An Obedient Universal Faith

An Obedient Universal Faith

The book of Romans is a letter sent from the apostle Paul to the Christians of Rome.  It opens up declaring the Gospel had been long promised.  The Gospel by definition means “good tidings” or “good news”.  The prophets which had promised the good news tied it to universal blessing (Genesis 22:18), to a future prophet king (Deuteronomy 18:15, Jeremiah 23:5-6), a new covenant identified by forgiveness (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and a pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32).  Paul declared the good news to be about Jesus, the Son of God, who fulfilled all the expectation and prophecy which had been foretold.  It was by the authority of Jesus that all of the apostles including Paul received the charge of their apostleship.

There is one road of the Faith.  Will you walk it?

There is one road of the Faith. Will you walk it?

What was that charge of the apostles? Matthew 28:18-20 as well as Mark 16:15 are the common passages utilized to explain the charge of the apostles.  Authority is there bestowed by Christ to baptize and preach the Gospel to all creation.  Recall of Christ’s teachings would be essential so that there would be unity of teaching.  This is why Jesus sent the promised Spirit (John 16:13, 2 Peter 1:21). Paul declares to the Romans: “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.  That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Romans 1:11-12).  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are what enabled the first century to provide the unadulterated truth to mankind and establish the Church throughout the world.  Once the Gospel was written down, man could properly refer to God’s Word with knowledge and confidence and the gifts would no longer be needed.  However, during the era of Paul’s writing, God’s written Word was not in the hands of men.

Paul mentions the charge of apostleship in Romans 1:5.  What was the purpose of the charge?  “for obedience to the faith among all nations”.  If the Holy Spirit through the hands of the apostles enabled the one faith (Ephesians 4:5) to be taught, then the apostles and the Church would indeed have a mutual faith.  They would be able to go beyond being “children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness…” (Ephesians 4:14).  This one faith would enable mankind to be obedient to the direction of God.  If you know what the faith is, you can follow it.  If you have a roadmap, you can get to your destination.

It can be understood that charge of sharing the Gospel did not end at simply providing the one truth.  When Christ established the Gospel charge, He said in regard to the teaching of the world, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”.  Hearing and not obeying is a deception of self and not what God desires (James 1:22, James 2:17-26).  It is the equivalent to proclaiming you are going on a journey, but never taking a step. Paul establishes in Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith”.  I suggest “to live” is not merely an ending point, but also a journey.  I John 1:7 declares: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  The charge of the apostles was to baptize which forgave sins (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-7) and then to instruct a walk of faith which results in the continual cleansing from sin.  The good news of Paul was the power of salvation to all mankind.  It meant man no longer had to walk with the weight of sin upon his shoulders.  Christians have been freed from sin!  It was the Gospel that truly provided eternal life (John 3:16, James 1:21).  Boldly embrace the Gospel and freely walk in it to the journey’s end.

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A King Like No Other

“Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?”

The sixth chapter of John records that day when the tide of popularity turned against our Lord. That first year of the public preaching of Jesus was characterized by multitudes following Him. John shows just how popular He had become, and early in this chapter we read that they were about to take Him by force and make Him their king.

Jesus had no desire to be an earthly king.

Jesus had no desire to be an earthly king.

Think about the motive many of them had for wanting a king like Jesus. He had just fed 5,000 men. This number did not include the women and children, so there likely were more than 10,000 fed that day. Who would not want a king who would feed you so that you would never have to work again? They wanted an earthly king. How did Jesus respond? John described the events of that day so vividly. “When Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone” (v. 15). He had no desire to be a king sitting on an earthly throne in Jerusalem.

The next day, they learned that He was several miles away from the site of the feeding of the multitudes, and they rushed to where He was. Look at what Jesus said to them. “Most assuredly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (v. 26). He knew their hearts. They were not interested in the signs showing His divinity. They only wanted the free food He gave them. So, when He told them that He was the living bread who came down out of heaven, they complained. They thought that because they knew His mother and father who had raised Him in Nazareth there was no way He could have come down out of heaven. Jesus went even further that day in His teaching.

When He told them that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood there was no way for them to be saved, it was more than they could accept. Their response was, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it” (v. 60). The tide of popularity changed. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (v. 66).

Jesus even asked His closest disciples if they were going to leave, and Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

What a lesson for our world to learn! If we turn away from Jesus, where can we go? Yet, in religions today, many have tried to change the King and make Him a king that suits them. They ignore what He said and design “Christian” lifestyles to please themselves.

Think about Peter’s question. To whom shall we go? There is no other way than His way!

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Tolerance? Why?

Tolerance? Why?

We live in a very tolerant culture, and it seems to be growing more tolerant by the day. Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to put up with those practices or opinions contrary to those held by one’s self. We are told we need to tolerate just about anything and everything, no matter how vile, depraved or unwholesome it is. Who are you to judge, is the cultural standard.

Under what circumstance is tolerance expected?

Under what circumstance is tolerance expected?

Here is a blunt and controversial thought, but one very biblically sound: God, as described in the Bible, is not a tolerant God. He does not agree to disagree with people, and His standards are absolute. Consider the evidence presented in the Scriptures…

1) The wrath of God is revealed from the heavens against the unrighteousness and wickedness of men. (cf. Romans 1:18)

2) God commands all men everywhere to repent because there is coming a day in which He will judge the world. (cf. Acts 17:30-31)

3) The wicked and the unrighteous are not allowed into God’s Kingdom (cf. Matthew 5:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21).

4) Those who refuse to repent of their sins and change their ways, who continue in those sins, will be condemned eternally. (cf. Revelation 21:8)

This understanding of God is perhaps best summarized by the prophet Habakkuk who said, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,and cannot look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13a; NKJV).”

This “intolerance” of God towards sin is one of the reasons so many people in our day and age have a problem with the Bible and what it teaches. We have become so hammered by the belief that nobody has a right to criticize or judge another, that we try and apply that same standard to God, refusing to acknowledge that the Creator has the right to have certain expectations of the creation.

Here, however, is another thought: God, as described in the Bible, is a very patient God. This is to be expected as the Bible tells us that God is love, and also that love is patient and longsuffering. (cf. 1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4)

Tolerance and patience are not at all the same thing. Tolerance is a willingness to accept what one finds disagreeable. Biblical patience is the willingness to continue working towards a particular goal. In the case of God and man, the goal is change; not the changing of God, who is unchangeable, but the changing of man into what God wants man to be.

The Scriptures teach: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Notice first of all that the promises of God are valid and to be taken seriously. In the context of 2 Peter 3, the apostle is talking about the promise of judgment. If God says He is going to judge the world, we should trust His veracity. It will happen. But it hasn’t happened yet, and the reason is God’s patience. God wants to give men an opportunity to repent and change.

Repentance is a change of heart and mind which leads to a change of action. God cannot tolerate sin. He demands we change. He commands repentance of sinful men. (cf. Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3) But He is patient with us to allow us the time and opportunity needed for us to change. He is doing His best to encourage us to make the changes.

More than this, God is not tolerant of sin, but He is very merciful towards sinful men who are willing to repent and turn themselves around. God says, “if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.” (Ezekiel 18:21-22; NKJV)

In this mercy and goodness, God sent Jesus to be the propitiation for the sins of men, creating a channel of mercy in which men can be saved. (cf. John 3:16; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 4:10)

We should not deceive ourselves. God is not a modern thinker, willing to tolerate anything and everything men choose to do, giving the same His tacit approval. The unrighteous cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. But God is patient and merciful and God wants to save you. And He has worked to make that salvation possible.


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Jesus Desired Baptism

Jesus Desired Baptism

Jesus never told anyone not to be baptized.  There are some religious people today who will go where Jesus never went.  They will tell you that you don’t need to be baptized to be saved.  This was not Jesus’ attitude toward baptism.

What did Jesus think about baptism?

What did Jesus think about baptism?

In fact, when He went to be baptized, John tried to tell Him that He didn’t need to be baptized, and Jesus rejected John’s statement saying,

“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

Even Jesus saw the necessity to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness.”  This means that if Jesus hadn’t been baptized, He would not have fulfilled all righteousness.  Jesus also rebuked those who refused baptism.  He said in Luke 7:29-30,

“And when all the people heard, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”

After Jesus was raised from the dead, He told His followers to go make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20).  He also said,

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

Jesus even supervised the baptisms of perhaps thousands of people.

“Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)” (John 4:1-2).

This last passage implies that a person couldn’t become a disciple without being baptized.  Yet, in light of all of this evidence, many today will say that baptism is unessential.  What Jesus are they following?  Let’s follow Jesus and not the opinions of men.  God bless you, and I love you.

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Preachers… Listen Up!

Preachers… Listen Up!

This article is aimed primarily at those folks in the church who are referred to by themselves and others as preachers.  In other words, the men who are financially supported by a local congregation(s) to give either some or all of their professional lives and careers to the ministry of preaching and evangelism.

Why do they preach?  What is their desire?

Why do they preach? What is their desire?

It’s ironic that this article is written for this particular group of brethren in the church, considering that:

  1. A biblical case could be made that God wants all Christians to be preachers in some form or fashion (1 Pet. 2:9).  (That’s a whole different subject, though…)
  2. The topic of this article applies in some ways to all Christians, regardless of their job or title in the church.

What is the topic of this article?  It can rather nicely summed up in something that Jesus said to the Pharisees on one occasion.

These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (Matt. 23:23b)

The topic of this article is something that most if not all preachers struggle with:  balance.  Having balance in one’s life so that one gives adequate amount of attention and work to ALL of one’s responsibilities.

Preachers, what is your job description?  Now, before you go hunt up your contract so you can see all the bullet points under “Job Description,” let me clarify.  BIBLICALLY, what is your job description?  What job description does GOD give to you?

Is it to mow the grass at the church building and fix the leak in the baptistry?

Is it to be the 24/7 on-call “catch-all” for the member’s problems, complaints, and concerns?

Is it to be the church’s sole “representative” at the hospital for all emergencies and sicknesses?

Is it to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”?  (2 Tim. 4:2)

Is it to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”?  (1 Tim. 4:12)

Is it to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”?  (Eph. 4:11-12)

And for those preachers who are married and who are fathers…

Is it to “LIVE WITH YOUR WIVES in an understanding way”?  (1 Pet. 3:7)

Is it to “bring (your children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”?  (Eph. 6:4)

I think you know where I’m going with this…

We have a problem in the church.  That problem is manifested when a member of the body of the Lord, the church for which he died, tells the preacher whom his contribution goes to financially support, “Bringing the gospel to the lost, visiting the sick, building up the brethren, growing in knowledge of the Bible, being a good example, bearing other’s burdens, taking part in the work of the church…all of those things are YOUR responsibility, not MINE, because that’s what I PAY you to do!”

A few members have actually verbalized this to preachers.  However, many more say it in different ways, through their actions.

Like when the preacher is the only one called or expected to be at the hospital for any and all emergencies…even though the Bible says that elders are the ones Christians are to call when they are sick (James 5:14).  Oh, let’s also not forget the fact that Jesus spoke of ALL CHRISTIANS visiting the sick and afflicted…as a PREREQUISITE OF GOING TO HEAVEN, NO LESS (Matt. 25:31-46).

Like when the preacher is the only one contacted when there is counseling about sin that needs to take place…even though the elders of the church are the ones cited by God to be the shepherds who are watching over the souls of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17).  They would be the ones to whom Christians would primarily need to turn about their sin, because they are those Christian’s shepherds/pastors…not the preacher.

I could give more examples, but you get the picture.  Preachers, this is a serious matter.  Christians who do not wear the title of preacher, this is a serious matter.  Here’s why…

As shown above, God wants preachers to primarily preach the Word and always be ready to do so.  That requires lots of study of God’s Word.  That also requires lots of time every week to put in to sermon prep, Bible class prep, and one-on-one Bible study prep.  That also requires going out into the community to look for opportunities to bring the gospel to the lost.  All of this requires time.  Time which the preacher has less and less of when he runs here and there being the primary go-to guy for every church crisis and responsibility that comes along.  So that means that his sermons and Bible classes will suffer in quality from lack of enough preparation and he will not be finding as many lost souls to reach with the gospel as he should.  But preachers know this, and don’t want that to happen because they love preaching and love souls so much.  So they’ll go the extra mile if they’re worth anything.  However, what THAT means is that something else is put on the backburner…namely, their families.  More on that in a second…

First, here’s another reason.  As shown above, God also wants preachers to set a good example to their fellow Christians.  That means that the preacher will in fact visit people in the hospitals and be involved in various works of the church…but not because he’s the preacher.  Not because he’s the church’s “representative” in the ER.  No, because he’s a Christian, and as a preacher he’s to set the example for other Christians TO FOLLOW.  Notice that last part, Christians.  “TO FOLLOW.”  Church-goers, pew-warmers, examples are there for you TO FOLLOW.  In other words, get thee to the hospital thyself…if you want to go to heaven, that is.  If you do, then get there before the preacher does or meet the preacher going out as you’re coming in.  If there’s a vigil in the waiting room, be there with him.  Follow his example in growing in Bible knowledge.  Follow his example in bringing people to Christ.  Follow his example by being involved in the work of the church.

With that in mind, consider this.  As shown above, God wants preachers to join with pastors (elders) and teachers in using the inspired writings of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  In other words, preachers, elders, and teachers (a biblical case could be made for deacons also – 1 Tim. 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-6) are to get every member of the church involved in the work of serving the church.  That’s how you build up the church.  Preachers, do you want your church to grow?  Christians, do you want your church to grow?  Wonder why it’s not happening like you want it to happen?  Maybe it’s because preachers are taking on too much of the work themselves while too many members of the church are being pew-warmers instead of hard workers.  Never mind that the biblical formula for church growth is spelled out rather clearly: 

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  (Eph. 4:15-16)

In other words, church, every single one of us…not just the preacher or even primarily the preacher…must do our part.  All of us must grow in every way to become like Christ.  All of us – the whole body, the entire church, every single member – must work properly.  That’s how the church grows.  IT…the church…builds itself up, not the preacher.  The preacher just equips the church to do so (and he’s not the only one who does that, either.  Elders, deacons, Bible class teachers…pay attention.)

When that doesn’t happen, preachers…more specifically, when you ALLOW it to not happen because you decide to allow yourself to be the go-to guy for absolutely everything church-related…you and your family suffer.  Here’s what I’m talking about…

Ever hear about the stereotypical “P.K.” (Preacher’s Kid)?  You know, about how your typical P.K. is a real terror, a wild cannon, a real “prodigal son”?  Well, setting aside the fact that lots of P.K.’s are fine Christians not deserving of that stereotype, let’s concede that there are some P.K.’s out there who are some real horror stories.

Oh, and what about the stories we’ve all heard about the preacher who has an affair, usually with a woman he’s counseling?  Or the stories of the preacher’s wife who gives into the temptations and flirtations of that nice man she works with and starts an affair with him?  Or how the marriages of some preachers dissolve into divorce regardless of whether adultery was involved?

Granted, who knows all of the factors that lead into these sad states of affairs?  However, more times than not there’s one factor that keeps on popping up in each of these scenarios, preachers.  One underlying reason behind the prodigal P.K.’s, the affairs with the sisters in the church, the unfaithfulness of wives, and the breaking up of marriages.  You know what it is.

The preacher allowed himself to spend too much time away from his family by spending too much time in the work of the church.  He took on too much responsibility at church, some of it biblically legitimate but more of it illegitimate due to trying to please everyone, and so he wasn’t there to “live with his wife” and “bring his children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” as God wanted him to.  He tried to save the world and help the church all by himself and lost his family in the process…and by doing so he ended up hurting the church and not doing a thing to save the world anyway, because saving the world is not his job (it’s God’s) and helping the church is something that he can’t do by himself (God doesn’t want him to do by himself anyway).

This brings us back to the necessity of balance, preachers.  You have to have balance.  You have to realize that God wants you to be a family man in addition to a preacher.  You have to realize that even as a preacher God wants you to not do it all by yourself, but rather set the example and equip others in the church to join in the work themselves.

So you have to balance your time and your priorities.

You have to decide that every day you are going to spend time…QUALITY TIME…with your family, being the spiritual leader in the home.

You have to decide that on most days you’re going to spend time…QUALITY TIME…in the Word and prayer as you prepare lessons and sermons, and other time…QUALITY TIME…in looking for lost souls to teach.

You have to decide that you’re going to take at least one day per week to spend time…QUALITY TIME…in relaxation and recreation with your family, your friends, and even by yourself at times.  Why?  The purpose of “recreation” is to “re-create,” i.e., re-charge.  Before you go off talking about how that’s a waste of time and lazy, remember that Jesus did it (Mark 6:30-32) and the Bible teaches that there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1ff).  God knows better than you.  Don’t burn out.  Take some time to re-charge.

You have to decide that you’re going to set aside some time per month…QUALITY TIME…in setting the proper example to Christians by not only visiting the sick and being involved in various church works, but more importantly equipping other saints to join you in those same works for their spiritual benefit and yours, and so that the church will grow as it should.

Balance.  That’s the key, preachers.  You have to have balance.  Examine yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5), and re-arrange what needs to be re-arranged.  Let go of what you’re doing that isn’t BIBLICALLY required, and put more focus onto what God DOES require of you.

It’s a constant challenge, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.  Your soul is worth it.  Your family’s souls are worth it.  The souls of the brethren are worth it.  The souls of the lost are worth it.  The church for which Jesus died is worth it.

What did you say, Jesus?

These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (Matt. 23:23b)

Print that out and put it where you can see it everyday, preachers.

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