Does God Keep Score?

Does God Keep Score?

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with someone about getting credit for ideas. I mentioned to them that it doesn’t matter to me if I get credit for an idea or not, because God knows who did what and I was content to let God handle such things. This person then wondered whether or not God really credited man with such things. In essence, the question can be framed, Does God keep score?

Does God Keep Score?

Does God Keep Score?

First, we need to understand that God does not keep score in the sense that if we could only get enough points, then we would win salvation. The Bible teaches us that salvation isn’t something that we earn. Jesus said in Luke 17:10, So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. When we do everything that God tells us, we still haven’t earned our salvation. We are still dependent upon Him for eternal life. Salvation is a gift that God gives upon the condition of faith and obedience (see Hebrews 11:6 and Hebrews 5:9). Neither our faith nor our obedience earns our salvation; but God promises to give us salvation when we trust and obey Him. It is the promise of God in which we trust, not in our own faith or obedience. In that regard, God doesn’t keep score because no matter how high a score we get, we’ll never be high enough to earn our salvation.

Second, neither does God keep score as to how long we have been a faithful Christian as if that would make a difference in our salvation. Jesus told the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. In the parable, the vineyard owner agrees with laborers for the same wage though they begin working at different times in the day. At the end of the day, they all get the same pay. The ones who started early complain, saying that they worked longer than the others. The owner asks them whether or not they agreed to that pay. They did, so that is what they got. The lesson from the parable is that salvation is available for all and it doesn’t matter when you started working for God, everyone, whether young or old gets the same pay eternal life and for that we ought to be very thankful. No, God does not keep score in regard to one’s longevity of service in His kingdom.

Third, there is a sense, however, in which God does keep score. In Hebrews 6:10 we read, For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. We learn from this passage that God takes note of those who do good things and He remembers those things. Moreoever, Jesus said, But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20). What are these treasures that we are to be laying up in heaven? He explains in Luke 12:33, Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. When we do good things for others, we lay up treasures in heaven. Are they for earning our salvation? No. What then are these treasures for? There is only one explanation. It is because God wants us to appreciate the results of the good things that we did once we are in heaven. That will be our treasure!

Does God keep score? He doesn’t keep score when it comes to good works meriting salvation. Regardless of how high the score, it would never be enough to earn salvation. However, He does keep score when it comes to having treasure in heaven over which we can appreciate the results of our good efforts. And so John can write, Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward (2 John 1:8). God doesn’t keep score to determine who earned what, but to determine who IS what!

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Marriage and Divorce

The Heart of the Matter… I do

Having looked into the tearful eyes of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith, I have learned there are a million miles between our children “going through the motions” in reference to their spiritual lives versus our children possessing hearts that dictate their actions. In this column, I plan to share with you what I hope to instill in the hearts of my own children and those whom I love.

The Bible does not teach divorce "for any reason."

The Bible does not teach divorce “for any reason.”



It used to be uncommon and unspoken. However, today divorce has reached epidemic proportions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ratio of marriages to divorces is 2 to 1. While a husband and wife may vow to love one another in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, and for better and worse, the reality is that many individuals only stick around during times of wealth, health, and happiness. Many people can remember years ago, when parents in America would often have many children. Today children oftentimes have many parents. Sadly, the concept of commitment has been lost in our “disposable” and “instant gratification” world. There is no doubt that the tentacles of divorce reach deeply inside most—if not all—church families. And those tentacles have caused many problems throughout the body of Christ. While we don’t talk about it much for fear we may offend some, this topic desperately needs to be addressed in order to stem the epidemic.

Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about divorce.
A good marriage is one of the richest blessings you will ever know. It is an institution that was formed by God (Genesis 2:22-24). While we pray that you are able to experience it one day, we want each one of you to realize that you do not have to be married or be a parent to serve God faithfully. Consider for a moment all of the Biblical examples of faithful individuals who were single or barren/childless (e.g., Paul, Dorcas, King David’s wife Michal).

Believe it or not, your mother and I have been praying for you and your future spouses (and even their parents!) since before you were born. This topic is so crucial that we believe the time to start teaching you the importance of marriage and relationships is not when you are a teenager, but rather from your toddler years on up. Aside from your decision to be a Christian and your relationship with God, there is nothing more important on this planet. This special person will either  help or hinder your journey to Heaven. Our prayer is that your mate will be a strong Christian who can help you in your spiritual journey. We hope that as you grow and mature you will select someone with which to spend your life who has similar values and priorities..
Make no mistake about it, good marriages take a great deal of work. You won’t receive a “how-to” book along with your marriage certificate. This is one reason it is so important to keep your marriage God-centered. The relationship you see daily between your mom and me did not happen overnight. We have been together through good years and bad. We have had to learn how to communicate effectively with one another, how to fight fair, how to compromise, and how to let our words be reflected in our actions. With each happy memory and each trial, our relationship has deepened and grown. However, even after being married as long as we have, we still have to invest time and energy into our marriage. That is why we try to regularly have “date night” without any children present—to reconnect, rekindle, and grow our own relationship.

Your mother and I have a rule that divorce “is not even an option.” We made this pledge to one another very early in our marriage, and it has been comforting during times of trial. The Bible is clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Never forget that God joins you together with your mate (Matthew 19:6), and His original intention was that man and woman remain married until death (Mark 10:2-9). Study carefully Matthew 19:8, where Jesus explains that while divorces were permitted because of the hardness of their hearts, but “from the beginning it was not so.”

Keep your marriage intact and avoid divorce! Invest time and energy in one another. If you feel things are spiraling out of control talk to your parents, preacher, elders, or godly friends. (Don’t confide problems to a friend of the opposite sex, as that can often lead to danger.) Find a happily married, faithful couple with whom you can spend time and glean wisdom. Take time to find activities that both you and your spouse enjoy, and do those. Be willing to compromise. And do your best to never take your spouse for granted. The Bible is the best source for how men are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and how wives are to treat their husbands (Titus 2:4-5; Ephesians 22-23). That’s a whole different topic!

In Matthew 19, Jesus outlines the only allowance for divorce and remarriage—sexual immorality (verse 9). That’s it. Divorce and remarriage is not allowed simply for irreconcilable differences or because one party is no longer happy. Many people have tried to manipulate this passage to find exceptions or make loopholes. In fact, many men with advanced degrees have desperately tried to argue that they possess a “newfound wisdom” about what this Scripture actually means. But as we have taught you from childhood, you don’t need advanced degrees to understand the important matters of the Bible. God is able to effectively communicate His plan on marriage and divorce.

Never change your views on Biblical matters simply because it has become personal. Remember, God is immutable (Malachi 3:6)—He and His Word do not change. It is usually the case that those trying to conjure up “exceptions” to Jesus’ teaching on marriage have personal stakes involved. For instance, maybe their children, other relatives, or friends have divorced for reasons other than sexual immorality, and they want to find a way for them to remarry. But the Scriptures are clear.

Many try to offer excuses to justify divorce and remarriage such as, “One party was not baptized at the point of marriage,”, or “Children are involved,” or “The original intent was not for a biblical permanent marriage.” They use mental gymnastics to find loopholes between Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-13. Remember, these commands were written to believers and unbelievers, thus baptism does not alter an adulterous marriage. Notice that 1 Corinthians 7:10 clearly states: “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” The decision to marry is important and should not be entered into lightly, or because of temporal lust. Your mom and I agree that rather than jumping through hoops and rearranging the original intent looking for a “way out” years later, your time would be better invested in creating and building a healthy marriage that includes God.

This is why trust is so vital in a marriage. Go the extra mile and give your spouse information as to where you will be—don’t leave them wondering. Post a copy of your wedding picture or vows to your computer. Keep that golden band on your finger as a constant reminder.

On the day your mom and I said our wedding vows the man who baptized me read a poem that I want to share. It’s titled “Marriage Still Takes Three” (author unknown). I look forward to reading it at your wedding one day in the future.

I once thought marriage took
Just two to make a go,
But now I am convinced
It takes the Lord also.

And not one marriage fails
Where Christ is asked to enter,
As lovers come together
With Jesus at the center.

But marriage seldom thrives,
And homes are incomplete,
Till He is welcomed there
To help avoid defeat.

In homes where Christ is first,
It’s obvious to see,
Those unions really work,
For marriage still takes three.

Love, Dad
P.S. While you may not welcome the idea, your mom and I really like the idea of “prearranged marriages,” so we are happily accepting applications from faithful parents of children your age.

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Effective, Everyday Evangelism

Effective, Everyday Evangelism

One of the chief reasons for the very establishment and existence of the Lord’s church is evangelism; the saving of lost souls; for, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1st Timothy 2:4). He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2nd Peter 3:9). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Word made flesh who came and dwelt among us said during His earthly ministry that He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). And one of the last things He did before He ascended back to glory was to give His hand-picked and chosen Apostles (and us by extension of course) the precious and glorious privilege of being His divinely-designated co-workers and sharers of that great ‘co-mission’ with Him when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Timeless secrets to successful evangelism.

Timeless secrets to successful evangelism.

Indeed, as the divinely-inspired and Spirit-driven apostle Paul wrote to the first century congregation of the Lord’s church that worked and worshipped in Thessalonica: “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1st Thessalonians 2:4). The apostle Paul again echoed those same sentiments (that the ultimate reason for the church’s very existence is for evangelistic purposes) when he wrote to the first century congregation of the Lord’s church that worked and worshiped in Ephesus. There, in Ephesians 3, verses 8-12, he let both them and the entire world know in no uncertain terms, that the “eternal purpose” and crowning touch of God’s plan from before the very beginning of time, was to establish His Son’s one, New Testament church, and that it could make known the good news of Christ to a lost and dying world. This, so that the lost in sin world might receive it, believe it, obey it, live it, and be saved by it as well, thus being added by God to that grace-cleansed, blood-bought, and heaven-bound group; for God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)!

But how exactly do we most efficiently and effectively spread that grace-laden, soul-saving message of gospel truth – especially in today’s fast-paced, immediate-gratification, instant electronic communication, “that’s just your interpretation,” media-saturated, satanically-infiltrated, religious diversity-celebrated, “no such thing as God or sin” world? I believe the key to our understanding what might or might not work, ‘for better or for worse’ when it comes to efficient and effective evangelism today, begins with understanding, accepting, and internalizing Acts 8:35. As the eunuch sat reading from his quite-possibly-recently-purchased-in-Jerusalem copy of the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, the bible says in verse 35, that “Then Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” Did you catch that? I am completely convinced that that’s the key to successful evangelism! We must follow Phillip’s phenomenally successful example of personal evangelism by taking people from WHERE THEY ARE CURRENTLY AT, to where they eternally need to be, via the vehicle of the soul-saving word of God and nothing less!

This is how the Lord Jesus, the Master Teacher, modeled effective teaching throughout the gospels. The fact is, that if we would be as truly and efficiently effective and successful as the Lord wants us to be when it comes to our evangelistic efforts, we must learn to integrate and emulate this example, so much so that it becomes second nature to us! We must learn to take people from WHERE THEY ARE CURRENTLY AT, to where they eternally need to be, via the soul-saving word of God and nothing less!

I believe that that’s the problem with far too many of our unsuccessful attempts and programs of evangelism today! They may ‘well’ be, some of the most well-intentioned, well-supported, well-attended, and/or well-funded attempts at personal and congregational outreach and evangelism that we can possibly put together, but if they don’t reach the lost, where they are, on their level, FIRST, then they’re probably not going to be, ‘well,’ very successful now are they? In fact, they will be more like a very unsuccessful ‘well’ – a deep, dark, empty and unproductive hole, into which one pours resources without much to show for their efforts. Hence: the “birth” of “Joe Clevelander” and “Chuck Churchman.”

“Joe Clevelander” is the name given to a fictitious character that was designed to give the average, local, “Joe Q. Public,” or “Joe on the street” in our little town of Cleveland, someone to truly and fully identify with. As such, he is the cumulative mouthpiece for all of those crass, critical, skeptical and/or sometimes quite unkind comments that are so often heard from the biblically ignorant and scripturally uninformed of our communities, regarding the faithful members, biblical doctrines, God-fearing practices, and God-honoring obedience of the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). In Joe, it is all laid right out there – tangibly, truthfully, and transparently. He sincerely voices some of the most common and recurring criticisms regularly leveled at the Lord’s church today by the biblically uninformed religious zealots and denominational regulars permeating almost any community in modern-day America. Paul dealt with the same in the ancient world as well (Romans 10:2-3).

“Chuck Churchman” however, is intended to be the epitome and example of what so many of us in the Lord’s church, at least used to be. Well-studied, unflappable, and full of just good old common sense to boot, he knows his bible and how to rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15), as well as how to appropriately apportion, argue, reason and apply it. Automatically understanding and adjusting to the fact that he is not dealing with a decades-long, well-studied and well-informed member of the Lord’s church in his friend Joe, and subsequently integrating the absolutely essential example of Acts 8:35 into his evangelistic efforts in order to make them as successful as they can possibly be, he consciously and consistently strives not to choke with the meat of the word, one who is not yet even ready for the milk of the word, not having even entered into infancy in the family of God by being “born again” of the water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). Instead, Chuck seeks to illustrate through common, everyday examples, the uncommon, incredible, and eternal truths of God’s instruction in a way that Joe can understand and easily accept and process. This is the same exact  thing that Jesus did, as He effectively taught the people about heavenly and eternal truths, with simple, everyday, earthly terms like “fish,” “fishermen,” “baskets,” “rocks,” “salt,” and “light” – items which every lost soul in earshot could quite easily understand, being ultimately and intimately familiar with them from their everyday lives.

These are just some of the timeless secrets to successful evangelism that so many of us have maybe either forgotten somewhere along the way, or perhaps were possibly never taught in the first place… and so, the Lord’s church and cause has continually suffered, being somewhat less successful at soul-saving than maybe we all could have been on occasion.

This is the reason for this writing; to take us back to the basics of both biblical AND automatic common sense answers and applications when confronted by those who only think they know what the bible actually says, so that we can perhaps convert them to Christ and help them to come to a better and fuller knowledge of the truth. As Christians, this is our God-given mission. This must be our primary passion. And we must bring it as close as we can to complete perfection!

But how do we patiently, lovingly, and compassionately get the often critical, confused, and confrontational lost of our world to where they need to be scripturally, and eventually then, on into Christ? How do we “confront without being confrontational?” How do we handle with care and lovingkindness, those who attack us with pure relentlessness, while neither attacking back or giving them legitimate grounds to further judge us as too judgmental? Answer: We must be, as Jesus put it, as “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

For the sake of illustration, please carefully consider the following fictitious – although hopefully, very accurate to reality – conversations, as they could (and should) occur in “Anytown, U.S.A.,” on any given day, between your average “Joe” on the street, and “Chuck,” who is a faithful member of the local congregation of the church of Christ (Romans 16:16) nearest you…

 

PLEASE NOTE: The above article is a series of excerpts taken directly from the introductory chapter of Doug Dingley’s new book, entitled: “Effective, Everyday Evangelism; The Adventures Of Joe Clevelander & Chuck Churchman,” available now from James Kay Publishing of Tulsa (See: www.jameskaypublishing.com).

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