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, the apostles said to the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). After they were beaten for disobeying the orders of the Jewish council, these once-cowardly apostles “never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42).

 Witnesses Were Willing to Die for Their Claims.
History is full of martyrs. Countless men and women have died for their beliefs. For that reason, it is not that significant to point out that the first disciples were willing to suffer and die for their faith. But it is significant that while many will die for what they believe to be the truth, few if any will die for what they know to be a lie. That psychological fact is important because the disciples of Christ did not die for deeply held beliefs about which they could have been honestly mistaken. They died for their claims to have seen Jesus alive and well after His resurrection. They died for their claim that Jesus Christ had not only died for their sins but had risen bodily from the dead to show that He was like no other spiritual leader who had ever lived.

Jewish Believers Changed Their Day of Worship.
The Sabbath day of rest and worship was basic to the Jewish way of life. Any Jew who did not honor the Sabbath was guilty of breaking the law of Moses. Yet Jewish followers of Christ began worshiping with Gentile believers on a new day. The first day of the week, the day on which they believed Christ had risen from the dead, replaced the Sabbath. For a Jew, it reflected a major change of life. The new day, along with baptism, declared that those who believed Christ had risen from the dead were ready for more than a renewal of Judaism. They believed that the death and resurrection of Christ had cleared the way for a new relationship with God. The new way was based not on the law, but on the sin-bearing, life-giving help of a resurrected Savior.

 Although It Was Unexpected, It Was Clearly Predicted.
The disciples were caught off guard. They expected their Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel. Their minds were so fixed on the coming of a messianic political kingdom that they didn’t anticipate the events essential to the salvation of their souls. They must have thought Christ was speaking in symbolic language when He kept saying over and over that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem to die and be resurrected from the dead. Coming from one who spoke in parables, they missed the obvious until after it was all over. In the process, they also overlooked the prophet Isaiah’s prediction of a suffering servant who would bear the sins of Israel, being led like a lamb to the slaughter, before God “prolong[ed] his days” (Isaiah 53:10).

 It Was a Fitting Climax to a Miraculous Life.
While Jesus hung on a Roman cross, crowds mocked Him. He helped others, but could He help Himself? Was the miracle suddenly coming to an end? It seemed like such an unexpected ending for someone who began His public life by turning water into wine. During His three-year ministry, He walked on water; healed the sick; opened blind eyes, deaf ears and tongue-tied mouths; restored crippled limbs; cast out demons; stilled a violent storm; and raised the dead. He asked questions wise men couldn’t answer. He taught profound truths with the simplest of comparisons. And He confronted hypocrites with words that exposed their cover-up. If all this was true, should we be surprised that His enemies didn’t have the last word?

 It Fits the Experience of Those Who Trust Him.
The apostle Paul wrote, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). This was the experience of Paul, whose heart was dramatically changed by the resurrected Christ. It is also the experience of people all over the world who have “died” to their old ways so that Christ can live His life through them. This spiritual power is not evident in those who try to add belief in Christ to their old life. It is seen only in those who are willing to “die” to their old life to make room for the rule of Christ. It is apparent only in those who respond to the overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection by acknowledging His lordship in their heart.

You’re not alone if you find yourself honestly unconvinced about whether Christ rose from the dead. But keep in mind that Jesus promised God’s help to those who want to be right with God. He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

If you do see the reasonableness of the Resurrection, keep in mind that the Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and those who believe and are baptized will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The salvation Christ offers is not a reward for effort, but a gift to all who in light of the evidence put their trust in Him.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2019 in Jesus Christ

 

Quiz for Couples — How’s Your Marriage?


This quiz is based on an understanding of many key studies in the field. Following the Quiz you can add up your points and use the scale to see how you are doing. You should take the scores seriously, but realize that there is a lot that the quiz doesn’t take into account about your relationship.

While these questions are based on studies that assess such things as the likelihood of a marriage working out, we would hate for any one person to take this and assume the worst about their future. Rather, we believe that the quiz can motivate high and medium- high scoring couples to take a serious look at where their marriage is heading–and take steps to turn negative patterns around for the better.

Please answer each of the following questions to see how you are doing. We recommend that you answer these questions by yourself and not share scores with your partner.

Use the following 3 point scale to rate how often you and your mate or partner experience the following:

1 = Never or almost never  2 = Once in awhile  3 = Frequently 

1 2 3 Little arguments escalate into ugly fights with accusations, criticisms, name calling, or bringing up past hurts.

1 2 3 My partner criticizes or belittles my opinions, feelings, or desires.

1 2 3 My partner seems to view my words or actions more negatively than I mean them to be.

1 2 3 When we have a problem to solve, it is like we are on opposite teams.

1 2 3 I hold back from telling my partner what I really think and feel.

1 2 3 I think seriously about what it would be like to date or marry someone else.

1 2 3 I feel lonely in this relationship.

1 2 3 When we argue, one of us withdraws, that is, doesn’t want to talk about it anymore; or leaves the scene.

Determining Your Score:
Add up your points to determine your score. (Include only your scores, do not add to your partner’s!) The ranges we suggest for the quiz are based on results from a nationwide, random phone survey of 947 people (85% married).

8 to 12 “Green Light”
If your total points is in the 8 – 12 range, your relationship is probably in good or even great shape AT THIS TIME, but we emphasize “AT THIS TIME” because relationships don’t stand still. In the next 12 months, you’ll either have a stronger, happier relationship, or you could head in the other direction. To think about it another way, it’s like you are traveling along and have come to a green light. There is no need to stop, but it is probably a great time to work on making your relationship all it can be.

13 to 17 “Yellow Light”
If you scored in the 13-17 range, it’s like you are coming to a “yellow light.” You need to be cautious. While you may be happy now in your relationship, your score reveals warning signs of patterns you don’t want to let get worse. You’ll want to be taking action to protect and improve what you have. Spending time to strengthen your relationship now could be the best thing you could do for your future together.

18 to 24 “Red Light”
Finally, if you scored in the 18-24 range, it’s like approaching a red light. Stop, and think about where the two of you are headed. Your score indicates the presence of patterns that could put your relationship at significant risk. You may be heading for trouble–or already may be there. But there is GOOD NEWS. You can stop and learn ways to improve your relationship now!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 29, 2019 in Marriage

 

Conflict between the weak and strong – Romans 14


A major theme of the New Testament is that of sin’s power to destroy the spiritual and moral health of the church as well as of the individuals who commit the sins. The epistles are filled with commands and injunctions regarding the need to continually eradicate sin in the church. That is the purpose of both church discipline and self-discipline.

But outright sin is not the only danger to a church’s spiritual health and unity. Although they are not sin in
themselves, certain attitudes and behavior can destroy fellowship and fruitfulness and have crippled the work, the witness, and the unity of countless congregations throughout church history. These problems are caused by differences between Christians over matters that are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture. They are matters of personal preference and historic tradition, which, when imposed on others, inevitably cause confusion, strife, ill will, abused consciences, and disharmony.

Even in small churches, there often are considerable differences in age, education, maturity, personalities, and cultural and religious backgrounds. Some members may come from a long line of evangelicals. Some of those families may have a heritage of strict legalism, while others have one of considerable openness and freedom. Some members may have been accustomed to highly liturgical worship, others to worship that is largely unstructured and spontaneous.

Such diversity can strengthen a local congregation, reminding the church itself and witnessing to the world around them of the power of Jesus Christ to bind together dissimilar people in a fellowship of genuine and profound unity. The Lord did not plan for his church to be divided into a hundred varieties, based on distinctives of personal preference and traditions that have no ground in Scripture.

The particular danger to unity that Paul addresses in Romans 14:1-15:13 is the conflict that easily arises between those to whom he refers as strong and weak believers, those who are mature in the faith and those who are immature,  those who understand and enjoy freedom in Christ and those who still feel either shackled or threatened by certain religious and cultural taboos and practices that were deeply ingrained parts of their lives before coming to Christ.

In the early church, many Jews who came to faith in Christ could not bring themselves to discard the ceremonial laws and practices in which they had been steeped since early childhood, especially the rites and prohibitions the Lord Himself had instituted under the Old Covenant. They still felt compelled, for example, to comply with Mosaic dietary laws, to strictly observe the Sabbath, and even to offer sacrifices in the Temple because they were given by the true God.

Other believers, both Jewish and Gentile, understood and exercised their freedom in Christ. Mature Jewish believers realized that, under the New Covenant in Christ, the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law were no longer valid. Mature believing Gentiles understood that idolatry was a spiritual evil and had no effect on anything physical, such as meat, that may have been used in idolatrous worship.

Those who were still strongly influenced, favorably or unfavorably, by their former religious beliefs and practices were weak in the faith because they did not understand their freedom in Christ.

On the other hand, those who are strong are often faced with the temptation to push their freedom in Christ to the limits, to live on the outer edge of moral propriety, to see how far they can go without actually committing a sin. Those who are weak are tempted in the opposite way. They are so afraid of committing some religious offense that they surround themselves with self-imposed restrictions.

Christian convictions do not define what is “right” and “wrong.” God’s Word defines what is right and what is wrong. Biblical revelation is not a matter of personal discretion.It is not a conviction to believe that murder is evil or that loving our enemy is good. Convictions take up where biblical revelation and human law leave off. Convictions determine what my conduct should be in those areas not specifically prescribed by Scripture. My convictions draw the line between what I will do and what I will not do as an exercise of Christian liberty.

Convictions reach the conclusions of “should” and “should not.” The question is not so much, “Can I do this or that?” but “Should I do this or that?” Paul writes: (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV)  “Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Christian convictions are matters of conscience. Convictions are the result of the interaction of several factors. One factor is knowledge—a grasp of biblical teaching and doctrine. Another is that of conscience, our “inner umpire” which causes us to feel either guilt or moral affirmation. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled (1 Corinthians 8:7).

Christian convictions are matters of faith. Knowledge and conscience are factors which determine our convictions. Faith also plays a vital role in our convictions. We should only practice those liberties we can do in faith. If we doubt (the opposite of faith), we are condemned by doing what our conscience does not approve.

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:22-23).

In the Church at Rome there were apparently two lines of thought. There were some who believed that in Christian liberty the old tabus were gone; they believed that the old food laws were now irrelevant; they believed that Christianity did not consist in the special observance of any one day or days. Paul makes it clear that this in fact is the standpoint of real Christian faith.

On the other hand, there were those who were full of scruples; they believed that it was wrong to eat meat; they believed in the rigid observance of the Sabbath tyranny. Paul calls the ultra-scrupulous man the man who is weak in the faith. What does he mean by that?

Paul’s sympathies are all with the broader point of view; but, at the same time, he says that when one of these weaker brethren comes into the Church he must be received with brotherly sympathy. When we are confronted with someone who holds the narrower view there are three attitudes we must avoid.

(i) We must avoid irritation. An impatient annoyance with such a person gets us nowhere. However much we may disagree, we must try to see the other person’s point of view and to understand it.

(ii) We must avoid ridicule. No man remains unwounded when that which he thinks precious is laughed at. It is no small sin to laugh at another man’s beliefs. They may seem prejudices rather than beliefs; but no man has a right to laugh at what some other holds sacred. In any event, laughter will never woo the other man to a wider view; it will only make him withdraw still more determined into his rigidity.

(iii) We must avoid contempt. It is very wrong to regard the narrower person as an old-fashioned fool whose views may be treated with contempt. A man’s view are his own and must be treated with respect. It is not even possible to win a man over to our position unless we have a genuine respect for his. Of all attitudes towards our fellow man the most unchristian is contempt.

There are some people whose faith is so strong that no amount of debate and questioning will ready shake it. But there are others who have a simple faith which is only needlessly disturbed by clever discussion.

This passage deals with the principles which are to guide the believer as he faces these issues.

1. Receive the weak brother (v.1-2).

2. Do not despise and judge (criticize) others (v.3-4).

3. Be fully persuaded of right and wrong behavior (v.5-6).

4. Watch out—watch what you do (v.7-9).

5. Leave the judgment up to God (v.10-12).

6. Judge only one thing: stumbling blocks (v.13-15).

7. Give no occasion for criticism (v.16-18).

8. Pursue things that bring peace and edification (v.19).

9. Do not destroy or ruin the work of God in another person’s life: it is sin to do so (v.20).

10. Do nothing to cause a brother to stumble (v.21).

11. Watch and do not condemn yourself (v.22-23).

The ‘weak’ and the ‘strong’ have several distinct characteristics.

(1) They are weak in faith. Literally, they are weak ‘in the faith’ or ‘in their faith. I suspect that both elements are true. That is, the weak are those who have not yet come to the full realization of the freedom and the liberty which is a part of the faith.

 (2)  The weak are prone to condemn the actions of the strong. As they have not yet come to understand Christian liberty, they do not accept it in others. The weak can be immediately recognized by the frown of contempt on their faces, and the “Oh, no!” look in their eyes.

 (3) The strong are those who are more fully aware of the nature of grace and of the teachings of the word of God. They have a greater grasp of the faith (objective-doctrine) and so their faith (subjective-personal) is stronger.

 (4) The strong are susceptible to the sin of smugness and arrogance. They can easily find contempt and disdain for those who cannot fully grasp grace. On their face can be seen the lofty, yet condescending, smile of contempt. Their eyes betray an expression of “Oh, really.”

 “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1).

He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. … for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:6, 8).

If we wish to busy ourselves with the work of passing judgment, let us concentrate upon ourselves, rather than upon our neighbor, for at the judgment seat of God we will be judged for our own actions: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10).

The force of Paul’s argumentation is irresistible. The Christian has no business trying to conform his brother to his own personal convictions, since convictions are private property, since God has accepted him as he is, and since every servant is accountable only to his own master.

 Our Christian liberty is vertical, before the Lord. But the exercise of that liberty is horizontal, because it is seen by and affects others. To rightly understand and use our freedom in Christ brings great satisfaction. But that satisfaction is multiplied when we willingly surrender the exercise of a liberty for the sake of other believers. More importantly, it greatly pleases our Lord and promotes harmony in His church.

Marks of a Strong Fellowship Within the Church, 15:1-13

Paul shared the two sources of spiritual power from which we must draw if we are to live to please others: the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and prayer (Rom. 15:5-6). We must confess that we sometimes get impatient with younger Christians, just as parents become impatient with their children. But the Word of God can give us the “patience and encouragement” that we need.

This suggests to us that the local church must major in the Word of God and prayer. The first real danger to the unity of the church came because the Apostles were too busy to minister God’s Word and pray (Acts 6:1-7). When they found others to share their burdens, they returned to their proper ministry, and the church experienced harmony and growth.

 This passage is a continuation of the former chapter. It clearly pinpoints the marks of a strong church. Once studying this passage, a believer can never claim he did not know his duty within the church. Every believer’s part in building and making the church strong is clearly spelled out.

Mark 1: the strong bear the weaknesses of the weak (v.1-3).

Mark 2: everyone studies the Scriptures (v.4).

Mark 3: everyone works for harmony (v.5-6).

Mark 4: everyone accepts one another without discrimination (v.7-12).

Mark 5: everyone is filled by the God of hope (v.13).

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 22, 2019 in Church

 

Follow after things which make for peace – Romans 14:19


Division in religion is rampant in the world! Religious division has been called “The Scandal of Christendom.”

There was a time when men attempted to justify the existence of conflicting religious parties, calling the situation “good,” “healthy,” or “desirable.” Men have even been heard to pray, “Lord, we thank Thee for the many denominations in our country.” But consider the Lord’s prayer for unity: John 17:20-21 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Today, men seldom defend religious division. If they know the Bible, they know that division is sinful. Our plea should be for men to seek unity!

Religious division is most harmful when it exists among those who claim to be the people of God. It has confused more minds, divided more homes, caused more hard feelings among friends, wasted more money, voided more sincere work, and probably caused more souls to be lost than any other single weapon in the devil’s arsenal.

Division is the work of Satan! It cannot be the work of God, for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints..”).

But someone says, “Read Christ’s statement in Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

This text simply teaches that the people of Christ’s kingdom will, at times, be at variance with the people of the world. It does not endorse or encourage division within His kingdom!

NOTICE SEVERAL PLAIN PASSAGES FROM GOD’S WORD.

“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19).

“Let him seek peace, and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling” (Proverbs 20:3).

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

WHAT DESTROYS PEACE?

Contention kills peace.

“As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife” (Proverbs 26:21). As wood is to fire a contentious person is to strife. Vengeance destroys peace.

We live in an imperfect world and are part of an imperfect church (from the human side). Sooner or later someone will wrong us, or we will feel as though they have. When such happens, leave retribution to God. Romans 12:19 (NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

A self-willed spirit can bring division. Trouble is bound to come when a person is set on having his way. Many have the philosophy “I will have it my way or else.” This is especially dangerous among the leaders of the church.

Elders must not be self-willed Titus 1:7 (NIV) Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Elders are not to lord it over God’s people 1 Peter 5:3 (NIV) not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

An unholy ambition for power and preeminence destroys peace. This has led to conflicts of both minor and major proportions, from fisticuffs to world wars. It has led to struggle and strife in the church.

“I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). A church with a modem Diotrephes is sure, in time, to have discord. Bitterness, wrath, and anger rob us of peace.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). These evil traits tend to break the peace of a family, church or community; for they will break forth in word and deed and do injury.

Here are two important verses to consider: Proverbs 29:22 (NIV) An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. 

Proverbs 16:32 (NIV) Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

He who is incapable of controlling himself is unable to handle critical situations because he is incapable of sane decisions.

“Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).

Foolish and ignorant questions cause strife. “But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).

2 Timothy 2:24 tells us the kind of servants we are to be. Corrupt speech destroys peace. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29).

What constitutes corrupt speech? Hasty words create strife (James 1:19).

Gossip and talebearing excite strife. “A whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

“For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).

Clamor is to be put away (Ephesians 4:31). This is outcry or a violent expression of discontent. It not only characterizes a mob, but occasionally describes church meetings. The wrong word can be spoken at a delicate time and the whole assembly becomes inflamed.

Railing is forbidden (1 Timothy 6:4,5). This means to insult, revile, and scoff. It is not Christian.

 WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE?

A recognition of a standard of authority makes for peace. This is true in the realm of times, weights, and measures. This is also true in religion, which has the Scriptures for its standard (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

A woman once told a preacher that she knew a certain thing was so no matter what the Bible said. If each is his own standard of authority, we will be hopelessly divided.

An unselfish spirit creates peace. Consider Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:7–11).

“Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).

The practice of the Golden Rule brings peace (Matthew 7:12).

Returning good for evil is one sure way to promote peace. Read Romans 12:20. This is overcoming evil with good. It will bring remorse to a guilty person who has any manhood. A spirit which is easy to be entreated produces peace.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy o be entreated” (James 3:17).

Each Christian should have a yielding disposition, easy to be entreated, in all matters of opinion. In matters of faith we must be uncompromising. A forgiving spirit makes for peace. “If any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).

Read Matthew 6:12. Some people are so hardened that they will not forgive. This makes it hard on both the offender and the offended.

A longsuffering spirit makes for peace. This means that we are patient when offended. This spirit permits time to mediate. Time is a healing ointment for wounded feelings.

CONCLUSION

“If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). This passage teaches that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men. Peace at any price is a dangerous principle and should not be practiced by Christians. As Christians, we should be willing to sacrifice opinions to be at peace with all men, but we should never compromise truth and duty.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 15, 2019 in counsel

 

God as Father is our model parent


Why does God give parents to children?

With family troubles intensifying, discipline problems increasing, and a growing corps of psychologi­cally handicapped people coming through the ranks of the traditional family circle, we wonder why God doesn’t come up with a different way of bringing children to maturity than using parents in a home environment.

And he keeps them there so long, nearly eigh­teen years on the average. Most birds and animals mature and move out on their own in a matter of weeks or months. But the frequent failures of teen‑age marriages dramatically illustrate that fif­teen, sixteen, or even seventeen years may not be enough to prepare humans to establish successful homes of their own. Why?

Because, among other things, life for an animal is a matter of instincts which are basically inborn. Life for humans goes far beyond that. It involves intellectual and emotional character, volitional choices, moral and aesthetic values. These things are not instinctive; they are developed, and that takes time. God gives parents to children to help build the qualities into them that will prepare them for a most useful and satisfying life.

Other organizations and agencies also contribute to molding the character and personality of children, but none has the same degree of influence as their parents. This is due not only to the uniqueness and intensity of the parent‑child relation­ship, but also to the sheer volume of time logged in the home.

Before entering school, nearly all of our children’s time is spent at home. Even during their school years, as many as 60 wak­ing hours per week are spent in or around the home, far exceed­ing the hours spent in any other single place. What transpires during those hours will largely determine the kind of adults our children become, and the mark of those years will be indel­ibly imprinted on their personalities.

God says a person’s ways later in life will be determined by his early experiences and training (Prov. 22:6). Modern psychologists, sociologists, and educators agree. Our children are what we make them. They are the sum total of what we contribute to their lives. The training we pro­vide will affect their ability to get along with other people, the genuineness of their Christian testimony and service, the caliber of work they do, the quality of home they establish, and almost every other area of their lives.

That’s a staggering thought. Raising a child successfully sounds like a superhuman task. As a matter of fact, it is. It demands more than human resources have to offer. It requires supernatural wisdom and strength. “But I’m not God,” you say. Right! Your children probably know that already. But God does promise to supply all your need (Phil. 4:19). And he knows exactly what you do need to be a good parent, because he himself is the Model Parent.

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus prayed he addressed God as “our Father, who art in heaven.” God is a father. And the Psalmist exclaimed, “What a God he is! How perfect in every way!” (Psa. 18:30, TLB). The obvious conclusion is that God is a perfect father. By examining his Word and learning how he functions as a parent, we can learn what kind of parents we should be. Then when we commit ourselves completely to him and let him con­trol our lives, he is free to express through us his wisdom and strength as the Model Parent. He provides both the example and the encouragement, both the direction and the dynamic for us to be successful parents.

There are a number of Scripture passages that compare God’s parenthood to ours. For example, the Psalmist wrote, “He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who rever­ence him” (Psa. 103:13, TLB).

Solomon made this wise observation which the writer to the Hebrews borrowed: “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12, NASB; cf. Hebrews 12:6).

Jesus added his inspired testimony: “And if you hard‑hearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matt. 7:11, TLB).

The point is well established in the Bible. God’s parenthood and our parenthood are a great deal alike–at least they should be. But did you notice that in all these verses the direction is from the human to the divine. Each verse uses human parents and the way they treat their children to teach us what God is like.

Christian counselors have discovered that it does indeed work that way. A person’s image of God is often patterned after his image of his own parents, especially his father.

  • If his par­ents were happy, loving, accepting, and forgiving, he finds it easier to experience a positive and satisfying relationship with God. But if his parents were cold and indifferent, he may feel that God is far away and disinterested in him personally.
  • If his parents were angry, hostile, and rejecting, he often feels that God can never accept him.
  • If his parents were hard to please, he usually has the nagging notion that God is not very happy with him either.

We need to meditate on that, Christian parent. What kind of God‑concept is our child cultivating by his relationship with us? Is he learning that God is loving, kind, patient, and forgiv­ing? Or are we unintentionally building a false image of God into his life, implying by our actions that God is harsh, short-­tempered, and critical, that he nags us, yells at us, or knocks us around when we get out of line?

Our children’s entire spiritual life is at stake here. It is imperative that we learn what kind of a parent God is, then follow his example in order that our chil­dren may see a living object lesson of the kind of God we have.

There is at least one passage in the Bible, however, that does move from the divine to the human, exhorting us to follow God’s example in raising our children: “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the dis­cipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NASB).

Those three little words at the conclusion of this verse will set our course through the remainder of this book. The training we give our children must be the training “of the Lord.” The Lord must be the guiding principle of that training. It belongs to him and is to be ad­ministered by him. It is the same training he gives us, and we are to give it to our children by his direction, through his pow­er, under his authority, and answerable to him.

It is “of the Lord” in every sense of that phrase. When we get right down to specific principles of child‑training, the Bible does not have a great deal to say directly. But when we understand the great principle established in this verse, the Bible becomes an in­exhaustible source-book for successful child training.

It boils down simply to this–we deal with our children as the Lord deals with us. He is our model. And our understand­ing of how he deals with us does not necessarily come from our parents, for that understanding may be faulty, as we have seen. It must come from his Word. We need to search the Scriptures to find out how God deals with his children, then do the same with our children.

Paul uses two words in Ephesians 6:4 to sum up God’s method of rearing children–discipline and instruction. The first of these is a very general word for child‑training. It in­volves setting goals for our children, teaching them the goals, then patiently but persistently guiding them toward those goals. While the word did not originally mean correction, it came through usage to include that idea and is translated “chas­tening” in Hebrews 12:5‑7 (KJV). But discipline, contrary to popular opinion, is far more than correction. It is charting a course for our children, guiding them along that course, and firmly but lovingly bring them back to that course when they stray.

Think about charting the course for a moment. Have you ever prayerfully established goals for the training of your children? This might be a good time to do it. We cannot expect our children to turn out right if we’re not sure what “right” is. As one of my seminary profs used to say, “If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll hit.” Since we can’t hit a target we don’t have, let’s build one right now. Your aims may be much more extensive than mine, but this may at least be a good place to begin. Here is a God The Fatherbasic list of biblical goals we want to ac­complish with our children.

1. To lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It must be in his own perfect time, but we cannot really expect them to be all that God wants them to be until they have a new nature imparted from above.

2. To lead them to a total commitment of their lives to Christ. We want them to make their decisions in accord with his will, share every detail of life with him in prayer, and learn to trust him in every experience they face. Asking first what God wants us to do is a habit pattern that must be cultivated. The time to begin is very early in a child’s life.

3. To build the Word of God into their lives. We will en­deavor to teach it to them faithfully, relate it to the cir­cumstances of life, and set an example of conformity to it.

4. To teach them prompt and cheerful obedience, and re­spect for authority. By developing their willing submission to our authority, we seek to instill a respect for all duly consti­tuted authority, such as public school, Sunday school, gov­ernment, and ultimately, the authority of God himself. Submis­sion to authority is the basis for a happy and peaceful life in our society.

5. To teach them self‑discipline. The happiest life is the con­trolled life, particularly in areas such as eating, sleeping, sex, care of the body, use of time and money, and desire for material things.

6. To teach them to accept responsibility–responsibility for happily and efficiently accomplishing the tasks assigned to them, responsibility for the proper care of their belongings, and responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

7. To teach them the basic traits of Christian character, such as honesty, diligence, truthfulness, righteousness, unselfish­ness, kindness, courtesy, consideration, friendliness, generosi­ty, justice, patience, and gratitude.

Now we know where we’re going. But remember, our pur­pose is not just to insist on these things while our children are under our care. It is to make this whole package such a part of their lives that when they leave our care it will continue to guide them.

That seems to be what Solomon had in mind when he wrote, “Young man, obey your father and your mother. Tie their instructions around your finger so you won’t forget. Take to heart all of their advice. Every day and all night long their counsel will lead you and save you from harm; when you wake up in the morning, let their instructions guide you into the new day. For their advice is a beam of light directed into the dark corners of your mind to warn you of danger and to give you a good life” (Prov. 6:20‑23, TLB).

Internalizing these standards, that is, making them an inte­gral part of the child’s life, seems to be indicated in the second word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4 to describe the training God gives which we are to emulate, the word instruction. This word means literally, “to place in the mind.” The emphasis is on verbal training–warning, admonishing, encouraging, instruct­ing, or reproving.

But it goes far beyond the famous parental lecture. It pictures the faithful parent tenderly planting the principles of God’s Word deep down in the very soul of the child so that they become a vital part of his being. The standard is no longer the parent’s alone. It now belongs to the child as well. He is ready to move out into the world, independent of his parent’s control, with the principles of God’s Word so woven into the fiber of his life that he finds delight and success in doing the will of God, even when nobody is watching him.

Maybe this explains why some parents are reluctant to let go of their children when they should. If parents suspect they have not successfully instilled God’s way of life into their children, they may hesitate to break their emotional ties with them, but seek to influence and manipulate them in various ways long after they have married and left home. God wants us to begin building toward independence from the time our children are born.

Parental rules, regulations, and restrictions are only tempo­rary. Their purpose is to prepare the child for freedom, the only kind of freedom that can bring him real satisfaction, the free­dom to live in harmony and happiness with his Maker and Lord. As he learns and matures, the restraints are decreased and the independence increased until he leaves our care to establish a home of his own, a self‑disciplined, Spirit‑directed adult, capable of assuming his God‑given responsibilities in life.

This whole process is beautifully illustrated by the way God has dealt with the human race through the ages of history. In the time of man’s spiritual childhood, God gave him the law– 613 commandments, ordinances, and judgments regulating nearly every detail of life. It isn’t the way most people would choose to live, but it certainly did the job.

Paul said, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24, 25, KJV, cf. Gal. 4:1‑7). He goes on to describe the fullness of faith, the freedom of life in Christ, and the joy of adult sonship. Who needs the bondage of all those external laws when we have the internal motivation of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14)?

That’s exactly what human parents should be doing. During the childhood years we regulate behavior while we inculcate biblical standards. As the child develops an inner discipline and control, more and more of the outward restrictions are removed until he has achieved the independence God intended him to have when he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife . . .” (Gen. 2:24, KJV).

There are few joys in this world that excel the thrill of watch­ing our children live in fellowship with God of their own will­ing desire. The Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4, KJV). He was probably speaking of his spiritual children, but the idea is equally applicable to our physical children.

Old Jacob must have had that joy when he heard the story of his son’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife. She offered Joseph her body and nobody would have been the wiser. Dad was several hundred miles away and it was doubtful at that point whether Joseph would ever see him again. But the godly principles built into his soul through his early years kept him from sin (Gen. 39:7‑20).

Daniel’s parents experienced that same joy if they ever heard of their son’s steadfast devotion to God in Babylon. He was nearly six hundred miles from home. And all the other boys were gorging themselves with the sumptuous foods of the Babylonian king which had been dedicated to pagan idols. “Everybody else is doing it” and “Nobody will ever know” have been good enough excuses to send countless other kids into a spiritual tailspin. “But Daniel made up his mind not to eat the food and wine given to them by the king” (Dan. 1:8, TLB).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the joy of our children walking with God when they’re gone from our nest? With the example of the Model Parent to guide us and the power of his indwelling Spirit to strengthen us, we can help our children through their formative years and mold them into men and women of God, equipped to do his will. (Material comes from many sources).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Family, God

 
 
%d bloggers like this: