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Is Zeal Something You Still Have?

Is Zeal Something You Still Have?

   Upon reading Titus 2:14 one can see that the reasons Christ gave Himself for us are given, and included is zeal.   Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  All seem to want the redemption and the promise of eternal life, but many seem to lose the zeal they had when they were first baptized into Christ.  

   If you are a child of God, think back to when you became a Christian. Do you remember the “fervor” you had – the fire that burned within you to speak with others about God’s Love for us and His plan for saving a soul?   Is that zeal still with you? Do you still have that same enthusiasm you once had? If not, what happened to it?   Where did it go?  

   Zeal defined: Eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something; Fervor.   Synonyms for Zeal are: Enthusiasm, Passion, Ardor, Eagerness or Vehemence.

     While it is important to have and maintain zeal, it is equally important to make sure that one’s zeal is properly directed. In Philippians 3:6 the Spirit directed the apostle Paul write concerning the zeal Paul had when he thought he was serving God under the Law of Moses.   Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  One can easily see that Saul’s zeal was misdirected at that point. However, when it was properly directed in service to God, his zeal served to guide numerous folks to Christ.   We know this as Acts 9:15 reveals what the Lord said to Ananias in regard to Saul. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 

   Proper zeal, or zeal that is properly directed must also be in accordance to knowledge.   In accordance to Romans 10:1 we are told that Paul’s desire for Israel was that “they might be saved”.   He also affirmed that they had zeal in verse two, but since it was “not according to knowledge” we are told what they failed to do in verse three.   For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 

   Now, since we have established from God’s Word that zeal is only effective if rightly directed and in accordance to teaching from God’s Word, could it be possible that if your zeal has waned that the absence of God’s Word in your life is the cause?   In James 4:7 we are reminded that we are to submit ourselves to God and what will result.   Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   We then must determine what it takes to submit to God. How can that be done unless one does so in accordance to His Word?   2Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture comes from God and why it was given to humanity.   All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 

   Then as we read 2Timothy 2:15 we are told how that “Word of truth” will cause us to be “throughly furnished”.  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Even with all the problems the Corinthian church had, the Spirit had Paul commend them for their zeal.   From 2Corinthains 9:1-2 we are told of the love of the Corinthians for those of other congregations and that their zeal provoked many.   For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 

     Is this saying that zeal is contagious?   These verses certainly indicate that one’s zeal can be a source of encouragement for others.   But one thing I have noticed is that a lack of zeal does seem to contagious. It is like a virus that has afflicted the church of the Lord in many locations.   If the loss of zeal can affect an individual it can certainly affect congregations.   Need we be reminded of the affect a lack of zeal had on the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15 and what the Lord would do to them as we read in verse 16?   I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Could this be you?  

   If we have lost our zeal for God or if it has been diminished for any reason we need to rekindle it with knowledge of God’s Word. Your soul depends upon it

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Spiritual Adultery

Spiritual Adultery

 It is alarming that some Christians don’t seem to understand what spiritual adultery is or how one might be involved in it.   Some of these are the same people that wouldn’t think of “cheating” on a spouse as this is considered an egregious (flagrant) sin.    A good definition for Adultery is: voluntary sexual relations with a married person other than one’s spouse.  

   There are a number of synonyms for adultery with which we are all familiar. Some of these are: Infidelity, Disloyalty, Betrayal and Faithlessness. Of course when these words are used in regard to a marital relationship, most folks think of physical marriage. Little do some realize that such a thing as “spiritual adultery” does exist, and there may very well be Christians involved in spiritual adultery, while not actually aware that they are.

     We know what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 regarding adultery. He is speaking of physical marriage in this passage. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.   This is the understanding that most Christians have regarding this passage.    In Deuteronomy 22:22 the Old Testament covenant God had with Israel, the penalty for adultery was death. The keeping of the Law of God in this case, was to put the evil away from Israel. If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. God has never condoned the breaking of vows. The vows a man and woman make in marriage are important.   Should we think the vow we made with God is of any less importance?  

   In Jeremiah 3:14 we find that Israel was married to God. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:  Then we find in Malachi 2:11 that after the kingdom of Israel was divided, Judah committed spiritual adultery.   Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.   They were not walking honestly before God. They were unfaithful.

   In the New Testament, we find in Romans 7:2 the Law of God relative to marriage.   When one spouse dies, the other is free to be married to another. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  Then we see in Romans 7:4 we see to whom Christians are spiritually wed and that the Law (Old Testament) no longer bound the Jews to God.   Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.  And we might also consider the language of 2Corinthians 11:2 in which the Spirit had Paul explain the relationship all Christians are to have with Christ. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, (Christ) that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 

   Therefore, if we as Christians, attend services in religious organizations that are not the body of Christ, or participate with them in functions they authorize we are indeed committing spiritual adultery.   By participating with them, we are also bidding them God speed. 2John 1:9-11 tells us that if we receive one that comes unto us and they “abide not in the doctrine of Christ” we are bidding them God speed.  The same is true if we go to those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ.  Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Those of these other religious organizations are not married to Christ, and if we bid them God speed, or participate with them, we become partakers of their evil deeds.

   This is also why in 2Corinthians 6:17 the Spirit had Paul tell the Corinthian brethren it was wrong to participate in the deeds of the world, those that falsely serve God, and those that serve false gods and what to do about it. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

   As faithful Christians, let’s honor the vow we made with God, and remain truly faithful as part of the bride of Christ.  

                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

How Converted Are You?

How Converted Are You?

   You must be thinking “What kind of question is that?” The question comes as a result of observations of some who “professed” to be Christians over the years.

    The very definition of “converted” indicates a change has occurred, but one that is a “Christian” and continues in their previous manner of life is not converted at all.   This indicates that the change the gospel should have made in them has not yet happened. We might look to the life of the apostle Paul for an inspired example of conversion and how a life is properly changed by the gospel. In the Acts 26:4-6 account of Paul’s defense before Agrippa, we see his explanation of his training as

a Jew from his youth and how that not only caused him to act as he did prior to his conversion, but also gives us the reason why he was being judged by the Jews on that occasion.   My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 

   Then we see in 2Timothy 3:10-11 the Spirit had Paul remind Timothy that he had observed Paul’s manner of life and that Paul’s manner of life and his persecution was because he had truly been converted.   But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.    The persecutions Paul suffered was because He had been converted – changed – changed by the gospel.   That change was apparent to all with whom he would come in contact, whether brethren or enemies of the cross of Christ.  

     We are also told in 2Timothy 3:12 that if we have been converted we too can fully expect persecution, albeit not necessarily the same type Paul had to endure. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  To be godly in this world means that one has been converted and is different than the world and therefore will be persecuted by the world in one way or another.    We should also understand that conversion is not a concept that is exclusive to the New Testament. As we look to Psalms 51, we can see in vss 10-13 that one who is converted will then teach others God’s Ways, and will do their best to reach others with God’s Word so they too can be converted.   Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.  13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 

   In Matthew 13:10 while Jesus was on the earth, His apostles asked why He spoke to the people in parables. Verse 11 is His answer. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  Then in Matthew 13:15 He explained why.  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.  Why would they not be converted?   It was because they would not receive the Words of Jesus.    

      We should be aware that many were converted in A.D. 33 on Pentecost in Jerusalem, but who were they?   Acts 2:41 identifies them for us as those that gladly received the Word.   Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  Only those who gladly receive the Word can be converted and only those that want to remain converted will do so if they continue to stay in the Word.

     It is also important to understand that one cannot be “partially” converted. The apostle Paul, in Acts 26:24-29 in his defense before Festus and king Agrippa desired that Agrippa and all others there were “altogether as he was except his bonds. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.  This means that Paul desired that they were “altogether” converted. How converted are you?   If not all the way converted, it is not enough.      Be converted according to God’s Word before it is everlastingly too late.                           

        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Mothers In The Church

Mothers In The Church

     Today is the day set aside by our nation to remember and commemorate our mothers. There is much that is misunderstood about this “holiday” among those who observe it.   It is not a day set aside by God.

     Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in our society. This is understandable as it has long been said” The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” But this does not mean that the mother rules the world; but it means that the mother has a great deal of influence over the ones being rocked.

   mThe idea of “Mother’s Day” is not specific to America alone as it is observed in many parts of the world.   Like most “holidays” the idea of it may have come about due to pagan celebrations or denominational practices. The Greeks had a cult that honored Cybele; the Romans had a festival of Hilaria; and the church of England and the Catholics had “Mothering Sunday” which commemorated the “mother church” rather than motherhood.

   The modern “holiday” of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a celebration for her mother in St. Andrews Methodist church in Grafton West Virginia.   She began lobbying to make Mother’s Day an official “holiday” in 1905, shortly after the death of her mother, who had cared for wounded from both sides during the American Civil War.

   It was also in 1908 that the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-In-Law’s Day”. But, in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration that the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor mothers.   That day has been the observance from that time until the present. (info from Wikipedia)

   Now that we have established the fact that “Mother’s Day” is not a celebration of the church, nor authorized by God, let us point out some of the things God has said about mothers in His Word.  

   We know from Genesis 3:20 that Eve was the “mother of all living” as all who came to be after the creation of Adam and Eve were born, and all who give birth are called mothers.   Then as we move to the New Testament, after the establishment of the church, we have a fine example of the type of mother that is to be in the church and one that is to be truly honored. That example is found in 2Timothy 2:1-5 where Timothy’s mother Eunice is commended for instilling in Timothy a love for the truth and a desire to faithfully follow God in accordance to God’s Word. When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. These are the kinds of godly mothers that God would have in the church.  

   In Titus 2:4-5 we see that the aged women were to teach the young women to conduct themselves in such a way to deserve the honor of their children and their husbands. That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.  You may say: “What mother does not love her children?” No doubt most mothers love their children, but what better way is there to show that love than teaching them the way of truth so that their soul need not spend eternity in Hell?   The “hand that rocks the cradle” has the most influence on the child in its most formative years, but it is not the mother alone that is to bring up the child properly in accordance to God’s Word.

   The passage above in Titus 2:4-5 goes hand in hand with Ephesians 6:4, which while speaking directly to the fathers, has the mother in mind as well as the young women are to be “keepers at home” and let the fathers provide for the family. A godly mother (and fathers too) are to guide the child in God’s Word as the father provides for the family. (I know this may be a bit unpopular – but I didn’t write it, God did.) And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

   The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10 whose price is far above rubies is explained in the verses that come afterward. From Proverbs 31:26-28 we can read of her virtue relative to being the mother God would have her be. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  It is not wrong to remember our mothers.   Let’s honor every Christian mother on every day.   But, on the Lord’s Day, let us focus on honoring and serving the God of heaven as He would have it.  

                                                                                Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

When We Know Not

When We Know Not

The phrase “I know that I know nothing” is called the Socratic Paradox and is a well-known saying, but there is no record of Socrates ever speaking these words.   The saying is derived from Plato’s account of the Greek philosopher Socrates.  I’m not sure what this saying even means, because if you know that you know nothing – well, then you do know something.  

When we don’t know, we tend to stumble along and often fail or fall. Israel was a prime example of this.   This nation was known as the people of God.   This is because God chose the nation of Israel to carry out His plan to bring salvation to humanity. God set things up and as His plan was being carried out Israel was to know and to follow that plan.   However, we find in Jeremiah 8:5-9 that even though Israel had been informed, and had been given God’s Word, they still knew not.   Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return6 I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.  8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. 9 The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them

This passage also shows that God’s creation, with the exception of man follows the plans set up by God.   Why is it that man does not know? It was not because they were not told.   In Hosea 4:6 the Spirit directed Hosea to write why God’s people were destroyed and what their own actions would bring upon them.   My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

So that we do not misunderstand – Let us be clear.   God is not a respecter of persons per both the Old and New Testaments. From the O.T. we see this in the book of 2Chronicles 19:7 (to the Jewish nation only). Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.    And, from the N.T. we find this in Romans 2:11 as well as other passages. For there is no respect of persons with God.   Therefore, He has given His Word to all men, if they will receive and accept it.

God’s forgetting the children of the nation of Israel would be brought on by the parents.   For, if parents reject the knowledge of God and do not pass it on to their children, the children will not know God, nor follow Him.   This is clearly what the Spirit had Paul write to the Roman brethren in Romans 1:28. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;    Even a casual reading of the verses that follow verse 28 shows the despicable activity in which many who refuse to retain God in their knowledge participate.

This is why God saw to it that the gospel was preached everywhere.   There is no excuse for man not knowing God’s Will for man. The Spirit had Paul inform the Colossians brethren of this in Colossians 1:23 as well as pointing out the importance of holding fast to the truth. If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 

We also must also understand that choice is part of this equation.  Everyone that is of the age of accountability must make their own choice.   But, let us also acknowledge that each will be judged according to what they choose in this life.    2Corinthians 5:10 makes this abundantly clear.   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.  Can we afford to not know?   The grace of God has been extended to us in that we have this present time to know and to choose well. Make the best of the time you have.   Read and know God’s Word, and do it.

                                                                                                                                 Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Getting God's Word Right

Getting God’s Word Right

   It is apparent by all the different doctrines that are being put forth in regard to the Word of God that many have not and do not understand God’s Word.   The message God has provided for men is the same for all, but not all read it the same or apply it as it should be applied.   Folks show how selfish they are by picking and choosing their own “special” passages and then often misapplying them toward preconceived notions or to support the doctrines they hold.

   These doctrines of men are refuted when God’s Word is rightly divided as we are told in 2Timothy 2:15.   This verse also tells us how we are to know what is right and what is wrong.   If we do not study, we cannot “get God’s Word right”. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.    Let us not misunderstand; God’s Word is always right, but is not always rightly divided. It is often not rightly divided because it is not read and studied.   Man should be “ashamed” if they do not read and study God’s Word as this will leave them ill prepared for what lies beyond this life.    

     God’s Word in this – the last dispensation of time – is called the gospel. We are told in Romans 1:16 what power it holds and the one who was directed to write this was also directed to write that he was not ashamed to preach it. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.    God’s rightly divided Word is His power unto salvation, but not unless it is read, studied and understood. This is equally true for Christians as well as those outside of Christ.   Christianity has to be maintained once it is obtained. This cannot be done without proper application of the Holy Scriptures.

     Included here is a poem written by O.D. Wilson, my Father-in-Law, penned some years ago which shows that he also had a grasp on this problem faced by many Christians and other “religious” people that recognize the Bible as God’s Holy Word.  

Understanding the Word

1)

I’m attempting a thing that is hard to do,

And, that’s writing this poem for people like you.

Don’t misunderstand the things I shall say,

Everything in the Bible’s not for us today.

2)

While personal pronouns appear in their places,

The context decides their “use” in such cases.

The apostles and prophets have some special spots,

Which some never knew and others forgot.

3)

The “permanent” and temporary are valuable, too,

While screening the evidence for what to do.

It’s true these are there in the Sacred text,

With the temporary first and the permanent next.

4)

To whom and about what, is often ignored,

While some certain passages are underscored.

“Generics” and “specifics” we know aren’t the same,

And the literal and figurative are seldom explained.

5)

When “rightly divided” God’s Message is plain,

He gave the “commands”, the “expedients” we name.

The “mystery’s” revealed, but, Ah, have we learned?

This question I ask: Are we really concerned?

6)

So, let us “divide” by the Dispensations,

Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian equations,

Re-trace the “boundaries” re-build the “fences”,

And the Word will require no further defenses.

                                                                  O.D. Wilson - deceased

Let’s let God’s Word speak for itself, but let’s also be sure of what it is saying and apply it properly to our lives.  Only then can we “get God’s Word right” and only then can the proper application be made in our lives.

                                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Two Sides of the Father

Two sides of the Father

      We are told throughout the scriptures of the goodness of God. We are also told of the wrath of God and the severity of the punishment that will be inflicted on those who fail to serve God faithfully or refuse to serve Him at all. We have a passage in Romans 11:22 which speaks to two sides of the Father at the same time.    Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 

     I am afraid that many are willing to take note of, or remember the goodness of God and refuse to think of the severity of God as if that will cause them to be the recipients of only the good and possibly shields them from any punishment which they deserve if they do not do the Will of God.   That’s like thinking a tornado will not damage your home if you simply refuse to think about it, or that disease cannot afflict you if you don’t acknowledge it.

      Many want to point out the goodness of God by quoting verses like John 3:16 and then staking their soul’s eternal destiny on a misapplication of the verse. 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.  This verse in no way states that just because Jesus died, and just because one believes he or she “shall” have everlasting life.   It clearly states that He died so that those who believe in Him “should not perish, but have everlasting life”.   This shows He provided the means whereby those who believe in Him can be saved.   This is the goodness of God extended toward us. Eternal life is in Christ, and outside of Christ one cannot have the promise.  

     If one believes in one God, they will believe in the Christ. But, this belief alone still does not save. James 2:19, in the discussion of faith and works makes this abundantly clear. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. They do more than some people do; at least these devils tremble. Most folks go through life asserting that Jesus loves them and God loves them and hoping that this in itself will make a difference for them at the judgment.

     We do know that a certain amount of the goodness of God is directed to all of humanity.   The fact of creation itself attests to that. Also, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:45 in the Sermon on the Mount, . . . for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.    Now, does it not make sense that since God shows His love for all of mankind in expressing His goodness upon us all that He will also punish all who refuse to love Him and follow that which He has directed in His Word?   No amount of refusal to believe on our part will nullify what God has said in His Word.   2Thessalonians 1:7-9 are Words given to Paul by the Spirit to write to these brethren which were troubled because of the persecution of the wicked.   These Words are still applicable today.   And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 

          We are also told in Romans 12:9 that we need not worry about avenging the evil that is directed toward us because this belongs to God and He will take care of it. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. God will punish those who refuse to obey Him, and He will also reward those who follow His Word in faithful obedience. In Colossians 3:24-25 we are told that all will receive their “reward” in accordance to that which they have done in this life. God does not respect anyone’s person. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. 

              Let’s make the right choice; God has left that up to us to do. If we think only of the goodness of God we might think the Lord is on our side.   Rather, as Moses offered the choice to Israel in Exodus 32:26 let’s be obedient and be on the Lord’s side. Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. Then let us look forward to the reward of God and not be on the receiving end of the severity of God.

                                                                                                             Dennis Strickland - Mooresville

MAKING CHRISTIAN PROGRESS

MAKING CHRISTIAN PROGRESS

   One of things the Christian is to focus on is choosing the better things in life. In fact, being a faithful Christian is the best thing in life. We made the choice to be obedient. The reason we make choices is so that we can make progress in various areas of our lives. This begins early in life as many young folks choose clothing to be in style or to make progress up the social ladder in school. We also often begin to select certain subjects to study while in school once we have determined we want to prepare for a specific vocation.   We do this to make progress as we become adults. And, as we become adults we continue to make choices so that we can make progress for ourselves and our families.

   The greatest choice one can make is to become a Christian. But, to become a Christian and not make progress is not acceptable in the sight of God.   As with life, when we become a Christian we are a babe.   In 1Peter 2:2 we are told by the Spirit we are expected to “grow” or make progress and how we are to do this. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:   Then in 2Peter 3:18 we also see that the growth is to continue so that we can remain pleasing to God. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.

   While we go through life, even as a Christian, it is sometimes easy to lose heart, especially when some of our choices are not what they should be or do not turn out as we wished. It is also easy to lose heart when once faithful brethren fail to remain so and depart back into the world.   Those who do so have not made Christian progress, but in fact have digressed. We can look into the Word of God to see He has clearly instructed that to return to the world is a mistake none can afford. 2Peter 2:20-22 is a warning to Christians ending with a rather graphic description of the condition of one who has once become a child of God and then again becomes entangled in sin.   This is the opposite of Christian progress. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

   Below is a poem written by my Father-In-Law many years ago and is entitled

“MAKING CHRISTIAN PROGRESS” and shows how to choose to become a Christian and then to never lose heart is definitely choosing the best thing in life.

MAKING CHRISTIAN PROGRESS

(1)

Closer and closer Lord would I be,

I’ve found the answer, learning from Thee

Where would I be if I’d never heard,

How would I know Thee, without the Word?

(2)

Stronger and stronger Lord would I grow,

With Thee beside me, I can, I know,

One single cross I don’t bear alone,

You help me bear them like they are Thine own,

(3)

Purer and purer Lord would I be,

More of Thyself and far less of me.

Crossing the River, I’ll have no fear,

For I know my Savior will always be near.

(4)

Longing and hopeful of wearing a crown,

When faith is sight and the sun has gone down,

Reunion with those who have crossed to that Shore,

Rejoicing in knowing we’ll part never more.  

                                                  O. D. Wilson - deceased

   Choose the best opportunity of life. Learn God’s Word, obey it, and as a faithful Christian, never lose heart.   Look forward to being with God forever in heaven when time is no more.  

                                                                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville

 

Should The Gospel Still Be A Mystery?

Should The Gospel Still Be A Mystery?

   There are many mysteries in life. Some of these are part of the course of growing up.   As very young people there is much we cannot understand and as such, these things are a mystery to us.   Many a young boy has found himself in trouble by trying to solve the mystery of how something works by dismantling it to see, and in so doing damage it beyond repair.   The very young don’t know how the car works, but do understand it to be the means of going someplace.    By the same token, the young cannot fully understand the love a young man has for the young woman and some unfortunately, in trying to unravel the mystery, have found themselves in a heap of trouble.   Some mysteries must remain so until it is the time to understand.  

   There are many things in life that are mysterious, yet this does not mean that they cannot be known or understood.   Having trouble with your remote?   Hand it to a child of 10 or 12 and in short order they will likely show you how it works. MYSTERY SOLVED!   The same could be said about a number of electronic devices.   That which can be understood should not necessarily remain a mystery.   I suspect I will never understand quantum physics or advanced mathematics, and so, such will remain a mystery to me. I have enough difficulty with “regular” mathematics. We all have areas of learning with which we are unfamiliar, or about which we have no interest.   Because of this these are likely to remain “mysteries” to us.

   Often, that which is a mystery to us is so because we chose to allow it to remain a mystery. If we do not “seek” to understand, we cannot expect to do so and we recognize this in areas of academia or vocation and just about all other areas of life, yet many still are quite comfortable in this life allowing the gospel to remain a mystery.   God did not intend for it to remain so. God intended that the gospel was to be delivered at the right time, following the sacrifice Christ made for mankind. This was all according to His divine plan.  

   Did you know that the word “mystery” is not found in the Old Testament? The first occurrence of the word “mystery” in the Bible is in Mark 4:11 where Jesus was asked by His twelve disciples to explain the parable of the sower. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:  This is parallel to the accounts found in Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10 which employ the word “mysteries”.

   The Old Testament is the preparatory state of that which we find in the New Testament. This is divinely supported by Romans 16:25 which the Holy Spirit had Paul write to those brethren. Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, The gospel had remained a mystery as long as it was in the preparatory stage, but is now fully revealed and should no longer be a mystery. Romans 16:26 assures us of this and also shows for whom and how it was provided and the purpose for doing so.   But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

   So, why is the gospel a mystery to so many?   I think we have already hit upon the answer to this question.   It is because so many are unfamiliar with God’s Word or have little to no desire to know what it says. To some it is easier to say: “I just don’t understand it” or “It’s too hard to understand”.   That is a cop out!   As the Spirit directed Paul to write in Ephesians 3:4-5 we can see the means by which we can understand is plainly laid out.   Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of ChristWhich in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit

   Should the gospel still be a mystery?   NO! In accordance to Romans 1:16 the gospel is God’s power to save.   For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  Would God want the means of Salvation He provided for mankind to remain a mystery?  I think not. It is also to be understood that God desires that all be saved. 2Peter 3:9 makes this abundantly clear. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God provided the gospel to inform us of our sinful state, but also so we could know how to be washed clean by the blood of Christ.

   In John 1:12-13 we are told that He gave us power to become sons.   It is only through a proper understanding and following of the gospel this can occur.   But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 

   Don’t let the gospel remain a mystery to you.   Read it and study it and do as it directs and you too can become a child of God and be with Him for eternity.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville

Is There Any Stick-to-it-iveness In Your Christianity?

Is There Any Stick-to-it-iveness in your Christianity?

     Stick-to-it-iveness is probably not a word we use on a regular basis. We may not have been aware that such is a word.   It is; and the definition given is: a dogged perseverance; a resolute tenacity. I am sure we do know what perseverance and tenacity mean.    And, one does have to persevere and be tenacious to be well pleasing to God as one of His children.  

    The Spirit directed the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:13 to instruct the Ephesians to take unto themselves the “whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” This is another way to say they were to have stick-to-it-iveness. Notice the phrase “having done all” in this verse.   Are we doing “all we can” to stand and to overcome the ruler of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places?   One can indeed make the required preparation for something and fail to succeed by not seeing it through to the end. We can see this application in our jobs or as we seek to further our education, or in other aspects of life. Why can we not see it in our service to God and the lives we are to live for Him?   We made a commitment to God when we were baptized into Christ; can we not see that we will fail if we don’t continue faithfully and fulfil the whole commitment?   That commitment is to be life-long.

     The verses following this one in the sixth chapter of Ephesians describe that whole armor of God and leaves no doubt as to the protection one has when they put on that armor and use it as indicated.   After we have donned the armor, we are also told in Ephesians 6:18 in what we are to continue as we bravely fight. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

     Do we not recall the Words written to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, the latter part of which is still applicable to all Christians? . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.     The church was going to have to endure near unbearable hardships and persecution during the time of the fall of Jerusalem and adequate warning was given in Revelation so that the church could escape the ravages of the Roman armies upon all who called upon the name of the Lord.   How do you think they would have fared if they did not have some “stick-to-it-iveness” in their Christianity?  

     Throughout the writings of the apostle Paul, the Spirit directed Paul to encourage four congregations, six times, to stand fast.  Some of these same brethren are admonished to “be strong”. One cannot “stand fast” or “be strong” if they fail to honor the commitment they made to the Lord upon obedience to the gospel. No less is expected of us.   Those of the Old Testament were also expected to live in accordance to the covenant God made with them.   In Romans 15:4 we are told that the things that were written (recorded) were done so that we might learn and through the scriptures have hope. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Examples are also given showing those who did not have “stick-to-it-iveness” in the Old Testament in regard to the covenant God made with them.   In 1Corithians 10:5-10 we read of the actions of those who failed to be faithful under that Law while they journeyed in the wilderness. Then in 1Corinthians 10:11-12 we are informed as to why this is of such great importance to us. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 

     This shows that it is indeed possible for one who has escaped the contamination of the world to again become entrapped in sin. 2Peter 2:20 proves that this can happen; and it also shows the end state of those who have allowed this to happen. This verse also points out that it is only through the knowledge of, and obedience to the Law of Christ can one be saved.   For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  All are lost who have not escaped the pollutions of the world in obedience to the gospel through the knowledge of Christ.   But, one who has been baptized into Christ and then gone back into the world are those who have no stick-to-it-iveness in their Christianity.

      Perhaps the Spirit, in 2Peter 1:10 after listing the Christian graces called us to have some stick-to-it-iveness. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:                                  

                                                                                                                     Dennis Strickland - Mooresville                    

 

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