Family and Friends – What Are They?

Today is our fifth annual Family and Friends day at the Berryville church of Christ. We’re glad you’re here, whether you be family or friend! The Bible tells us both what is a family and what is a friend. I hope that you will take the time to study some of these things this week and consider God’s revelation regarding these roles.

What is a family? In the beginning God defined for us what constitutes a family. We read in Genesis 2:21-24, “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” At the minimum, a family is a husband and a wife. Into such a union children may then be born or adopted and extend the family. Eventually, however, the children will grow up and move out creating their own families. This then becomes the extended family. However it all ought to begin with one man and one woman.

There is an ongoing effort in our world today to redefine what we know as the family. We are told that a family can be anyone or anything that one loves. There are efforts to have same sex families. There are efforts to have families composed of man and beast. There are efforts to have families composed of multiple wives or husbands, or both! All of these efforts to redefine what God has defined as a family fail to meet God’s standard. God created the family to be composed of one man and one woman and that is God’s ideal. We ought not then apologize to the many who do not meet this standard if we are to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). Instead, let us glorify God for His great wisdom that He has given regarding the family and live according to His will in that regard. God’s way is always the best way.

What is a friend? Proverbs 17:17 declares, “A friend loves at all times….” A friend is someone who is there through thick and thin. He is someone who never gives up. He is someone upon whom you can always depend. A friend loves you whether you love him or not. There is not going to be a circumstance in which he will stop loving. That’s a true friend. Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the ultimate sacrifice that a friend will make for another friend to show the greatness of his love.

The world has also sought to redefine the term friend. Today, many define a friend as someone who always encourages me to do what I want regardless of the consequences. Many consider someone their friend only if he supports all of their choices and decisions whether right or wrong. The Bible, however, tells us a different story regarding friendship. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Those who would encourage us regardless of our choices are no true friends.

Some may also define friendship in terms of what another can purchase. In other words, one will be another’s friend so long as the gravy train doesn’t run out. Such “friendship” isn’t based upon loyalty or love, but upon selfishness and covetousness. The Bible says, “….every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts” (Proverbs 19:6). If every man is our friend, then we’ve really made no true friends at all. Our society today needs true friends, not the fickle favor of feckless frolickers. We need friends like are discussed in Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Friends ought to love us when we truly need to be loved, question us when we need to be questioned, and correct us when we need to be corrected whether we want them to or not.

Family or friend, God has given us instruction on what he expects out of these roles in our lives. Let us learn what God wants us to know and believe and make the appropriate application. Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). May God bless you as you seek to know and do His will.

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Why Have Some Called Us a “Cult?”

This past Wednesday night in the high school class, one of our astute and observant high school students asked me why some are calling us a cult. After the death of Matthew Winkler, there were several in the media who were seeking to “analyze” the situation. One Nancy Grace on CNN invited a Baptist “pastor” to come and answer some questions. During this interview, the “pastor” said that the church of Christ was a cult like religion. While he didn’t come out and call us an outright cult, there are others who do. Why do some refer to the churches of Christ as a cult?

First, there has been some confusion between the churches of Christ and the International Churches of Christ which is the former Boston Movement, a.k.a. Crossroads Movement. While the ICOC had its origins among churches of Christ, their practices were not consistent with what we practice and they rapidly became identified as a separate religions group. Some of their practices included a one man leader type system in a hierarchical pyramid style organization. They also held to the practice of “prayer partners” where one would confess sins to a “higher” Christian. These confessions would then be used to manipulate the “lower” Christian into the “correct” behavior. With such mind manipulation techniques and a single charismatic leader many correctly identified them as a cult. Unfortunately, the distinction between the ICOC and the “mainline” churches of Christ was not so clear in the minds of observers. One government document in the 90s identified the “Church of Christ” as the most rapidly growing cult in the United States. In that same document there was a footnote that identified “churches of Christ” as the ICOC or Boston Movement, but this was not commonly understood. This failure to understand the difference between these two bodies has contributed largely to the confusion that many today have.

Second, many in the denominational world consider us a cult because of our teaching regarding the one nature of the church. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that that one body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). The denominational world identifies this body as all of the denominations. However, this is not how the Bible identifies Christ’s body. The Bible teaches that the one body of Christ isn’t divided into denominations (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), but united under a single doctrine (Ephesians 4:1-6) and that Christ expects his church to have unity based upon this doctrine (John 17:20-23). That’s not the picture of the church that we find in the denominational world today. Denominationalism teaches that one may believe any of various different doctrines so long as one doesn’t condemn any other denomination. Such a picture of the church is foreign to the teaching of scripture which demands like-mindedness in doctrinal matters (Philippians 2:2). Thus, because churches of Christ teach that denominationalism is sinful, divisive, and aberrant to the New Testament’s teaching regarding the nature of the church, denominationalists can only respond with the accusation that we must be a cult regardless of what our practices are. In essence, what they have done is defined the word “cult” to mean anything other than acceptance of the denominational world, a definition of convenience at best.

Finally, because the churches of Christ teach the necessity of baptism prior to salvation, denominationalists level the accusation of “cult” against us. It doesn’t matter to them that the Bible itself teaches the necessity of baptism prior to salvation in such passages as Mark 16:15, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-11, Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 2:11-13 and 1 Peter 3:21. So in essence, this is the classical logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (attack the man or in this case, the church). In essence the argument is, “Don’t believe that baptism is necessary for salvation because they are a cult and cults can’t be believed!” There is no effort to deal with the actual issue of what the Bible plainly teaches. In essence, they label us a cult because they can’t refute what is plainly taught in the scriptures and what we believe.

It is sad that denominational leaders and people outside of the church will blindly accept such accusations and criticisms without investigation, but that is exactly what occurs. The Lord’s church has experienced such criticism since its inception (Acts 24:5, 28:22). Even Jesus was accused unjustly (Matthew 9:34). We, however, as the church, ought not to let such unwarranted criticisms move us away from the truth of the scriptures; we have truth and it sets us free from the shackles of denominational teaching and practices, which practices are rapidly leading the denominations into the acceptance of immorality in our day and age. The church of Christ is not a cult regardless what others say. Let us continue to hold fast to the truths of scripture regarding the nature of the church, the plan of salvation, and religious practices that are pleasing to God and not man (Galatians 1:10).

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Look Forward! Go Forward!

I suppose I have to offer my apologies to my father-in-law for the title of this article. You see, this is one of those things that I learned from him several years ago. It is something on which I have heard him preach on several occasions. But the sentiment is so very true that it simply demands being repeated on occasion and especially on days such as today, the first day of a New Year.

The year 2006 is before us. 2005 is dead and gone and will never return to us. There is no point in going back and worrying about the mistakes, problems, difficulties, trials, and temptations of 2005. No, to do that would be to needlessly focus upon the past. That

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