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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