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Our Greatest Birthday

Our Greatest Birthday

     Birthdays are the celebration of the day we were born. If asked, what would you say was your greatest birthday?   The answer to this question often depends on how many we have had and what happened on those days. Some might say it was their 16th, when they were allowed by law to receive a driver’s license.   Some might say when they were old enough to vote. Others, when they were old enough to marry and start a family. Young children might think of some of the gifts or theme parties that occurred on their birthdays and that one would be the greatest or most memorable. Some of us have enjoyed quite a few more birthdays than others, so our answer might be harder to determine.

   How many would say that the greatest “birthday” we ever had was the one in which we were re-born?   Is that not a birthday?   Jesus said it was. We are all familiar with the night-time conversation in John 3:5-6 that Jesus had with Nicodemus.   He was speaking of one being born of the Spirit.   Does that birth not constitute a “birthday” – your spiritual birthday?   Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

     The problem with a lot of folks today is that they are unaware, or unsure how this “new birth” is to come about or that the kingdom yet exists.   John 1:12-13 tells us that Jesus gave us the power to become sons of God. 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: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.    That “power” according to what the Spirit had the apostle Paul write in Romans 1:16 is the gospel. 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. 

     But how does this power work? Some people claim that this verse teaches that all one has to is believe.   Children are not born to parents in the physical realm simply by them believing they can have children.   It takes more than believing in the spiritual realm as well.   In Mark 16:15 Jesus explained what was to be done with this gospel.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  Then in verse 16 He tells what the gospel directs one to do.   He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  So, when one is baptized into Christ, they are born spiritually and at the same time become a child of God. This is their spiritual birthday. Remember that Jesus told Nicodemus that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  

     What does baptism do?   An explanation of 1John 5:8 can help us to see how this works. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.  The Spirit brought the gospel and delivered it to those who wrote it. The gospel tells us we are to be baptized in water for the remission of sins.   When one is baptized in water in accordance to the teaching of the gospel, they contact the blood of Christ, which cleanses one from sin. This is how they bear witness in earth. This is also why Christ died on the cross.

    Under the O.T. Law the blood of bulls and goats was offered. But, that blood could not remit sins as Hebrews 10:4 informs. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.  Before, in Hebrews 9:22 we are told why Christ came to die and give His blood. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. This blood of Christ also ushers us into spiritual life. The blood of Christ must be contacted.

     It is Romans 6:3-4 that points out that we are baptized into His death. And, It was in His death that Christ shed His precious blood.   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.  This is also when one is “born” into the kingdom of Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus that a “re-birth” had to occur.   This is when one is born again. And that birth requires the water and the Spirit.  

     Now that we know that the Spirit brought the Word of God, we might better understand Romans 8:14-17 as well as the benefits of being born into the kingdom of Christ. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  One can only become a “son” by being born or by being adopted. (The same thing in the N.T.)

     Another benefit is found in 1John 5:4 where the Spirit tells us:  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.   One must overcome the world to be with God for eternity.   Have you been re-born?   If so, that is indeed your greatest birthday.   If not, you need to examine your beliefs and faith, then obey the gospel so you can be a child of God. This will not only be your greatest birthday, it is also the most important one you will ever have.  

                                             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are We Listening to God?

Are We Listening to God?

   The word “listen” is only found once in the King James Bible.   This does not mean that the idea of listening to God is not found within His Word.   By definition, the word listen means “to give ear”, or to hear. God has used words and phrases such as “give heed”, “attend”, and “hear” in His Word to convey the idea that He wants His people to “listen” to Him.  

     Many in the world today fail to understand that God does not speak to man as He once did while His plan for humanity was being implemented and first begun to be carried out. There are those in the world even today that claim to have “heard” from God. This has been described as a “still small voice” or something like that.   Some claim to hear God in nature, others in dreams, visions and in various miraculous ways. However, one cannot find or produce any evidence to support their claims that God has spoken directly to them.  

     God once spoke directly to men. He did so in the Garden of Eden. He did so to Noah, to Abraham, and to many others.   He did so to direct them as to how they were to serve Him and to give them a choice. Man has always had the choice whether or not to listen to, or follow God. God talked to His people Israel through Moses and he passed God’s spoken Word to them. God continued to deliver His Word through the prophets (spoken and written) to tell His people Israel what to do, and how to do it. Often, they failed to listen to Moses, Joshua, the judges, the kings and the prophets, or others to whom God sent His Word.  

     Through the prophets, the Spirit wrote to Israel in that day, while God’s Law to them was in effect. He also wrote to His people, the church, when that New Law was decreed and put into effect. God’s Word to the church was not written until the gospel was preached at Pentecost and the church began. Therefore, the New Testament was written to Christians.   Are we listening to God?

     All of this is basically re-stated in Hebrews 1:1-2 as the Spirit, through the penman to the Hebrews Christians, tried to prevent them from becoming apostate in returning to Judaism.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  This also explains how God is speaking to His people today.  

     In John 14:16 Jesus told His chosen apostles that He would provide them with something that would abide forever. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Many think this is the presence of the Spirit.  However, if we look at what Jesus said to them in John 14:26 we can see they would be taught “all things” as well as be able to remember everything Jesus had said to them.   But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

     Compare this to 2Peter 1:3 which is a part of a general epistle to the church and tells us what we (Christians) have been given. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Then as we read 2Peter 1:4, surely we understand that it is God’s Word which tells of the promises He has made to those that love Him, serve Him and follow His Word.   Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.   It is within the Word and through the Word of God that His promises are given.

     This is evidenced as that first gospel sermon in the New Testament age was preached in Acts chapter 2. Those that were gathered there were God’s physical children under the previous Law – the Law of Moses.   They were now being given a choice to become “spiritual” children of God.   In Acts 2:37 they were “pricked” in the heart by the message and had asked what they were to do. In Acts 2:38 they were told what to do. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Then in verse 39 we see the promise made to them and to all that were afar off. That promise was that God would speak to, and save all who would “hear” and “heed” to and obey the voice of God, His Holy Word. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 2Thessalonians 2:14 also tells us how God “calls us”. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.    God will not speak to us as we speak to one another. He does not speak to one in a different way that He does to another as Acts 10:34 points out.   God does not respect one’s person.   Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Therefore His message is the same to all.   All have the same opportunity to hear and obey and all who do not will suffer the consequences and spend eternity in condemnation, separated from God.   Shouldn’t we all want to “listen” to and obey God?           

                                 

                                                                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

 

Follow Me Boys

Follow Me Boys!

     The title of this article is also the title of a 1966 Disney film in which Fred McMurray sets out to impress a young lady in the town where he had recently settled.   He becomes a Boy Scout troop leader and then got caught up in the usual antics that accompany many a Disney movie of that era.   The point of the movie is that folks look up to somebody and it is important to whom we look.  

     Many people seek folks to help guide them in careers, education, and in many various endeavors. There are those who have sought out “mentors”; those whom they look up to, for advice and instruction to achieve a particular goal.  

   Many a Christian has had the benefit of a mentor as they began their walk in the Christian life.   This is the idea conveyed in 1Corinthians 4:15-16 in which the Spirit had Paul encourage the brethren there to “follow him”. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.  This was not only because Paul had ”begotten” them through teaching and bringing them to an understanding of the truth. It was also because Paul would set a proper example before them.   This was because Paul followed Christ.   This is what the Spirit had Paul tell them in 1Corinthians 11:1.   Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. This is what makes the difference.  

   We must also understand that following Christ means to follow God.   In the letter to the Ephesians, The Spirit had Paul instruct them to do so because they were children of God.   Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;  Ephesians 5:1.   One cannot follow Jehovah without following Christ and vice-versa.  This is because Jehovah, Christ and the Spirit are God. 1John 5:7 informs us: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 

     This brings up what I think is an excellent point.   To follow God and to follow Christ is to follow the Spirit. The Thessalonian brethren were warned to not cease to follow the Spirit in 1Thessalonians 5:19 when they were told to: Quench not the Spirit.  Unfortunately, many Christians do exactly that, when they fail to heed what the Spirit has delivered to us in the Bible, the Word of God.   Perhaps this is what was being said in Galatians 5:5.   How else would we know of the hope of eternal life without the Word of God?   For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 

     Christ always followed His Father’s Will.   He told this to His disciples when He told them how to show their love for Him in John 15:10.   If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  Then in 1Peter 2:21 we read that the Lord is our perfect example. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

   The question then becomes: Who is it you follow?   That is the question we must ask ourselves as we continue through this life. Jesus, in Luke 16:13 said:

No servant 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 mammon. The Christians to whom the Spirit had John write in his 3rd epistle were warned about this very thing. These people were asked to consider their choice in 3John vs 11.   Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.  This warning is indeed very necessary as 2Peter 2:2 tells us that many make choice to follow the wrong things and do themselves and the church harm.   And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

     There are many other passages that convey the same idea without using the word follow. One such passage is Roman 6:16. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  Then as we read verses 17-18 we see that the Roman brethren had made the right choice and had chosen to follow the truth and be obedient to it. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 

       Do we ever stop and consider who, or what it is that we follow?   It is possible that we may try to deceive ourselves or others by saying the right things when this question comes up. The evidence of who or what we follow is in what we do. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 as He neared the end of the Sermon on the Mount.   He said: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 

     Now, what fruits are there in our lives that speak clearly to show we are following the Lord and His Word? To whom have we “yielded” ourselves servants to obey? Are we obedient to God, or are we following and serving sin?   This is something we all should think about.  

                                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Ye Do Err

Ye Do Err

   It is interesting that the word “err” is found only twenty four times in the King James Bible. Of these occurrences, only two are referencing “New Testament” people, those known as Christian. The first of these particular references is found in James 1:16 where an admonition against it is given. Do not err, my beloved brethren. The final reference to “err” is found in James 5:19. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; . . . The other four “New Testament” references of “err”, are speaking of the Old Testament people of God.   These are found in Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24, Mark 12:27 and speak directly to Israelites during the time of Jesus, and Hebrews 3:10, speaking of the people of Israel that were slain in the wilderness for “erring” and refusing to do as God directed in His Word.

   The Bible has long been recognized as the Word of God, but many fail to take it as it is, God’s Word written to His people. Think about it; would God need to write a book to tell those who are always in error that they are wrong. God’s Word was written to His people. In the Old Testament times we see that the written Word of God was delivered first to Moses in the form of the tables of stone. These are the Ten Commandments.   The rest of God’s written Word was delivered by the Spirit to the prophets as Hebrews 1:1 informs.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  Are there any who would deny that the people to whom God spake by the prophets were any other than the “fathers” of the nation of Israel?   Are there any that would contest that Israel was the people of God during the Old Testament times?   In the eighteen O.T. occurrences of “err”, all were directed to God’s people.

     Thus, it stands to reason that once “New Testament” time began, following the preaching on the day of Pentecost, when people became “Christians” through obedience to the commands, from that time forward God spoke to His “New Testament” people. To show this, we again go to Hebrews chapter 1; this time to Hebrews 1:2 we see the fact that God “hath spoken unto us by His Son. Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  The “us” here are Christians, as this was written in the “Christian age”.  

     The word “err” means to stray. When we consider “err”, what word comes to mind?   One word is “error”.   Is it possible then that these words were chosen by the Spirit to admonish the “people of God” not to stray?  This is also logical. What would you call it if the wicked or evil “stray” from error or wickedness? Such is impossible as conversion requires a conscious action on the part of the one that is departing wickedness or evil to be obedient to God’s Word. The proof lies in such passages as 2Peter 2:18-19. Here we see the contrast between obedience and wickedness.   For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 

     While the Bible in Romans 3:23 affirms that “all” have sinned, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; this does not mean that all must remain in sin.     In Acts 3:19 the Spirit had Peter speak to the people who witnessed the healing of the lame man. God wanted them to leave the error of Judaism and be converted to God’s New Testament plan of Salvation. This is the only way they could be saved.  Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  When God removed the old Law to make way for the New, God’s people were expected to convert and follow that New Law.  

     Notice that Peter spoke the Word of God to them. This is the same thing Jesus said in Matthew 22:29 to those who tried to ensnare Him with their words about something in which they didn’t even believe.   He said: Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.  Several years later the Spirit had Paul write in Romans 1:16 that 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.  This is what every Christian is to do. Christians are to call people out of error. If that person is not a Christian, one is to teach them the gospel plan of Salvation and if one who is a Christian errs, they are to be taught to repent and pray that they might be restored.   Acts 8:22 is where Simon was so taught. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 

     Don’t “err”!  Apply only God’s plan.   Go to His Word. Read what it teaches about how to be saved, to remain saved and follow it. Do it because you love God. To follow man’s many plans will not take you where you want to spend eternity.   Even in the Old Testament, before Salvation was offered in Christ, God’s people were told this in Jeremiah 10:23.   O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. 

                                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Does It Matter What You Call It?

Does It Matter What You Call It?

   When we were learning to talk, we were often corrected by our parents or maybe older siblings when we called something by the wrong name.   That which is being taught is that the name of something matters.   This is part of learning as we grow up.   As we start to understand the significance of this we begin to call things as they should be called. We associate the things with the names we learn that go along with them

   This is nothing new. God employed the calling of things to name the creatures of His creation. Ever wonder why animals are called what they are?   Well, here’s the answer. Rather than “naming” everything as He created it, God brought them before Adam to see what he would call them. Genesis 2:19-20 is where we find this account.  And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.   

     Names are obviously important.   We use them to identify ourselves or others as we interact daily. For instance: “Hi, my name is: Dennis Strickland”, or “I’d like to introduce you to my wife: Linda”. Do these names matter? To me they do!    I am not very likely to walk up to you and say: “Hi, my name is Tom”. Not that there is anything wrong with the name Tom. – It’s just not mine!   If I am walking away from you and you call out “hey Tom!”, I am not likely to even turn back to you and ask if you are talking to me.   I would probably figure that you see someone named Tom and are calling out to get his attention, not mine.   To call out to me, one would use my name.   The same is true with God’s people.

   Why does this “name thing” seem to matter in all areas except religion?   When you get someone to drive you to your place of employment, to where do you asked to be delivered? Do you just have them take you to “some street” in town?   Do you not give the specific address, or name of the business at which you are employed? Then, what about the name that is on the check you expect to receive at the end of the work week?   Would it matter if your paycheck was made out to me?   I suspect that it would matter to you before I got to the bank.    

     As you go to the Doctor for a specific condition, does it matter if he or she pays no attention to the symptoms which you have, or the name of the drug given you to restore your health?   Of course it matters.   In fact, in any scenario I could present, most folks would point out how important it is to call things what they are. To do otherwise in many cases could cause disappointment, pain, injury, or in the most extreme cases, even death.  

     Why is it that many don’t realize or care if the name of the religious body with which they are associated is approved of God? Colossians 3:17 is explicit in its direction to the people of God in that location. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. The same thing applies to us today, including the name by which we are called. In the latter part of Acts 11:26 we are told that the disciples of the Lord; those doing what God authorized were given a name.   And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

   Why is it then, that many religious people who insist on being called Christian, also insist on being called by a man made name at the same time?     One that is a Christian is to wear the name of Christ and not the name of some man who started a denomination. God did not authorize those denominational names or doctrines.   Through the pen of Paul in 1Corinthians 1:10-13, the Spirit was telling them to be Christian one is to be called by the name God authorized, and not by a man’s name. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 

     One cannot be approved of God and wear the name of a man’s organization or follow man made doctrine.   According to Galatians 1:9-10, to wear the name of a body assigned by man, or to follow man’s doctrine is not pleasing to Christ. One who does is accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 

     Does it matter what you call it?   To God it does.   Let us strive to call things as God called them and do what God has directed in His Word.   Our eternity with God depends upon it.         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Clean All Over

Clean All Over

       Many a young boy has declared they are clean, to which their mother would check behind the ears or other places to ensure this to be the case. Most little boys are not fond of baths and getting clean. Nobody wants to be “scrubbed” when they think they are clean enough. I suppose that is why some mother, way back in time, with good intentions, came up with the phrase: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. This phrase was first recorded as being in a sermon in 1778 by John Wesley, but the idea is ancient, having been found in Babylonian and Egyptian religious tracts. (Wikipedia) Both of these points, coupled with the fact that this saying is nowhere found in the Bible, means that God has not coupled physical cleanliness with being godly.

   There is however, a certain repulsiveness to one that is dirty, smelly, and who does not participate in good hygiene. The same is true “spiritually” in the eyes of God when one does not remain “clean”, which means one is not following His Word.   In Luke 11:39 Jesus used the physical washing of one part of the cup and platter and the lack thereof in other parts of it to describe the kind of “filth” which characterized the Pharisees in His day. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. In several other places, He pointed out that they were hypocrites. They were not following God’s Word. Jesus drew the contrast between the Pharisees and His disciples in John 15:3 when He said how His disciples were clean. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  He was not speaking of bodily cleanliness in this situation.      

       Washing has been “symbolic” of cleanliness for many years. Pilate, in an effort to separate himself from the situation in which he cowardly felt he had no options, in Matthew 27:24 made a big production of washing his hands before the people.   When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.   Pilate could not be clean of his part in this by “washing his hands” any more than his claim to be innocent made it so.

     The Bible also uses “wash” and “washed” to indicate a spiritual cleanliness in several places following the beginning New Testament age. As we look to the instructions given to Saul in Acts 22:16 by Ananias, we see it was so that Saul could chose to be clean inside. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.  Then as we read 1Corinthians 6:11 we can see what the Spirit had Paul write regarding the condition these brethren were in following their obedience to the gospel. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. However, if you read vss 9-10 of the same book and chapter it is easy to see how “unclean” these people were before their conversions.   Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  These folks, just like Saul, were “washed” when they were baptized into Christ. When one is baptized into Christ, he or she is as clean as they will ever be.

     This is the idea being conveyed in Psalms 51:2 where the Spirit had the Psalmist express his desire to be “clean all over”. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Then in Psalms 119:9 the Spirit had him write how this can be accomplished. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.   This has been true in the sight of God throughout time as He has directed young men, desiring their devotion and obedience.  

       When it comes down to it, one has to decide which type of “clean” is of most importance to them. In Matthew 15:19-20 Jesus contrasted physical and spiritual cleanliness so we could know the difference. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. 

       There once was a commercial that said: “You’re not fully clean until you’re Zestfully clean”. God’s Word tells us one is not fully clean until you’re “spiritually” clean. Now, that’s clean all over!   Seek to be clean “all over” as God directs in His Word.                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ.

 

Self Deception

Self-Deception

     If we have lived any time in this life we are aware that there are folks in the world with the intent to deceive others. The Spirit had the apostle Paul address being deceived in Titus 3:3 and has Paul include himself in this.   For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.  Notice that it is pointed out that being deceived is foolish. This is speaking of the time in our life prior to hearing and obeying the gospel.  

   God does not deceive anyone.  In fact, according to 2Peter 1:3 God has given us all we need so that we need not be deceived; not even by ourselves. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:    In Ephesians 4:14 we see that the desire of God is that we be united in Christ and no longer be deceived by the doctrines of man. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 

   Often, those who deceive others, do so for the benefit of the one doing the deceiving. That is why they do it.   Why they feel like they need to deceive others is perhaps because of laziness, or a feeling of inadequacy or something of that nature. That being understood, it becomes a bigger mystery as to why one would deceive themselves.   What benefit is there to it?     The answer is none!

     The fact is that self-deception is the worst kind of deception.   We’ve all heard the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. But, fool me twice, shame on me.”    But self-deception would force the changing of the saying to be: “I fooled me once, shame on me. I fooled me twice, shame on me!”   Doesn’t make sense does it? It cannot make sense as one cannot “fool” themselves and gain anything from it.  Then why is self-deception so prevalent in this world today?   Why are people so deluded in regard to where they and their loved ones will spend eternity when they do nothing to prepare for eternity?  

     It is because folks are willing to lie to themselves. That is what self-deception is. When a person lies to themselves, they do so to convince themselves of things that are not so.   This is the reason the Spirit had Paul warn the Ephesians of the potential of speaking “vain words” to themselves in Ephesians 5:6. The phrase “no man” would also include themselves. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.    When a Christian lies to themselves, they sin and have become “children of disobedience”.   If one argues that this is not as clear as it could be, they should be directed to 1Corinthians 3:18 where the idea of self-deception is dealt with directly.   Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. (To become a fool as the world sees it = obeying and serving God.)

     Many have deceived themselves into thinking that regardless of how they live while in this life they will end up in heaven for eternity. In 2Thessalonians 1:7-9 the Spirit had Paul state what will really happen, and no amount of self-deception is able to change this.   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 Christ:  9  Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;    The idea that one’s loved one will “miss” heaven is a hard one for many to grasp or admit. Therefore many deceive themselves into thinking that there is no place of punishment awaiting those who are disobedient to God.

   The rich man of Luke chapter 16 was one who deceived himself as he lived in abundance and enjoyed all that life had to offer, except obedience to God. When he died, he soon realized in Luke 16:23 that he had indeed deceived himself, but by then it was too late. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.   Notice that he was not in the same place as Lazarus.   “Hell” here is the part of the Hadean realm where the disobedient (and the self-deceivers) will go to await the judgment; while those that were obedient to God and remained faithful to God and His Word in this life will go to a place of peace and comfort to await the judgment.  

   Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we have “made it” and are guaranteed a place in heaven as do so many “deluded” religious people. We must continue to “work” toward our salvation. Let us do as the Spirit had Paul write the brethren in Philippi so they would not deceive themselves, and would remain faithful until death or the return of the Lord. (Philippians 2:12)   Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Some Points On Prayer

Some Points on Prayer

   Prayers are offered by many people, and for many things, yet prayer is one of the most misunderstood communions one can have with God. Many turn to prayer only when things are going poorly for them. Others want to pray or have someone else pray for them or their family members for just about everything.  

   When “little Johnny” has an upcoming test, the requests for prayer is made. For what are we to pray; that he pass his test?   This takes the responsibility off of the student, and places it on God.   Whose fault is it when the failing grade is handed out?  The same is true in regard to sporting events, job searches, and health issues.   Those who ask God (or Jesus, to whom some pray) for a win or a job, a good grade or to have their health “instantly” restored are actually asking for a miracle. (More on this in future articles.)

   Miracles have ceased. Miracles were “part” of God’s plan when the plan was being delivered to man.   1Corinthians 13:10 informs us that the “part” no longer functions when the “complete” revelation of God had been received.   But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  The purpose of miracles was to confirm the Word in the absence of the written Word.   According to Hebrews 2:4, while the Bible was being delivered by the Spirit, God provided all that man needed for a “witness” of that Word. God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

   For one to ask God to do something separate from His Word is wrong! To ask God to do that which He no longer does, is to disregard His Word.   To ask Him to provide you a “special” favor is also disregarding His Word. We know that God

Himself informed us of this in Acts 10:34 when Peter had been instructed that the gospel was to be preached the Gentiles as well as the Jews.   Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:   Therefore, God is not going to save anyone other than through the plan He set up before the foundations of the world. This is the same plan that required the death of His only begotten Son on Calvary to purchase the church.

   So, shouldn’t we be careful what we ask and how we ask it?   For instance, we often hear the phrase “guide, guard, and direct us” when a brother petitions God.  Are we not aware that God already “guides us” and “directs us” through His Holy Word? Why then, do we need to ask for this? God is not going to guide or direct anyone to do anything, other than through His Word. As for guarding us, God has taken care of this as well.   In 1Corinthians 10:13 we are given the “inspired” way in which God has done this.   There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 

     Let me also point out something many people fail to grasp. Prayer is reserved to those that belong to God. One must be “born” into God’s family before one can call God his/her Father. Jesus told Nicodemus of this in John 3:5 when they met in the evening. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  One can only be “born” again when they obey the N.T. teaching on becoming a child of God. One must also remain faithful to stay in the proper relationship with God. Jesus also spoke of prayer in Luke 11:1-2 when His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.   And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.    Of course the kingdom (the church) had not come at that time, but it has now, so we cannot ask for this.   But, we are still to approach God in prayer.   In John16:23 Jesus addressed this as well. “In that day” means after His death and the church had begun. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  This was said directly to the apostles.

   This is also a point on which we need to be reminded.   When Jesus directed them on prayer, He said they were to ask the Father “in my name” which means by the authority of Christ. One can only ask for things which are authorized in the Word of God, and still be acceptable to God.   When we become children of God we become Joint-heirs with Christ per Romans 8:16-17. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 

     We see in John 4:34 that Christ came to do the Will of His Father and finish God’s Work of Salvation. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. As God’s children and joint-heirs with Christ, let us also strive to pray in accordance to God’s Will.

                             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

To What Do You Aspire?

To What Do You Aspire?

   When we were a child, we often made statements as to what profession we desired when we grew up. Some children want to be a police officer or a firefighter as they think that is a cool job.   Some want to be a soldier and others a teacher or maybe even a preacher as they look up to an adult that holds such job or position. As a child we did not know what “aspiration” meant, and some are not sure about the meaning yet. One definition given for aspiration is: a strong desire to achieve something high or great.  

   As children, sometimes adults would ask what we wanted to be when we grew up. It is possible that more than a few thought I was being smart when my response was “When I grow up, I want to be a man.” I had no idea what an aspiration was, but it seemed to me that I needed to grow up before I could determine what I would do as an adult. Like other young people, I thought some careers were more desirable than others were, and often changed my mind about what I might want to do, but as a youth, still not sure what I wanted out of life.  

   It should be apparent that our aspiration will be our priority. Jesus spoke of this about half way through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33. He made this statement so that the Jews would know that they had spiritual needs that were greater than their physical needs. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  God has always provided for humanity.   He created man and gave him the ability to choose. Unfortunately, not all will choose to serve God as they should and not all will “aspire” to greatness in the kingdom. As sad as it is, even some children of God, Christians, do not aspire to be great in the kingdom of God.

   It should be a priority of each Christian to be great in the kingdom. This does not necessarily mean that all men in the church will be preachers, elders, deacons or hold some other position in the church.   In Mark 10:42-43  Jesus instructed the apostles in this regard after James and John made request that each of them set on the right and left hand of the Savior in the kingdom.   But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:    Of course, these disciples were thinking of an earthly kingdom, of which the Jews were improperly expecting.

     Many a faithful and concerned Christian mother has expressed the desire to their young sons, the proper aspiration they should have; not that they had to be preachers or elders in the church, but to be “good Christian men”. They also teach their daughters the need to become good Christian wives and mothers as they mature physically and in the faith. These mothers understand the importance of instilling in these young minds the proper desire of faithful service to God.  

     This is the same thing we find in Philippians 3:13-14 as the Spirit had Paul write to those brethren.   The Spirit was having Paul tell them that although they had “aspired” to go to heaven, they hadn’t yet made it, and must continue to strive to get there. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

    We cannot attain that which we aspire to do or become in this life unless we continue on the course that will result in our receipt of the thing which we desire. We cannot just “sit back” and wait for what we desire to simply happen. This is true in the case of a career, educational pursuits, and all other aspects of our life. Why would it not be true in the area of our spiritual aspirations as well? Perhaps this is why we have the admonition of Philippians 2:12. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  Even salvation cannot be obtained without working for it.

   In Romans 2:6-7 the Spirit had Paul tell them that God will judge all based on their deeds in this life, but notice who it is that will receive the eternal prize. Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:    I don’t think anyone “aspires” to be in the group mentioned in the next two verses.   But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrathTribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 

     Let us all aspire to go to heaven and faithfully follow God’s Word in love and devotion to Him.                   

                 Dennis Strickland - Mooresville church of Christ

 

God Speaks

God Speaks

   Recently, on a local denominational sign, the subject of an upcoming study was announced.   It was: “Does God Speak To Us?”    Assuming that “us” indicates humanity, one needs only read two chapters of the Bible to see that in Genesis 2:16 that God did communicate with man by giving commandment and He gave it by “saying” it to man.   And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  What is there to “examine” as to whether or not God spoke to humanity?   The evidence is right there in black and white.

   The question should never be whether or not God still speaks to humanity, but “how” God speaks to humanity.   Also, it should never be “assumed” that God has always spoken to man in the same fashion or by the same means or continues to do so.   We know from Genesis 20:3 that God warned Abimelech against continuing to follow his desires with the wife of Abraham. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.   Then we read in Genesis 15:1 we see that a vision is employed by God to convey a message to Abram.   After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 

   When God speaks, man should always hear and listen to what God says.   If we read Genesis 3:8 it is apparent that man does not always heed what God says when He says it.   And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.  We also know how that worked out for Adam and Eve. Their refusal to heed what God told them to do cost them paradise.  

   Since we all now live in the New Testament age, how God speaks to humanity now is what should concern us. While it is true that God, in the beginning of the early part of the New Testament age, spoke in various ways, including visions and dreams and such, He does so no longer.   In 1Corinthians 13:8-10 the Spirit had Paul address the duration of those things such as miracles and miraculous communication from God to man.   Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away     Hebrews 1:1-2 also deals with how God speaks to mankind in the past and now.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  But we need to understand that the “method” or “mode” of doing so is through the Word of God.   “That which is perfect” (above) is the fully revealed Word of God. How does speak to us today?   Only through His Word.        Below is a poem written by my father-in-law which can also be sung to the tune of the hymn: “Let Him Have His Way With Thee”, the last verse serving as the chorus. It may help us all understand how God speaks to us today and why Jesus stated what He did in John 8:32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  Know that truth and be free – Listen to what God has said to us and do it!

God Speaks Only Through His Word

I believe the Scriptures are inspired and wholly true,

In them God has said, what he wants us to do.

And He has no double standards, makes no difference who,

God speaks only through His Word.

There are those who say the Lord speaks in a quiet voice,

And this inner peace, inspires them to rejoice.

Jesus said the written Word is that we may believe,

I have made His Word my choice.

Others say the conscience is a safe and trusted guide,

But it’s uninspired, don’t trust what it decides.

It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Jeremiah ten, twenty three

The Lord is speaking unto men today,

But through His written Word this is the way.

The Holy Spirit said what He must say,

So God speaks only through His Word today.

                                                                       O.D. Wilson - deceased

                                                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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