Articles

“God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

As we consider the question, “Who is God?” Jesus’ answer in John 4:24 is relevant.  God is not a man (Number 23:19).  God is something fundamentally different.  We may characterize human existence (at least partly) as physical or earthy for it was out of the dust of the ground that God created man (Genesis 2:7).  God, however, was not formed by such processes; God was not created, but exists from all eternity (Isaiah 57:15).  As such, God’s existence is something metaphysical.  God stands above and is prior to the creation.  The physical world cannot stand in such a relationship to itself so as to be above and prior to itself.  Moreover, concepts of God that do not preclude the physical world as aboriginal are not sufficient to describe God’s existence.  God must be something other.  Jesus therefore says, “God is Spirit.”

But for God to be something other raises questions.  Is God so radically different from man that a relationship is impossible?  Some have so concluded.  The Bible tells us, however, that God created man “in His image” (Genesis 1:27).  There is placed upon man the stamp of the divine and there is something about man that is at least similar to God in such a way that a relationship is possible.  This is the spiritual side of man.  Just as God is a spirit, so also man, while having a physical component is also spirit.  James 2:26 says “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Human persons are both body and spirit.

The story of the thief on the cross illustrates God’s deep desire for a relationship with man.  Jesus said to this him, “Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  Jesus’ body went to the tomb as did the thief’s.  What, then, constituted their relationship subsequent to death?  In what way could Jesus be said to be “with” the thief, “today”?  It was due to the relationship of spirit to spirit: man’s spirit in relationship to God’s Spirit in the spiritual realm.

It follows, then, that we must cultivate a spiritual relationship with God, Who is Spirit.  Our worship of God must be in spirit and in truth – concepts themselves that are ultimately non-physical.  Our earthly life viewed as the Patriarch’s so viewed it – a pilgrimage (Hebrews 11:10-16).  This does not imply irresponsibility to and in this life (as some charge and as others adopt), for while a pilgrimage entails a necessary end point, the journey itself is of significant spiritual value.  Only on this journey do we encounter the opportunity for moral development and personal responsibility.  This opportunity is a present reality to which we must give heed and upon which our ongoing relationship with God depends.  Spiritual growth is a lifelong process and it is from such growth that our ultimate character is shaped and molded in preparation for eternal life (2 Peter 1:1-11).

Peter’s promise of partaking of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and John’s exhortation that we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2), motivate us to live personally responsible, pure, and holy lives right now so that ultimate fellowship with God, who is Spirit, may one day be consummated.  God’s spiritual existence and the promise of eternal fellowship with Him on that level are the bases for our hope and the motivation for our living lives of faithfulness in the here and now.

“He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Located in the Bayerische Staatsmuseum in Munich hangs a painting Italian painter Domenico Feti (1589–1623) entitled Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”). At the bottom of the canvas the Latin inscription, “Ego pro te haec passus sum, Tu vero quid fecisti pro me: This have I suffered for you; now what will you do for me?” After seeing this painting Francis Havergal was moved to pen the words to the beautiful hymn “I Gave My Life For Thee.” It is time that we as Christians not only sing these hymns but truly commit to meaning what we sing by making the necessary changes in our lives.

We need to be reminded that Jesus said, “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). We come to Christ to be saved and are required to submit to His will, to give up our own selfish ambitions, and put God and others above ourselves. Yet, few do. And sadly many of the problems we see in the church are solely due to the fact that we have to have things done our way or we pout and/or throw a fit. Paul admonishes us to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Just as egregious are those who sing the last stanza of the great hymn stating “None of self, and all of thee” and are for all intents and purposes lying to themselves and God.

There are two types of people I would like for us to consider:

Those Who Have Never Forsaken Anything: Like the Rich Young Man who comes to Jesus desiring eternal life (Matthew 19:16–22; Luke 18:18–23). When Jesus told him that in order to be perfected he would need to go and “sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22) he “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22).

Those Who Have Returned To Their Old Life: Much like the prodigal son who wasted his father’s inheritance (Luke 15:11–32), are those who forsake their Lord in order to return to the love of the world. Yes, we know the Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Nonetheless we are “choked cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). Indeed, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The fact remains that you and I have either forsaken all for Him or we have not. There is no middle ground! What do I treasure in my heart more than heaven; Family, friends, sinful behavior, selfish ambition (even that which is disguised in righteousness)? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).

Be faithful my friends!  

Paul tells us that on the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, “and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Jesus instituted this supper to be done in remembrance of Him. Paul said, “as often” as Christians partake of this memorial supper, they “show the Lord's death till he come.” There is no question that the church should partake of the Lord’s Supper (communion), but how often? Is the frequency of partaking of communion just a matter of opinion?

It would be strange if the Lord instituted a memorial and gave no guidance how often it should be done. The Jews received explicit instructions when they were to observe the Passover, Pentecost, and other memorials. The New Testament is clear that the early church assembled each first day of the week [Sunday] for worship. 1 Corinthians 14:23 speaks of the whole church “come together into one place” and Hebrews 10:25 warns against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” The first day of the week was the time for the early church to assemble and partake of communion.

Luke tells us that Paul came to Troas “and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). The verse before states, “we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days” (Acts 20:6). Paul and his company had waited a full seven days at Troas so that they could meet with the Christians of Troas on the first day of the week, “when the disciples came together to break bread.” Their stated purpose in coming together was “to break bread,” meaning to partake of the Lord’s Supper, or communion. The writings of many ancient writers such as Pliny, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and others show that the universal practice of the early church was to meet each first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

But was it every first day? When God told the Jews to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), they understood that it was every Sabbath day that was intended, even though God did not specifically say to remember every Sabbath day. When Paul wrote, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2), didn’t he mean that each first day of the week was the day for Christians to give? Each first day of the week, [the day of the Lord’s resurrection, and the day the church was established], is the day Christians are to observe communion. No other day is authorized by command or example of scripture.

Within four days our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are selling little masks for your face. People are talking about what if it comes to this country, and preachers on Tuesday are saying, "It's the scourge of God."

The day is over, you are driving home. You tune in your radio.You hear a story about a little village in India where some villagers have died suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It's not influenza, but three or four fellows are dead, and it's kind of interesting. They're sending some doctors over there to investigate it.

You don't think much about it, but on Sunday, coming home from church, you hear another radio spot. Only they say it's not three villagers, it's 30,000 villagers in the back hills of this particular area of India, and it's on TV that night. CNN runs a little blurb; people are heading there from the disease center in Atlanta because this disease strain has never been seen before.

By Monday morning when you get up, it's the lead story. For it's not just India; it's Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and before you know it, you're hearing this story everywhere and they have coined it now as "the mystery flu". The President has made some comment that he and everyone are praying and hoping that all will go well over there. But everyone is wondering, "How are we going to contain it?" That's when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe. He is closing their borders. No flights from India, Pakistan, or any of the countries where this thing has been seen.

That night you are watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman is translated from a French news program into English: "There's a man lying in a hospital in Paris dying of the mystery flu." It has come to Europe. Panic strikes. As best they can tell, once you get it, you have it for a week and you don't know it. Then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms. Then you die. Britain closes it's borders, but it's too late. South Hampton, Liverpool, North Hampton, and it's Tuesday morning when the President of the United States makes the following announcement: "Due to a national security risk, all flights to and from Europe and Asia have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I'm sorry. They cannot come back until we find a cure for this thing.”

Within four days our nation has been plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are selling little masks for your face. People are talking about what if it comes to this country, and preachers on Tuesday are saying, "It's the scourge of God."

My great grandfather and great grandmother Campbell were members of the Braxton Church of Christ in Cannon County, Tennessee, and after my great grandfather died and my great grandmother moved her three boys to Texas, she raised them in the South Park Church of Christ in Beaumont, Texas. My grandfather and one of his brothers married Methodist sisters and the women succeeded in diverting them into Methodist churches. The reputation that the Churches of Christ had among my kinfolk was that they were eccentric because they did not use musical instruments in worship, they celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, they didn’t have creeds (except the New Testament), and they seemed not to recognize other Christian churches who did not “bear the name” of Christ in the names of their (our) denominations.

This impression was solidified when in my senior year in high school I responded enthusiastically to an advertisement in a used-book shop in Beaumont promising free Greek lessons. I was taken to a small Church of Christ in Bridge City, Texas, where I got about forty-five minutes of instruction in the Greek alphabet and then I was treated to an hour and a half of heated discussion sparked by a question posed by a younger and obviously inexperienced minister, “If I go to a Baptist revival and I just sit on the back row and don’t sing the hymns or anything, does that constitute having ‘fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness’” (Ephesians 5:11)? The answer, I quickly learned, was yes, it does. And from the conversation in the car on the way to Bridge City and back I figured out that this was a group of Church of Christ folk who regarded a lot of other Churches of Christ folk as mere pretenders to the name. They were, I think, what my Campbell relatives called “hard-shell” Churches of Christ folk.

So I did not have a very positive impression of the Churches of Christ, but I’m beginning to change my mind, and now I’m thinking they may be right on some of those most interesting points that have distinguished them. I attended the Preston Road Church of Christ on Sunday March 6, 2011, deeply enjoyed the service, the singing, and the sermon by Rev. Scott Sager. I also was offered and received the Lord’s Supper there, so my great grandma Campbell can perhaps take solace in the fact that I am now in communion with at least one Churches of Christ congregation however soft-shelled they may be and however unwittingly this happened on the part of the congregation.

         We’ve all heard the phrase “He lacks a few bricks having a full load”. “Her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top”, is another. Regardless of which one you use, the message is basically the same: He-She-It lacks the necessary requirements to meet the current need. Most of the time, these gibes are uncalled for because the person in question knows they are falling short already. Adding to their discomfort only speaks to the shortcomings of the speaker just as much as the one who is struggling to live up to the expectations of others.

          However, there are times when our stubbornness and pride warrants such phrases if nothing more than an indication that a change is in order. When this happens one can only hope that we learn a positive lesson from the experience!

          These thoughts lend themselves to our Faith, as well. You see, we can not afford to come up short of the hope of salvation. The writer of the book of Hebrews writes: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb 4:1-2

          We can’t come up ‘a few bricks short’ and be acceptable to God. Either we are “in Christ Jesus” or we have fallen short of the high calling of God.

          Sadly, this is the state of most religious people today. There are a myriad of religions which seen to be ‘Christian’ but which fall far short of the standards of Scripture regarding the one true Faith. They say they are followers of Christ but do not or will not adhere to the commandments of our Lord. These issues fall into the categories of salvation as well as worship in God’s church. This is so because there are specific things required to have salvation as well as the commanded form and pattern of The Bride of Christ.

          When it comes to NT Christianity, one can not depend upon Man to guide our steps. Either we are completely subservient to our Lord or we are not. That is not to say we have to be perfect, but it does demand that we are willing to accept the clear and plain commandments of our Lord. It is possible to ‘come up short’. Only careful awareness of our ‘walk in life’ will assure that we don’t.

          So today, we will speak to the issue of Needing Six, but Giving Three.

They laugh at us. They ridicule us. They mock and make fun of us. We invite them to bible study and worship and they sneer and walk away from us. But we are not taken off guard or surprised by their actions. In fact, we expect them. This, because that is exactly what our Lord and Savior said would happen to those who chose to follow Him. “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22). “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn. 15:18-19). Subsequently, we “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates [us]” (1 Jn. 3:13), but instead, expect and embrace it! “Blessed are you,” Jesus said, “when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets… Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Lk. 6:22-23, 26; emph added – DED). And so, as for us, we go on our way “rejoicing that [we are] counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), and praying for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:38-48; Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:57-60). And in the meantime we continue to seek opportunities to love, serve, and introduce our persecutors to the Lord God (See: 2 Cor. 5:9-21; Phil. 1:12-13, 4:22).

But what of them? The first thing that always strikes me as being so incredibly enlightening, faith-building, and bible-validating, is the fact that just as in the days of Jesus, when both the pagan and religious people as well as their leaders were willing to go to such extremes as murder in order to reject, deny, and try to disprove the absolute truth of God’s word, they themselves, by those very actions, simply fulfilled the exact truths they so ardently sought to deny, right down to the letter! (See: Matt. 26:45-56; Lk. 24:44-47; Acts 2:22-36, 4:18-31).

Gospel Plan of Salvation

Before we can respond to God we must realize our lost spiritual condition:

Isaiah 59:2 - your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.

1 John 3:4 - Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

Since we are sinners we must realize that we cannot earn our salvation:

Ephesians 2:7-8 - that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

In order to be saved we must respond to God's offer of grace and mercy. We must believe in God and in Christ Jesus through hearing his gospel:

Matthew 28:19-20 - Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Romans 10:17 - So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

James 2:20-24 - But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith.

We must repent:

Luke 13:3 - I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

Acts 17:30 - The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent:

We must confess the name of Christ before men:

Matthew 10:32 - Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.

Romans 10:9 - because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:

Remember the first time you actually rode a bicycle? I’m sure you do. But here’s another question: Did you have ‘training wheels’ bolted to the back before you actually did it? If you are like most of us, you did. But here’s the thing: Did they really help you to learn enough balance to get the job done? Probably not.

            In effect, the help that some folks give us … really isn’t help. Now I admit that those extra wheels saved me some bruises, skinned elbows and knees, but keeping me from falling didn’t teach me to learn the fine art of riding a bicycle.

            Eventually, we took the training wheels off and I wobbled myself down the hill in the backyard until I crashed. But I was able to say “I rode my bike”! In the ensuing months I had a lot of mishaps but I can truthfully say I was able to continue my glorious career of traveling on two wheels.

            The point of all of this is couched in the fact that not all ‘help’, helps us. Those who love us often endeavor to diminish the natural risks which are incumbent in growing up, but some things can not be avoided. Some things just take ‘practice’ to get good at it.

            Living the Life of Christ is one of those things. When we first come to the Lord we have no foundation of habitual obedience because we haven’t practiced living how God wants us to live. As we endeavor to be what we know we should be, it is natural that we will make many mistakes along the way. And some times it can be very painful to us.

            Having a broken heart for those mistakes is part of the process of living less like our old person and more like Jesus. But there is something we need to be aware of, as we ‘practice’ the Life of Christ’. With failure there are two things which are basic to spiritual growth: 1) sorrow for the failure and an accompanying desire to do better and 2), a measure of discouragement over that failure. The first is a naturally healthy motivation to try harder. The second can be a tool in Satan’s hand to convince us that we will never be good enough, so we should quit trying, altogether. We should be aware that the solution to sin is repentance, not quitting.

            If Satan can convince us that we will never be acceptable to God, it is easier to convince us to go back to our former manner of life. ‘Giving Up’ is his goal, here. And what he is ever ‘helping’ us to center our lives back on self, rather than our Lord. Once it becomes ‘all about me’ again … it’s a done deal. He’s happy and God has seen one more child fall back into the darkness.

           Brethren, there is ‘help’ and then there is help. We need to understand that God has not put ‘training wheels’ on Christian Living. Just like the bike, sometimes we are going to get bruises and scrapes. It’s called Practice, and there is no substitute for the process. As a matter of fact, because He loves us He allows us to learn the fine art of spiritually by letting us grow, painful or not.

            So you see, God’s kind of Help teaches us lessons we will use in Eternity. And yes, sometimes it hurts. But we should always ‘get back on’ and learn from the experience, to His glory.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), which means eternal separation from God.  Sin is a violation against God and causes mankind to lose fellowship with Him.  God is absolutely holy and absolutely just and He cannot just overlook sin.  There has to be punishment for sin and that punishment is eternal separation from fellowship with God.  The only way man can regain that fellowship is if he pays the just penalty for that sin.  It doesn’t matter what that sin is, the penalty is the same.  We have all lost our fellowship with God and that cannot be restored unless we pay the penalty in full. faith works and glorifies god Faith works and glorifies God!   Thankfully for us, God is rich in grace and mercy and He doesn’t want to see man suffer for all eternity.  He wants man to have a chance to regain that fellowship so He came up with a plan where man can have a hope of being reconciled without having to suffer an eternity of punishment.  God was under no obligation to do this.  There is nothing mankind can do to earn or pay for it, we don’t in any way deserve it. Nothing man did compelled God to do this.   And this means of reconciliation came at great personal expense for God.  Namely the life of His Son as a substitutionary death penalty for us.  God could have washed His hands of mankind and walked away to leave mankind to his fate forever and God would have been perfectly within His right to do so.  He didn’t owe man anything.  Mankind got himself into this predicament all by himself without any help from God.  God was absolutely blameless in all that man did.  God had no obligations towards mankind whatsoever in this entire affair.

But because God loves us so much, He graciously came up with a plan whereby man could be reconciled to Him and escape the death penalty of sin.   Grace can be illustrated as God reaching down from heaven towards sin sick and doomed mankind with an offer of salvation.  His motivation for doing this came entirely out of His love for mankind.  That’s grace.

Before we can respond to God we must realize our lost spiritual condition:

Isaiah 59:2 - your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.

1 John 3:4 - Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

Since we are sinners we must realize that we cannot earn our salvation:

Ephesians 2:7-8 - that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

In order to be saved we must respond to God's offer of grace and mercy. We must believe in God and in Christ Jesus through hearing his gospel:

Matthew 28:19-20 - Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Romans 10:17 - So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

James 2:20-24 - But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith.

We must repent:

Luke 13:3 - I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.

Acts 17:30 - The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent:

We must confess the name of Christ before men:

Matthew 10:32 - Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.

Romans 10:9 - because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:

Be baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins:

Mark 16:15-16 - And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

I know that expressing myself openly to you may seem a bit risky since we are told you are a predatory enemy of the most vicious sort (I Peter 5:8). But we are also assured that to name you and defy you is to defeat you (James 4:7, I Peter 5:9), and that is what I intend to do with this letter - to name you, defy you, and encourage others to do so.

The pages of the Bible continue to remind us how clever and formidable you are, and we know that years of practice have only served to make you more sophisticated and efficient in leading us away from the narrow path of eternal life. We know that even when we feel we have defeated you, you may turn our triumph into pride, and by a sort of spiritual judo use our own momentum to defeat us. But we know well that your power is limited, that you are not invincible, that in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). You are not perfect. I would like to remind you that Babylonian captivity ("a coup "you thought, I'm sure), resulted in a pure, powerful people of God. The savage persecution you leveled against the church for three centuries was certainly a great failure. I also have no doubt that the Saturday morning after Calvary you did your share of strutting around - but that was your death blow, wasn't it.

I strongly suspect that you are reveling in the fact that churches of Christ are debating the necessity of baptism for salvation. I certainly never thought any would doubt this essential Biblical doctrine. But here we are discussing it. Some ministers and leaders are marginalizing, and neglecting altogether the correct answer to the question "What must I do to be Saved?" You've lured so many by twisting their innocent desire for unity with people of shared moral values. You have used the name of Jesus Himself to bind some to the commands of Jesus. You've brought together great rallies, lots of media attention, even added a dose of pseudo-persecution to the mix to make your Trojan Horse more appealing. I'm sure you are very proud of yourself. But you've made a dumb move, Devil.

Your latest effort will only serve to make us stronger, and I will tell you why. First, baptism is an essential doctrine of the New Testament - frequently and clearly asserted. Your efforts have only focused us on what is essential. For so many decades you have kept us at bay by getting us to waste our time and reams of publicized matter rending each other over issues that have nothing to do with the essential doctrines of the New Testament. This fight is about something necessary. When we focus our attention and energies in discovering, and defending essential Biblical truth we can only become stronger. Surely we have lost a few who were never convinced of the essentials of New Testament doctrine, but if they were never convinced did we ever really have them anyway (I John 2:18-29)? Your getting us to focus on essentials now remind us how important it is to instruct and strengthen our infants in the faith - to ground them in first things.

Secondly, many of these men whom you feed a twisted gospel, are becoming better fathers and husbands by being exposed to the very scriptures you use to avert their gaze from salvation passages. The children who grow up in their homes will have a stronger sense of what it means to have a loving father - and thus will be easier to reach with the message about the Father in heaven. You may think you've warped us with your coalitions and rallies, but you've only made us stronger.

I worry, though, that your intent is even more insidious than that. Could it be you hope that in the fight we will let loose of our love for souls and each other. Getting us to do that has, too often, been easy for you. Perhaps your intent is that we end up like the congregation Ephesus - doctrinally pure but loveless - thus unrecognizable as a Christian congregation (Revelation 2:1-7). If so Devil, we commit ourselves to be ready to give our defense with gentleness and reverence (I Peter 3:15). But we are determined to remember you are our enemy, and that to stand and fight you is to win because He who is in us is greater than n you! (I John 4:4)

As Christians, we praise God.

We do so in spoken word, in song, and in other worship.

Do we understand what it means to praise God?

Do we know what we are doing when we offer the sacrifice of praise?

In the Old Testament, there are different Hebrew words for praise. These different words indicate different nuances of meaning. There are at least five concepts behind the words for praise: thanksgiving, joy or rejoicing, adoration or worship, blessing and boasting. When we praise God, we do these things.

  1. When we praise God we give thanks. The Bible is filled with the language of gratitude. Psalm 106:1 reads Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Hebrews 13:15 also teaches the relationship between thanksgiving and praise: By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Undoubtedly, praise involves thanksgiving.
  2. Praise also involves joy. Psalm 98:4 declares, Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. In Luke 19:37 we see the two concepts used to extol Jesus in the triumphal entry. The text says, …the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. When the Christian appropriately praises the Lord, he does so with joy in his heart.
  3. The concept of praise means we also love. We can see the love for God of Paul and Silas as they sang praises in the jail at Philippi (Acts 16:25). The man at the gate called Beautiful no doubt was filled with love for God when he was healed. The text says, And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:8). Love and praise go hand in hand.
  4. Blessing is also involved in praise. Psalm 145 is a song of praise. It declares: Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever (145:2). All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee (145:10). My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever (145:21). When we praise God, we bless God as well.
  5. When we praise God we boast of His greatness. The Psalmist writes, In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever (Psalm 44:8). Consider Paul’s words in Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Here is a praise of exclamation that boasts of God’s greatness. God is truly worthy of our boasting. Jeremiah wrote by inspiration, But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 9:24).

Praising God is an important part of the faithful Christian’s life. Let’s resolve to know what we are doing when we offer praise to God. It will both improve our worship and our spiritual lives.

Clifton Chruch of Christ

313 Main Street

Clifton, Tenn. 38425

(931) 676-3099

Worship Times

Sunday 10:00am Sunday School
Sunday 11:00am Worship Service
Sunday 6:00pm Evening Worship
Wednesday 6:00pm Bible Study

Upcoming Events

09 Oct 2017n12:00AMnFall Break
09 Oct 2017n12:00AMnFall Break
28 Oct 2017n12:00AMnFall Get Together @ John & Debbie’s House
29 Oct 2017n12:00AMn5th Sunday Services Church/Eat/Church
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