Study the Word: Bulletin Articles
As Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae was coming to a close, the apostle made sure that he sent greetings from fellow laborers such as Luke and Demas (4:14). However, in a span of approximately a couple of years, at the close of the letter Paul wrote to Timothy, he brought up that Demas had forsaken him (II Tim. 4:10). So what happened in that period of time that caused Demas to stop being faithful?
The answer to the above question was given in the Timothy letter: Paul stated that Demas loved this present world (II Tim. 4:10). My question is this: what is there to love that was in the world back then that would cause someone to leave the Lord? It would be the exact same things that exist today. We shall consider some of the lures that entice people to love the world.
Loving the world removes the spiritual battles
Sometimes Christians get tired of standing against opposition all the time. Their love for the truth, when it is lost, becomes a love for compromise, just to get along, avoiding controversy at all cost. This is why brethren are told not to grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9). There is no question that saints face battles on a daily basis against the course of this world. As good soldiers we must fight the good fight (I Tim. 6:12). When a child of God has an appetite for loving the world, the love of God will not be in them and they will forsake the Father and in turn, faithful brethren like Paul (I Jn. 2:15).
Loving the world removes many duties
Let’s face it, unlike the first point, many conflicts God’s people face come from within. By that I mean, every person faces temptation with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of like (I Jn. 2:16). When Christians find sinful behavior attractive and desire to engage in it, the dislike for sin soon wanes. The faithful can hate every false way (Psa. 119:104), but if steps are not put in place, you can depart from a place that was once pleasing to God, to a place where God has turned away from you (I Pet. 3:12; II Pet. 2:20-22). When you no longer want to be a worker for the Lord, there is going to be a love for the world.
Loving the world eventually removes associations that make you feel guilty
We read how that Demas had forsaken Paul. Now, we know Paul felt bad about that, but did Demas? This we know for sure, when someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you usually don’t like to hang around them. In Luke 15, we read where the prodigal wanted to go far away from his family. Perhaps what applies here is the idea of out of sight, out of mind. With this comes the Biblical text describing people who have their conscience seared with a hot iron (I Tim. 4:2). In truth, if I were Demas and I loved this present world, hanging around Paul would have been unsettling to say the least.
Loving the world removes the focus from heaven
The passions of this word are pleasurable, but we are told they are temporary (Heb. 11:25). Even though non-lasting, those caught up in sin are not keeping their eye on the mark (Heb. 12:1-2). It would be proper to say concerning the fallen that they are not thinking about what lies beyond the grave because they only see the world. However, God’s people know this world and everything in it will one day be consumed (II Pet. 3:10). Not only that, even before that happens, our lives are like a vapor that appears for a short time then vanishes away (Jas. 4:14). So, obviously, to forsake the Lord is to not think about eternity.
Demas was once faithful to the Lord. He was a companion to Paul, whom he appreciated greatly. As to what happened to Demas, it can happen to us, so let us beware.
Throughout the scriptures, God’s people are to remind themselves that whenever they are facing a hardship, they are not alone. Oh, it is true that our Lord knows everything that is going on and He will never forsake us (Heb. 13:5), that’s not the aspect I want to talk about. The fact that we are not alone, has to do with idea that whatever we face, others face hardships too.
In I Peter 5:9, the inspired writer stated, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” It might seem that when we are having to endure all kinds of difficulties, our brothers and sisters face the same things. They may not be exactly the same, but hardships come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Knowing all of this, does it really help Christians to know this? Does it really provide strength? The answer is yes. There is comfort knowing that we are not alone and that others are having to deal with things too. It is foolish to think, “Nobody knows the troubles I have.” I may not know the specifics, but we can be confident to know that when it comes to things that will test our faith, it is “common to man” (I Cor. 10:13).
We really don’t have to look any farther than Jesus Himself. The reason He is a great example is because He was tempted in all ways just like we are (Heb. 4:15). Again, yes we are talking about the Lord, but think this through. Since Jesus was tempted like everyone, then would not everyone be tempted like one another? Of course they would. Also, if Jesus gave us an example to help us overcome, cannot saints strive to provide the same example for each other? Again, yes!
The next time you go to church services, take a moment and look around at all your brothers and sisters. You can be sure that each and every one of them has some sort of suffering going on in their lives. Knowing that to be true, look, they are there serving the Lord, just as you are. Now doesn’t that give you strength and encouragement? It should. Reason being, they are to thinking the same thing about you.
As a church, we had the opportunity to help brethren out who were victims of the recent hurricane in Texas. Christians also individually offered help to out people in general who were in need in those areas. Even though these were good things to do, what does the Bible says about this? Let’s take a closer look.
It is essential to remember that God’s people are to do good to all people, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). Even Jesus went out of His way to help those who were not followers of Him (Mark 1:32-34). Christians extend kindness to all, even towards their enemies (Rom. 12:19-21).
What Christians do with their own is their own business. However, when saints give to the Lord on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2), it is no longer “their own.” This is how it was told to a couple who lied about how much they contributed to the church treasury: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God,” (Acts 5:3-4).
Having demonstrated that God’s people can help whomever they want with their own funds, let’s now notice the limitations placed upon the local church. Peter mentioned above that money it is given to the church treasury, it is no longer our own. This means that the church funds are not used the same way as an individual’s funds. This is clearly demonstrated in I Timothy 5:16, where Christians are obligated to help their family members and not burden the church with it. Let’s see what churches can do with their funds to help the needy.
When it comes to helping those in need, there is no question that local churches are only supposed to help fellow saints. This includes both local brethren and those living elsewhere. Churches in the first century did this by sending relief funds to the elders of the church that had people in need (Acts 11:30). Notice that the funds were sent directly to the church in need – they were not sent to a third church or other group to be pooled before getting distributed.
Contrast this with what individuals can do to help the needy. They could send it directly to a family in need. Or they could send it to some relief organization (like the Red Cross) who will then help those in need. That’s something we can do since it is “our own.” However, the Bible only contains limited examples for what they church can do. Again, the church must give it directly to those in need. To have some church collect funds from other churches to be a “sponsoring church” is unauthorized by the Lord.
Let us also consider what the local church can and cannot do concerning their own member’s needs. In Acts 2, we find that those who were converted on the day of Pentecost soon found fellow saints in need. So what did they do? Some brethren stepped up and gave what they could (verse 45). From Acts 5, we know that funds given to the church are under the control of the church, not the individual member (verse 3-4). The local church then has the duty of helping those in the flock that are in need (Acts 6:1-7).
What kinds of needs do you think were incurred by the brethren in Acts 2? We can properly conclude it would be food and shelter. We know that not only did brethren help collectively, but they did as much as they could individually also. Acts 2:46 describes the brethren eating from house to house. Brethren were being hospitable by sharing what they had. What a wonderful attitude of selflessness! These brethren willingly gave twice knowing that Christians are to give cheerfully to the Lord (II Cor. 9:7) and are just as happy to share what they have on their own.
Whether we help someone individually or collectively as a church, the principle of II Thessalonians 3:10 should be applied. In this text we read that is if one is unwilling to work, neither should he eat. It is not our place to reward laziness. Churches are not in the business of being responsible for debts incurred by the irresponsible. This might seem cold and callous, but remember that the funds we give to the Lord are governed by the Lord (Col. 1:18).
Much of what a local church does to help needy members is non-specific. By this I mean that the scriptures do not state how much can be given or for how long – those are judgment calls made by the local church. That’s why the apostle told the brethren in Acts 6 to choose seven men who had a good reputation. You need those who are wise and will make decisions that are good and proper.
Unfortunately, faithful churches are being accused of being uncaring for not using their funds to help in ways that are not Biblically approved. If churches helped the needy without limit, just how many funds would a local church have to help spread the gospel and edify its members? The answer is, not a dime. As Jesus put it, you will always have the poor with you (Matt. 26:11).
Those who accuse the church of being heartless have failed to understand the first part of this article. Christians everywhere strive to be Christ-like and help who they can (whether Christian or not). The limitations placed upon the church do not limit individuals, just as Peter explained to Ananias in Acts 5. To see to what extend godly people help others, read the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
Christians should find comfort in knowing that there is a church family ready to help in times of need. They should never feel guilty for needing or receiving assistance. May we all likewise be willing and ready to help whenever we find opportunity.
On Sunday morning, January 1, 1956, a young gospel preacher named Orlan Hogue preached a “New Year’s” sermon for the local congregation in Huntingdon, Tennessee, where he was the local preacher. The sermon was entitled “Take Heed,” and it contained five main points.
- He reminded them that 1955 was history. He discussed the great progress that had been made by the church in Huntingdon during 1955, including a large number of conversions, and then admonished them to be thankful to God and to give God the glory for past successes.
- He described “how” the successes of the past year had been achieved, including such things as peace and harmony among the members, a great spirit of cooperation, and hard work.
- He said, “1956 is now before us,” and he issued a challenge to the members to put the past behind them, not rest on their laurels, and focus on even greater efforts in 1956.
- He reminded them that success would only be achieved if every member contributed to the work. Success would not come through the efforts of the preacher alone, or if only a few were actively involved in the work. It would only be when “every part does its share” (Eph. 4:16, NKJV) that even greater things could be accomplished.
- He closed with an exhortation to get busy and make 1956 the best year ever in the history of the church. He cheered them on with the encouraging words that “our prospects look bright for the work in Huntingdon in 1956!”
I have in my possession the original type-written sermon outline that Brother Hogue used to preach that New Year’s lesson. It came into my possession a number of years ago after Brother Hogue’s brother-in-law, Earl Fly, passed away in Jackson, Tennessee. Brother Fly had written two things on the bottom of the type-written page. He wrote, “By O.H. Hogue” and then underneath that, he wrote the chilling words, “Orlan died May 10, 1956.” Brother Hogue died as a result of injuries suffered in a fall at the Huntingdon Post Office. He left behind a wife and two small children, and his death was mourned by a local church whose members loved him dearly for his work’s sake among them.
Three lessons come to mind as we think about the story of Orlan Hogue’s New Year’s sermon.
First, Brother Hogue was right to encourage the brethren in Huntingdon to remember the past year, and to meditate on the good things that had been happening among them during that time. The apostle Paul frequently used this technique of commending brethren for past victories and present successes as a means of encouraging them to greater efforts in the future. Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica is a good example of this kind of motivation.
Second, I am impressed with Brother Hogue’s optimism and enthusiasm. It is obvious that he was excited about the prospects facing him and the Huntingdon church in 1956. He was planning on twelve full months being busy doing the work of the Lord. Orlan was, by all reports, extremely skilled in the pulpit, as a writer, as a Bible class teacher, and as a personal worker.
Third, his tragic death reminds us of the sobering lesson from the pen of the inspired author James: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town, and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:13-14, ESV)
Undoubtedly many of you have made some significant future plans. When you made your plans, did it even cross your mind that you might not live to see them carried through? If your life were to end before this year does, would you be prepared to stand before God in judgment? Do you know for certain that you have a guarantee of even five more months of life?
I believe that Orlan Hogue was prepared on that tragic day in May, 1956 when an accident cut short his talented life. The most important lesson to remember from the tragic story of Brother Hogue’s life and tragic death is that we all do everything possible to be prepared every minute of every hour of every day for the unexpected. Remember, “You are just a mist!”
We have been reminded in this article by brother Kerr, the uncertainty of time. The fact is, no matter how long we live on this earth, we are to consider ourselves strangers and pilgrims (Heb. 11:13-16). We long for a better place, and our reaching the goal of heaven will take more than a longing. We must seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6;33). After all, those who seek, will find (Matt. 7:7). May we be doers pf the word and not hearers only (Jas. 1:22). We certainly look forward to hearing our brother Gary proclaim the word of God this week.
In line with the first article, let’s consider a few more things to help us learn. I had mentioned about churches sending directly to the preachers they support. Paul mentioned the churches that helped him directly (II Cor. 11:8). But is this really the best way? What if you have a small country church with 15 members who are all elderly and they want to help spread the gospel. Could they not send the funds from the church to a larger church who could use that money to support preachers that they choose? No. Reason being, it is unauthorized.
Years ago when I was preaching in Canada, a government official called me inquiring about my income as a preacher. I told him that a variety of churches send money to me to preach the gospel. He then proceeded to tell me that he wants those churches to send the money to the local church I labor with, and then have the local church there support me. In that man’s eyes, this would be easier and much more simple, tax-wise. I then proceeded to tell him I couldn’t do that. After a long conversation, and a short sermon, he finally accepted what I told him.
The apostle Paul made it clear in Romans 9:20-21, that we are the clay and God is the potter and we must do what He says. It is not our place to question what we are told to do. Oh, we might ask why a certain thing is to be done such as, “Why do people need to be baptized?” That’s a good question. The answer is given, for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Yet, if someone starts to question that by saying, “Why in the world would God expect someone to be baptized in water for the remission of their sins?”, we have a serious problem.
It’s fine to ask, “What can a local church do with its funds?” It isn’t fine, once one learns the answer to the question, to turn around and question that! Remember, without respecting Biblical authority, the flood gate opens and people will do almost anything under the umbrella that it is “good work.” Even though it is not our place to question God, it is our place to question those who do question God!