WHY IS THERE SO MUCH BITTERNESS?Monday, January 06, 2020
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH BITTERNESS?
Roger D. Campbell
Bitter food is one thing; but a bitter spirit that eats at the soul and spews forth cutting, hateful words is another matter entirely.
When you think about something tasting bitter, what comes to mind? An unpleasant taste? No doubt. A cutting feeling on the tongue? Most likely. A bitter-tasting object can cause a person’s tongue, mouth, face, and even entire body to twist, shake, and recoil in response to it. It is sometimes comical to watch such a reaction when unsuspecting souls bite into a food item from which they did not anticipate a bitter taste. Small children can be a riot to watch do so.
There is nothing comical, however, about a scene in which children of God demonstrate a bitter spirit towards God or their fellow man. Bitter food is one thing; but a bitter spirit that eats at the soul and spews forth cutting, hateful words is another matter entirely.
Since Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16), we would do well to consider some of the consequences or fallouts that come about due to bitterness. They are not pretty. Hopefully, the ugliness of them will catch our attention and cause us to be determined to work diligently to keep bitterness from taking root in our hearts.
WHAT DOES BITTERNESS DO?
Bitterness troubles. That is what Hebrews 12:14 teaches. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Bitterness stirs up trouble. If Satan cannot get us to fall for false teaching or give in to the pull of immoral conduct, he will take a crack at bringing us down with a bitter spirit. Marriages, friendships and elderships have crashed due to bitterness robbing people of their joy, rational thinking, and peaceful demeanor. Let’s face it: some people have “bitter breath.” I do not mean they have a foul odor, but rather the words that spring forth from their mouth are full of bitterness. James asked, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter” (James 3:11)? The answer is obvious. Just before that, James had made these two declarations: “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).
The point? Christians need to remove bitter speech from their vocabulary. That means, of course, that we must first remove any bitter spirit from our hearts. Make no mistake about it: a heart filled with bitterness causes big trouble, some of which is undoable.
Bitterness defiles. We see this truth in the latter part of Hebrews 12:15: “...lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Many would be quick to point out how horrific murder, adultery, and idolatry are. Yet, a bitter disposition is sometimes passed off as, “That’s just the way he/she is.” If “the way he/she is” means that he/she is a bitter grump, then he/she needs to have a serious change of heart and repent! The same Lord that tells us to avoid murder, adultery and idolatry also charges us, “Let all bitterness...be put away from you...” (Eph. 4:32). God knows what you and I need to understand and admit: bitterness defiles the soul.
Bitterness divides. A bitter spirit gets in the way of obeying the Lord’s instruction to “follow peace with all men” (Heb. 12:14). There surely was a good reason for God saying, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:19), don’t you think? Bitterness can turn the best of friends into permanent enemies, drive happily-married couples to divorce court, and spark a civil war within what was once a stable, solid, and contented congregation. Satan must watch with glee as bitterness leads to turmoil within families and God’s church.
Bitterness damns. Quite simply, if God tells me to put away bitterness, and yet I do not do it (Eph. 4:32), then my sin of bitterness will keep me separated from Him and thereby keep me in a lost state. Back again to Hebrews 12:15, we see that the bitterness which troubles and defiles a person causes him/her to fail or fall short of the grace of God. No wonder the Holy Spirit exhorts Christians to look diligently lest bitterness spring up in our hearts (Heb. 12:15)!
A bitter disposition and bitter tongue do not jive with being a child of the living God. As we have seen, bitterness troubles, defiles, divides, and damns. Those truths get my attention. Do they get yours? Because “the heart knoweth his own bitterness” (Prov. 14:10), let each one of us look into his/her own heart, do some self-analyzing, and if bitterness be found, get rid of it.
A STRONG PULPITMonday, December 30, 2019
A STRONG PULPIT
Most faithful brethren would affirm that we do not hear the kind of preaching we heard as we were growing up. Oftentimes, more attention is paid to how something is said rather than what is said.Attracting large crowds is emphasized more than preaching sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). In many congregations today, when plans are being made for a youth function or Gospel meeting, the criteria for selecting speakers is not, “Is he sound and does he teach and uphold sound doctrine?” but rather, “Is he dynamic?” and “Can he draw a crowd?”
Theatrical preachers who stir the emotions but leave the mind befuddled, remind one of the false teachers Jude mentioned who spoke great swelling words of vanity but were clouds without water (Jude 12,13). Many churches and preachers are guilty of promoting gimmicks, games, and gymnasiums rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Jesus Christ and His word are the drawing power! Weak preaching has become more and more commonplace. Consider the effects of weak preaching.
Weak preaching causes a lack of genuine conversions. Since it is the word of God that sets men free from sin (John 8:32), preaching without it will cause men to remain in bondage to Satan. Some teachers tell story after story and joke after joke and do not give the people enough scripture to fill a thimble. A preacher cannot bring men to Christ when he deletes the power (God’s Word) from his sermon (Rom. 1:16).Some of our preachers play on people’s emotions just to get them “down the aisle,” and he can say, “I’ve baptized X number of people.” The preacher is not “the main attraction” -- Christ is. Emotionalism is not to move sinners -- the cross is.
Weak preaching causes the faith of Christians to be weakened. It is by a steady and strong diet of God’s word that Christians are built up. Paul stated, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). How can Christians be strengthened if they do not hear Bible-based sermons filled with scripture? If our physical bodies are not fed properly, will they remain healthy? How then could we expect Christians to remain spiritually healthy if they are not fed from the word of God?
Weak preaching leads to apostasy. Churches are being torn asunder by every false doctrine imaginable. Why are some of our churches ready to put women in leadership roles, bring the instrument in, and partake of the Lord’s supper on any day other than Sunday? The answer is clear: weak preaching. We need more sermons on the plan of salvation, the distinctiveness of the church, the worship of the church, etc.
Weak preaching causes a lack of real church growth. One observed that weak preaching has made the church a little more “than a soup line for the distribution of loaves and fishes when we should be pointing people to eternal water and eternal food” (John 4:10-14). The church needs to be reminded of its mission: to seek and save the lost through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 19:10; Matt. 28:19,20). Real church growth will come if we follow God’s way. Christians must be taught. The souls of men are at stake.
Gospel preaching saves, and without it men cannot be saved: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). We need a strong pulpit and we need elders who will demand nothing less!
A YOUNG MAN’S LETTERMonday, December 23, 2019
I am a student at Lipscomb University. I grew up in a very difficult church (and having escaped it without too many psychological and emotional scars), I feel that it is my duty to describe to you the state of the Church in regard to those my age. We are as men caught in a severe rainstorm, who find that they will get soaked to the bone no matter what they do. We do not necessarily agree with the older generations in all things, yet we are willing to work toward the greater good when we can actually see it before us. Most people my age are very turned off by rules and dogma that seem to do nothing more than restrict. The root of all our problems, the reason for the swelling number of abortions, rapes, murders, instances of drug use, and all other manner of evil is the attitudes of the church members. While our generation appears to you to be lost, it is not the result of actions taken by those with whom you disagree, but rather the actions of yourselves, and those whom you have programmed to hate, loath, and despise anyone who disagrees with you. This is evidenced time and time again by the hateful way that you “write up” anyone who does something you don’t like. I urge you brothers to walk the path instead of talking about it and pushing others off of it. You are walking down a road of pride and arrogance, believing that you and your denomination (yes it is a denomination, whatever semantics you use to describe it) are the only ones going to Heaven. I urge you to stop lashing out at your brothers and sisters in Christ before you stand before God in judgement. Had you, in your younger days, simply ceased to damn all those who disagreed with you, there are millions of infants who would be alive today. It is in following my heart that I have ceased to attend a Church at all. All I ever see in the church is bickering, hatred, and bitterness. Seeking to insulate myself from these, I simply study my Bible at home and pray on my own. I deal with all manner of bickering and politics, all done in the name of religion, 5 days a week. I find that I can no longer worship God with any sincerity in my heart when I find myself elbow to elbow with those who are theological brutes throughout the rest of the week. I write this to you, because I hope and pray that some sanity will return to your souls.
Let me make a few brief comments regarding different things you have stated. It appears you are fighting a “straw man.” From what you have said, you have met some folks with very poor attitudes and practices. I certainly do not encourage, endorse, promote or condone any wrong doing as you have suggested. My job, and what I do, is simply call people to the one Gospel for which Jesus our blessed Lord died. I found long ago that you cannot make people do anything and it wouldn’t do any good if you could. Faithfulness -- obedience -- has to be from the heart.
We must remember that “youth” have always had their problems and often reject the counsel of the wise, older, generation. Rehoboam did this in I Kings 12. He rejected the wise counsel of the old men, accepted the counsel of the young men his age, and ended up dividing the kingdom.
It is nothing new that people are turned off by rules and regulations. Eve didn’t like them either. People love to be “foot loose and fancy free.” No child, or adult for that matter, likes to be told “no.” However, God made this world and all that is in it. He made man after his own likeness. God, therefore, has every right to tell us what is right and what is wrong -- what he accepts and what he rejects. While most people reject God’s “rules and regulations,” His commandments are really “admonitions of love.” God didn’t have to provide a means of escape from the penalty of our sins. Jesus didn’t have to come to this sinful world and live among men. But, in God’s great love and mercy, he gives us his “rules and regulations” because they are good for us. He knows what’s best for us and what will make us truly happy. Parents do not love their children when they let them run wild with no restraints. Eli was condemned for not restraining his sons (1 Samuel 3:13). God loves us enough to provide us his “rules and regulations.” He didn’t have to do that. But these “rules and regulations” (commandments) are his LOVE, not his hatefulness, harshness, pride or arrogance. God is not trying to see how difficult he can make it for us. His commandments are his LOVE (1 John 2:3,4,7,8; 3:22-24).
God has His own way and He will have it His way or people will be lost. I don’t have a way. Nobody has to do things “my way.” I don’t look for people to follow me or us. I look for people to follow the Lord and the only way they can do that is by following His “rules and dogma” (John 14:15; 15:14). God doesn’t allow people to “have it their own way.” But, I’m afraid most people feel as though God is a little dog that patiently waits at the foot of the dinner table for any crumb that those who feast is willing to toss him. People somehow feel like God will accept anything they offer and be glad to get it. But, God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice (Gen. 4:5), nor did He accept the offering of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). Their sacrifices and offerings were not what God had ordered (commanded, rules, regulations, dogmas, etc.) and therefore, rejected them. God was not happy with just anything, even if it was offered in sincerity.
You are intent on thinking that someone, somewhere, is standing around with a whip attempting to make people do what they want them to do. I have never run across that. ALL we can do, as the Lord’s servants, is tell people what is right and what is wrong and exhort them to do it. The people have the choice to do it or not. However, if the wayward are Christians, local congregations have the obligation (responsibility, duty) to rebuke them and if they do not repent, they are to withdraw fellowship from them (1 Thess. 3:6; 1 Cor. 5). Though unpleasant, this action is an act of love. It is love for both the soul of the wayward and the other members of the church. A little leaven, leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). Faithful brethren also have the obligation to expose (Eph. 5:11), warn (1 Thess. 5:14), mark and avoid -- call attention to (Rom. 16:17) -- those who walk not uprightly (Gal. 2:14).
The root of all the problems in the world is sin, not church members. Wickedness, evil, falsehood, is sin. Sin separates from God (Isa. 59:2). Sin brings death and destruction, not church members. The rules and regulations of God bring people out of sin, not plunge them into it.
Anyone who would teach to hate, loathe, or despise anyone, is not of God. Those who hate, loathe or despise the commandments of God, his rules and dogma, is not of God. We are told to hate, loathe and despise sin, but certainly not the person who commits it. We hate the sin, but love the sinner. We love them enough to tell them God’s will for them. We, therefore, tell them what God hates and what God loves. We tell them God loves those who obey His commandments (1 John 5:2-3; John 15:14).
People who loathe, detest and despise the commandments of God are those who abort, drink, drugs, etc. etc. I haven’t forced them into it, I’m simply the messenger of God -- which message they hate. People today, many church members, are telling elders and preachers, “preach not unto us right things, preach smooth things, preach deceit” (Isa. 30:10). That is what you are advocating, not me. If we love God, we would love His word. If we would be a friend to Jesus, we would love His word (John 14:15; 15:14), not despise it.
Since when did it become pride to know the truth, believe the truth, love the truth and obey the truth? Jesus said we can know the truth (John 8:32). You make it appear that nobody can really know the truth or know that they know the truth. Did God leave us His saving word and yet reveal it in such fashion that nobody can know it? We can know the truth and know that we know the truth (John 8:32; Eph. 3:4). That is not pride or arrogance. They only way we know about sin and its remedy is by God’s inspired word. Can we trust it? If no one can really know it or understand it, then how are we going to know if someone has done what God required them to do to be saved?
I wish, desire and pray for you to sincerely obey the Gospel and return to your first love. Love the Truth and obey the Truth that you might be saved. Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. There were in the first century (Acts 5). But, we do not condone them nor support them. When they are discovered, they are to be dealt with (2 Thess. 3:6). But in the mean time, you must make your own calling and election sure. You can’t do that by sitting at home. It is a sin to forsake the assembling of the church (Heb. 10:25). I didn’t make that rule, God did. Am I an evil doer by calling your attention to it? Am I lifted up with pride and arrogance by telling people about that verse? All the prophets through the ages had the problem of their hearers hating them and dismissing their words. This generation is no different.
I pray you will change your heart and turn to the Lord in humble obedience before it’s too late.
Instant ChristianityWednesday, December 18, 2019
We live in an age of speed. We try to cram as many activities into a day as possible. With many, the definition of a successful person is one who is always busy, always on the run, and has more demands made on his time than he can possibly satisfy. Because of this fast pace of life, a host of consumer services and products have been marketed. “Fast food” restaurants, which specialize in ready made food so the traveler can get on his way quickly have become the vogue. For the hurried, harried housewife, there is a great variety of quick foods such as TV dinners, “pop in the oven” pizzas, instant potatoes, instant pudding, instant coffee, etc. Everything is available to us instantly. We have come to expect and demand such services and products.
In other aspects of our lives, we also seek instant gratification. Many young couples unrealistically expect to begin married life in a modern home with all the labor-saving gadgets it took their parents 20 years to accumulate. “Shortcuts” up the career ladder are sought so that one can quickly be promoted into the higher paying brackets without having to toil for years to work oneself into such positions.
Sadly, many view Christianity in the same way as they view their consumer products or career aspirations. They want instant results and so they attempt to bypass the daily struggle over a long period of time to achieve spiritual maturity. Prayer “seminars,” fasting, and emotion filled, clapping, stamping “workshops” are offered to guarantee instant “spirituality.” The years of diligent study of God’s Word, of prayer and daily cross-bearing which are essential for a sound, solid, well-balanced spiritual maturity are set aside in the vain hope to achieve this instant spirituality. Those who think they have become mature by such shallow means soon find that when the emotions subside, when the “feeling” is gone, and trials confront them, they do not have the spiritual resources necessary to overcome.
There is a great desire in our brotherhood today to achieve instant church growth by the same type of approach. Personal work methods that move and manipulate by psychological pressure and cultic techniques are applied. A whole host of social and recreational activities are offered to draw the unthinking masses. There will always be those who come seeking the loaves and the fishes as in Jesus’ day (John 6:26,27). When the loaves and fishes run out, they are soon gone on to some other organization which will supply their carnal cravings.
The Jerusalem church is often cited by advocates of instant church growth as proof that their approach works. What they do not stop to consider is that the response of 3,000 souls on Pentecost (Acts 2) was the natural fruit of a harvest long cultivated by prophets of old who foretold the coming of the Messiah, by widespread knowledge of the Scriptures among the Jews, by the ministry of John, the Harbinger of the Christ, whose preparatory work shook Judaism to its foundation; and by the personal ministry of our Lord Himself. Jesus’ three years of patient preaching, marvelous miracles, and training of the Twelve bore fruit on Pentecost Day. There was already a great body of believers in Jesus in Israel as evidenced by the fact that in one of His recorded post-resurrection appearances, “He was seen of above 500 brethren at once” (I Cor. 15:6). The conversion of the multitude on Pentecost and the continuing conversion of great numbers in Jerusalem was not instant church growth, but the culmination of much preparation and planting over a long period of time.
The only way to build a strong mature faith that will meet the trials of life and carry one safely through to the Celestial Shore is by daily cross-bearing, diligent study, persistent prayer, much meditation, and increased strength as a result of surmounting spiritual obstacles (James 1:2-4). The only way to build a strong, sound, growing church that will continue to increase is by patient plowing and planting of God’s Word in the “good and honest hearts” of men (Luke 8:15). A steady diet of strong Gospel preaching from the pulpit and Bible teaching from the classroom, coupled with wise oversight of godly elders who truly care for the souls of the flock, is the only formula for church growth that will be pleasing to God and eternal in its results.
Mighty Rome was not built in a day nor is a great congregation or a strong Christian character developed instantly. Let us follow God’s ways, not man’s and we can be assured of success as it is measured by God’s infallible Word, not by man’s shallow standards.
Who Pulled the Trigger?Monday, December 09, 2019
I am angry! Yes, the Bible says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). I have no plans to do something that would cause me to sin, but I am angry. I am angry over the deaths of 17 people and the injuries of several others. Of course, the blame game has begun. The President is being blamed. Congress is being blamed. The NRA is being blamed. The FBI is being blamed. Parents are being blamed and the school is being blamed. Blame is probably being placed on others of whom I do not know. In my humble judgment, blame is being placed in the wrong place. While it is true that Nikolas Cruz pulled the trigger, there are fingerprints of so many others on that trigger.
Let’s go back a few years. From the fifties to the nineties we didn’t hear of school shootings. From 1966-1991 there were shootings that resulted in 33 dead (only one of them was a High School, the others were college). However, from 1991-2018 there have been 177 deaths from shootings in schools (114 in K-12; 63 in colleges or universities), (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shootings_in_the_United_States).
Questions? From 1966-1991, did we have Presidents of the United States? Did we have a congress? Did we have the FBI? Did the NRA exist? Did we have parents? Did we have schools? You know the answer to all of those questions is yes! So what’s the difference?
Here is my list of those who “pulled the trigger” along with Nikolas Cruz.
The ACLU pulled the trigger along with Nikolas Cruz. They have litigated every case possible to remove God, Christ, the Bible, righteousness and morality from every facet of our society. If you so much as bow your head as if you are going to pray in a school they will sue you. Unfortunately, school boards and administrators have cow-towed to the ACLU. Their goal is to take any remnant of Christianity from our society. The good people of America have let them do it.
The Supreme Court pulled the trigger along with Nikolas Cruz. “In two landmark decisions —Engel v. Vitale on June 25, 1962, and Abington School District v. Schempp on June 17, 1963 —the Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings unconstitutional.” We are now suffering the fruits of those decisions. Yet isn’t it interesting (in this most horrific time of tragedy) that so many people have been praying on that campus.
Atheists and Evolutionists pulled the trigger along with Nikolas Cruz. Atheists have told us (and continue to tell us) there is no God. They say that when we die we just become dust in the wind. Evolutionists tell us that we came from some lower form of animal. If you teach this long enough, why would anyone be surprised people start acting like the animals they tell us we came from? Our precious children are taught evolution in school. What do you expect? The “good book” (the Bible) gives us a great principle regarding our lives. Galatians 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...” (Hosea 8:7).
Abortionists pulled the trigger along with Nikolas Cruz. Babies are killed in the womb, even late-term abortion. “A late termination of pregnancy often refers to an induced ending of pregnancy after the 20th week of gestation. The exact point when a pregnancy becomes late-term, however, is not clearly defined.” Since 1973 (the year the supreme court “legalized” killing babies in the womb), the number of abortions number more than 60 million. The number of innocent little babies aborted last year was approximately 645,000. That number has been gradually declining from a peak of about 1.6 million a year. Does it make you happy that the number in recent years has been falling? If it is ok to kill a baby, why not a fourteen-year-old? Those who support and encourage abortion pulled the trigger.
Parents pulled the trigger along with Nikolas Cruz. Parents have allowed their children to play violent video games on iPads and other technology devises. These children have shot and killed many in these games, so it is no small stretch to do it literally in schools and other places.
When you consider these wonderful young people and adults who were gunned down, think of what all of us can do to restore the God of the Bible, the Bible, and Prayer back into our society. Work and Pray to get rid of evolution out of schools. Let the students and teachers place Bibles back on their desk without being threatened by the ACLU