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What NOT to change in the new yearFriday, December 25, 2015
What NOT to change in the new year
The title of this article might seem negative, but truly there are certain things that we should NOT want to change in 2017. As Christians, we should rejoice in the knowledge that the Lord’s expectations for us will remain constant. Since Christ established His church (Acts 20:28), the work He gave it to do remains the same two thousand years later.
The Bible describes the church as the “pillar and ground of truth” – will that change in 2017? It better not (I Tim. 3:15). The same can be said for spreading the good news and edifying the body of saints (Eph. 4:11-12; Mark 16:15-16). If someone argues that these things have changes, we know that something is just not right. Here is a list of specific things that should not change in the coming year. As you read the list, ask yourself if these things have been changing in 2016.
- Continuing to examine ourselves that we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5).
- Looking out for spiritual brethren to see if they are wandering from the truth and trying to bring them back if they stray (James 5:19-20).
- Living righteously and letting our lights shine (Matt. 5:13-16)
- Worshipping our God whenever the saints are gathered (Heb. 10:25).
- Using our abilities so they continue to improve (Matt. 25:14-30).
- Feeding on God’s word to become skillful in teaching it (Heb. 5:12-14).
- Sharing what we have by being hospitable (Rom. 12:13).
- Facing hardships by suffering for doing the right thing rather than compromising (I Pet. 4:14-16).
- Leaving vengeance to the Lord and being kind to our enemies (Rom. 12:19-20).
- Avoiding all sorts of sexual immorality in our own lives and in our entertainment choices (Rom. 1:29-32).
- Guarding our tongue by watching what we say and how we say it (James 3; Eph. 4:29).
- Doing acts of kindness that are not seen by others and being clothed with humility (Matt. 6:1).
- Showing love for our brothers and sisters (II Thess. 1:3).
- Being thankful for our faith in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:7).
- Recognizing our blessings in the Lord (Eph. 1:3-4).
If these things did not exist in your life in 2016, then you must see that the Lord expected them and will continue to. Let’s do all we can to remain steadfast on these points in 2017.
Render to CaesarSunday, February 15, 2015
Render to Caesar
It is that time of the year when we are required to file our taxes. Is this necessary for Christians? When Jesus was asked about paying taxes, He simply said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). As costly as it might be, Christians have a duty to give what they owe to the IRS (Rom. 13).
If you stop and think about the benefits of living in this country, you cannot help but count your blessings. We easily forget that running water, heat and electricity can be taken for granted. The same can be said for the general orderliness on the roads. Think about how much more dangerous it would be to travel if nobody followed the rules of the road!
We also have law enforcement that we can call on in times of need and military forces who help ensure the safety of the nation. Paul pointed this out to the brethren at Rome (13:3-4). There is no question that God wants His children to be abide the earthly laws where they live as adherence to these laws was equated to obeying God Himself (Rom. 13:1-2).
But what about all the corruption and bad spending that bothers so many tax payers? What about governments that support things that contradict God’s law? Obviously, our Lord knows that just because we pay our taxes it does not mean we support every decision made by our governments. Consider the circumstances Jesus lived it when He was asked about paying taxes in Mark 12. The ruling Roman empire was full of corruption, sexual immorality and brutality. Even so, all people were admonished by the Lord Himself to pay to Caesar the things that are owed to Caesar
This world is not our permanent home – we are strangers and pilgrims in this land. While we are to respect our earthly authorities and pay our taxes, God’s people ultimately have their citizenship in the household/kingdom of God (Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:13).
What is the difference?Sunday, February 15, 2015
What is the difference?
In a Bible class this week, I was asked, “What’s the differences between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ?” Before we can answer this, we need to see that the baptism of Jesus was the same as John’s before Jesus died (John 3:22-23; John 4:1-2). Both were a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Matt. 3:6,11; Mark 1:4-5; Acts 19:1-5). However, the baptism of Christ changed significantly after His death and resurrection. Consider these differences.
Baptized for the remission of sins
On the day of Pentecost, many Jews were gathered together in Jerusalem. Peter and the other apostle were also there. When the people heard the gospel and asked what they needed to do, Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins…” (Acts 2:38). The one baptism taught today (Eph. 4:5) is for the remission of sins (Acts 22:16).
Baptized in the name of the Lord
The baptisms conducted by John and Jesus (prior to His death) were not done in the name of anyone. This changed in Matthew 28:19. After Christ resurrected, He gave this commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 10:48, Peter commanded Cornelius and his household to be baptized in water in the name of the Lord.
Paul later discussed the difference between these two baptisms. “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” (Acts 19:4-5).
Baptized into the death of Jesus
While speaking to the Roman brethren, Paul made mention of their common baptism: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). Obviously, John and Jesus could not baptize people into His death before He died. The point of Christ dying on the cross was to pave the way for the salvation of mankind. Thus, when one is buried with Christ, they put to death the old man of sin (Rom. 6:6). This person is able to rise up in spiritual newness of life, just as Christ was physically raised from the dead (verse 4).
Baptized the one true way
Earlier in this article, we mentioned the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5. Baptisms conducted prior to the death of Jesus were not valid after He died. Because the scriptures show that we are only to baptize into Christ’s death today, we can logically conclude that we all have one common source of salvation (Jude 3). Multiple types of baptism would contradict scripture. If we know that this baptism saves us (I Pet. 3:21), why would we accept any other baptism?
Beware lest your baptism only get you wet
Remember that John’s baptism, like a baptism into Christ’s death, was an immersion in water. Though the people in Acts 19 were immersed, they only got wet. John’s baptism did not meet the requirements for a baptism into the death of Christ, so they were not saved. Similarly, people today who are baptized without proper understanding and belief can go into the water a dry sinner and come up a wet sinner. Make sure you understand what is necessary for a proper baptism into the death of Christ.
FastingSunday, February 08, 2015
I had a gentleman call me this past week after seeing our TV program. His purpose was to inform me that many religious groups are guilty of neglecting fasting. I was told that we are commanded to fast as God’s people and that fasting is the way we gain spiritual insight. Let’s take a closer look and see what the Bible says.
Let’s begin by defining the word. To “fast” is to go without food. Fasting can be voluntary – a person who chooses to not eat – or forced – a person who lacks food. In II Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul listed over two dozen incidences of hardship he endured. This included fasting (verse 27). The context indicates that Paul was forced to go without food. Conversely, fasting is also mentioned in Acts 14:22. Here, people voluntarily went without food during a time of devotion to God in prayer.
Was fasting a command that the early Christians had to keep? If we focus on the word of God and ignore the opinions of men, then we can see that Christians are not commanded to fast. Allow me to explain. Even though fasting was NEVER commanded, the practice is not wrong. Remember, Christ encouraged it (Matt. 6:16-18), as did Paul (I Cor. 7:5).
Recall that the gentleman who called me was upset with the lack of teaching on fasting and assumed that fasting is not practiced today. The truth is, I know many brethren, including myself, that pray and devote time to think about spiritual things while depriving themselves of food. Because the Bible does not command the practice, nor is a minimum amount of time limit given, people cannot broadly condemn others. These things are left to our discretion.
It is dangerous to think that certain truths can only be found by fasting. This is just not true. The gospel message can be understood (Eph. 3:4). We cannot logically argue that fasting is necessary to understand God’s word. How could we know this without first finding it in God’s word? To argue that fasting reveals unique spiritual insights, we must either accept a circular argument or accept that something aside from God’s word is truth. Both are wrong.
How many of God’s people start praying and lose track of time? How many people thinking spiritual thoughts are surprised when they look at the clock? This happens all the time. So is it fasting when someone is involved in prayer and has gone a period of time without eating? Yes! But when they do finally stop to eat, this is called a “breakfast” – a break from fasting!
We also need to think about our attitudes. Nobody should fast and let people know they are fasting. As noted earlier, Christ made this point in Matthew 6. Jesus warned about revealing to men that you have been fasting. Our Lord even spoke a parable where a man was bragging to God in prayer that he had fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). Despite his spiritual practices, he was not more righteous than the tax collector Did this make him more righteous than the tax collector (verses 13-14)? No!
There is no room for self-righteousness when talking about fasting. Are a person’s prayers less respected if offered after a meal? There is no indication that the Lord’s followers were less godly when they were not fasting (Luke 5:33-35). If a Christian today prays and goes a long period of time without eating, it’s fine. Let’s make sure we respect what the Bible says on the subject.
Looking for souls like CorneliusSunday, February 08, 2015
Looking for souls like Cornelius
If you are not familiar with the conversion of Cornelius and his household, please read Acts 10 and 11. I will point out some of the wonderful qualities this man possessed that aided him in becoming a Christian.
We are told that Cornelius, even though he was not saved, believed in God and prayed often (Acts 10:2). Though these qualities did not automatically save him, they were essential for him to seek God on His terms. Thus, when the Lord told Cornelius to send for Peter so he could hear how to be saved (11:14), he did not get upset. Too often people allow pride to stand between them and salvation. Cornelius could have closed his mind and decided that he had done enough to be saved already, but His desire for righteousness was earnest.
Another quality that aided Cornelius was his humility. When Peter came to Cornelius, he immediately fell down to worship him (10:25). Though Peter told him that he should not be worshipped (verse 26), Cornelius’ humble disposition is evident. This attitude was key for Cornelius and his entire household (10:47-48) to carefully listen to and obey Peter’s instructions.
Also notice how Cornelius desired for others to hear the message of salvation. We are told that when Peter came, Cornelius had many people gathered for the apostle to teach (10:27). What a delight this must have been for Peter! What teacher of God’s word wouldn’t light up with joy when they find many people assembled and ready to learn? This is as true today as it was for early Christians.
Cornelius’ example shows why it is critically important to pray for those seeking the truth. Not only will our prayers help them directly, but that same aspiring Christian might be encouraged to bring others to their studies too. Those earnestly longing for salvation will want others to be saved as well. If you are not a Christian, please consider Cornelius’ example and earnestly seek the Lord.