Little Eyes

Sometimes the most sublime truths can be stated in the simplest ways. We have a song that is often sung in our children’s classes and vacation bible schools: “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.” The song continues and speaks about being careful about what we hear, say, do and where we go. Moreover, it is certainly a Biblical principle that we ought to abstain from the lusts of the world (1 John 2:15-17). One of those lusts is “the lust of the eyes.” So, it comes as no surprise to Christians that a recent study done by the RAND Corporation shows that there is a strong connection between teens who watch and listen to sex and sexual talk on television and teens who choose to engage in sexual activity. The study, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, found that teens that watched and listened to sex and sexual situations on television were TWICE as likely to have sex within the next year as teens not exposed to such. To put it in real numbers, one out of every two teens who watch such on television will end up behaving that way.

Gospel preachers and Bible teachers have been sounding the warning regarding the dangers of television for years now. How is it that they have had advanced information on this subject without the benefit of the RAND Corporation’s study? Simply put, the Bible has told us plainly that we are what we think. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” If we allow evil into our heart through the influence of television, then we will allow evil into our life as well. Notice also Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he�.” We are what we think; if we allow evil things to permeate our thoughts, then our ways will be evil as well. Finally, we note what Jesus said on this topic, “But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings: these are the things which defile the man�” (Matthew 15:18-20).

Now, if television can have such a significant affect on the lives of teens when it comes to sex, what about other matters? What about drinking alcohol? What about smoking or using tobacco? What about cursing and using God’s name in vain? What about lying and cheating to get ahead? What are the numbers on these other areas of morality that don’t require a physical encounter with another person, but simply a thought, word, or careless action? My guess would be that the percentage is a lot higher.

When are we going to wake up and realize that we are destroying ourselves with our own devices? Television and movies have an enormous reaching power in our country. They ought to be used for good, not for evil. We saw how television could be used for evil at this past year’s Superbowl half-time fiasco. Voices of good and decent folks around the country were heard in opposition to that filthy display. But it isn’t single events like the Superbowl half-time show that move the hearts and minds of television viewers to practice what they see. It is the litany of daily barrages in the “soaps,” “sit-coms” and evening “dramas” that affect us most. And as long as we allow the television networks to continue to promote such godless activities in our own living rooms, the more debased, degenerate and destroyed we will become as a people. Awake to righteousness! (1 Corinthians 15:34)

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How God Dealt and Deals with Apostasy

In the book of Ezra, chapters 8-10, we read concerning the return of some Israelites to their native land. When they had come out of captivity, they offered sacrifices to God (8:35). From this sacrifice they delivered some to the satraps and governors of the king as a commission. But when they did this, they heard some shocking news from the princes, “The people of Israel, and the priests and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, doing according to their abominations . . .” (9:1). Also we learn, ” . . . yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.” When Ezra heard this, he “sat down confounded.” What was Ezra to do? He did the first thing that any man of God ought to do–PRAY. He prayed to God asking for his help–“And now, O our God, what shall we say after this?” (9:10). He prayed to God praising Him for his mercy and righteousness–“And now for a little moment grace hath been showed from Jehovah our God, to leave us a remnant to escape and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage” (9:8); “O Jehovah, the God of Israel, thou art righteous; for we are left a remnant that is escaped, as it is this day . . .” (9:15)–and Ezra confessed the sins of the nation–” . . . behold, we are before thee in our guiltiness; for none can stand before thee because of this.” But, the apostasy had not yet been corrected. The people were still joined with their foreign wives. However, Ezra’s example of prayer for the nation encouraged others to do something about the problem. Shecaniah, a man of action, told Ezra, “Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise; for the matter belongeth unto thee, and we are with thee: be of good courage, and do it” (10:3,4).

“And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; and that whosoever came not within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the assembly of the captivity” (10:7,8).

It was at this great assembly that Ezra said, “Ye have trespassed and have married foreign women, to increase the guilt of Israel. How therefore (1) make confession unto Jehovah, the God of your fathers, and (2) do his pleasure; and (3) separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the foreign women.” In this statement Ezra gives us three steps out of apostasy.

Make Confession
God has always demanded that his people confess when they have sinned. In Leviticus 16:21, God says to Moses concerning Aaron’s job as high priest, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him, all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins . . . .” In Psalm 32:5 David writes, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity did I not hide: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah; And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Wise king Solomon records in Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.” In Matthew 3:6 as well, we see the example of those who were baptized of John. “And they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” So it is also under the New Covenant. James 5:16 teaches, “Confess therefore your sins one to another. . . .” And in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is an integral part of man’s dealing with his own sin, and when men apostatize the first step back is through confession.

Do His Pleasure
The idea of doing God’s pleasure is simply to do his will, to obey his commands, to follow the teaching of the Bible. In Hebrews 5:9 the Bible says, “And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation.” Salvation is to those who obey. Thus, for one to return from apostasy, which is disobedience, and regain salvation, he must be obedient, he must do God’s pleasure. Further, in Philippians 2:12,13 we read, “So them, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” In this passage, we have a connection between the obedience of man and God’s good pleasure. The relationship basically is: as man obeys God, then God works through man doing his (God’s) good pleasure.

Separate Yourselves
This is probably the area in which most people have a problem. We can understand confession, and we can understand obeying God, but why, they ask, do we have to separate ourselves from our friends, relatives, and especially our spouses? The answer is really quite simple–because God said do it! God’s way has, is, and will always be, the best way. God created man, and he knows each person better than that person knows himself. Let us determine to do things God’s way.

The idea of separation is, however, not new. Notice: “And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Genesis 3:22,23). “And Cain went out from the presence of Jehovah, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 3:22,23). “And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground . . .” (Genesis 6:7). “So Jehovah scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city. Therefore was the name of it called Babel; because Jehovah did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did Jehovah scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8,9). “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:24-26).

Consider also: “Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in they land, lest they make thee sin against me; for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee” (Exodus 23:32,33). “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land wither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee” (Exodus 34:12). “And ye shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall break down their altars. But ye have not hearkened unto my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive thme out from before you; but they shall be a thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (Judges 2:2,3).

Note also: “And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him . . . ” (Leviticus 24:13-16). “The hand of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So thou shalt put away the evil from the midst of thee” (Deuteronomy 17:7). “If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22). “If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and he deal with him as a slave, or sell him; then that thief shall die: so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee” (Deuteronomy 24:7). ” . . . if the witness be a false witness, and have testified falsely against his brother; then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to do unto his brother: so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee. And those that remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil in the midst of thee” (Deuteronomy 19:18-20).

Finally in the New Testament we read, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17). “Put away the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:13). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them” (Eph.5:11). “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the traditions which they received of us. . . . And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. And ye count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14). God expects us to separate ourselves from evil men.

Let us be determined to oppose apostasy in every form. Let us be determined to make confession of our sins when we commit sin. Let us be determined to be pleasing unto God and do his pleasure. Let us determine to put away the evil from among the righteous. “Now therefore make confession unto Jehovah, the God of your fathers, and do his pleasure; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the foreign women” (Ezra 10:11).

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Witnessing for Christ

More and more I hear of members of the church speaking about “witnessing” and less frequently do I hear about members of the church speaking about teaching the gospel of Christ. While the term “witness” is a biblical one and while many people speak of “witnessing” within the denominational world, perhaps we should wonder if the way the Bible uses the term and the way the denominations use the term coincide. Are we as Christians allowing the denominational world to change our ways or are we as Christians seeking to change the ways of denominations? It appears that in this terminology we have allowed denominationalism to take control.

As I look at all the different ways in which the word witness is used in the scriptures, I don’t find a single solitary instance in which it is used in the same way that most religious people use the word today. We see that the apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrection and so was the apostle Paul (Acts 1:22; 4:33; 22:15). The Holy Spirit was a witness to the Jews that the Gentiles were to receive the gospel message (Acts 15:8). God gave witness to the apostles and prophets through miraculous signs and wonders that what they said and taught was true (Hebrews 2:4). John writes that the record that God gave of His Son, Jesus, is the witness that is in us, if we believe that record (1 John 5:9,10). However, we never read of an apostle, prophet, or inspired teacher within the New Testament telling Christians to go out and “witness” for Christ. “Preach the gospel”–Yes. “Witness”–No. Where does this concept come from?

When a member of a denomination stands up and “witnesses” they usually tell of all the “great things” God has done for them in their life. Perhaps they will speak about how God saved them from drugs. Perhaps they will speak about how God helped them get over a financial crisis. Perhaps they will speak about how God helped them become a good father or mother. The witnessing is always “how God personally helped me.” The focus of these “testimonies” is upon the individual’s personal experience. From this, those who are listening to the speaker are supposed to conclude that God will work some kind of personal experience for them as well and that they are supposed to come to believe in God based upon this “testimony.” Notice, however, that the faith that is generated by these “testimonies” does not come from God’s word, but from someone’s personal, subjective experience. Herein lies the danger; the Bible says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Those who stand up and give personal “testimonies” and “witness” for God are doing the world no favor. They are not preaching the word of God–they are preaching their own subjective, emotional experiences. They are causing people to believe something other than the word of God, and that is NOT biblical faith.

Perhaps someone might say, “Well, the Holy Spirit is really the one who is witnessing.” No doubt, this is what many believe today who participate in this kind of thing. However, the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion according to 1 Corinthians 14:33 and the Holy Spirit wrote Romans 10:17. Now is the Holy Spirit going to say that faith comes by hearing the word at one point in time and then turn around and say that faith comes by doing something OTHER than hearing the word at another point in time? For someone to say such would be indicting the Holy Spirit of a lie. Either faith comes by hearing the word of God or it does not. Either the Holy Spirit told the truth when He said that faith comes by hearing the word of God or these people who are “witnessing” today are lying. I will stick with Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Why would Christians get caught up in such foolishness? Do they no longer believe that faith comes by hearing the word of God? Do they believe that their simple personal stories are more important than the story of the cross? Do they believe that God’s saving power lies within their own personal experience as opposed to the resurrection of the Son of God? Let us, as Christians, put away such speech from our vocabulary. Let’s believe what the Bible has to say about how faith comes and resolve to preach God’s word instead of exalting our own personal experience above the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Let us resolve not to know anything save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Let’s resolve to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).

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