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Thessalonica: A Working Church

The Thessalonian church was a working Church. Paul thanked God for their zeal and diligence (1 Thes. 1:8-10). Unfortunately, very few congregations are working with the enthusiasm that characterized these brethren. Let’s consider their work and what made them so diligent.

They Were Workers

From the beginning they were engaged in a “full program” of work. They were evangelistic. Not only were they busy trying to convert the lost in their community, but Paul describes them as sounding out the word in Macedonia, Achaia and “in every place” (1 Thes. 1:8).

They were benevolent. The Thessalonians were included in the “great collection” for the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). Aristarchus and Secundus were the messengers of the church in taking the collection to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Paul characterized their giving as cheerful and a demonstration of liberality (2 Cor. 8:1). Their ready performance was used as an example to encourage the Corinthians in completing their purposed participation in the same work (2 Cor. 9:1-6).

They edified one another. The attention of the church was not turned only outward. The elders perceived their responsibility to watch carefully over the saints under their charge (1 Thes. 5:11-14). Some were weak, others were rebellious. However, all received the needed attention (2 Thes. 3:6-15).

The Working Conditions

The church at Thessalonica began in the throes of persecution. The unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica were exceedingly jealous of the success which attended the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 17:4-5). They used their influence to stir up a mob through misrepresentation (Acts 17:6-7). Paul’s newly made converts and gracious hosts were subjected to assault, civil prosecution and economic persecution (Acts 17:8-9). Paul in writing of their mistreatment likened it in severity to that which he led against the churches of Judea (1 Thes. 2:14-16).

However, persecution was not all they faced — they had to overcome deep poverty (2 Cor. 8:2). Granted, their circumstances were not as dire as the saints in Jerusalem or Paul would not have solicited their participation in the collection (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:13-14). But, their circumstances were bleak enough that there gift was likened unto the abasement of Christ (2 Cor. 8:9). Paul in making comparison with the ability of the Corinthians describes their ability as abundance in comparison to what the Macedonians were able to do.

What Makes A Church Work?

What motivated these saints to such work, toil and endurance? What do we need to do to get God’s people to work like that today in a land that is prosperous and which protects the free exercise of our religion?

The church in Thessalonica worked because they had faith, love and hope (1 Thes. 1:5). These spiritual treasures come by hearing the Word of God preached (Rom. 10:17). It cannot be preached with flattery or out of covetousness and have the desired results. It must be preached with simplicity, sincerity and sacrifice in order to succeed (1 Thes. 2:1-11). The Thessalonians received the Gospel as the authoritative message of Heaven (1 Thes. 2:13). Their hearts were open to its truth and molded by its power. The church would go to work today if the pulpits were sounding for the Word of God and not the words of men.

They worked because they had an example (1 Thes. 1:6). Paul, Silas and Timothy had demonstrated acceptable zeal for the Gospel (1 Thes. 2:9-11). They worked tirelessly. They loved the brethren unselfishly. They warned the brethren tenderly. Churches today are waxing cold because there are no elders, deacons and preachers willing to do what it takes to set the proper example. The flock will not go where the shepherds will not lead.

Thessalonica worked because their lives were transformed by repentance (1 Thes. 1:9). Paul says the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve.” Repentance is one fruit of the gospel (Matt. 12:41). It always results in a changed life with changed priorities (2 Cor. 7:10-11). We will not go to work for the Lord until we turn from our idols (Eph. 5:5).

Thessalonica worked because they had a heavenly goal (1 Thes. 1:10). Their toil, suffering and sacrifice were all put in perspective when viewed looking toward Glory. We would do well today to hold our cankered possessions up to heavens light and get a good look at the way things really are.

Will this congregation be a working church like the brethren at Thessalonica? It can be, but you will be the determining factor. What of your faith? Are there sins stealing your heart from God? Are you willing to be an example to others? These are the things that will make the difference.

 

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Conversion

Conversion

Written by my friend Gene Taylor

Conversion means, “To turn back morally, to reform: Mt. xiii. 15; Mk. iv. 12; Lk. xxii. 32; Acts iii. 19; xxviii. 27” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, pp. 243–244). According to W.E. Vine, “The word implies ‘a turning from and a turning to…'” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).

An Erroneous View

Having embraced the teachings of John Calvin, most of the denominational world believes that conversion is a miraculous change brought about by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

According to Calvinists, an individual’s salvation lies entirely at the discretion of God. They believe that nothing a person does can effect his salvation because no unregenerate person can do good — his every act is sinful. They believe God must take direct, miraculous action to save a person’s soul.

Matthew 13:15 is a refutation of this erroneous view. It states, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” It is immediately apparent from this passage that the change Jesus was stressing comes about as a result of hearing, seeing and understanding the will of God.

Conversion — An Act of Man

Matthew 18:3 makes it clear that conversion is a responsibility enjoined upon man, not an act performed on him. “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was showing His disciples what they needed to do, or whom they needed to become like, in order to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven (see v. 4). He was not showing what God does for men to make them great in the kingdom.

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” Because remission of sins is the blessing promised in this verse and in Acts 2:38, it would seem reasonable that the apostle Peter would give the same instructions. In Acts 2:38 he said, “to repent and be baptized” and in Acts 3:19 he commanded people, “to repent and be converted.” While repentance is common to both verses, the other requirement appears to vary until one realizes that baptism is involved in bringing about the conversion of a person (cf. Rom. 6:3–4, 17).

Requirements of Conversion

The free agency of man. Conversion requires the free agency of man otherwise it would not be conversion but compulsion. This is made clear by the American Standard Version’s translation of Matthew 13:15; 18:3; and Acts 3:19. Conversion is shown to be a willing act on man’s part by its use of the verb “turn.” One chooses as to whether or not he turns. His turning, or failure to turn, is not a predestined act of God.

The understanding of the individual. Unless one understands his sinful condition and the divine remedy of it, he cannot be converted. As already noted, Matthew 13:15 shows an understanding of God’s will is a requirement for conversion to take place.

The word of God. Without the word of God, there can be no understanding of God’s will. Psalm 19:7 states, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” A study of God’s word reveals the person’s sinful condition and the remedy for it and then gives the necessary understanding so that there will be sufficient incentive for turning. In every case of conversion in the book of Acts, there was gospel preaching. God converts people in the same way He draws them — through the word (John 6:44–45).

Obedience to the word of God. Mere knowledge of the word and belief in what it teaches are not enough to save. Obedience brings conversion and salvation (Rom. 6:17, 18; Heb. 5:8–9; Matt. 7:21).

The Changes Involved

The initial change is that of principle or guide in life. When one is truly converted, he will no longer live by the rule of sin but will allow the word of God to guide him. God’s word becomes his permanent guide. Hearing the word produces faith which changes the heart and thereby cancels the love of sin. The believer is then moved to repent of his sin and alter his conduct thereby canceling the practice of sin.

There is also a change in relationship. This change is brought about by baptism into Christ. Baptism cancels the guilt of sin and allows one to be in fellowship with God (Rom. 6:3–4; Gal. 3:26–27; Eph. 1:3, 7).

Conversion

There are consequences of conversion, demands the Lord makes of those who have been converted. The converted need to look to God’s word to learn their obligations as converted people and then perform them. The unconverted need to give attention to the word of God to see what they must do to be converted.

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The Reality Of Hell

by Gene Taylor

In Matthew 25:31-46 the Bible teaches that at the final judgment while the righteous will enter heaven to enjoy everlasting life, the wicked will go into eternal punishment. The thought of everlasting suffering is repulsive to many. No doubt this aversion lies at the bottom of much of the unbelief to what the Bible teaches about hell.

Hell, despite the denials of many, is real. Sin demands it. Sin is a violation of the law of God (1 John 3:4). If there were no punishment for sin, then there could be no law for law without penalty is null and void. If there is no law, there would be no sin. That would make the death of Jesus useless because if there is no sin there is no responsibility to save anyone from it.

The reality of life after death also demands the reality of hell. Jesus taught, in Matthew 22:23-33, that there was life after physical death. In the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), two distinct destinies are presented: comfort for the righteous but punishment for the wicked.

Hell was originally prepared for Satan and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Jude 6 states that fallen angels are placed in chains awaiting judgment. Yet, when men and women join the devil in his work and live in servitude to him, they must suffer the same fate that will befall him.

Hell Not Contrary To The Nature of God

Many people find it difficult to accept the reality of hell because they cannot believe that a loving and merciful God could create such a place. But hell is not contrary to the nature of God. If no punishment were given for violation of His law, then God would not be just. Being a just God, He will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Hell is to punish the wicked.

What Hell Is Like

Hell is eternal. It is described that way in Matthew 25:46. In Romans 16:26 God is said to be eternal. The Holy Spirit, in Hebrews 9:14, is also described as eternal. The same word in the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written was used in all three of these passages. The word means eternal, everlasting, without end, never to cease. Hell and the punishment meted out there will last as long as God forever.

Hell is a place of darkness. Jude 13 speaks of “the blackness of darkness” to which false teachers will be confined forever. God is light (1 John 1:5) and the Father of lights (Jas. 1:17). Hell is described as darkness because it is the place farthest removed from God. There will be no God to listen to pleas for mercy or give hope of release.

Hell is a place of fire. Matthew 13:42 speaks of it as a furnace of fire. Matthew 25:41 calls it an everlasting fire. Mark 9:44-45 says the fire is never quenched. Revelation 21:8 refers to it as the lake of fire. There will be no relief from its fires because Revelation 14:11 says the smoke from the fires of torment ascends forever and ever.

There is no rest there. Revelation 14:11 says the wicked will have no rest from their torment day or night.

As there is no rest, there will be no relief. The rich man in Luke 16, even while awaiting the final judgment in Tartarus, wanted a drop of water to cool his tormented tongue but he did not get it.

Who Will Go There

As already noted, Satan and his angels will be there (Matt. 25:41). Revelation 21:8 says the “cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” will be there. Those who do not know God and those who will not obey the gospel of Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction (2 Thes. 1:7-9). In short, all sinners who choose to remain in their sin will be found in hell.

Why People Will Go There

God desires that all be saved (1 Tim. 2:1-4). God is all-powerful and the gospel, His power to save (Rom. 1:16), can save to the uttermost. People will not be in hell because God will not save them. God sent His Son into the world so that all might have salvation (John 3:16) and He has extended His invitation to all who would come to Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Rev. 22:17).

If a person ends up in hell, he is lost by his own free choice. He has no one to blame but himself. Many see no need to be interested in spiritual things and are indifferent to the pleas of the gospel. Others refuse to obey the gospel or submit to the will of God. Some refuse to believe. Others just love sin more than righteousness. Some become unfaithful in service. Many put off obeying until it is too late.

Conclusion

Hell is real. The suffering of it is waiting for the sinful. You can escape the torments found there by giving obedience to Christ now. He will wash away the guilt of your sins and grant you hope of a life of eternal bliss in His presence.

Why Is It?

by Gene Taylor

Some things are difficult for me to understand. I am not referring to the sciences or mathematics, even though I could for they gave me a lot of trouble when I was in school — I am talking about some things that, on the surface, seem simple enough but yet often have me asking myself, “Why?”

Smoking

Why is it, in the face of all we know about the dangers of smoking, people still smoke cigarettes?

A person would have to have been a hermit for the past 40 years not to know of the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. It is well documented that this habit causes cancer, heart disease, lung ailments and other maladies. There is not a rational person who can say that he does not know how harmful smoking is to one’s health. Yet, people continue to puff away. Why?

The reasons are many but basically I believe there are three main ones.

1) The “Superman Syndrome.” This is the idea that while others may be adversely affected by it, it will not hurt me. I knew a woman who had smoked for 65 years. She had to have portions of both of her lungs removed because of cancer. She had less than 15% of her lung capacity. She needed oxygen nearly all the time. Yet she would not stop smoking. Why? She claimed it was not harmful to her. She said that her cancer came from working in a peanut warehouse when she was a teenager and that the peanut dust caused her respiratory problems. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, she never admitted that her smoking harmed her. It may have hurt others but not her. Sadly, there are many people like her.

2) “Nobody’s going to tell me what to do. I’ll live or die as I please.” Many who know how harmful smoking is do it just to be rebellious. The more you warn and caution some people about the dangers of a thing or practice, they, instead of being deterred from it, have their interest in it heightened. They somehow think that it makes them an independent thinker. In reality, when taking up smoking they must not be thinking at all. Young people are especially vulnerable to this attitude.

3) They want to do it. Even though people might know the dangers involved in smoking they will still engage in it because it is something they just want to do. They usually say that, though, because many of those consequences, especially the most injurious, are not immediate. So they are willing to trade the future for present pleasure.

Seatbelts

I must also ask “Why?” when it comes to using seatbelts while driving. Why is it that people who know the dangers of not wearing seatbelts or not having their children wear them, do not “buckle up?”

Again, the harmful effects are well documented and easily seen. Why is it that people do not wear them?

I believe the reasons are the same as those cited for smoking cigarettes: “It won’t happen to me.” “Nobody’s going to tell me what to do.” “I just don’t like wearing a belt. It is uncomfortable so I am not going to wear one. I’ll do what I like.”

Sin

You knew the main lesson of this article was not really smoking or seatbelt usage. It is just that when one starts asking “Why?” when it comes to these practices, one sees the same reasons that people use when it comes to sin against God and their participation in it.

The dangers of sin are plainly revealed in Scripture. The soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:20). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). All sinners will have their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8). Seeing the fate of the sinner, why do people sin?

1) They sin because they think others may suffer but somehow they will not. They believe somehow they will be exempted from such suffering. But God is impartial (Acts 10:34-35). He promises that one will reap what he sows (Gal. 6:7-8). If one sows to the flesh, to sin, he will reap corruption. There will be no exceptions. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

2) Some will not be guided by the Bible. They refuse to submit to the will of God choosing, rather, to follow their own will. Nobody, not even God, is going to tell them how to live their lives.

3) They want to sin. They want the pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:24-26). They are willing to give up an eternity of joy in the presence of God for the passing pleasures of sin. Many have exchanged their soul for sins they enjoy (Matt. 16:26).

Why is it that people sin? I have given some basic reasons but, given its harmful consequences, they still do not make sense. Sin does not make sense. But it still “brings forth death” (Jas. 1:15).

A Victory For Morality

A Victory For Morality

By Kevin Cauley 3/3/2017

One of the most surprising things (at least to the media pundits) to come out of this past Tuesday’s election was that whopping twenty-five percent of the voters said that morals was the number one issue that drove them to the polls. Prior to the election, there were not many saying that this would be a contributing factor. Most, if not all, of the media were saying that the election was a referendum on Iraq. Many said that it was the economy. However, when the voters came out to vote, the truth was that more voters were concerned about morality than the other issues. This is a good thing.

The Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). History has also proven this to be true as well. The great empire, Rome, fell, not because of it’s lack of power, but because of it’s abandonment of moral values. Corruption and abuses within the Catholic Church lead to the protestant reformation. Russian communism ultimately failed because it taught that there was no such thing as that which is morally right or wrong. Our nation need not think that it somehow has the “secret” to being immoral, yet not failing as a country. Such hubris flies in the face of history.

I’ve heard a couple of things from the “spin doctors” this week as to why the vote went the way it did. One thing that I heard was that the “benefits of a secular state” simply were not pursued with enough vigor. The truth is that there is really no such thing as a secular state; God controls it all (Psalm 83:18). Those who believe that the state can be wholly secular have forgotten the lessons of communism. Indeed, a state needs to have at it’s foundation some kind of fundamental morals. There is that which is right and that which is wrong; society ought to base its laws upon that which is morally right.

Some have suggested that if it doesn’t “hurt” anybody else then we ought not to prohibit whatever action it is that doesn’t “hurt” someone else. The problem with this thinking is that when we do something morally wrong, it always hurts someone else. The disease of AIDS exists today as testament to the FACT that behavior that allegedly “doesn’t hurt anyone else” truly does hurt, and kill others. How many children must live with such a horrible disease because of the actions of some mother or father that “didn’t hurt anyone else?” Our actions (whether seemingly innocent or not) always have consequences; God said long ago, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7, 8).

Another thing that I have heard this past week is that the losing party simply did not get out the message that they have morals too. This is partly incorrect. The losing party made an great effort to convince some that they did have morals. One of the more popular slogans that was touted was that they wanted to hear “less about family values and more about valuing families.” If I had a dime for each time that was said.

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The Bible Miracle of the Gift of Tongues

Speaking in Tongues – The Bible Miracle of the Gift of Tongues

By Kevin Cauley 3/5/2017

There is, perhaps, no more publicized miracle today than that of speaking in tongues. It is the one miracle that those who believe they can do miracles most frequently claim as having been done. In speaking with people who claim the gift of tongues today they often describe an emotional experience and a feeling that they have never felt before. When asked what they said when they spoke in tongues, the reply is often, “I don’t know.” And when you listen to those who claim to be speaking in tongues what comes out of their mouth doesn’t even appear to resemble language at all, but “gibberish.” Is this what the Bible teaches regarding speaking in tongues? What was their purpose? Was it an emotional experience? Was it not meant to be understood by the speaker? Was it merely gibberish?

Speaking in Tongues was not Gibberish

Let’s answer that last question first. The Bible teaches that the miracle of speaking in tongues was not gibberish nor was it language that was unknown. In Acts 2:4 we read, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” So what was it that they spoke? We don’t have to read too far to understand the answer to that question. In Acts 2:7-8, those who heard the apostles speaking in tongues were amazed and then they evaluated what they heard. They said to each other, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” What they were amazed at was the fact that these Galileans could speak in the language of their birth. In Acts 2:11 they make this clear, saying “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” The apostles were speaking human languages that other people could understand. This point is made clear by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11 where he is discussing the appropriate use of the miracle of tongues. He says, “There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me” (ESV). The languages that they spoke in had meaning. The miracle of speaking in tongues was not mere gibberish.

We still wonder whether tongues were understood by the one who was speaking. It’s possible that a person could miraculously speak in tongues and someone else understand him, but he not understand what he himself is saying, right? In 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul answers this question. He says, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…” In the context, what Paul means by “edify” is that the individual understands the tongue. This is clear when he says in the next part of the verse, “but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” Paul is comparing and contrasting the spiritual gift of tongues verses the spiritual gift of prophecy. Tongues are not always understood by others, and therefore, they do not edify. They edify the one speaking in the tongue, but no other, if there is no one there who knows the tongue or who can interpret the tongue. On the other hand the gift of prophecy always edifies because it is always spoken in a tongue that can be understood. We can conclude that if speech edifies (whether it is a foreign tongue or a prophecy), then it is an understood tongue and so, since tongues edified the speaker, tongues were always understood by the person speaking them.

But what about the emotional aspect to speaking in tongues. Interestingly enough, the scriptures never speak of speaking in tongues being accompanied by an emotional experience. One would think that if speaking in tongues was such a great emotional event that such would be described as accompanying the gift of tongues in the New Testament. We read such regarding other events, such as baptism. In Acts 8:39 after the Ethiopian nobleman was baptized, it said he went on his way rejoicing. Why wasn’t the gift of speaking in tongues described in a similar way? It seems that there wasn’t any extraordinary emotional experience necessarily attached to the gift of tongues.

What was its purpose then? The Bible teaches that the gift of tongues was part of the set of miracles that the apostles and disciples of the early church could perform in order to convince others regarding the truthfulness of their statements. Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” We then read their purpose in Mark 16:20, “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” The signs were given to confirm the word. This was also the case with the miracle of speaking in tongues. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not…” The miraculous gift of tongues was a sign for the unbeliever and that gives us insight into it’s purpose. Jesus commanded the apostles to take the gospel to the whole world; how could they do that if they didn’t have some way to communicate with people of other languages? These people would be unbelievers when initially approached. The miracle of tongues, therefore, was to convince people who did not believe the gospel to believe it. And that was the exact effect it had upon the people to whom the apostles preached in Acts 2.

We can conclude, then, that the Bible teaches that 1) the miraculous gift of tongues was the ability to speak in a foreign, but understandable, language (i.e. it wasn’t just gibberish), 2) it was understood by the person who spoke it, though it wasn’t necessarily understood by the person who heard it, 3) that it wasn’t necessarily accompanied by any extraordinary emotional experience, and 4) that it’s purpose was to communicate with unbelievers to get them to accept the gospel of Christ. Tongues were certainly an important part in the construction of the church, but they were destined to end when God’s revelation in written form was completed. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 13:8; “whether there be tongues, they shall cease.” Tongues, along with all other Bible miracles, have ceased, and we now have God’s perfectly revealed word in the scriptures.

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How Do We Get Wisdom?

How Do We Get Wisdom?

By Kevin Cauley 3/7/2017

Here is a question that the Bible directly answers in scripture. In James 1:5, James writes, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James states that if someone wants wisdom, that he may ask God and God will give him wisdom. James doesn’t, however, state “how” God gives wisdom; neither does James state that prayer is the ONLY way through which we can get wisdom. James simply says to ask for it if you lack it and God will do the . But how does God give wisdom?

In the past, God gave wisdom directly to those who were inspired. In Daniel 2:23, Daniel thanks God for the wisdom that God had miraculously given to Him. He says, “I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast now made known unto me what we desired of thee; for thou hast made known unto us the king’s matter.” Peter also tells us that God had inspired with wisdom to write his epistles in 2 Peter 3:15, 16: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” God also gave Jesus great wisdom prompting some to ask from where such wisdom originated: “And when the sabbath was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, Whence hath this man these things? and, What is the wisdom that is given unto this man, and what mean such mighty works wrought by his hands?” (Mark 6:2). Paul also wrote concerning miraculous wisdom that was given by the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8: “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit.” With the cessation of miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-10) also came the cessation of miraculous wisdom. Does God give wisdom directly today? One might just as well argue that God gives knowledge directly as he would that God gives wisdom directly today.

However, God does give wisdom in other ways. Just as God once gave knowledge directly by inspiration, which knowledge is now contained within His word, so also God, who gave wisdom by inspiration, has also left much wisdom for us in His word. The writer of the book of Proverbs states plainly that if one desires to know wisdom, that he should study that book. Proverbs 1:1-3 state: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and , and equity.” Paul also spoke concerning the wisdom that was revealed through the in 1 Corinthians 6:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” Finally, Paul teaches that within the mystery of Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Are there other ways in which God makes wisdom known? Yes. In Ephesians 3:10 Paul writes that God makes known His wisdom through the . “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the the manifold wisdom of God.” We also may gain wisdom through our cumulative lifetime experiences. If we believe that all things work together for good for the Christian (Romans 8:28), then God may also use “all things” to give wisdom as well.

God gives wisdom! What a great and wonderful blessing. May we ever look for and expect the wisdom of God in our lives.

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Bondage

Bondage

By Kevin Cauley 3/12/2017

You know, no matter how many freedoms we give ourselves we are still in . We will still have bills to pay and work to do. We will always have to pay the rent, or the mortgage, buy gasoline for our car which enslaves us to change its oil and give it a good bath every once in a while.

Worse yet, we are enslaved by the pseudo-standards which society erects for us to attain. We must have this car and that house. We must have those shoes, or that shirt. We must have this television set with this VCR and that stereo. Yet, it seems that once we have attained what we thought was society’s standard, society brings out its “new and improved” version and we are enslaved to attain that as well.

In the end, our captivity seems to boil down to three masters, money, sex, and power (or affluence). A person doesn’t have to go too far to see some kind of “get rich quick” scheme lurking around the corner. The people who supposedly want you to get rich are making millions off of you. As far as sex goes, television personalities such as Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Oprah Winfrey give us our daily dose of that. That is not to mention the constant barrage of TV shows which glamorize adultery and fornication. And you can look no further than the next political election to see how much men and women crave power. You can also see it in our desire to go higher and higher on the corporate ladder. Whether we like it or not, as a society we are enslaved to money, sex, and power.

Now, ask yourself a question. Is this what I want? Hedonic bliss? To have all my days filled with working and toiling only to end up being controlled by these three masters, money, sex, and power? Or, is there something else? Is there another master? A kind, benevolent, caring, loving master? Is there one to whom I can go when I have problems in my life? When the burdens and cares of the earth are pressing down upon my shoulders, is there something that I can seek to replace the master of money, sex, and power? The answer is YES, there is another master!

This is the Master that says, “…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). He also says, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). And, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29). Sin does not have to be your master. You can let Jesus be your Master if you will to do his will.

The kind Master says, “If any man will do his (God’s) will, he shall know of the teaching…” (John 7:17). To know the teaching of this loving master we must hear the teaching with a view toward obedience. “Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise men, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24, 25).

To escape the of sin we must believe that this benevolent Master truly is the Son of God. He says, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Once we know, trust, and are willing to act on this kind Master’s words, then we must repent. He says, “…I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). And now, having repented of our sins, we are ready to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, 33).

At this point, one is not yet saved. “Why?” you may ask. “I have heard the blessed word of this wonderful Master. I have believed that He is truly the Holy One of God. I have repented and promised God that I will not be in bondage to sin and Satan any more. And I have confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Why am I not saved?” You are not saved yet because you have not been bought out of bondage. Jesus bought you out of bondage with His blood. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). You must contact His blood, the blood that pays for your sins. So, how does a person contact the blood of Christ?

Jesus shed His blood in His death. So if there is some way that I can die with Christ, then I can come into contact with His blood. There is a way. That way is through baptism. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3, 4). Our old man is buried with Christ. We are then washed by His blood in baptism, and arise in newness of life. We are a new person. Sin is not our master any more. We are no longer in bondage. Christ is our benevolent, gracious Master.

Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and [money, sex, or power] (Matthew 6:24). Who will be your master?

Righteous Judgement

Righteous Judgement

By Kevin Cauley 3/13/2017

In the business world, there is a saying, “Perception is Truth.” The concept basically is this: you should react to people the way they perceive you, regardless of whether those perceptions are correct or not. The result of this type of thinking is a one-way relationship. These relationships are commonly practiced in business and “understanding” is not part of the equation if you are on the wrong side of that relationship. Customers do not want to understand a vendor’s problems; they just want them fixed. A boss does not want to understand an employee’s problems; he just wants results. There are exceptions to these circumstances, but they are few and far between. This is probably one of the more difficult things that I have had to deal with in the business world being a Christian. When it comes to relationships, Christianity is about understanding your brother and not being quick to judge wrongfully.

The idea of “Perception is Truth” often invades the church. A brother will get slightly offended at another brother for some small thing. Instead of asking about the offense, he just dismisses it. Over time, small offences build up and a perception is built regarding that brother. That perception may or may not be warranted, but to the brother who is offended, it is “truth.” These perceptions often generate gossip and tale bearing. In the end, they cause strife and division within the church, all because someone judged another based upon a perception.

Many today have been infected with this notion. Is this concept correct? The Bible clearly teaches that it is not. We read in John 7:24: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous .” Jesus rejects and repudiates this popular notion that one may judge based upon perception. In the context of John 7:24, Jesus was teaching in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (v.2). Many were speaking about Jesus at the feast, but quietly (v.11-13). Part of this gossip included the rumor that he had a demon (v.20). Jesus reads their hearts and repudiates this by showing that the same critics formed hypocritical judgments regarding healing on the Sabbath (22, 23). They had quickly come to wrong regarding Jesus based upon gossip that they heard. The “evidence” upon which they had drawn their conclusions regarding him was all perception. So Jesus rebukes them, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous .”

Christians also get bogged down in the same nonsense and become objects of this rebuke as well. It is so easy for us to listen to gossip regarding other Christians. Unlike Jesus, we cannot read the hearts of individuals who act this way, so the Bible gives us several principles upon which to ensure that our Christian relationships remain in tact. These principles are love, patience, longsuffering, and brotherly kindness. Applying these principles in our life will go a long way toward not according to appearance.

How do we use love to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use patience to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use longsuffering to not judge according to appearance?
How do we use brotherly kindness to not judge according to appearance?
Are there any additional items that must be respected after all of these have been applied? Jesus has set down a few items for us to follow in regard to our personal Christian relationships. Our problem is that we fail to follow these rules and thereby cause great hurt and pain among our brethren unnecessarily. (Please note that the situation under consideration is a personal relationship between two Christians; these rules do not apply to publicly taught false doctrine or immoral public behavior.) What are these rules? Jesus states them in Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

The first step is to speak to the brother privately about his offence. This is probably the most uncomfortable step that we have to take. It is much easier to go to others and start talking about someone else; it is much harder to talk to the person who has committed the trespass directly. However, this is for the good of everyone, and is consistent with the Biblical teaching of love. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” When we go to a brother privately and discuss things and resolve them, we have helped to not spread things beyond what they should be known. The Holy Spirit calls this love. This first private consultation may reveal a number of things regarding the brother who trespassed against you; it may in fact reveal that you misjudged something that he did. These things can be cleared up privately without the need for additional parties to intervene and especially without having to go before the “unjust” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

After one has spoken to a brother privately and this brother refuses to repent, the second step is to bring two or three witnesses for the purpose of establishing every word. It is not enough with God for one person to go and start telling every one about this situation. God demands that we take two or three with us to establish every word. At this meeting, an accounting of all that has taken place will be recorded; the additional witnesses will judge the trespass. If the judgment of these additional witnesses is not heard and obeyed, then the matter will be brought before the church.

The church has final authority in regard to the trespass. By the time the issue is presented to the church, it should be clear what the offending party has done and what he needs to do to correct the situation. If the church’s decision is not obeyed in this regard, then the one who committed the offence is to be as a heathen or publican.

What should we do so that we do not practice this in our lives? We must practice the instruction that Jesus gave in regard to personal relationships regardless of our own personal comforts.

The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement

By G. E. Watkins 3/15/2017

The tenth day of the seventh month of Israel’s calendar marked a day unlike any other (see Leviticus 16).  To the spiritually minded in Israel it was a day to be prepared for and longed for.It was a day of approach to ; indeed more closely than any other day of the year.  It was the day the high priest and his family, the tabernacle itself, and the congregation were cleansed.  It was the day that the high priest made atonement for the people of Israel.  It was a day of great danger for the high priest, entering, as he did, into the holy of holies.  It was a rite full of meaning for the of Israel.  It spoke of ’s desire to commune with His people. It spoke of ’s mercy and grace in making a way for Israel to approach .  It has great meaning for Christians as we consider that which is equivalent to the Day of Atonement in the .

To approach God the high priest had to be clean, both physically and ceremonially.  He alone on this day, so he brings what he needs with him.  He enters tabernacle court with a bullock for a offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  I imagine that he secures them in some way and then proceeds to dress for the proceedings.  He doesn’t wear his usual beautiful clothing but wears clothes that are similar to the priests garments in plainness but prepared for that special occasion.  He washes his body and then dresses.  Then he receives of the congregation two kids of the goats for a offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  With those secure he proceeds to make an atonement for himself and for his house, that is, the priesthood.  He kills and offers the offering for himself and his house. He takes a bowl of the blood and censer with coals from the altar and the incense that God had formulated and brings it within the veil. He is now within the holy of holies.  The cloud from the incense must cover the mercy seat while he is in there, otherwise he will die.  Then he sprinkles the blood in the bowl on the east side of the mercy seat seven times.  Atonement has been made for the priest and his house.  Only now is he qualified to make atonement for the people.

At this point he takes the first kid and offers it for a offering for the people.  He brings a bowl of the blood into the holy of holies as he did before.  The text doesn’t say but we can infer that he took the censer back in as well because the danger was still there.  He sprinkles the blood on the mercy seat as he did before.  This is to make atonement for the holy place, “because of the of the of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins.”  He then makes atonement for the altar by putting the blood of both the bullock and the kid on the horns of the altar and by sprinkling the blood upon it seven times.

At this point the high priest has made atonement for himself and the priesthood, for the tabernacle and for the altar.  These are sanctified once more so that the people can approach God.

The second goat is then employed.  The high priest then lays both hands upon it and confesses over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel.  I would imagine this took awhile.  The laying on of hands indicated association.  So the sins of the people were now associated with the live goat.  That goat was then lead by a man into the wilderness and let go.  Since this was a kid it is presumed that it was left to die by starvation or by predation.  The sins of the people were then taken away.

The high priest is not yet finished.  He washes and changes his clothes; he now puts on his regular, beautiful high priestly garments.  He now offers his burnt offering and the burnt offering for the people.

Then comes the cleanup.  The man who led the scapegoat must wash his clothes and his flesh before he comes into the camp and the corpses of the sin offerings must be burned outside the camp.  Then the man who cleans up the sin offering corpses must wash his clothes and flesh before he returns to the camp.

Now the people can come and offer their offerings to God.  All has been purified.  We should ask, “Why don’t we have to do this now to approach God?”  The answer is in the cross of Christ where He died and shed His blood (John 19:34).  He was the “lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The priesthood no longer needs cleansing.  There is a new priesthood; after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6; 5:10; 6:20, etc.). The high priest has never committed sin and so needs no (Hebrews 4:15).  The tabernacle has been cleansed by the blood of a perfect (Acts 20:28); one that is finally adequate for the job of cleansing once for all (Hebrews 10:10).  When Jesus died His blood was carried into the most holy place (Hebrews 9:12) and access was granted for all who are associated with the sacrifice (Matthew 26:28; Acts 2:38).