Labels

By Kevin Cauley

On the outside of an old fruit crate sitting in my office is a label: “Liberty Brand / Grown and Packed by Escondido Lemon Assn. / Escondido – Calif. / Sunkist.” I understand that these fruit crate labels today are collectors’ items, though this one has been damaged to the degree that it wouldn’t be all that valuable. Nevertheless that label had a purpose. It identified the original contents of that crate, the grower, packer, and the brand name of the distributor.

There are some people who do not like labels. Usually these are individuals who do not want to be characterized as subscribing to a particular point of view, though they do. I had a professor in college who refused to be identified by the label of his philosophy, though, that was his philosophy. A life certainly can’t be described in one word. However, I believe that he missed the point. A label isn’t supposed to tell you everything about a person’s life. It tells you what is responsible for that person’s beliefs. My lemon crate label tells me who is responsible for the product. So also, certain labels tell us what is responsible for the beliefs and decisions made in an individual’s life. Let’s consider for a moment our lives as crates. What we have in our crates are our beliefs and decisions. What label would we put on our crate?

Some would have to put the label “hypocrite” on their crate. The outside of their crate appearing pure, but the inside being full of wickedness. This is what Jesus labeled some of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” Hypocrisy had become the characteristic that was most responsible for how these men lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some would have to put the label “lawless” on their crate. Seemingly there are more and more individuals in society today who behave as if there are no standards of decently and morality by which we must live. Jesus said about such individuals, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness)” ( Matthew 7:23). For these individuals, lawlessness had become the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some, however, could put the label “honest” on their crate. Some individuals in the world, when confronted with God’s truth, have the integrity to listen and respond appropriately to God’s word. Jesus said of such individuals, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” ( Luke 8:15). For these individuals, honesty became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

Some also could put the label “faithful” on their crate. These are individuals who believe the gospel and live by it, refusing to hide their talents, and by using their abilities bring increase to the Lord’s kingdom. Jesus said of such individuals, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” ( Matthew 25:21). For these individuals, faithfulness became the responsible characteristic by which they lived their lives, and so they were labeled.

There is one label by which I wish to be recognized when my life is done: Christian. If it can be said of me that I magnified Christ, that I exemplified His words to those around me, that I honored and glorified Him in His church on a regular basis – if it can be carved upon my headstone, “He was a Christian” – then it will be enough. There are many today who take that name and denigrate it either through verbal castigation or through hypocritical living. May such never be said of us who desire that holy label.

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The Silence of the Scriptures

By Kevin Cauley

“I don’t understand the concept of the silence of the scriptures.” This is an increasingly voiced sentiment. However, we do understand the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures to some degree. For example, take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” This is a positive command. Jesus didn’t have to explain who NOT to remember. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t remember Abraham. Don’t remember Moses. Don’t remember Joshua. Don’t remember David. Don’t remember Hezekiah. Don’t remember John the baptizer.” I don’t know of any religious group observing the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of anyone but Jesus. Would it be sinful during the Lord’s Supper to remember someone other than Jesus? Yes. That shows a basic understanding of the silence of the scriptures.

It is not difficult to apply this same principle to other areas of worship. When it comes to singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, the New Testament doesn’t equivocate. The passages that speak of music in the church are limited. None mention instruments. All mention singing. Conclusion! The positive command regarding music in the church is: “Sing!” No one denies this. All agree that singing occurred. So why conclude that singing only is God’s desire? The scriptures are silent on the use of instruments.

Is that silence permissive? Is that silence prohibitive? Can the scriptures answer these questions? Yes. The examples of Nadab and Abihu teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Leviticus 10:1-2). God’s commands to Noah to build the ark teach that God’s silence is prohibitive ( Genesis 6:22). Silence prohibited the church at Corinth from calling themselves Paulites ( 1 Corinthians 1:13). Silence prohibited Jesus from being a priest under the law of Moses. ( Hebrews 7:14, says “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.”) Silence prohibited the exaltation of angels to positions of divine authority ( Hebrews 1:5, 13). In each of these examples God’s positive commands limit what may be done. “This do in remembrance of me.” No explicit prohibition is further necessary.

When we consider that man is not authorized to do anything he wants to do in worship ( John 4:24), that worship becomes meaningless when we elevate human tradition (i.e. the use of instruments) to doctrine in worship ( Matthew 15:9), that we cannot approach God in worship with a display of our own righteousness ( Romans 10:2-3), and the prohibitive nature of the silence of the scriptures, we conclude it is sinful to worship God with the instrument.

May we strive to make our worship pure, holy, and acceptable to God. May we prostrate ourselves before His majestic throne with glory, honor, and thanksgiving. May we have the utmost spirit of humility as we contemplate His sovereignty, magnificence, and beauty ( Revelation 4). May we realize that we are created for His pleasure and we do not live to serve self in offering worship ( Revelation 4:11).

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Setting Priorities as Adults

By Kevin Cauley

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the bus ministry was a really strong work among churches of Christ. On many of the buses would be a sign that said, “J.O.Y.” It didn’t take long to learn that J.O.Y. stood for Jesus-Others-You. “Jesus first, others second, yourself last” was the popular mantra. It was a good way to teach a basic set of priorities to the kids. This is still a great reminder for us today about where our priorities should be. But we’ve grown up now. As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” As we’ve grown older and learned more about the complexities of the world, we’ve learned that there is a plethora of distractions that we face each day that, in essence, challenge that basic priority structure. The mound of items through which we sift only grows larger as we gain more responsibility in the world and increasingly distracts us from true priorities. In order to survive in such a din we must move beyond simply knowing the mantra to identifying our behaviors and appropriately prioritizing our time and tasks.

Several years ago I had the privilege of studying the Stephen Covey course “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” and also studying his course “First Things First.” There are three illustrations that I took away from those classes that really exemplify the need to set priorities in our life. 1) The clean and green story about how Mr. Covey sought to get his son to keep the yard in good shape. It taught that you’ve got to have clear goals and break bad personal habits to get things accomplished. 2) The rocks in the container story about how you put in big rocks in a container first so that you can fill what’s around them with the little rocks. The big rocks were the important things in life. The little rocks were simply little unimportant things that just took up time. The only way to get the big rocks in is to put them in first. 3) Answering the telephone in front of someone in your office when you don’t know who it is simply tells them that an unknown entity is more important than they are. The most important person is the one who you are with.

So, what do these things have to do with priorities? God must be our first and most important priority ( Matthew 6:33). God wants us to be “clean and green” and that means not sloughing off on the job that we have to do as Christians but having clear goals and objectives to work toward ( Romans 12:11). God wants us to set priorities in our life and then organize our time and our tasks so that they reflect those priorities and not allow the little details to overwhelm us ( Colossians 3:1-17). Those things can wait until some other time when a priority comes around. Finally, God wants us to understand that the most important person is the one that we are with, Him! He’s with us all the time ( Hebrews 13:5). Of course, when we are with other people we need to let them know how important they are to us as we seek to teach them the gospel as well ( Philippians 2:3). We can just as easily impress them with how unimportant we think they are by our bad behavior as we can by our good behavior.

Behavior is really the key here. We behave like we believe. If we put other things before God, then we betray what our true beliefs are. Our behavior has to change when it comes to setting and keeping priorities priorities in our lives.

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