Measuring Spiritual Progress

Our society is fascinated with measuring things. As early as kindergarten children are taught to use a ruler and think about weight. Physicians measure children’s height, weight, and circumferences at the time they are born and then at regular checkups. With adults, they measure blood pressure, pulse, and temperature each time you visit. We are fascinated with measurements in the weather: humidity, highs and lows, dew points, and wind speed and direction. In business all kinds of things are measured: sales, quotas, employment, terminations, production, etc. And let’s not even get started on how many things the government measures!

Considering how many things can be measured, do we stop and think about measuring our personal spiritual progress? I’m sure that someone, somewhere might say, “You can’t measure that!” Can we? The fact of the matter is that anything that we may be motivated to do spiritually can be measured and God gives us plenty of spiritual activities in which we are to be engaged. Consider some of the following questions compiled by a Christian friend of mine who lives in Ohio:

  1. Have you made all Sunday morning services this year? (Hebrews 10:25)
  2. Have you taken any notes at church this year? (2 Timothy 2:15)
  3. Did you review your notes later at home? (2 Peter 1:13-15)
  4. Did you share your notes with someone else? (Mark 16:15)
  5. Have you visited those in need, the elderly, the sick, the orphan? (James 1:27)
  6. Have you purchased outside study material this year? (2 Timothy 4:13)
  7. Have you attended any gospel meetings this year? (Acts 20:7)
  8. Did you read your Bible last week? (1 Timothy 4:13)
  9. Have you handed out any tract information this year? (Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Do you attend mid-week classes when your child has sports? (Matthew 6:33)
  11. Do you think about the words during congregational worship? (1 Corinthians 14:15)
  12. Have you ever missed Sunday Evening services for the Superbowl? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  13. If your church holds a gospel meeting, are you there? (Hebrews 3:13)
  14. Do you sing out loud with the congregation or mumble through? (Colossians 3:16)
  15. Do you pray each day? (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  16. Did you read your Bible every day this month? (Acts 17:11)
  17. When was the last time you taught a class at church? (Hebrews 5:12)
  18. When last did you study the Bible with someone, outside of Church? (Acts 8:4)
  19. When was the last time you helped clean the building? (Philippians 2:3-4)
  20. In the past, when relatives have visited, have you skipped a service? (Matthew 16:24-26)
  21. Do you prepare for your classes before attending? (1 Peter 3:15)
  22. When you travel, do you attend a mid-week Bible study? (Acts 28:15)
  23. When you travel, do you attend more than once on Sunday? (1 Peter 1:22)
  24. Do you study the Bible each day with your children? (Ephesians 6:4)
  25. Do your children have a regular Bible study schedule? (Deuteronomy 6:7)

These questions are not designed to make anyone feel guilty for not engaging in such activities. Neither are they designed for us to measure our own righteousness and tout that above others. These are personal questions to be answered privately by each individual, to motivate us to examine our level of spiritual health and encourage us to become more spiritual. Each of these questions are supported by scripture that they are things that we need to be doing. Some of them are specifically enjoined; others are enjoined generally. We can measure our personal level of spiritual involvement if we are open, honest with ourselves, and willing to abide by the word of God (2 Corinthians 13:5). I want to encourage each one of you to take some time this week and go through this list and pick a few things upon which to focus so that your life can be more spiritual. This exercise is between you and God; there will be no test given by the elders or the preacher; there will however be a final exam one day.

This article written in cooperation with Travis Main.

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The Lord’s Supper – The Christian’s Holy Meal

Recently in a ladies Bible class we were discussing things considered holy today. Our study was centered upon the Valley of Achor where Achan took of the devoted thing and desecrated it (Joshua 7). One of the discussion questions at the end of our study was as follows: “How is it possible for us to sin today as Achan did? How is it possible to desecrate what God declares as holy?” I asked the implied question to the group, “What do we consider holy today?” The first response I received was, “The Lord’s Supper.”

The thought of desecrating that which is holy also brings to mind the story of Nadab and Abihu. After their tragic deaths, God tells Aaron to “put a difference between holy and unholy and between clean and unclean” (Leviticus 10:10). The principle proffered here is the same presented to Peter in Acts 10:15 “What God has cleansed, that call thou not common.” Desecration of that which is holy has always brought divine disapproval and condemnation.

With these things in mind, the comment in ladies Bible class reflects an understanding by all Christians which transcends both time and culture: The Lord’s Supper is holy. It is a sacred feast sanctified by Christ and set by the Holy Spirit in the annals of apostolic authority. So sacred is this supper within the thoughts of early Christians that when abuses of it were reported at Corinth, Paul deals with these abuses in a clear and convincing manner. The Lord’s supper was not to be made common or subjected to such a context. In fact, the actions of the Corinthian church were not even acknowledged by Paul as an instance of this holy meal (1 Corinthians 11:20). Today, unauthorized innovations within the Lord’s Supper should cause us to reflect upon the mistakes of the Corinthians and to preserve its holy and uncommon nature.

The apostle’s call was for the Corinthians to abandon the common and respect the holy. To observe the Lord’s supper the Corinthians needed to recognize that when they came together as the church, they transcended the common family relationship and common meal (1 Corinthians 11:22). By fostering the familial distinctions they despised the church. Feeding one’s family was to occur within the home where common meals were appropriate. In contrast, within the church a spiritual feast should occur. It is not a feast of the body, but of the soul. It is not for physical nourishment, but for spiritual edification. The emphasis is not upon physical quantity, but spiritual quality.

Even with the clear discussion Paul gives regarding the observance of the holy feast there is still some confusion today regarding its institution within the context of the Passover meal. Does this imply, as some have suggested, that the communion is incomplete without the context of an additional fellowship meal? To the contrary, the Lord’s supper is not to be observed as supplemental to the Passover feast, but in substitution of it.

To the Jewish mind, the Passover was a holy observance that memorialized the atonement of their firstborn and their redemption from Egyptian bondage. The paschal lamb itself was not looked upon as merely a holy feast, but an atoning sacrifice made to God. In place of the life of the firstborn, God allowed them to substitute the life of a lamb. The blood of the lamb was to be placed upon the lentil and they were then to roast it and consume it. The consumption of the lamb was to be accompanied by unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was to be wholly consumed by every member of the family and whatever remained was to be burned with fire (Exodus 12:1-20).

The suggestion some have made that Jesus, in instituting the Lord’s supper, borrowed from the Passover and reinterpreted the elements is inconsistent with His fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17). In contrast, it is consistent to say that He made application of the elements in the context of the perfect Paschal Lamb–His own atoning sacrifice. (Is this not how he partakes of this meal in His kingdom today? [Luke 22:16, 18]) The context of the Passover meal becomes moot to the Lord’s Supper because Christ as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8) replaces the sacrificial and atoning lamb; His sufferings replace the bitter herbs (Isaiah 53). Remembrance of the redemption of Egypt becomes remembrance of our redemption from sin through the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:28). We consume not the flesh of the sacrificial lamb of the Passover, but the body and blood of the sacrificial Lamb which is Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). And just as the sacrificial lamb was to be wholly consumed by every member of the family, every member of the body of Christ is to partake of the supper without division (1 Corinthians 11:18). The Lord’s Supper as representative of the ultimate passover of the sins of man through Christ replaces and transcends the Mosaic meal (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8).

Why some will want to inculcate elements of a common meal or elements from a dead system of atonement into the sacred supper of the Savior mystifies me. The Lord’s supper is holy. Efforts to innovate this divine communion will only result in God’s displeasure. May we seek to respect God’s ways and make the appropriate distinction between the holy and the common.

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The Original

The trip to De Leon, Texas was productive on a number of levels. I had a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my grandmother both going to De Leon and on the return trip. She lives in Graham, Texas, just south of Wichita Falls.

My grandmother’s maiden name is Daily and I had opportunity to see the grave site of the original Daily’s that moved to Texas sometime in the 1860s. The couple were James and Susan Daily. James was born in 1834 and Susan was born in 1843. They married in 1859 and moved to Texas from Mississippi sometime in the 1860s. They were buried in the Farmers cemetery outside of Loving, Texas. They were the original Texas Dailys.

Just south of De Leon, Texas about 10 miles, is the town of Dublin. Dublin has the distinction of being the place where the popular soft drink Dr. Pepper was first bottled. It had existed merely as a fountain drink prior. Moreover, in the mid 1900s, the price of cane sugar went up and most companies changed to corn syrup as the primary sweetener in their drinks. The bottling company in Dublin, however, did not; they stayed with the cane sugar. To this day, they continue to bottle the original Dr. Pepper.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, Upon this rock, I will build my church. It was on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 that the original church of Christ began. Today, there are many churches in existence. How do we know which one is the original?

The Catholic church claims that it is the original due to descendency. That is, they claim that they are the original because they descended from the original. Such might be a reasonable argument were membership based upon blood-line. However, one doesn’t become a member of the church by physical birth, but by spiritual (John 3:3-7).

This means that the only way to know the original church isn’t by descendency, but by formula. It is those churches who follow the original formula for Christ’s church today that are the originals. We can know that we are the original church of Christ when we follow the pattern that is set forth in the scriptures for the church (2 Timothy 1:13) for the seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11).

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God Has Given! Will You Receive?

Before the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses spoke to them to encourage them to remain faithful to God. This series of speeches that Moses gave are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Near the beginning of the book Moses says the following: “The LORD your God hath given you this land to possess it” (Deuteronomy 3:18). After Moses had died and the people were about to go into the land to possess it, Joshua told them, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Joshua 1:13). The land that the children of Israel were to live on had been given to them by God; it was the gift of God. Yet, they still had an obligation to go in and take what was given to them. If they had turned around and went back to Egypt, they would not have received the gift that God gave to them.

Shortly after the children of Israel entered the land, they came upon the walled city, Jericho. In the ancient world, a walled city was a particularly formidable thing to conquer unless an army was prepared to wage a long campaign. But God said to Joshua, “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour” (Joshua 6:2). God had given Jericho to Joshua and the children of Israel. Yet, the children of Israel had to take the city. They were given special instructions about marching around the city once each day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. After that they were to blow their horns and shout and God said the walls would come down and they could go straight up into the city and conquer it. The city of Jericho was the gift of God, but if the children of Israel had not obeyed God, then they would not have received God’s gift.

In Ephesians 2:8 Paul writes, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” There are many today who say, “Salvation is God’s gift to man and so there is nothing that one must do to be saved.” Of course many say that one has to “believe,” but they turn around and say that “belief” isn’t a work that you do (regardless of the fact that Jesus said it was � see John 6:29). These fail to take into account the fact that Israel’s land was a gift of God yet Israel had to take that gift; they had to receive it. So also it is today; the salvation that God gives to man through Jesus is a free gift! That concept, however, doesn’t do away with the fact that God expects us to obey Him in order to receive that gift. In fact, the Bible teaches that obedience is necessary for one to be saved. In Hebrews 5:9 God’s grace teaches, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Indeed, salvation has already been given for those who obey.

What must we do to receive salvation? After having heard God’s word we must believe it (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6). We must then repent of our sins (Acts 17:30). We must then confess Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32,33; 1 Timothy 6:12-13). We must then obey the command of Jesus in Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:19 to be baptized. It is at that point that we receive God’s gift of salvation as Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-11, Colossians 2:11-13, and 1 Peter 3:21 teach. Praise God that salvation is a gift! Praise God that we can receive that wonderful gift through our obedience and be saved!

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Offending and Being Offended (Part 1)

The word “offence” is used in the KJV of the Bible in one form or another some 73 different times. Out of those occurrences, 23 are found in the Old Testament and 50 in the New Testament. In the New Testament, the vast majority of these instances are from a word which means to cause another to stumble. Sometimes the word refers to clear cut cases where sin is involved (cf. Matthew 13:41, Romans 4:25, Romans 16:17). Sometimes the word refers to offences that cannot be avoided due to preaching God’s truth (cf. Matthew 13:57, 15:12, John 6:61, Galatians 5:11, 1 Peter 2:8). Sometimes the word refers to matters of personal preference that others believe to be sinful (Romans 14:20,21, 1 Corinthians 8:13, 10:32). Basically, the word means to cause another to be upset or troubled through either our words or our actions whether justified or not. The definition, however, is not the problem; we generally know when we have been offended. The question we need to ask is: what do we need to do when we offend and are offended? In this week’s article we will look at the subject of offending others and in next week’s article we will look at being offended by others.

First, it ought to be mentioned that the Christian is going to live his life in a way to try to unnecessarily avoid offending others. This principle is found in Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” The Christian’s desire is to be at peace with all so that God’s truth may be taught and Christ seen in his life and this involves avoiding any actions or words that would unnecessarily offend others. Paul wrote, “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3). This is also the underlying principle behind avoiding actions that cause someone else to do something that they believe is sinful. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” In the context of these passages the offence is a matter of personal preferences that would cause any individual to sin or reject the gospel. Certainly we never ought to allow our own personal tastes to hinder one from being saved! So, the Christian must live in a way that avoids unnecessary offences.

Second, it is quite impossible to live the life of a Christian and not offend someone by doing that which is right! There is no wholesale prohibition in the scriptures to ever offend anyone regardless of what the circumstance is. In fact, the scriptures presume that many are going to be offended by the teaching and preaching of the gospel. Jesus offended people by telling them the truth (Matthew 13:57, 15:12); Jesus even offended his own disciples (John 6:61)! Yet not once did Jesus apologize for telling the truth. In fact, in Matthew 15:12, after his disciples told him that the Pharisees had been offended by him, he said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:13-14). The Christian ought not to be concerned about offending someone because he is teaching or preaching the truth so long as that truth is being taught in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Third, another cold and hard fact is that we are going to say or do something wrong that causes someone else to be offended. James wrote, “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). In this case, when we commit sin and do something wrong, it ought to be obvious that we ought to apologize and ask for forgiveness both from God and the one whom we offended (see 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16).

It ought to be the hallmark of the Christian life that very few are offended with him, even of those who are opposed to the teaching of the gospel. Let us make this our aim and put into practice a life void of offence. When we do offend, let’s make sure that we quickly recognize it and make the appropriate corrections.

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