Premature Persuasion and His Divine Plan

Premature Persuasion and His Divine Plan

The Lord’s plan for the salvation of the world when fully understood will lead to the salvation of the lost. It is so vital that those of us who are Christians fully understand this plan, or we will sometimes hinder the conversion of the lost soul we are trying to win. Let me urge every member of the church to think soberly of His Divine plan.

Divine salvation

Will you follow the plan?

That plan involves the proclamation of the gospel to one who is lost. Look at how Paul sums up the heart of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4. Keep this in the context as you read it. “Brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, and in which you stand, and by which you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again, the third day according to the Scriptures…” We are to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), but preaching the gospel involves this message about Jesus.

Sometimes we miss it. We think because of the essentiality of baptism that we begin by encouraging them to be baptized. We so easily say, “Why don’t you get baptized. What are you waiting on?” There is a time when this should be said, but it rarely should be the opening remarks we have with others who visit our services. We mean well, but it is premature.

Look at Acts chapter two. The words of this sermon were spoken as the Holy Spirit gave this message using the apostles’ mouths (Acts 2:4). These Jews already knew a lot about baptism for the remission of sins because of the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4). Yet the Lord did not begin with words encouraging them to be baptized. Read it carefully. It began with the proclamation of His death, burial and resurrection. The subject of baptism was not the starting place, yet too often this is where we begin.

In Acts 8, Philip preached about Christ, about His name (nature and authority) and His kingdom (Acts 8:5, 12).  When they believed this, then they were taught to be baptized. Later in the same chapter Philip taught the Ethiopian, but Philip did not say to him, “Here is water, don’t you think you should be baptized?” Think about this.

Must the essentiality of baptism be taught? Absolutely. But it is not where we begin. Study Acts carefully. To try to persuade others to be baptized prematurely sends the wrong message. They must first realize they are lost. They must see that we are urging them to become part of the eternal kingdom of God. If we start with baptism, we have failed to follow His plan. Sometimes we hinder obedience by prematurely saying to others they should be baptized. It must be said, but not said prematurely!  Pray about this. It is His work and His plan.

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Members in Isolation

Members in Isolation

It is a simple, well-known, and time worn illustration… but the clear Biblical truth it should bring to our minds is just as strong, relevant, and unflinching as ever. It is, in fact, a truth made even more scary in light of the current pandemic… You’re sitting around a campfire and someone takes a stick and separates one of the red-hot, glowing embers, from the group of similarly on-fire embers surrounding it; subsequently removing it to a place in the sand all by itself. What happens? You can watch as the lone ember quickly loses its fire and goes out, becoming nothing more than just another burnt-out element of the deepening darkness all around it. It is only if it is relocated back into the presence of it’s other on-fire and still light-giving counterparts – before it goes totally out – that it is able to regain any semblance of its former fire and light-giving glow. (Isn’t it interesting that all you have to add to the word “embers,” is an “m,” in order to get “members…?”)

ember members

Are you isolated members?

The same is true for separated Christians. This is why personal, face-to-face, spiritually intimate fellowship with one another is, and always has been, one of the four, foundational, and all-consuming pillars of the Lord’s church (Acts 2:42).  Such fellowship is vital both to and for everyone, from the very first moment they repent and are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and are thus added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:38-47). This is why the Apostle Paul additionally and repeatedly emphasized that same Biblical truth with the illustration of how the members of the body of Christ need to constantly be, pull, work, worship, and fellowship together, just the same as all of the individual parts and members of a human body must do for the ongoing benefit of not only the entire body,but for the benefit of each and every one of its individual parts or members as well (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 4:11-16).  This is also why we need to be made so intrinsically aware of the eternally-life threatening danger that we are all individually in at this very moment!

Now please understand; I am in no way whatsoever – not for one micro-millisecond – suggesting, in any way, shape, or form, that those with legitimate and life-threatening health issues and concerns which also keep them house-bound and prevent them from venturing out into other places of public exposure such as work, school, shopping, recreating and/or etc., return to the in-house assemblies and fellowship of the church against their consciences, concerns, and convictions – not at all. (Although I do, at the same time, believe that the Bible very clearly teaches that if, on the other hand, one is regularly and routinely willing to risk far, far more in pursuit ofthe worldly and physical than they are in pursuit of the eternal and spiritual, that they really need to stop and honestly re-examine their priorities. However, that is not the point of this article.)

The point of this article is, however, to sound the warning loud and clear, and to seek to make every single member of the body of Christ just as fully and truly aware of the extremely vulnerable and terribly dangerous position our eternal souls have all been plunged into by our current isolation and separation from one another as I possibly can (Ez. 3:17-21, 33:1-6). At one elders and deacons meeting I know of, back when this thing first began and congregational services had been temporarily suspended and then began again on a very limited basis, a question was asked along the lines of, “Who feels as if they have grown spiritually stronger since we all stopped meeting together?” Not one, single, solitary hand went up… and those were some of the strongest and most mature Christians in the congregation. But don’t take their word for it. Think about your own, personal, Christian growth and service since mid-March. Have you grown stronger, or weaker as a result of your congregation’s being separated? Have you opened your Bible and studied and learned more, or less, since Sunday morning Bible classes and evening worship services were cancelled in many places approximately five months ago? Have you personally reached out and sought to share the gospel even more with others since this current pandemic-induced separation began? Or, have you done so even less than before, without the constant personal encouragement and admonition to do so?

The bottom line is this. We simply cannot all be physically together, in personal, face-to-face, work, worship, and fellowship right now. And in our personally isolated and separated state, Satan, like a roaring lion licking his chops, is more than likely ‘drooling,’ seeking to have a field day picking us off and devouring us one by one; knowing that our vulnerability has likely never been higher, and that there are fewer of us than ever thus able to cover one another’s back, because we are so spread out and hence seldom, if ever, together. His eternal-soul-consuming mission remains the same; although our ability to all be physically together to help protect, strengthen, and encourage one another has been severely diminished.

Therefore, we must each make it our total life and death mission – our absolute top priority – to determine to fight for our eternal lives like never before; to not only maintain, but to heartily grow, strengthen, and to fight to the death to defend our personal relationship with Jesus, as well as our love and fellowship for and with one another, on a daily basis.

This all begins with a very clear understanding of our currently separated and therefore isolation-induced and incredible vulnerability… something which Satan is probably going to seek with all his might to try to get some to forget,or at the very least,to get them to deny, the second they click out of this article… if he hasn’t already.

Make no mistake… their will be casualties. Make sure starting today, there is no doubt…that you won’t be one of them.

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Es probable que el título de este artículo sea bastante llamativo.  Muchos seres humanos tenemos esa curiosidad por lo nuevo y lo desconocido mientras que otros sienten temor. La Biblia provee bastante información sobre el tema de la inmortalidad y la separación de los 3 elementos que componen al ser humano así como su destino final dependiendo de sus obras y obediencia a Dios. La palabra hebrea nefesh  es uno de los vocablos traducidos generalmente en castellano por alma aparece 754 veces en el Antiguo Testamento en la versión Reina Valera de 1960. Como puede verse en la primera cita bíblica al respecto, significa “lo que tiene vida” (Gn. 2:7), y se aplica tanto al hombre como a los demás seres vivientes (Gn. 1:20, 24, 30; 9:12, 15, 16; Ez. 17:9). Muchas veces se identifica con la sangre, como algo que es esencial para tener aliento y animación (Gn. 9:4; Lv. 17:10–14; Dt. 12:22–24), y en el hombre es su principal característica que lo distingue de los seres irracionales (Gn. 1:26). Hay que tener claro que muchas veces se intercambia el término para dar a entender que se habla del espíritu.



La primera función del alma es la de dar vida al cuerpo, y como la respiración es el signo principal de la vida física, de ahí que en hebreo, como en la mayoría de las lenguas, se designe con términos que se relacionan más o menos con la imagen del aliento a veces del viento.

Comúnmente se ha hablado teológicamente en dos términos: dicótoma y tricótoma. Efraín Valverde, reconocido comentarista (Costarrisence) en el mundo hispano de la iglesia de Cristo los designa como las dos “teorías” (Los conceptos teológicos más difundidos en la Iglesia de Cristo; pág.6 y 7). Con lo que realmente estamos en desacuerdo, ya que una teoría es algo que no puede ser probado del todo porque es eso; solo una teoría.

Estar en vida es todavía tener aliento (2 S. 1:9; Hch. 20:10); cuando el hombre muere sale el alma (Gn. 35:18), es exhalada (Jer. 15:9), y si resucita vuelve el alma a él (1 R. 17:21). Para el pensamiento hebreo el alma es inseparable del hombre total, es decir, que el alma expresa los hombres vivientes. Tal vez aquí radica el origen de la identificación del alma con la sangre (Sal. 72:14); el alma está en la sangre (Lv. 17:10s), y a veces se dice metafóricamente que la sangre es la vida misma (Lv. 17:14; Dt. 12:23).  En un sentido, alguien podría pensar que los animales poseen alma puesto que tienen sangre, y porque pueden experimentar emociones como tal. Aunque esta manera de concluir no es del todo falsa y me gusta personalmente pensarlo así tampoco hay un soporte sólido para ser una afirmación en un debate público.

Es interesante notar en pasajes como Génesis 2:7 en el hombre la relación del cuerpo, alma  y espíritu casi siempre en ese orden. “Entonces Jehová Dios formó (cuerpo) al hombre del polvo de la tierra, y sopló en su nariz aliento de vida(Espíritu), y fue el hombre un ser viviente. (alma)”. Existen pasajes contundentes para observar la separación de los tres componentes del hombre. No hay forma de contradecir pasajes tales como 1Tes.5:23 “Y el mismo Dios de paz os santifique por completo; y todo vuestro ser, espíritu, alma y cuerpo, sea guardado irreprensible para la venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo”. O  Hebr. 4:12 “Porque la palabra de Dios es viva y eficaz, y más cortante que toda espada de dos filos; y penetra hasta partir el alma y el espíritu, las coyunturas y los tuétanos, y discierne los pensamientos y las intenciones del corazón.” (HLM énfasis añadido).

Está por demás esclarecer el hecho de que el espíritu es eterno y continúa viviendo por siempre (Ecles.12:7) ese espíritu regresa a Dios en el sentido de que regresa al dominio completo y absoluto de él por lo que automáticamente la doctrina de la reencarnación queda eliminada. Todos nosotros estaremos en algún lugar por siempre y siempre. El propósito de este breve enunciado era precisamente notar la distinción de los tres elementos que componen al hombre más allá de definir cada uno de ellos en detalle . El hermano Thomas B. Warren en su libro Titulado “Inmortalidad”, en la página 243 hace 3 observaciones que deseo compartir:

  1. A causa de que todos estaremos en la eternidad por siempre debemos aprender a amar sinceramente con todo el corazón , mente, y fuerzas (Mt.22:37-38).
  2. Aprender los detalles de las cosas que están envueltas (de acuerdo a la enseñanza bíblica) en vivir del día a día de la vida Cristiana, incluyendo no solamente el amor a la verdad, sino también el amor al prójimo (Mt.22:39) y también de los enemigos (Mt.5:44)
  3. Desarrollando y motivado profundamente  el deseo de hacer a otros lo que quieres que otros hagan contigo (Lc.6:31-38).

La pregunta debería ser contestada con toda honestidad: ¿Si yo hubiese muerto 10 minutos atrás, estaría en el lugar de confort o en el del sufrimiento?. Al final de la discusión teológica de estos tres conceptos la verdad irrefutable es que todos vamos a morir (Hebr.9:27) y nuestro Espíritu o alma (si así se quiere llamar) será juzgada en el Gran tribunal  de quién “juzgará a los vivos y a los muertos…”(2Tim.4:1).


Abarca Valverde, Efraín. Los conceptos teológicos más difundidos en las Iglesias de Cristo.

(Wichita Falls, TX; World Spanish Literature Ministry) Pág.6 y 7.

Warren, Thomas Ph.D.  Inmortalidad Todos nosotros estaremos en algún lugar por 

siempre. (Moore OK; National Christian Press). Pág.243.

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It’s Gotten Personal

It’s Gotten Personal

Almost twenty years ago I started preaching a lesson titled, “7 Reasons We Are Losing Our Children.” I had researched the numbers and knew the statistics. The bottom line was we were losing far too many of our own young people to the world.

personal walk away

Our children are walking away.

While the points made in that lesson are still valid today, I want to give an updated version. You see, they are no longer just number and statistics. They have names and faces. Some have been in our home. Others I met along the way doing Christian evidence seminars. Some were friends with my own children. Others we have grown to know through the years and we love their parents. And yet, the outcome is the same—they have walked away from Jesus.

My background is in science and medicine, so I want to share the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of this modern-day epidemic. And yes, it is an epidemic. I challenge you: Name five young people who graduated from your own youth program who are strong faithful Christians, who are now living a life in service to Christ—young people who have their priorities where they need to be. (My wife and I had trouble naming four.) Friends, I’m not talking about young people who still “punch the Sunday morning ticket.” I’m talking about young people who demonstrate a love for Christ in their everyday decisions.

I will warn you right up front, some parents will likely take offense to what I am about to share. My intent is not to be offensive, but rather, it is to give an honest examination of a very real problem. To give you the truth in love. For far too long we have ignored the signs and symptoms—all the while hoping the latest program or themed-campaign will fix the problem. The beautiful message of Jesus is not about programs or campaigns. It’s about sin, redemption, deliverance, and reconciliation with God!

There will also likely be some church leaders and preachers across the country who don’t care for this article, because deep down they value comfort and peace in their congregations—and they don’t want anyone causing ripples that might have an adverse effect on numbers. Again, I’m not purposefully trying to cause ripples and I am not “aiming” this at any particular congregation or preacher.  The reality is we are losing way too many of our young people and some of the responsibility lies at the feet of church leaders and preachers. Rest assured my motivation is not to cause you grief or problems, but rather to stir your hearts into action. It is time we get pro-active rather than always being reactive.

The Diagnosis

Diagnosis is defined as the identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms. In this case we are talking about a serious spiritual illness in our young people. An honest evaluation of our youth groups across the nation reveals our children are spiritually sick. Here is what twenty-years of examining young people has revealed:

  1. They don’t really love God. They love their boy/girlfriend, their iPhone, their car, their sports, their job, but not God. Ultimately, they never build a true relationship with Him and so there is not much there.
  2. They were converted to the church and not Jesus. They may quickly identify as a member of the church of Christ—because we’ve made “going to church” easy and comfortable. But what happens when they are asked to make sacrifices for Him or give up certain behaviors for Him?
  3. They study the Bible the way they study English or science. Yes, they sit in a Bible class and learn “factoids” about God’s Word, but they are not studying the Bible in order to have their lives changed. They do not comprehend the power of God’s Word.
  4. They just want to belong to a group and be loved. I’ve seen this dozens of times. The child leaves the church because they find a group (i.e., baseball team, sorority/social club, band or theater club, friends at work) who they connect with and believe really cares about them.
  5. They rarely think about their own sin. This should not be a surprise because sermons today are designed to make the listener feel good. Add to this they never see their parents weeping over sin. Also, they have been taught at home to justify their own sin, and point out the sin of others.
  6. They are deeply in love with themselves. Social media has created narcissistic monsters who desperately seek “likes,” “retweets,” and “comments.”
  7. They may obey their parents, but they do not honor and respect them. There is a difference between obeying and honoring. Sadly, this often results from parents who don’t respect themselves and allow children to talk and behave rudely. We are reaping the fruits of this in modern culture.
  8. They don’t fear God. They fear not being accepted by their friends or wearing the wrong name-brand clothing, but they don’t fear the Lord.
  9. They believe the world revolves around them. And rightly so, because their parents have been teaching them this through their actions for years. Their parents have broadcasted every minor accomplishment of the child’s life on social media, and so, of course, they think the world revolves around them.
  10. They have grown up spoiled and are firmly in the world. Affluence has caused them to love the things of the world and it has overshadowed Jesus and the cross. They have not been taught to be content.
  11. They haven’t learned fidelity—to God or a spouse. As a result, they end up forgetting their first love and committing adultery on their spouse. Far too often this is learned from home.
  12. They are not filled with the spirit. Many young people never put on the “new man” when they were baptized. Instead, they walk right back out on the broad way and continue a life of sin, thinking they are saved, simply because they got wet.

The Prognosis

Prognosis is defined as the likely course of a disease or ailment. In this case we are talking about the likely course of spiritual sickness. Unless congregations get serious we will continue to watch church buildings close their doors. It’s already happening in many smaller rural congregations—where the average age of most members is 70. This same trend will follow in the bigger congregations as more and more young people walk away. Below is the likely course that will happen unless changes are made:

  1. Children will do what they think is right in their own eyes (see Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25; and Proverbs 21:2).
  2. Children will not turn their hearts to their fathers (see Malachi 4:6).
  3. Children will not teach their own children (and future generations) the principles and precepts of God. (see Psalm 78:5-7).
  4. Children will not hear the words of their fathers (see Proverbs 4:10; 4:20).
  5. Children will not strive to be holy (see 1 Peter 1:15-16).
  6. Children will not walk in His ways (see Psalm 128:1; Psalm 119:105; 1 Samuel 8:3).
  7. Children will be embarrassed to uphold and defend the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
  8. Children will not be content to stay on the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14). Instead, they will seek the broad way and look for entertainment.
  9. Children will become lovers of the world and enemies of God (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4).
  10. Children will become apathetic and not see religion as relevant in their lives (see Revelation 3:14-19).

The Treatment

Treatment is defined as a session of medical care given to a patient to alleviate illness, injury, or disease. In this case, it would be the steps Christians take to rebuild the spiritual health of our own children. Before I give you some possible treatment options, let me first ask you how far are you willing to go? How much time and energy are you willing to expend? I often hear parents say they would “do anything” to return their children back to the faith. But then when you suggest something like moving to a different city to get their children away from their friends who are involved in drugs, suddenly “do anything” means anything easy. Ask yourself honestly, are you willing to do the hard things? Are you willing to be a radical Christian? Are you willing to swallow the pill to get better, even if it is a tough pill to swallow? Here’s the treatment plan:

  • We often refer to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 when talking about raising faithful children. However, I think we often overlook verse 6 that tells parents that His words shall be in their hearts. Before we can focus on putting it into the hearts of our children we must first make sure it is in our own hearts! This means studying and spending time in His Word outside the church building.
  • We must treat these spiritual conditions with urgency. Rarely do I see people move with urgency when a young person makes a bad choice or starts down the wrong path. I often hear individuals say we need to “just keep praying,” but rarely do they act. Many of these young people are in spiritual ICU, and yet we are treating them casually, hoping a band-aid will fix the problem. If they are spiritually sick then we must act! We need to set up Bible studies. Go to their homes. Take them to lunch. Have their friends over for a meal. Drive three hours to have a conversation. Do it—before it is too late!
  • The church must start weeping over sin and repenting. Our children are not seeing parents who are truly troubled by sin. I spoke at one congregation where they had not had someone “come forward” in over 46 years. Consider for a moment what message this is sending to our children. Additionally, our church leaders must set an example by humbling admitting sin and showing fruits of repentance—because the young people are watching you.
  • We must get involved in their lives. We need to know their friends. Who they are hanging around—and not just at the church building. Because many young people have their “Church friends” and their “School friends.” We need to know who they are dating/courting before the relationship gets too serious.Preachers must start preaching hard/deep lessons and stop giving fluffy cotton-candy sermons. Members need to be reminded that there really is a hell and there really will be a judgment day. Young people need to understand the magnitude of walking away from Christ. Preachers it’s okay for people to occasionally fill like their toes have been stepped on…it may help them make needed changes in their lives.
  • Church members need to hold young people accountable. If they are old enough to obey the Gospel and be baptized, then they are old enough for someone to share concerns if they are straying away from Christ or if they post immodest pictures on social media. They made the decision to be followers of Christ, so they should be held to that standard. After all, we are supposed to be family that cares for one another.
  • Parents must put God first in their homes. Children need to comprehend that their parents love them—but they love God more. This needs to be reflected in actions. God comes before ball games. God comes before Netflix season premiere. Social media posts should not constantly center around your children.
  • Our homes need to be places of prayer. In far too many homes children view prayer as simply a hurdle that must be cleared before they can eat. What message are you sending your child if the only time you pray is before a meal or when disaster strikes? You are telling your children that we don’t need God in our everyday life—we only need Him when things go wrong. We should be praying to God all the time in our homes.
  • Youth programs should not usurp the authority of parents. God commanded parents to train up their children, not a youth minister. As such, youth programs and events should be supporting the parents in doing what God commanded.
  • Parents must yank their children out of the world. The price is too costly to allow them to remain comfortable in the world. The Bible says we make them enemies of God if they become friends with the world. We need to purge our homes of things that tend to separate us from God or cause us to waste time in non-productive ways.
  • Elders need to stop endorsing and supporting entertaining programs. We often defend these as “fellowship” but these programs are making the bride of Christ into a fun social club it was never meant to be. Young people need to be actively involved in evangelism, mission work, and benevolence. Feed your flock and provide them real opportunities to serve Christ.
  • Parents need to remove influences that promote rebellion and pride in their heart of their children. Whether this is television programs, friends, curriculum, etc. it needs to be removed from their lives. God expects children to honor their parents, not rebel against them. Pride is at the root of many of these problems.
  • Parents need to encourage time for their children to “Be Still and Know.” Our lives are so active that often young people do not have down-time to reflect and meditate. Parents need to put away screens and encourage children to have some alone time with God.
  • We must stop using Sunday morning attendance, chapel at Christian school, homeschooling, or Christian college as our measuring stick for faithfulness. Living a life for Christ is so much more than showing up to a building once or twice a week. And sending them off to a Christian academy or Christian college is not what the Bible intended when it commanded fathers to train them up.
  • We must demonstrate an undying love for Jesus Christ. No matter what trials may come, our young people need to see a passion for Jesus Christ.
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Fighting Discontentment

Fighting Discontentment

Much sin originates from discontentment. Discontentment boils down to not being happy with what we have, who we are, or Who God is. What we have are possessions, wealth, health, and family. Who we are is employment, education, intelligence, appearance. Who God is is our religion. When we are discontent, we are saying to God, “I’m not satisfied with You, who You made me, or what You have given me.”


Is your life characterized by contentment?

God wants us to be content with who He is, who we are, and what He has given us. Hebrews 13:5 states, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” God wants the Christian to be satisfied with Him because from Him the Christian receives identity, true religion, and all things.

The church at Corinth was discontent with their relationship with God; they chose to elevate men to the place of God by creating cliques that focused upon personalities. Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” By my belonging to Christ and God, all things are mine through Him.

Discontentment is a lack of faith. In 1 Timothy 6:17 Paul writes, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” God is the greatest giver and He gives richly all things to enjoy; let’s be content with Him.


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