Preaching to the Spirits in Prison

Preaching to the Spirits in Prison

I Peter 3:18-20

Introduction:

  1. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” 1 Peter 3:18-20 (King James Version).

Discussion:

A common interpretation of this passage is that those who lived during Noah’s time and died in a lost condition were imprisoned in Hades (specifically Tartarus, the realm of the wicked). It is believed that, during the time between Christ’s death and his resurrection, Christ went to these people and preached the gospel to them.

This cannot be correct for a number of reasons. First, the spiritual condition of a person when he dies is the same as his spiritual condition at the time of the general resurrection. While death is followed by judgment (Hebrews 9:27), there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that those who have died are ever given an opportunity to repent.

Second, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that the realm of the dead includes a great gulf between the evil and the righteous. Luke 16:16. This gulf is “fixed” and does not allow for passage from one area to the other.

Third, Why would Jesus preach only to those who lived in Noah’s day? Why not preach to everyone who died prior to Christ death? God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:3) and wants everyone to repent and be saved (II Peter 3:9).

Fourth, just minutes before Christ death, Christ told one of the thieves he would be with him in Paradise. (Luke 23:4)

What then, does I Peter 3:18-20 teach? Christ was made alive in the spirit, in which, during the days of Noah, he preached to evil people whose spirits are now (at the time of Peter’s writing) imprisoned (or confined) to punishment in Tartarus.

How did this preaching take place? The same way it takes place today – through men. In the context of I Peter 3, the preaching took place through Noah (a preacher of righteousness, II Peter 2:5). In connection with I Peter 3, notice I Peter 1:11, where it is said that the spirit of Christ was in the Old Testament prophets.

When someone does something through the agency of another person, it can be said that he (the first person) did it. For example, Nathan told David he killed Uriah. (II Samuel 12:9). Yet we know David did not personally take a sword and kill Uriah. But, because David arranged for Uriah to be killed, it can be said that David killed Uriah. In the same manner, because Christ preached through Noah, it can be said that Christ preached to the spirits in prison.

What lessons can we learn from the text?

First, people today, just like in Noah’s day, are saved through the medium of God’s word. James wrote that we are to receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save our souls. (James 1:21). No one has ever been saved from their sins without first hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17).

Second, God is patient. The statement from Genesis 6:3, “yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years,” would seem to refer to the time Noah would spend building the ark. During this time, Noah was preaching to the lost and pleading with them to repent. Today, God is patiently pleading for people to repent. (II Peter 3:9).

Third, today, just as in Noah’s day, few will be saved. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14).

    Conclusion:

    1. What’s important for us to remember from this passage is that Christ died for us so that we might be made righteous before God, cleansed of our sins, and live life on this earth with hope of an eternity in heaven.

    David Crosby Thinks Heaven is Overrated

    David Crosby, a founding member of the music groups “The Byrds” and “Crosby, Stills and Nash” (which later became “Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young” died Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at the age of 81.  Several news sources have reported that, just hours before his death, he went on Twitter and, speaking of heaven, said, “I heard the place is overrated……cloudy”

    When I first read his statement I wasn’t sure what to think.  Was it an attempt at a joke?  If so, it was a very bad joke.  Was he seriously expressing how he felt?  If so, how sad! Was this really his idea of heaven?  If so, how misinformed.  My own thought centered on two ideas.  One, it is impossible to overrate, or overstate, the beauty of heaven.  Two, it is impossible to overstate, or exaggerate, the pain of the alternative – an eternity in hell.

    First, consider the beauty of heaven.  In heaven, we will be with God forever.  The apostle Paul wrote, “13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”  I Thessalonians 4:13-17.  Christians experience fellowship with God now.  In heaven, we will be in the presence of God.

    In heaven, there will be neither sadness or sorrow.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4. God will wipe away all tears.  The burdens of this life will have all passed away.

    In heaven, there will be no more sin.  “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:27.

    In heaven, the redeemed will be able to “enter into the joy of their Lord.” Matthew 25:21

    In this life, men may often say, “All good things must come to an end.”  Not so in heaven for heaven is eternal! “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:46.

    On the flip side, it’s impossible to overstate the pain of hell.

    Hell is where Satan and all his angels will be.  “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matthew 25:41.

    Hell is described as the second death.  “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation 20:14. Just as death always involves a separation, the term “second death” implies those in hell will be forever separated from God and His people.

    Those doomed to hell will spend their eternity with murderers, the sexually immoral, hypocrites, the detestable and liars. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.

    Hell is a place where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:51. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is a figurative expressing indicating the intense pain felt by hell’s inhabitants.

    The pain of hell will be eternal.  “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:46. When experiencing pain in this life, we can find some degree of comfort in knowing that it will end.  Not so in hell!

    This list is certainly not exhaustive.  But it should be enough to answer the question, “Is heaven overrated?”  Is heaven overrated?  Not at all! 

    Heaven is where I want to spend eternity.  And it’s where I want everyone reading this to be!  Thankfully, God has not left us in the dark as to how we can have that heavenly home.  We must all believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, having willingly died on the cross as the only sacrifice that can provide forgiveness of our sin (Romans 10:9-10).  We must come to a recognition of our sin and repent of our sin (Acts 17:30).  We must then confess our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior (Romans 10:10) and be baptized into order to receive the forgiveness of our sin (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:27; I Peter 3:21).  We must then live a life of faithfulness of God.  What a tragedy it is to see those who were once faithful decide to forfeit their salvation (II Peter 2:10; II Peter 2:20-22)!

    Where Do You Look to Find Jesus?

    Where do you look to find Jesus today?  Where is he?  No, that’s not a trick question.  It’s a simple question with an easy answer.  But, before we answer that question, we’re going to take a few minutes to see where different people have looked for Jesus in the past.

    Let’s begin with the shepherds in Luke 2:8-16 – “8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”

    Of all the births that have ever taken place, Christ’s birth is without a doubt the most significant.  It surpasses all others.  Christ’s birth was a fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy.  Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6. 

    This was nothing less than God coming to earth to live in a physical body.  Notice from John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  In verse fourteen of that same chapter we find the following – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” 

    I’m thankful Christ was born.  If Christ had never been born you and I would have no other option but to hopelessly live in our sin.  But if I could go back to that same manger today, I wouldn’t find Jesus.  He’s not there. 

    Next, consider the wise men as they search for Jesus.  Pay close attention as we read Matthew 2:1-11.  You may find that things didn’t take place quite like you thought.  Or at least, not quite like you’ve always heard they did.

    “1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:1-11.

    Did you notice where they wise men found Jesus?  Not at the manger, as is so often portrayed on Christmas cards.  Not at the manger, as is so often depicted in the displays in people’s yards at Christmas time.  Notice verse 11 – “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary.”  This was some time after Christ was born.  Some say it may have been about six weeks.  It’s very likely may have been close to two years after His birth.

    Yeah, but you may be thinking, “I thought the wise men came to the manger, bringing gold, frankincense and myrhh.”  I can see how you thought that too.  After all, it’s what you’ve always heard.  If you hear something often enough and long enough, you may start to believe it.  But when you study the Bible yourself, you may find a lot of things you hear are not in the Bible. 

    Now let’s consider Joseph of Arimathea and where he looked to find Jesus. Let’s read from Luke 23:44-56 – “44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. 47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. 48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. 49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. 50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”

    Verse 53 says Joseph took him down, meaning he took Christ down from the cross.  I’m thankful for the cross.  I believe if we are going to get closer to God, we need to get closer to the cross.  Meaning we need to always meditate on the things that took place at the cross.  To never let the events at the cross slip from our mind.

    But, while I worship the one who was on the cross, I don’t worship the cross.  While we may sing the words of the old hymn, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,” we understand that we don’t cherish the cross itself.  We cherish the one who willingly went to the cross. And I certainly can’t go back to the cross and find Jesus.

    Next, let’s read Luke 24:1-2 and see where Mary Magdalene and others went to find Jesus.  “1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.”

    Can you imagine how these women felt when they found the tomb empty?  When they found the stone had been rolled away? When they saw Jesus body was gone and then saw two men in shing garments (undoubtedly angels) they were afraid.  They knew Jesus died.  These women knew Jesus had been placed in the tomb.  But now, he wasn’t there!

    Notice verse five as the angels ask, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”  A tomb is where you expect to find dead people.  But Jesus was alive!  Notice verse six, “He is not here.  He is risen.”  I’m thankful Jesus is risen!  When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he said if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised and we would not be raised either.  But Paul went on to say that Christ was raised and His resurrection makes our resurrection possible.  Jesus taught that one day all who are in the grave would be resurrected.  “28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29.  ALL are going to be raised, the righteous unto eternal life and the unrighteous unto damnation.

    Some want to celebrate the empty tomb at certain times of the year.  And yes, I’m thankful the tomb was found empty.  I can’t go back to the tomb and find Jesus.  He’s not there!

    Where is Jesus now?  Where should I look to find him?  Let’s read Acts 1:9-11 – “9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  He’s in heaven of course!

    Peter wrote that Christ has gone on to heaven and is now at the right hand of God. I Peter 3:22. Because Christ has all authority, angels, authorities and powers are subject unto him.

    I Timothy 6:15 teaches us that Christ is now serving as Lord of lords and King of kings. 

    Christ’s birth, His resurrection, His empty tomb, and His ascension to heaven is of no benefit to me unless I willingly submit to His authority as King of kings.  All these things are of no benefit to me unless I allow Him to be Lord of my life – unless I willingly conform my life to His will, allowing Him to make me what He wants me to be!

    Where do you look to find Jesus?  He’s in heaven at the right hand of God, now serving as Lord of lords and King of kings!

    When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I See the Power of the Blood

    It frees us from the bondage of sin. It takes the dark, crimson stain of sin and makes it white as snow. It makes peace with God possible. It’s what makes the forgiveness of our sin possible. What can do all this? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

    Christ’s blood has a power found in no other blood. No wonder we sing the sing “There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” Listen to find three characteristics of Christ’s blood that give it its wonder working power.

    When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I See the Obedience of Christ

    What do you see when you look at the cross of Christ? A simple outline of a body hanging on the cross? A cross made of rough pieces of wood? Do you see the crowd as they gathered out of curiosity around the cross watching the events take place? There’s much more than this to see when you take time to survey the wondrous cross.

    The New Testament Church

    It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 different religious groups in the United States. Yet, the New Testament speaks of only one church. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). What was this one church like? Does it exist today? If so, can we find it, and how? Let’s consider the following points.

    First, the New Testament church was built according to a pattern. A pattern is something to be duplicated, or copied. Just as God provided a pattern for the ark of Noah’s day and the tabernacle of Moses’ day, he has provided a pattern for the church. Notice Paul’s words from Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” Also notice from II Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

    Second, the New Testament church was built according to prophecy. Joel prophesied that it would be built in the last days when the Spirit was poured out. Joel wrote, “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions; And also on my menservants and on My maid servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls” (Joel 2:28-32). Daniel prophesied that Christ’s kingdom, the church, would be built during the days of the Roman kings (Daniel 2:44). Isaiah also prophesied concerning the time when the church would be built. “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths, For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1-4). We read in Acts 2:1-47 that all this came about, just as the prophets had prophesied. Notice Acts 2:16, where Peter speaks, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”

    Third, the New Testament church was a part of God’s eternal purpose. Paul wrote, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:8-11). Some, such as those who teach the doctrine of premillenialism, perceive the church to be an afterthought, a “Plan B” if you will, that was concocted after Jesus was rejected by the Jews. But this idea is contrary to what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

    Fourth, the New Testament church was built by Jesus Christ. Jesus promised, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus is the church’s foundation and chief cornerstone (I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:19-22). Jesus shed his blood for the church. Notice Paul’s exhortation to the elders at Ephesus, recorded in Acts 20:28. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with His own blood.”

    Fifth, the New Testament church had a specific organization. Jesus Christ is the head of the New Testament church (Ephesians 1:22-23). A plurality of elders, or pastors, are appointed to oversee local congregations (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7). They are required to meet specific qualifications (I Timothy 3:1-7). Deacons are to be appointed as servants of the church (Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:8-13).

    Sixth, the New Testament church had a specific pattern of worship. They met on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:1-2). They observed the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis (Acts 20:7). They worshipped in prayer (Acts 2:42). They sang praises to God (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16-17). This was done without the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music. The New Testament church was edified by the preaching of the gospel (II Timothy 4:2-4). Those persons who were members of the New Testament church gave of their means financially on the first day of every week (I Corinthians 16:1-2). This giving by the members of the church made it possible for the church to carry out its work.

    Seventh, the New Testament church had a work to do. They had a responsibility to preach the gospel to the whole world. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20.) Also notice Jesus’ words in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The church served as the pillar and ground of the truth (I Timothy 3:15). The church had a role in helping to edify those who are saved (Ephesians 4:12). The church had a responsibility to help the needy, both those who were Christians and those who were not. Paul wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10.) Notice James’ words James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

    Eighth, the New Testament church was united. There were no different denominations, there was simply one church. Can you imagine Peter being a Catholic, Paul a Methodist, John a Presbyterian, James a Baptist, Mark a Lutheran, and, well, you get the idea. But the current situation of our day is no more acceptable to Christ than it would have been in the days of James, Paul, or Peter. The phrase “churches of Christ” in Romans 16:16 simply refers to individual congregations of the Lord’s church, not a variety of different denominations, each going by a different name and teaching a different doctrine. The Bible condemns the division that exists in the religious world today. Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, of I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1:10-13). Jesus prayed that all those who believed in him would be united. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me” (John 17:20-21). How were Jesus and the Father united? How were they one? By simply agreeing to disagree? By agreeing to recognize their doctrinal differences? Not hardly. They were one in their thought and in their teaching.

    False teachers in the early church were marked. “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

    Ninth, the New Testament church maintained the divine standard of morality. Works of the flesh were condemned. Paul wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

    Those who walked disorderly were withdrawn from. Paul wrote, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (II Thessalonians 3:6). To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person” (I Corinthians 5:11).

    Members of the New Testament church were known by their love for one another. “Now all who believe were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47).

    Tenth, those who were in the New Testament church had a common hope. They realized they were “strangers and pilgrims on this earth” (I Peter 2:11). Their citizenship was in heaven. Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven, form which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

    Eleventh, the New Testament church had specific conditions of membership. Prior to becoming a member of the New Testament church, a person had to hear the gospel. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). He had to believe the gospel (Mark 16:16). He had to repent of his sins (Acts 2:38). He had to confess his belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-33). A person became a member of the New Testament church when he, or she, was baptized into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). This baptism we read about in the New Testament was an immersion in water (Romans 6:4-5). This baptism was for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). It was through baptism that a person was placed into Christ, where all spiritual blessings are located (Ephesians 1:3). Paul wrote, “For you are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

    Twelfth, members of the New Testament church continued to have Christ as their Advocate, High Priest, and Mediator (I John 2:1-2; I Timothy 2:5). “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

    What do we learn from all of this? In the Bible, we read of only one church. All those who were saved were members of that one church. Christ’s one church was built according to the pattern. In order for the New Testament church to exist today, we must adhere to the patter given in the New Testament.

    Are You an Atheist?

    Are you an atheist?  “Well, of course not,” you say.  “No way would I be an atheist! I know that God exists.”

    “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)  This verse is often used to teach that a person who does not believe in the existence of God is acting foolishly.  I couldn’t agree more!  A person who says there is no God is a fool.  But, is that really what Psalm 14:1 teaches?

    If you read further into Psalm 14, you’ll notice the psalm describes the fool’s behavior; he is corrupt, he has done abominable works, there is none that doeth good, they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy.   Also notice that reading Psalm 14:1 from the King James Version, the words “there is” are in italics.   This italics indicates these words were not a part of the original text but were inserted by the translators to help convey the meaning of the text.  Without these words, Psalm 14:1 would read, “The fool hath said in his heart, no God.”  Is the fool in Psalm 14 one who denies the existence of God?  Or is he one who, in rebellion, lives as if there is no God?  Is his conduct such that it fails to convey his belief in God to others?

    Let’s look at three passages where men believed in the existence of God, but acted like atheists.  First, from the book of Exodus, chapter 14.  When the Pharaoh found out that God’s people were fleeing from Egypt, his heart was turned against God and he decided to pursue God’s people.  When the children of Israel saw the Pharaoh and his army coming after them, they became very afraid the – KJV says they were sore afraid.  They thought they simply had no way out – no way of escape.  Their backs were to the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was quickly drawing closer to them.  They began to chastise Moses – “Why didn’t we stay in Egypt?  Why did you take us out here just to die in the wilderness?  Were there no graves in Egypt?” 

    Now notices Moses’ response from Exodus 14:13-14 – “13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

    What was wrong with their thinking? They wondered why Moses took them to where they were, yet they were exactly where God had led them.  They thought the Red Sea was an insurmountable object, yet God led them right through it.  They saw nothing in store for them but death and defeat.  Oh, they believed in the existence of God.  But they were acting as if God was unaware and uncaring about their situation.  They had no faith that God would deliver them through their hardship.  There were acting like atheists.

    Keep reading and you’ll find out that God parted the sea, allowing His people to cross on dry ground.  When the Egyptians followed after them, God brought the waters together again, overthrowing the Egyptians in the sea.

    Sometimes, life can throw us a curve.  It may be financial struggles, health problems, marital problems, or difficulties with our jobs.  You and I can experience such hardship that we see no way out.  We feel hopeless and helpless.  We still believe that God exists, but we forget that He is always there to carry us through life’s struggles.  You might say we become practical atheists.  Oh sure, we believe God exists, but we act as if there is no God.  But remember, God may not take you around your Red Sea, but He will part it for you and carry you through it.

    Next, consider Matthew 6:25-33 – “25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    In verse 24, Jesus said that no man can serve two masters; he will hate the one, and love the other.  He went on to say “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  The word mammon refers to material gain or financial profit.  Among Jesus’ audience there must have been some who placed unnecessary thought on the things of this world.  Jesus assured them that God would take care of them, just as He cares for the fowl of the air.

    If we’re not careful, we can take on this same attitude today.  We can become overly concerned with the things of this world.  We take on a desire for material gain because of our concern over meeting our simplest needs. Someone stays up late at night, unable to sleep because they are worried about making a living.  With prices going up the way they are, how will the bills be paid?  Have you been to the grocery store lately?  Prices are out of sight!  How will I be able to keep food on the table?  Then there’s the unexpected visit to the hospital, doctor or dentist.  How am I supposed to make ends meet?

    Sometimes we forget that God is there the whole time, taking care of us. We believe God exists, but we act as if He doesn’t – we act like atheists. 

    Next, let’s look at James 4:13-17 – “13 Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

    James wrote about a man who had big plans.  This man was going to start a business venture and, over the coming year, make a big profit.  But this man needed to be reminded that his life was a vapor that was here for a short while and then vanishes away. Sadly, in his boastings, the man left God out of his plans.  He should have been saying, “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.”  James describes this attitude – boasting of the future and leaving God out of our plans, as evil.  It reminds me of Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

    Now notice verse 17, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  I have often heard this verse used to teach that there are sins of omission.  That is, we sin not only by the things we do; we can also sin by the things we do not do.  While this may be true, I don’t believe this is what this verse is teaching.

    The ESV translates James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  I believe this conveys the meaning of James 4:17 more clearly.  If boasting of our plans, while leaving God out of our plans, is evil, then the “good” of verse 17 would be to include God in our plans.

    Sometimes we can make great plans for our future, but leave God out of our plans.  When it comes to planning our future, we believe God exists but sometimes act as if He doesn’t.  We act like atheists!

    Although we believe God exists, we act like He doesn’t when (1) we forget that he will help us through the struggles of life, (2) when we forget that He will provide all of life’s needs (3) when we forget to include God in our plans.

    Now do you understand why I began by asking the question, “Are you an atheist?”

    If you say, “of course not!  I’m not an atheist, then make sure you don’t act like one.

    A Look Back at Pride Month

    Pride Month is celebrated annually in June in honor of the Stonewall Riots.  The riots, lasting for a period of six days, took place at the Stonewall Inn, in New York, and were a violent response to police raids of gay and lesbian bars.  Many historians state that it was the real beginning of the Gay Rights Movement. Stonewall Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, was made a landmark by New York City in 2015, and was declared a National Monument by the National Park Service in 2016.

    The federal government first recognized June as Pride Month in 1999 when President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” In 2009, President Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. On 1 June 2021, President Joe Biden declared June LGBTQ Pride Month.

    June 2021, designated “Pride Month,” by many, has come and gone.  Consider just some of the things that took place this last month.

    The National Park Service chose to honor those in the LGBTQ+ community, stating “The rich histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) Americans are pivotal in telling a more complete history of the United States.”

    The National Football League produced a video declaring that football is gay.  The thirty second video declares their support for the gay community.

    Kellogg” s released its “Together With Pride” cereal, resembling heart shaped fruit loops with edible glitter.  One of the cereal characters is waving the pride flag.

    Mattel has produced a set of Uno playing cards called the “Play With Pride Edition.”  The cards have a rainbow design that celebrates the LGBTQ community.  The cards are advertised for players seven years old and up.

    Apple has produced a line of watches featuring faces with rainbow colors.

    Lego, makers of toy building blocks for young people, has produced a set called “Everyone is Awesome.”  It features eleven colors inspired by the rainbow flag.

    What was once recognized as sin is now considered by many to be an acceptable lifestyle.  The media now recognize the homosexual lifestyle as a valuable contribution to diversity.  Even many of those in the religious world are now recognizing same sex marriages.  Some even allow homosexuals to serve as “pastors.”

    With all of this in mind, let’s see what the scriptures have to say about homosexuality.

    From the Patriarchal Period.  Genesis 19:1-11 “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.  When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.  And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.  And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.  But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house.  Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.  Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.  And they called to Lot and said to him,  “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.  So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly!  See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.  And they said, “Stand back!”  Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.”  So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.  But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.  And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.”

    While some try to make the men of Sodom guilty of nothing more than inhospitality, the objective, unbiased reader of the Bible is forced to conclude that God destroyed the men of Sodom on account of their sinful practice of homosexuality.  It is noteworthy that when Lot urged the Sodomites not to do “so wickedly” he was accused of being judgmental.

    From the Mosaic Period. Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

    From the New Testament. Romans 1:26-32 “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;  who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

    Notice from this text that not only is God displeased with those who engage in homosexual behavior, he is equally displeased with those who support such behavior.

    Also consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 –  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    It is often said that “God made them that way. They were born homosexuals.”  Not true! Homosexuality is a learned behavior. Consider Genesis 18:25 along with Leviticus 20:13.

    Genesis 18:25 – “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

    Question: Would God make someone a homosexual from the time of his birth and then require him to be put to death because he was made that way?

    It is true that someone may have certain dispositions toward homosexual behavior.  (Example: as a result of childhood sexual trauma, inadequate parental relationships or permissive training as a child).  However, that is entirely different from saying someone was born a homosexual. No one is born a homosexual and none of these dispositions change the fact that homosexuality is sinful.

    As Christians, what should we do about the issue of homosexuality?

    First, don’t compromise. More and more, homosexual activists demand complete and total acceptance of their lifestyle.  If a person refuses to accept the homosexual lifestyle he is labeled as a homophobe, mean spirited, unloving, hateful or bigoted. Yet, I refuse to accept the homosexual lifestyle. We need to remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:10-11 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  We need courage to speak where the Bible speaks.

    Second, reach out to homosexuals with the gospel.   They need to be made welcome to hear what God says about homosexuality.  They need to know that God loves them and has shed His blood for them, just as He shed His blood for everyone else.

    Third, we need to understand and teach that homosexuals can change.  Just as homosexuality is a learned behavior, homosexuals can also learn a better behavior.  Can a homosexual be saved from his, or her, sins?  Of course!  Notice the following from I Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  Many of those who previously practiced homosexuality had now changed!  They separated themselves from this sin and were washed of their sin. 

    The blood of Christ has the power to cleanse man of any and every sin he has committed.  But no one can be saved from his sin as long as he persists in his sin and refuses to repent.

    The Lord Will Fight For You!

    The book of Exodus begins with God’s people, the Israelites, in Egyptian bondage. God heard his people’s cries of despair and called Moses to deliver the Israelites out of their bondage. Of course, the Pharaoh refused to let the people go. However, after the plagues, the Pharaoh eventually let the people go. After doing so, the Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued the Israelites. Let’s consider several points from Exodus 14:10-31).

    First, consider the people’s restlessness (14:10-12). As the Israelites were against the Red Sea, they saw the Egyptians approaching. Feeling trapped, they had an “I told you so attitude.” They forgot that God was in control.

    Next, consider Moses’ reprimand (14:13-14). Moses commanded the people to fear not and stand still. Moses assured the people that the Lord would fight for them. When we are experiencing the trials and difficulties of this life, we need to remember that we do not have to endure our trials alone! God is on our side (Philippians 4:13).

    Third, consider God’s reassurance (14:15-18). God assured Moses that, while the Israelites would be able to cross on dry land, their enemies would be defeated (I Corinthians 10:1-11).

    Fourth, consider the people’s rescue (14:19-22). It is significant that God did not lead his people around their obstacle, but through it. Perhaps when we are praying for God to remove certain difficulties from our lives, we ought to be praying for the strength to endure those difficulties (James 1:2-4).

    Fifth, consider the enemies’ resourcefulness (14:23-25). Despite having experienced the plagues and witnessing God’s power first hand, Pharaoh and his army refused to give up! Pharaoh is a tragic example of one whose pride and worldliness prohibited him from yielding to God’s will. Likewise, Satan is persistent in his pursuit of God’s people (I Peter 5:8). When we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). But we can be sure he will be back if we give him opportunity.

    Sixth, consider the recognition of God (14:26-31). When the children of Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore, they feared God and believed Moses. When the sea overcame the Egyptians, they also believed. Unfortunately, for them it was too late.

    What is the “Red Sea” in your life?  Whatever difficulty you are trying to conquer, stand still and let the Lord fight for you!

    Don’t Let Your Roots Grow Too Deep!

    Imagine someone who has lived in several towns, perhaps even countries, over a period of only a few years.  Maybe he, or she, was in the military and was stationed at a number of different bases in various parts of the world.  Perhaps their job required them to be transferred to different cities.  Whatever the reason for their frequent moves, they look forward to the time when they can “put down roots.”  You’re familiar with that phrase, aren’t you?  To “put down roots” simply means to move to a place where you want to live and settle down.  You make new friends and become involved in new activities there so that it starts to feel like home. 

    Does that sound like a good idea to you?  It can be.  But I would add this one caution: don’t allow your roots to grow too deep, for you will not be here very long!

    Too often we spend our time and effort focusing on this life, yet failing to fully prepare for the life to come.  We forget that we are merely pilgrims on this earth. I Peter 2:11. We are no more than sojourners, passing through this life for a brief time. James 4:14. Our conversation is in heaven.  Philippians 3:20. No wonder we sing the song, “This World in Not My Home, I’m Just Passing Through.”

    Don’t let your roots grow too deep.  Someday, it will be time to pull them up and move on!

    Guess What the Doctor Saw!

    I recently had a heart cath.  Doctors use this procedure to exam how well your heart is working.  A catheter is inserted into a large artery (in my case, the radial artery at the wrist).  Contrast dye is then injected into the heart, in effect, creating a “movie x-ray.”  The doctor uses these images to look for blockages in the arteries.  Although I was awake and able to talk to the doctor and look at these images on the screen, I had no idea how to interpret those images.  Thankfully, the doctor did! 

    As I was watching the screen and talking to the doctor during the procedure I wondered, “What does God see when He looks at my heart” (Acts 1:24)?  Does He see a heart that trusts in Him (Palm 28:7)?  Does He see a heart where His word is hidden (Psalm 119:11)?  Does He see a heart that is pure (Matthew 5:8)?  Does He see a heart from whence evil thoughts come (Matthew 15:19)?  Does He see a heart that is forgiving (Matthew 18:35)?  Does He see a heart that loves Him completely (Matthew 22:37)?  Does He see a heart that is troubled and filled with anxiety (John 14:1)?  Does He see a heart that is sensitive and touched by sin (Acts 2:37)?  Or does He see a heart that is hardened and insensitive to sin (Mark 10:5)?  Does He see a heart where Christ dwells (Ephesians 3:17)?  Does He see a heart that strives to do His will (Ephesians 6:6)?  Does He see a heart where the peace of God rules (Colossians 3:15)?

    What does God see when He looks at YOUR heart?  It’s something to think about!

    Electronic Worship

    The following article, “Electronic Church” was written by Wayne Jackson.  It is an excellent article that stresses the importance of assembling together to worship as well as the dangers of the “electronic church.” It is especially appropriate at a time when far too many elders, preachers, and other influential “church leaders” have seen fit to cancel the times of assembling together and opted instead to “assemble for worship” through the use of social media. As Christians, we are commanded to assemble on a regular, weekly basis.  The Greek word translated “assembling” in Hebrews 10:25 means “a gathering together into one place.” Social media does not, cannot, satisfy the command to assemble.  While there are those who undoubtedly have health issues that warrant their foregoing assembling together, there are far too many who will justify canceling services of the church while they shop in crowded stores, send their children to crowded schools, and forego “social distancing” to sit at restaurants across from one another without wearing masks.  Such inconsistency!  Is it too risky to assemble to conduct Bible classes, but not too risky for these other activities? What example does this set for others? Does this not present a stumbling block for others? How will others in our community view the church when we they see us cancel Bible classes but gather in public places to eat?   It is my concern that, as a result of the acceptance of worship through the use of social media, many Christians will eventually quit assembling altogether.  I honestly hope time proves me wrong!

    Christians, assemble! Parents, see that your children are in Bible classes! And yes, of course, teach them throughout the week. Make your religion a “daily” religion! As Christians, may we ever learn to act out of faith and never act out of fear.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

    Electronic Church

    By Wayne Jackson

    In recent months numerous articles have focused attention upon the phenomenal value of the World-Wide Web as an evangelistic tool. A recent issue of the popular denominational journal, Christianity Today, was devoted entirely to this medium of communication as it relates to religious information. Twenty percent of those who use the Internet do so for religious purposes. During the final quarter of last year, twenty million people accessed various web sites seeking metaphysical data. Two million Americans visit the Web every day for spiritual guidance. Surely Christians should see the value in teaching the gospel of Christ via this increasingly popular medium.

    At the same time, there are dangerous pitfalls associated with the Web.

    An Avenue for Error

    There is a vast range of false teaching that clutters the World-Wide Web. Everything from Eastern mysticism, to religious agnosticism, to sectarianized “Christianity” is available. They can be invited right into your home – with but the click of a “mouse.” Some sites are very professionally done and therefore, are slick avenues for promoting error to the unsuspecting.

    The Web also accommodates a wide variety of “church nuts,” providing them with an opportunity to peddle their wares, when they could never secure an audience otherwise. Anyone with the right kind of technical skill can get a web site going, whether or not they know anything at all about the Bible. In the minds of some, their very presence, via such a sophisticated medium, legitimizes their endeavor. This is a part of the “price tag” for “freedom of the press.”

    Unfortunately, some Christians, unwittingly or otherwise, assist with the propagation of error by their “links” network. Some web sites, operated by members of the church, have elaborate link connections to other sites. And yet, virtually every link directs the viewer to a denominational source – some of which are rank with false teaching. Apparently, there is not a solitary Christian web site worthy of their recommendation. What message does that convey? A revealing one for those who consider the matter thoughtfully.

    A Substitute for Corporate Worship

    A news service recently quoted Brenda E. Brasher, a theology-philosophy professor, and author of the book, Give Me That Online Religion, who says that, “One of the best-kept secrets of cyberspace is the surprising amount of religious practice that takes place there.” Brasher has found more than a million religion-oriented web sites, with many of them virtually functioning as temples and churches.

    For many people, sitting in front of a computer and accessing a religious web site, has become a spiritual exercise that fulfills their need for a worshipping experience. A new study by the Barna Research Group suggests that “by the end of the decade, we will have in excess of 10 percent of our population who rely upon the Internet for their entire spiritual experience” (emp. added).

    For a long time anemic Christians have rationalized their slothful religious devotion by appealing to the use of various media or electronic devices. Some churches, for example, broadcast their Sunday morning services; a few perfectly-healthy, though lazy, members rationalize remaining at home on the ground that “we can tune-in the services on the radio.” Many a preacher has heard this line during a gospel meeting: “We can’t be at the meeting on Friday evening; we’re having a family outing. But we’ll get the tape!”

    As wonderful as the new tools for electronic evangelism are, they can never function as a substitute for assembling with the people of God at the prescribed times for engaging in corporate worship. There are Bible commands and principles that obligate us to “come together” when we are able to do so, and no “flip of a switch” can satisfy those demands upon able-bodied people.

    Jackson, Wayne. “Electronic Church.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: August 21, 2020. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/364-electronic-church

    Will You Always Be Faithful?

    bible-998150_960_720Will you still be living faithfully to God ten years from now?  How about five years?  How about this time next year?  “Well, of course,” you say, “I’ll always be faithful!  I would never leave God.”    I’m glad you feel that way.  But remember, there are many who have become unfaithful who, at one time, probably expressed that very same sentiment.

    Why should a Christian remain faithful?  It seems like a simple question.  But I think it’s still a fair question to ask.

    First, I should remain faithful to God so that Christ will not have died in vain.  It was a great act of love on God’s part to give His son so that we may enjoy eternal life (John 3:16).  Jesus’ submitting to His Father’s will and experiencing the death of the cross was the greatest act of love any man could do for another (John 15:13).

    Yet if, after becoming a Christian, I later become unfaithful, Christ will have died in vain; at least from my perspective.  Some would deny the clear and plain Bible teaching concerning the possibility of a Christian falling away and going back to a state of being lost in his/her sins.  But not the apostle Paul!  He understood the possibility of being a “castaway,” rejected or disqualified concerning the race he so strongly encouraged others to run (I Corinthians 9:24-27).  Peter understood the possibility of, after being converted to Christ, falling back into the world and being lost (II Peter 2:20-22).

    If I refuse to remain faithful to Christ and His church, His death will profit me nothing!

    Second, I should remain faithful to God so I can have the very best life on this earth!  In Mark 10:17-22 we read about Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler.  When Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to the poor, the young man, unwilling to part with his possessions, went away sorrowful.  Peter then responded, “Lord, we have left all, and have followed thee” (Mark 10:28).  From Matthew’s account of this incident, we know Peter is asking, “Lord, we left all to follow thee.  What shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27) Notice Jesus’ response.  “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,  But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

    Shall I take Jesus’ words literally?  Is Jesus really teaching that anyone who follows Him will own a hundred houses?  Surely not!  What then, is Jesus saying?  Notice the last part of verse 30, “and in the world to come, eternal life.” The blessings Jesus promised to Peter, and us today, were distinct from the blessing we will eventually enjoy in heaven – eternal life! I believe the point Jesus is making to Peter is simply this: Whatever anyone may give up to become a Christian will pale in comparison to the blessings of being a Christian – even while living here on earth! Live this life with heaven as your goal.  While here on earth, stay focused in heaven!  But never forget that the best life anyone could ever live here on this earth is the life of a Christian!

    Third, I should remain faithful because of my influence.  Influence can be defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something.”  Someone may say, “Not me.  I’m not going to have an influence on anyone.  I’ll just live my life and let everyone else live theirs!”

    Solomon allowed his wives to have an evil influence on him, causing him to turn his heart away from the one true God and instead follow after false gods.  I Kings 11:4.

    In contrast, Timothy was influenced for the good by his mother and grandmother.  Timothy knew the scriptures from the time he was a child.  II Timothy 3:15. How did Timothy come to know the scriptures?  No doubt he had been taught by his mother and grandmother.  II Timothy 1:5. Our influence continues even after we are gone!  Hebrews 11:4

    Friends, it’s not possible to live without having an influence on others!  Others, maybe your family, friends, or even coworkers, are watching you.  They need you to remain faithful!  They need your positive influence.

    Fourth, I should remain faithful because there is a judgement to come.  There is a day coming when I will be judged by Christ for the things I have done, whether they be good or bad.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  II Corinthians 5:10. Notice the word “must.”  This is an absolute imperative.  We cannot forego, or escape, the judgment.  Notice the words “we must all.”  No one will be exempt from being judged. Notice the words, “the judgment seat of Christ.”  We will be judged by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Christ is well suited to be our judge because He lived on this earth, faced the same temptations we face and knows what it is like to experience the difficulties of this life.  Notice the words, “whether it be good or bad.”  When judgment day comes, some will be able to hear the words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” They will be able to experience an eternity with God in heaven.  Sadly, others will experience an eternity separated from God and all His people.

    Why should you be faithful?  It’s a fair question to ask.

    The Problem of Prejudice

    bible-998150_960_720Prejudice can be defined as “unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.”

    A few things about prejudice are worth mentioning: First, no particular race, or ethnic group, has a monopoly on being prejudice.  It is possible for someone from any race, country or ethnic group to be prejudice.  Second, prejudice does not always involve race.  It is often the case that one person is prejudiced toward another because of his (or her) race. But a person may be prejudiced toward another person because of his education, or lack thereof.  Someone may be prejudiced toward others because of their financial status, or lack thereof.  Other causes of prejudice may be a person’s appearance or prejudice toward another person simply because of where they come from.  Prejudice can take on many forms!  Third, prejudice toward others is always a sin.  James wrote, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” (James 2:9) Fourth, sadly prejudice often exists among those who profess to follow Christ!

    We all realize the problem exists.  The question all of us should be asking is, “What’s the solution?  How can the problem of prejudice be corrected?”  A number of answers have been proposed – rallies and protests, police reform, income equality, free college for everyone, reparations toward those who have been wronged, etc.

    None of these things will eliminate the problem of prejudice!  The problem of prejudice is a problem of the heart.  Prejudice will never go away until men’s hearts are changed.  The problem of prejudice will never be remedied until men recognize God as their Creator and Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    The problem of prejudice will never be remedied until men strive to do God’s will and follow Christ’s example for living.  Can you imagine the good that could be realized if everyone of us took to heart Paul’s admonition to Timothy – “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” (I Timothy 5:21)

    What Does Going to a Garden Party Have to Do With Living a Life That Is Pleasing to God?

    tone armGood question!  How could an old song about going to a garden party make me think of the importance of living a life that is pleasing to God?  It’s really not as odd as you might think,  To find out, listen to the audio below!

    Living Certain in an Uncertain World

    Sleepless Young Man

    Seems like I’ve been hearing the phrase “We are living in uncertain times” a lot lately.  Folks, ever since Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and Eve was formed from one of his ribs, people have always been living in uncertain times.  The word “certain” can be defined as “free from doubt, confident, sure.”  Synonyms that come to mind include “unquestionable” or “indisputable.”  When, in the history of man, could a man be certain he would live a long life?  At what point in the history of the world could a man be certain he would always enjoy good health?  Could a man ever be certain his standard of living would always match, or surpass, his previous standard of living?  Could a man ever be certain the value of his investments would always increase and be sufficient when he hoped to retire?  When could we be certain our country would be safe from enemy attack?

    Friends, we have always lived in uncertain times!  But, before you start to wring your hands in despair, can I remind you of some things of which I am certain?  First, I am certain God created me and loves me. Some would have you believe you are here as a result of the process of evolution.  Such foolish nonsense! The epitome of ignorance! To borrow a phrase from the late Curtis Cates – “that’s hyper-stupid!”  David wrote, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalms 139:14) My physical body stands as a witness to the creative powers of God!  Because I am a product of God’s handiwork, I know He loves me and cares for me.  Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

    Second, I am certain there is a Savior who loved me enough to die for me!  I have sinned.  There is nothing I can ever do to remove sin from my life apart from the blood of Jesus Christ!  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Because of Christ’s sacrificial love, I am certain I can be forgiven and live this life (as uncertain as it may be) with the hope of an eternity in heaven.

    Third, I am certain this world is not my home.  Paul described my earthly, physical body as a tabernacle (II Corinthians 5:1-4).  My physical body can be compared to a tent – temporary, a place where my spirit dwells for a short while until I am clothed with my immortal body (II Corinthians 5:2).  I am merely a pilgrim on this earth (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11).  One day, this sinful world in which I now live will come to an end (Hebrews 1:10-12).

    Fourth, I am certain that life is good.  Sure, life on this earth has it troubles.  I would not be so foolish to deny that!  Jesus said “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) But I am certain that life is still good!  Life is good because I’m a Christian!  I enjoy greater blessings than money can ever buy – I experience the joy of my salvation.  I understand that the troubles of this world are temporary and pale in comparison to the glory of heaven (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

    Fifth, I am certain an eternal hell awaits the unrighteous (II Thessalonians 1:8) and an eternal heaven awaits those who keep the faith – those who fight the good fight and finish their course (II Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 22:1-5).

    I’m aware of how the headlines read.  I know what the “talking heads” are saying on tv.  But I also know I can live certain in an uncertain world!

    Denominations Are a Product of Men, Not God

    cropped-bible-medium2.jpgThis past week I read an article written by a minister of a well-known denomination.  The first statement of the article read as follows, “When the church age began during the Lord’s earthly ministry, there was only the church Jesus built.”  Questions for the minister who wrote the article, and all of us, to consider include, “Does the one church Jesus built exist today?  If Jesus only built one church, why are there so many churches today?  Who made the change?  If Jesus only built one church, who built these other churches? And does any of this really matter?”

    A denomination can be defined as “a large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.” Friends, I must say with all kindness yet with all truthfulness to God’s word, denominationalism is completely incompatible with and foreign to the scriptures.  Notice the following from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) Men may accept, even applaud, the division that exists in the religious world today, but God never has and never will.

    Denominations are of human origin.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Jesus said He would build His church, singular.  All denominations exist without New Testament authority, New Testament example or Christ’s approval.

    Why does any of this really matter? The inspired apostle Paul taught that Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same.  (Ephesians 1:22-23) He went on to teach that there is only one body, therefore there must be only one church. (Ephesians 4:4) Later in his same letter to the church at Ephesus he taught that Christ is the savior of the body.  (Ephesians 5:23) What can we conclude from all this?  Christ is the savior of the one church that He built!

    Peter told those present on the Day of Pentecost to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) When these people were saved by believing the gospel, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized to receive the forgiveness of their sins, how did the Lord respond?  He added them to the one church that He built.  (Acts 2:47) He did not add them to a denomination, for there were no denominations in existence!

    The church that Jesus built still exists today, just as it did in the first century.  It has no earthly head.  It has no legal hierarchy.  It follows no manmade creeds, practices, manuals or handbooks. It simply follows the New Testament pattern for the church.  Its congregations are autonomous and are overseen by elders who have authority only over their particular congregation. (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1-3) Its members meet on the first day of every week to worship, including partaking of the communion. (Acts 20:7) Its members worship God through acapella singing, just as the early church of the first century did.  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Its members pray and study the Bible together. (Acts 2:42) Its members hear preaching together and give financially on the first day of the week. (I Corinthians 16:1-2)

    Can a person be saved from his sins today and be a member of Christ’s one church without being a member of any denomination?  Yes!  He not only can, he must in order to please God.  How can a person do this?  He must believe the good news, or gospel, concerning Jesus Christ.  (John 3:16) He must repent of his sins (Acts 17:30-31) He must confess his faith in Jesus Christ.  (Acts 8:37) He must then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins.  (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) When he does this, the Lord will add him to the one church that he, Jesus Christ, purchased with his blood.  (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28)

    Friends, it is not my intention to be unkind.  Rather, it is my desire to expose the clear teaching of the scriptures concerning Christ and His church. Search the scriptures and see whether these things are so! (Acts 17:11)

    “The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16)

    Can Blood Transfusions Extend Life?

    imgbin-blood-donation-blood-transfusion-human-body-blood-bank-blood-red-blood-drop-vB0gVuMyQXZCvY5WPUscLhpJxI came across an article recently discussing bizarre ways tech billionaires are attempting to reverse the aging process and live forever.  More than one company is conducting research to determine if blood transfusions from younger people can extend life.  According to some experts, transfusing blood from young, healthy people – specifically those between ages 16 and 25 – into those who feel that they’re getting on in years could reverse aging.

    I’m no expert in the medical field; far from it.  But I am expert enough to know that eternal life is made possible by blood. No, I’m not talking about the blood from a younger person.  Eternal life is made possible only by the blood of Christ.  The really great news is that you don’t have to be a tech billionaire to benefit from this blood!

    “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:14-17)

    Why Worship God?

    cropped-bible-medium3.jpgOur English word “worship” is often translated from two words meaning “toward” and “kiss” (or “kiss toward”).  In certain cultures, it was a common practice to prostate oneself before another and kiss his feet, the hem of his garment, or the ground.  This was especially done by the Persians to express reverence toward their deified kings or by the Greeks to honor their idols.

    Our common English word “worship” has its origin in an old English word meaning “worth-ship.”  This indicates the worth, or value, of the one being worshipped.  God is worthy, or deserving, of our worship because of who he is and what he has done.

    As Peter was coming into Cornelius’ house, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.  Peter then responded, “Stand up; I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:25-26).  God, in comparison, desires that we worship him (John 4:23).  Why the difference?  What do we worship God, and not man?

    First, we worship God because he is our creator.  Where did we come from?  How did we get here?  Yet the answer is very simple – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Later, in that same chapter we read – “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27).    It only makes sense that the creation worships the creator.

    Second, we worship God because he is our provider.  Every physical blessing that we enjoy comes to us from God. James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).  God has not only blessed us physically but, more importantly, he has provided us with every spiritual blessing.  Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3).  God is truly the fount of very blessing!

    Third, we worship God because he is our savior.   The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  God loves us so much he was willing to gave his sin as the only sacrifice that could remove sin from our lives (John 3:16).  Those in the church have been purchased, or bought back from their bondage of sin, with nothing less than the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28).

    God is seeking those who will worship him.  Are you seeking opportunities to worship God?

    To listen to thoughts on “Why Worship God” click here: