The Privileges Of Membership
American Express has the slogan: “Don’t leave home without it!” The company is suggesting that membership has its privileges. With it, you can do anything from grab a bite to eat or go on a family vacation; and, if you were to lose your card while on vacation, you could get a new card and even a cash advance, so that your vacation will not be interrupted. It is certainly a comfort to know that you won’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Now, brethren, membership in the Lord’s church has even greater privileges. We have the privilege of calling upon God our Father in prayer, and cast all our cares “upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7), knowing that “His ears are open to” our prayers (1 Peter 3:10-12). We have the privilege of worshiping Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) because through His beloved Son, we have “grace and truth” (John 1:17). We don’t have to wonder or guess or think up how we are going to serve Him, or worship Him; He “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). We have the privilege of knowing that wherever we are, wherever we go, we can carry with us the blessed hope of eternal salvation (Hebrews 10:22-23). For those who are on vacation or about to go on vacation, it is a privilege to know that there are faithful, sound congregations of the Lord’s church in many locations, usually within a short distance of where we plan to go on vacation. It is a privilege and beautiful thing to be in different locations, with different people, and still be able to worship the same God together, in the same way (e.g. “in spirit and truth”). It is a privilege to know that should we find ourselves drifting away from God (through sin), and realize that, at that very moment, we are lost; that we can come to God with a penitent heart, confess our sin(s), and know that He is loving and merciful, and that He will forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:2). It is a privilege to know that we can be restored to His good favor (Jude 20-21).
Friends, if this sounds good to you, here is all you need to know in order to apply:
a. Study the Bible, specifically the New Testament (as the Old Testament has been fulfilled,
Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44; Galatians 3:24-25; Hebrews 10:9-10; and has been nailed to the cross,
Colossians 2:14), until you are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God
(John 8:24; 20:30-31).
b. Upon believing in Jesus as Lord and Christ, confess and repent of your sins (turn away from
those sins, change your destiny by changing your direction; 2 Corinthians 7:10;Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30).
c. Having repented of your sins, confess your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living
God (cf. Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Acts 8:37).
d. Once you have confessed your faith in Christ, be baptized “in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
After you have done these things, the Lord Himself will add you to His church (Acts 2:47); and you will have, at that very moment, the blessed hope of eternal salvation (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5; Romans 8:24-25).
An added privilege: no one will run a credit check on you. All who come to God, through Christ, come hopelessly in debt. That’s why people want membership – because Jesus paid the debt that we could never pay! He paid the penalty for our sins when He died upon the cross of Calvary. As Paul said, so every member of the Lord’s church says: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). In Christ, your debt of sin can be forgiven!
If you haven’t done so already, please apply for membership today!
To God Be The Glory Both Now And Forever!
YOU CAN’T JUST SIT!
Wayne A. Dixon
In Numbers 32:1-5 we read of a request presented to Moses by two of the tribes of Israel. The tribes of Gad and Reuben, and (as we later learn in verse 33) half of the tribe of Manasseh, asked that they be allowed to stay on the east side of the Jordan (Num. 32:5). Verse one of this text tells us this was a good place for cattle, of which they had many.
After hearing their request, Moses responds, “...Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here”(Num. 32:6)?He rebukes them for their indifference and accuses them of discouraging the other nine and one-half tribes (Num. 32:7). He proceeds to give them a history lesson (vs.8-13) of the similar half-heartedness of the ten spies which caused discouragement and disobedience with a resulting forty year punishment in the wilderness. Moses then reminds them (Num. 32:14-15) that their request, as stated, will result once again in a wilderness wandering as well as “ye shall destroy all this people”(Num. 32:15). Numbers 32:15-33 are conditions proposed by these two and one-half tribes agreed to by Moses (v.33).
After the death of Moses, Joshua reiterates the previous agreement between the tribes of Gad, Reuben and one-half of Manasseh and Moses which is recorded in Joshua 1:12-18. This occurs as the actual crossing of the Jordan is about to take place.
There are several lessons from this study for us today that will increase our faith (Rom 10:17).
First, conditions were required.The two and one-half tribes had to provide armed troops to participate in the battle (Num. 32:20; Josh. 4:12-13). Furthermore, they had to continue in the battle “Until he hath driven out his enemies before him. And the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterward ye shall return”(Num. 32:21-22). Moses reminded them that disobedience would not go unnoticed. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out”(Num. 32:23).
Likewise, our salvation is conditional.We can only enter our promised land (heaven) by being obedient to the Gospel which requires us to Hear(Rom. 10:14-17), Believe(John 8:24), Repent(Luke 13:3), Confess(Rom. 10:9-10) and be Baptized(Acts 2:38).
Just as Moses told the two and one-half tribes they could not just sit (Num. 32:6), after becoming Christians we can not just sit! We also have to be doers. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”(James 1:22). We must actively engage in the daily fight with the devil. By inspiration, James makes it crystal clear that “faith without works” is dead and tells us so three times (James 2:17,20,26).
Unlike the Israelites and their physical battle, ours is one of a spiritual nature and our “sword” is God’s word. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God”(Eph. 6:17). With this sword (God’s word), we are admonished to take a stand in accordance with God’s word (Eph. 6:13-14).
If we will be obedient, God will not forsake us. He told Joshua this very thing specifically in the last three words of Joshua 1:5 when he said, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”as long as they followed the conditions of verses 7-8. He tells us the same thing today as we read in the last phrase of Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”The conditions for our access to an eternal heavenly home are also based on our obedience to God’s will for us today, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as Moses reminded the Israelites that their sins would be uncovered, likewise, we face the same fate, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ”(Rom. 14:10).
Won’t you be obedient today? After all, this is all that God has required since the Garden of Eden. Also, let us never forget that his burden is light, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”(Matt. 11:30).
BOLDNESS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Far too many would sweep false teaching under the rug and pretend it would go away, but Paul would not do so for one hour. We must show great boldness in exposing false teaching whenever it rears its ugly head.
The Jewish court might have expected Peter, James, John, and other disciples to become intimidated by their threats. Such would not be the case, as their former fear would be transformed to daring boldness. Paul writes, “But with all boldness as always, so now Christ also shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or death” (Phil. 1:20). The original word for “boldness” comes from an aorist participle signifying “waxing bold.” The original language suggests, “Dare to do, or to bear something terrible or difficult;” hence, “to be bold, to bear oneself boldly, deal boldly.” These early Christians acted boldly in all their activities to glorify Christ. The Sanhedrin Council threatened Peter and John to cease teaching in the name of Jesus Christ and their reply was, “For we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). If we are to serve Christ today, we must do so with the same boldnessthat characterized the Christians of the first century.
1. We need boldness to preach to unbelievers. We have earlier stated that the apostles were on trial before the Sanhedrin Council. The church grew very quickly to 5,000 men, not including women and those young people that have reached the age of accountability. Some have estimated the church to be 20,000-25,000 members at this time. The Sanhedrin was desperate to interrupt such rapid growth, and the two apostles were requested to give an answer to the miracles and consequent growth of the church taking place. Peter said that it was by the authority or power of Jesus Christ that all these things have come to pass (Acts 4:10-12). This message of “the only way” was not designed to make them popular; it would require, however, courage and boldness to be effective (Acts 4:13).
One of the greatest needs of our day is to convince people that they are lost in sin (Rom. 3:23; Ezek. 18:20). More and more the pulpit is becoming weaned from the power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). A dose of psychology and other theories are being offered as an alternative while the souls of men are being shortchanged of the distinctive message of Christ (John 14:6; 1 Peter 4:11; Heb. 4:12). We must point out in a spirit of love and kindness how ugly sin is and that a day of reckoning is awaiting those who reject the Gospel message (Mark 16:16; Gal. 1:8-9).
2. We need boldness to expose false teaching. Rebuking those that are teaching error is never easy, however Jesus did so when needed. Jesus forcefully stated to the scribes and Pharisees, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). To some of the same Jews Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Jesus did not look the other way when he saw the arrogant Pharisees teaching the doctrines of men for the law of God. The apostles displayed great boldness when dealing with religious error. When some attempted to bind the Old Testament on those of the Christian age, Paul opposed it. The apostle said, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5).
We live in a day of permissiveness and religious tolerance when anything goes. Paul was certainly not of this persuasion and would not give in to religious error -- “no, not for an hour.” Far too many would sweep false teaching under the rug and pretend it would go away, but Paul would not do so for one hour. We must show great boldness in exposing false teaching whenever it rears its ugly head.
3. We need boldness to preach the whole truth. There’s always the temptation to preach what people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Imagine your doctor saying, “All is well,” while your body is riddled with cancer or some other deadly disease. We would want our physician to be forthcoming and give a full range of treatment and procedures that would enhance a full recovery. Long ago the prophet Isaiah wrote, “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits”(Isa. 30:9-10). Israel rejected the prophets’ and repudiated “right things” while longing for that which was deceitful.How modern the practices during Isaiah’s day resemble the current situation in the 21st century.
Let us exemplify the attitude stated by Paul, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).It will require great courage to preach the whole truth, especially when we know that some will not always embrace it. We must boldly preach the whole truth on the faith that saves, the one church, baptism for the remission of sins, acceptable worship, instrumental music, divorce and remarriage, and a host of other vitally important subjects. We cannot and must not change the Gospel to fit the needs of modern man. The Hebrew writer underscored the fundamental truth, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The proposition should follow: if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever should we not conclude that his Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
The attitude of every Christian should be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Our prayer should be, “Help us O father to speak the truth in all boldness, but above all things, help us to speak it.”
Where’s The Fight?
Alton W. Fonville
Changes have taken place. A few years back, “where’s the fight” was a phrase that meant excitement and people gathered around. An activity was taking place which meant opponents were “settling their differences.” This was the case in the world around us and also in the Lord’s church. But, things have changed. The “fight” has almost ceased to exist among far too many of the Lord’s church.
Headlines on some of the papers throughout the brotherhood give the shameful details: “Nations largest church of Christ adding instrumental service and serving the Lord’s Supper on Saturday night.” “Leaders say there was little opposition to the announcement.” Brethren, where’s the fight which we entered when we took that “oath of office” to serve the Lord, and became a member of His army?Certainly, it is not a physical fight and our weapons are not physical. False doctrines and practices, principalities, spiritual wickedness and rulers of the darkness of this world are the things mentioned specifically by Paul, and for which he fought his “good fight of faith.” He was literally a prisoner in bonds for his constant fight against these things, and he warned everyone night and day with tears, about being constant in this fight, and using him as an example to follow (Ephesians and Philippians).
At one time not too many years back, the church of Christ was known as a “fighter.” Members were known as “people of the Book” — “walking Bibles.”The church was growing faster then than at any other time in recent history, but, we have changed and the “fight” is not in us now. We wonder what has happened and where is that fight. It does not take too long to find the answers. The Book has been replaced with words which were not so harsh and the desire to please ourselves and be entertained and to be at peace with the world, being thought of as a “group which fits in with the world” has nearly done away with that fighting spirit which Jesus Christ and the apostles wanted the Christian to have.
How does that fit with the scriptures and its teaching? Let that “inspired word” from God speak to mine and your hearts. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15). “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. ... And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:34,36,37). “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5,8). “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)” (Phil. 3:17-19).
Those words from Almighty God have been perverted, twisted, smoothed down, forgotten willingly and otherwise neglected to the loss of our fighting spirit which each Christian should have. We have “loved this world and its pleasures more than God.” We have not humbled ourselves as servants of Christ — but to our own bellies. We have traded God’s word for “smooth sayings” and loved to have it so. We have become “friends” with this world and an enemy to God. We sit idly by and let the “chaste virgin” become a spotted and blemished “social club” which fits in with this sin-sick world. We refuse to fight the good fight of faith. It is readily admitted that when we take a stand on the side of truth, we will be criticized. But at least we know we stand with good company, “for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you” (Matt. 5:12b).And, should it be our lot to stand alone, or at best with the minority, and should the host of the armies of darkness assail us, we can be assured that in the final analysis, when all has been said and done, and we stand before the Captain of our army, we will hear the sweet words, “Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.” It will have been a well fought battle, and the victory shall be ours to enjoy for all eternity.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
AN OFFENSIVE PREACHER
Every true Gospel preacher is an offensive preacher. There are many who "preach" that are not, but they cannot truly be classified as Gospel preachers. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word "offensive" has four meanings. Two of these definitely apply to a preacher and I want to consider both meanings and apply them. Webster defines "offensive" as: 1) attacking, 4) causing resentment, anger; insulting....
A Gospel preacher (really every Christian) is commanded and expected to "put on the whole armor of God" and take the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:10-17). It is true that one of the purposes of that armor and that sword is for our defense against Satan's attacks. But too many brethren have taken the defensive position only, waiting for Satan to attack. The Gospel preacher not only must defend himself and others against the attacks of Satan, he must launch an unrelenting offensive attack against him as well. He will soon discover that the best "defence" against Satan is an aggressive offense. The grand old song entitled "Faith Is The Victory" expresses the thought very well. It says, "Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers rise, And PRESS THE BATTLE ere the night, Shall veil the glowing skies. Against the foe in vales below, let ALL OUR STRENGTH BE HURLED."
Wherever and whenever sin arises, the faithful soldier of Christ must attack it, no matter who may be involved. That's what Paul had in mind in his charge to Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).
Any man who does not have this "attack mentality" should not be preaching the Gospel of Christ and no eldership should hire a preacher who does not possess the "attack mentality."
However, if one is an attacker, he is going to anger and offend some people, and cause resentment. Perhaps this is why so many of our preachers are not attacking sin and evil. They had rather be "liked by everybody" than to be resented by a few.
CAUSING RESENTMENT AND ANGER
Sometimes the straightforward attack on sin in men's lives will bring anger and resentment from two different classes of people. One is the one whose sin is attacked. The other may be a friend or a relative of the one whose sin is attacked, or, it may be a member of the church who does not like such straightforward preaching because it offends people and makes them angry.
While I realize we should "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), and while I agree that no one should ever be unnecessarily harsh and abusive in attacking sin and error, it must not prevent any preacher from boldly and plainly exposing sin and hypocrisy which will destroy one's own soul and the souls of others. If people are offended by such rebuke and exposure of error, they will remain lost, but we will have delivered our soul (Ezek. 3:17-21).
FOUR BIBLE EXAMPLES OF OFFENSIVE PREACHERS
The preachers mentioned in the New Testament were "offensive" preachers. I want to look at four examples to illustrate the previous points.
JOHN THE BAPTISTwas an offensive preacher. He saw the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, knew they weren't there to repent and be baptized, and cried out to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:7-8). Careful there John, you may offend those fellows. And, when he stood before Herod, John saw a man condemned in sin. He straight-forwardly told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have her" (his brother's wife, Mark 6:18). It didn't make him very popular with Herod nor with Herodias. They were greatly offended.
STEPHENwas an offensive preacher also. Because he took the offensive to preach the Gospel, he was arrested and brought to court. Given an opportunity to speak, he took the offensive even more and boldly denounced his audience, including their forefathers. "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers" (Acts 7:51-54). IT REALLY OFFENDED those folks. They gnashed on him with their teeth and stoned him to death.
PAULwas an offensive preacher. He took the offensive to preach and defend the Gospel. When certain men began to preach a perverted Gospel at Antioch, he immediately challenged them. He and Barnabas "had no small dissension and disputation with them" (Acts 15:1-2). These false teachers became constant enemies of the apostle. When Paul was trying to convert Sergius Paulus, a sorcerer named Elymas tried to turn the deputy from the faith. Paul took the offensive against him in the strongest of language and even struck him blind (Acts 13:7-12).
JESUS CHRISTwas an offensive preacher. Notice the incident recorded in Matthew 15:1-14. The Pharisees criticized the disciples for not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus took the offensive and reminded them they transgressed the command of God by their traditions. He called them hypocrites and told them their worship was vain as they honored God with their lips but their heart was far from him. The disciples asked Jesus, "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" (v.12). He didn't seem too concerned. He said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (vs.13-14). It is interesting that Jesus' disciples were concerned because the Pharisees had been offended by Jesus' teaching, but Jesus was not. How many brethren since the first century have tried to apologize for a preacher's bold proclamation of the truth that "offended" someone?
I surely want to be one of those "offensive" preachers who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).