Don’t Believe Everything You Hear!
Roger D. Campbell
Satan spoke a lie when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die” (if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, rdc; Gen. 3:4). Not everything that even the first human couple heard was on the up and up. They should have learned at an early time in their existence that, no, not everything you hear in this world is true. We all are aware of this fact, yet for whatever reasons, sometimes we gullibly swallow untruths that others present to us. In some areas of life this may not bring about monumental consequences, but being deceived in the spiritual or moral realm is devastating.
Does not the New Testament repeatedly tell Christians, “Be not deceived,” or something very similar? Indeed, it does (I Cor. 3:18; 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7; James 1:16,22,26). Two truths stand out in such a statement of warning from God. First, it is possible to be deceived. Second, each one of us is personally responsible for seeing to it that we are not deceived. What that means is, if we are deceived, though those that deceive us must also give account of their wrongdoing, we are ultimately the ones at fault for allowing ourselves to be deceived. Remember, it is God’s direct command: “Be not deceived.”
Don’t believe everything you hear in the religious realm. In all seriousness, when it comes to religious teaching, we would be foolish if we believed every religious message that we ever heard. For a moment, let us step outside of the arena of religion. Is three plus four equal to six? If one math teacher says, “Yes,” but a second one says, “No,” would you believe both answers are correct? Of course not. If we refuse to accept absurdities in secular matters, why do so many people accept obviously contradictory answers in the realm of spiritual affairs?
You can turn on the TV and listen to three consecutive religious broadcasts that give three totally different answers to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” You can listen to two consecutive programs on the radio that give the exact opposite answer to the question, “Is it scriptural for women to preach to an audience that includes men?” A person could get on the internet and view two web sites that give the exact opposite answer to the question, “Is it scriptural to worship Mary, the mother of Jesus?”
False prophets and false teachers abound. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets,” did He not (Matt. 7:15)? Indeed, He did. So do not believe everything you hear in the religious realm. Come to think of it, did not God say something about that? Listen to I John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Bottom line: don’t believe everything you hear in religion.
Don’t believe everything you hear on the news. Not long after Ronald Reagan became president, he was shot. Some news agencies reported that he had been killed by the shot. The report, as it turns out, was false. Just because a professional reporter tells it to millions of viewers or readers, that does not guarantee that in every instance it will be 100% true.
In many cases news agencies just pass along the information they receive. Some time ago it was reported on the national radio news that a former employee of a TV network had sued someone because she had been forced to sit through some planning sessions in which vulgar language was frequently used. Some court shot down her case, saying that in some situations it is necessary to use foul language! “Necessary” to use vulgarity to express ourselves? That is what the court ruled, and the news reported it. The court’s statement was ludicrous! The Lord God said, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” (Eph. 4:29). So many people have become so hardened to sin that using the language of the gutter does not cause them any sense of shame (Jer. 6:15). We must not waver in our commitment to speak and uphold only wholesome language! Others may try to portray us as “having a hangup,” but we must keep our speech pure and encourage others to accept God’s revelation about how to use the tongue.
Young people, don’t believe everything you hear in the classroom at school. Yes, be respectful to your teachers and to their right to express their views, but do not swallow everything they say just because they earned a college degree. So-called science textbooks are filled with references to evolution being a proven fact. No, no, no, evolution is not a fact, but rather an unproven and unprovable t-h-e-o-r-y. It contradicts the fact that living things come only from living things. It contradicts the fact that living things can only produce living things of the same nature as themselves (and not some different kind of critter). And, it contradicts the fact that the Lord God created this world in six days (Exodus 20:11; Gen. 1:1).
Don’t believe everything you hear in a gathering of friends. Some friends are as honest and trustworthy as your own grandma, while others will sell you down the river without batting an eye, just like Judas betrayed our Lord (Psalm 41:9). Some friends probably do not mean any harm by it, but they just seem to be very skilled at blowing things all out of proportion and spreading false rumors. All of us need to check things out carefully before we begin spreading to others information that has been passed to us. Better to hear the whole matter before we rush to conclusions and participate in telling things that are not true (Prov. 18:13). Reputations, reliability, and trustworthiness are at stake, both for ourselves and for others.
Don’t believe everything you hear via e-mail or on the internet. Many kids growing up today never lived in the B.E. days -- Before E-mail days. The use of computers to search out information and send letters is still mind boggling to those of us from the old school. The internet and e-mail are simply tools. In and of themselves, they are neither righteous nor evil. It all depends on how we use them. Deceptive advertisements about various products abound on the internet. As far as e-mail goes, there always seems to be a huge amount of scams that make the rounds. Before hitting the “Forward” button to send messages on to others, we would be advised to first check them out. I can think of a couple of cases where great harm was done by sincere people failing to investigate a matter before broadcasting it far and wide as if it were a fact. Consider “the Golden Rule” (Matt. 7:12) before sending out false and/or potentially harmful information.
Don’t believe everything you hear about sister congregations. Tragically, some of the most ridiculous things that are spoken are told by members of the church about other local churches. “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I heard that over at congregation X they have kind of gotten out in left field and are having women lead prayers now.” Upon further investigation ["investigation,” that is a key word here!], you might find out that, yes, in their ladies Bible classes a sister leads prayer every time. That certainly does not violate the instruction for males to lead prayers (I Tim. 2:8). At one time a rumor was going around that at the congregation where I have been a member for nearly the past seven years, the elders stand at the door to prevent any females from entering the building if they are wearing pants. It simply is not true. When rumors swirl about sister churches in the Lord, do not believe everything you hear. Accept only that which can be put to the test and proven.
Each of us needs to use common sense when we consider what others have to say. We need to seriously analyze what is said before we accept it as being truthful. In the spiritual realm, let us all strive to be like the Bereans of old who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
ARE YOU A LIBERAL?
Since the church of Christ today is being rent asunder by what is labeled as “liberalism,” it is not uncommon to hear a brother or sister referred to as “a liberal. It is often used to describe preachers, but is not limited to them. What is meant by the term “liberal?” Are you one? How would you or anyone else know? Let’s think about this.
The terms liberal, liberally, and liberality are used in the scriptures nine times, five times in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament. In all of these usages the term refers to something desirable and good. Liberal and liberalism, as those terms are used today, generally are not references to something good and desirable. They usually refer to an attitude and philosophy in religion which is in conflict with the Word of God. Thus we turn to the dictionary to see what the word “liberal” means and then apply that meaning to see if we are “liberal.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition (1960) defines “liberal” as follows: “(1) originally, suitable for a free man; not restricted; (2) giving freely, generous; (3) large and plentiful, ample, abundant; (4) not restricted to the literal meaning; (5) tolerant of views differing from one’s own, broadminded. SYN. Liberal implies tolerance of others’ views as well as open-mindedness to ideas that challenge tradition, established institutions, etc.”
Now, let’s apply that definition to one’s religious views and practices.
1) NOT RESTRICTED. Liberals do not like to be restricted by anyone, God included. Their language will be filled with expressions that show their dislike for restrictions. They will talk about “not being under law, but grace,” or of God “not having a list of ‘shall nots’,” etc. They don’t want to tell anyone they are wrong about anything (except about them). Nor do they want anyone trying to restrict what they say or do. The desire for freedom from such restrictions is the heart of liberalism.
2) GIVING FREELY, GENEROUS. I would hope that every Christian would be liberal in this sense. Sadly however, this is not the case. Many who need to be liberal in their giving of time, energy and money to the Lord are not so. God bless those who are liberal in this manner. Just as some in the first century were commended for their liberality (2 Cor. 8:1-8), we need to commend some brethren today for being liberal in their giving. Unfortunately, it seems those who are liberal in their teaching and practice are also more liberal in their giving. I have noted that liberal churches often have higher contributions and pay their preachers more than “conservative” churches of the same size. However, you cannot atone for a liberal spirit in doctrine and practice with liberal giving.
3) LARGE AND PLENTIFUL, AMPLE, ABUNDANT. With a smile on my lips, I say that we have a great many brethren who are liberal in this sense, preaching brethren like myself included. Too many of us eat too much, exercise too little, and become “liberal” in this sense.
4) NOT RESTRICTED TO THE LITERAL MEANING. One of the marks of a liberal is to criticize the literal interpretation of the Scriptures and make passages which “restrict” them to be figurative or to give words a different meaning than their usual and common one. A good example of this is found in 2 John 9-11. The term “doctrine of Christ” obviously refers to the doctrine taught by Christ, either in person or through the apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit. That entire body of doctrine is the New Testament and by its precepts and teachings each of us will one day be judged (John 12:48). However, since this passage teaches there must be unity based upon the common truth of that body of doctrine, and that anyone who will not abide in that doctrine does not have God and must not be fellowshipped by faithful brethren, the liberals advance the idea that all that is meant by the expression “doctrine of Christ” is the acknowledgment of the deity and person of Christ. Looking for an alternate meaning, or one that is figurative rather than literal, when the passage is clearly literal, is a sure identifying mark of a liberal.
5) TOLERANT OF VIEWS DIFFERING FROM ONE’S OWN, BROADMINDED. The predominant movement in religion in general is “broadmindedness.” Our liberal brethren feel right at home among the denominationalists of our day. They do not criticize the denominational person nor tell him he is wrong, and the denominational person loves him for that and does not tell the liberal member of the church of Christ that he is wrong either. They have swallowed the error of thinking they can “agree to disagree,” ignore doctrinal differences as long as there is a common acceptance of Christ as the Son of God, and have “unity in diversity.” The only one with which the liberal will not be tolerant and open-minded is the one who disagrees with him, whether it be a denominational person or a brother in Christ. The liberal loves to fellowship denominational people and other liberal brethren, and has only good things to say about and to them, but from his mouth comes the most scathing denunciations of those who dare to criticize what they teach and practice. Yet they claim to be the ones who really know what love is and to practice it toward all.
6) SYN. LIBERAL IMPLIES TOLERANCE OF OTHERS’ VIEWS as well as open-mindedness to ideas that challenge tradition, established institutions, etc. Have you not listened to nor read what the liberals are saying about our “traditions?” You would think the church of Christ is just a group of people who practice their religion because of tradition rather than having a God-given basis founded upon the solid rock of biblical truth. Such issues as instrumental music in worship, congregational singing, refusing women the role of leadership in the church, and a host of other such things are scoffed at as being only matters of tradition and not matters of faith. The church as Jesus designed it and as the apostles organized it, and as it has existed for centuries is not good enough for them. It is too out-dated for the modern “baby-boomers” who do not like its “traditionalism,” so they are determined to change it and alter it to the extent that it no longer resembles the church you read about in the Bible. What do they use as an excuse for doing so? They claim the scriptures do not contain a plan, a pattern, or a blue-print for the church and its worship. Thus we can change it to suit our whims and fancies and God will accept us and our changes.
Brethren, these are all marks of a liberal, but they are not the only ones. I hope that as you read these things and examine your own attitudes and life, that you discover you are liberal in the good sense, i.e., with your time, money, etc., but that you are not a liberal in doctrine and practice. Furthermore, considering what these brethren are doing to the Cause of Christ, I hope you not only resolve never to become a liberal yourself, but also not to lend them any encouragement or support in their pernicious ways lest you become a partaker of their sins (2 John 9-11).
Let us all, rather than simply abstaining and remaining silent, stand up and speak out and earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). To do less is to fail our Lord.
written by Philip C. Strong
Please read carefully and contemplatively, Matthew 16:24-26, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” Of course all lives matter- of every race, nationality, occupation, socio-economic status, or maturity (pre-birth, immature, mature, or aged), they ALL matter. But I’m afraid we’re missing the point as to why this is so. It is not just because life is “precious,” though such is certainly true. It is not because we’re all “human beings” and ought to respect one another as such, though such is again true.
All lives matter because there is a soul attached to each one! Having an opposable thumb or higher thought processes is not what separates ours from that of animal life. Nor is the value of every life necessarily tied to its temporal impact on the lives of others. Instead, all human lives matter because our Creator invested an eternal soul into every one of them. Every “human” life matters because in each one God has placed a soul that will live forever. Sure, every life matters because of its inherit worth and potential in the here and now. But beyond that, each life determines the destiny of the eternal soul it temporarily houses.
“Nothing lasts forever” has so permeated our thinking that the notion of an everlasting soul boggles the mind. Through time and our emphasis of it, we’ve cheapened “life” to the extent that we’ve forgotten that its most important function is the preparation of the soul for eternity. “Life” is temporary, but the soul it briefly houses is eternal. “Life” may last a relatively short or long time. It may be filled with joy or heartache, and surely most lives have periods of both extremes. It may be well regarded, or despised by others. It may be prolonged and benefited by others, or taken all too soon by others. But the soul each life contains, however briefly, lasts and lives forever. The soul is true value, and opportunity, of each and every life! Unfortunately, we can so easily become preoccupied with living and extending “life” that we forget or neglect its true purpose: the preparation of the soul for eternity.
So think seriously about a few questions for a moment. • Is what you’re doing day in and day out, week in and week out, and year in and year out, preparing your soul for an eternity with or without God, cf. Luke 12:15-20? • Are you giving more attention, concern, and effort to your temporal life or to your eternal soul, cf. Luke 12:21? • Is your life more or less important to you than your soul, cf. Matthew 16:26? Now, let’s make one more application of these things before we’re done. Even when we truly believe and say that “All lives matter,” are we thinking only of race, or does this extend to lives that are sinful perhaps even rebelliously so? Jonah didn’t think the lives of Assyrians (Nineveh was their capitol city) mattered. He viewed them, and correctly so, as the enemy of his own nation, and wanted no part in the salvation of their souls, cf. Jonah 4:1-3. He was even angry when God spared them due to their repentance, vv.4,8. But God not only knew, but appreciated, and tried to teach him, the value of the souls there, vv.6-11.
Likewise, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day didn’t think that the lives of the tax gatherer s and sinner s really mattered, cf. Matthew 9:10-12. But Jesus knew that these lives mattered also, and acted accordingly, vv. 12-13. Let’s be careful lest we become all too much like Jonah and the Pharisees in missing the true value of each life: that it contains, albeit only temporarily, an immortal soul!
IS GOD'S WAY TOO NARROW?
Roger D. Campbell
By His great power, the Lord God brought this world into existence. By that same power, He will one day take it out of existence, destroying it with fire (II Peter 3:10,12). In the meantime, the world stands, with over 6.5 billion humans inhabiting its seven continents.
God has revealed His will for mankind in the Bible, and yes, that will is narrow. That does not suit well with some people. As you know, the ones who think God’s plan is way too strict are those who are not ready to submit to it!
“I don’t care too much for that preacher. He said that Jesus is the only way of salvation. That’s just too narrow.” What did Jesus Himself say? “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“I think that Bible class teacher is too narrow minded. He said that most people will be lost.” What did Jesus say about it? “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13,14).
“That booklet I read says that Jesus only promised to build one church. Can you believe that some people are so close minded?” Again, we ask, what does the Bible say? Jesus said, “...and upon this rock will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Friend, you do not need a calculator to count up the number of churches the Master promised to build!
If you are inclined to say that God’s way is narrow, do you know what? We agree. Do you know why we agree with your conclusion? Because the Bible clearly shows that God’s revealed will is narrow. God instructed Noah to build a single ark (Gen. 6:14). That was pretty narrow was it not? God chose Jerusalem as the single location to place His name during the Old Testament era (I Kings 12:36). That, too, was narrow, would you not agree? Per God’s decree, today all spiritual blessings, including the forgiveness of sins, are found in one location — they are in the Christ (Eph. 1:3,7). Someone had to decide where salvation should be made available, and, for our good, the Lord God made that decision. End of discussion. Yes, by man’s reckoning, that comes across as a narrow plan.
All of these biblical matters that point to narrowness cause us to raise this question: should God seek out man’s input, advice, requests, and opinions before making His decrees, or is it okay for Him to “go it alone” and decide on His own what is best for mankind? Since He is the all-knowing Almighty, the first and the last, the Creator and Sustainer of all, of course He has the right to express His will to mere mortals in the language that He desires. That revealed will is just what we have in the Bible. Regardless of whether a person counts God’s word and plan as too narrow, too loose, or just what they ought to be, the following truth remains unchanged: “For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth” (Psalm 33:4).
Yes, indeed, God does know what He is talking about, and His way is always best! There is no doubt about it: the way of Jehovah is narrow. But, it is not our business to critique God’s efforts or message. No, no. Our task is to accept without question what God says, obey it, and teach its soul-saving message to others.
WHERE DO YOU STAND?
This is a common question among brethren. For example, “Where do you stand on the music question?” Or “Where do you stand on the version issue?” etc. Today, we ask everyone, including elders and preachers, “Where do you stand?”
SOME STAND BACK Some brethren stand back when the truth is being attacked, although in private company they may take a strong stand. Yet, out on the battlefield they just stand back and let other brethren do the fighting. Their inaction reminds us of Moses’ question to the tribes of Gad and Reuben, “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” (Num. 32:6). Indeed, some brethren are content to let their brethren go to war while they just sit! Remember: The “fearful… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Some declare, “I’m behind you,” and in the heat of the battle you look back and find that they are way behind you!
SOME STAND IN THE MIDDLE The compromiser seeks to stand in the middle. An example of this are those who are against certain false doctrines, but who fail to stand against all who uphold the error. Another example is those who attempt to stand between the world and the church. They do not want to give up the church, nor do they want to give up the world altogether either. They attempt to “keep one foot in the church, and one foot in the world,” as it were. This is an utter impossibility according to Jesus: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.… He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Mat. 6:24; 12:30).
WHERE DO YOU STAND? They need to hear the question that Elijah asked Israel on Mt. Carmel: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kin. 18:21). Remember that everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend! How can the compromiser sleep at night, or look himself in the mirror in the morning?
SOME STAND ALOOF These are they who say, “I don’t want to get involved,” either by their words or their actions. They stand aloof when it comes to the work of the Lord, standing for the truth, or solving problems. Their attitude is, “It is not my problem. Let someone else do it.” The priest and the Levite, who did not stop to help the man fallen among thieves, simply stood aloof and did not help. The Lord does not commend them, but He does commend the Samaritan who stopped and helped (Luke 10:30-37). The city of Meroz stood aloof when the Lord’s people needed help against the enemies of God. God said of them: “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Jud. 5:23).
SOME STAND IDLE Some, as it were, “sit on the stool of do nothing and whittle on the stick of do less.” In the parable of the householder, the owner of the vineyard went out to “hire labourers into his vineyard.” To those who were doing nothing he said: “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” (Mat. 20:1- 6). The householder represents the Lord and the vineyard represents His kingdom. We would do well to ask the idle person: “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” Some in the church are like this. They stand (or sit) idle.
They are happy to enjoy the fruits of others’ labor, but they themselves will not lift a burden with one of their fingers. They are ready to criticize the efforts of others in the Lord’s work. This speaks of their character. As one sister said several years ago, “An empty wagon rattles the loudest.” How true! They need to remember the one talent man who was called a “wicked and slothful servant,” and was cast into “outer darkness” (Mat. 25:25-30). They then need to repent! Let us all stand on God’s side, the side of truth, and labor in His kingdom. Then we will be on His side (on His right hand) in the Judgment (Mat. 25:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10).