All posts by JT

Christian. Husband. Dad. 911 dispatcher. Baseball fan. Horror nut. Music nerd. Bookworm. Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year.

The Value of the Old Testament

We recognize that we are no longer under the Law of Moses today. We do not keep the Sabbath or offer animal sacrifices; rather, we do the things we do because we were commanded by Jesus and the inspired writers of the New Testament, which supplants the requirements of the Old Law.

Have you ever stopped to consider, “What makes the Old Testament old?” The answer is quite plain and simple: “God did!” The Scriptures verify this. In Hebrews 8:13, Paul writes, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” No longer are we subject to “the handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Colossians 2:14).

Although we no longer obey the ordinances of the Old Law, there is great value found in the pages that precede the New Testament of Christ. The examples recorded from us allow us to learn from the mistakes of others, so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences and pain of disobedience (if we are wise). Paul says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The old adage is true: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” A casual glance at the rise and fall of nations throughout secular history offers proof of this statement, but a study of the Old Testament shows it even more clearly. So don’t stop listening when the preacher starts to quote from the books of the Kings and Chronicles, or references the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, or Jonah. We can and we must learn from the inspired Scriptures that have been providentially preserved for us!

Should a Christian Give to the “Salvation Army”?

Each December, department stores are packed with holiday shoppers, bedecked with Christmas decorations, and at nearly every entrance will be a red kettle next to a person ringing a bell. The Salvation Army seems to be as much a part of the Christmas season as Santa Claus. This raises the question: “Should a Christian give to the Salvation Army?” This is a good question that should be carefully considered by every member of the Lord’s church as they decide how to use the money with which God has blessed them.

William Booth (1829-1912), a New Connection Methodist minister, organized the Salvation Army in the late nineteenth century. Brother Owen D. Olbricht, in his 1972 class booklet, Studies in Denominational Doctrine Book Two, says that one of the original purposes of the Salvation Army was to “help those in poverty”, and that they “provided boarding-houses, orphanages, maternity hospitals, and settlements in the poor quarters of the city” (p. 25). However, the Salvation Army is more than just a benevolent society. It is a religion with a well-defined body of doctrine, including much error.

While this denominational group holds to some of the more common errors, including total hereditary depravity and the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, there are some other religious errors that may come as a surprise to those who have never researched the group.

Not only does the Salvation Army believe baptism is unnecessary to salvation, they refuse to practice it. The same is true of the Lord’s Supper. “As it is the Salvation Army’s firm conviction that these ceremonies are not necessary to salvation nor essential to spiritual progress, we do not observe them” (The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, p. 160). These words are a far cry from the teachings of the New Testament (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 20:7). They assert, “Water baptism was evidently not intended to be perpetually observed” (p. 163) and that the reference to the Lord’s Supper by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 “should be interpreted spiritually” (p. 165).

The Salvation Army has corrupted the worship revealed in the New Testament as well. Christians are commanded to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), but the Salvation Army adds instrumental music to the worship service. Women preachers are accepted within the Salvation Army, dating back to the founder’s wife, Catherine Booth. The Scriptures clearly state that women are “not…to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” (1 Timothy 2:12). Additionally, the Salvation Army finances its work in ways not authorized by the Scriptures, including those red kettles you find outside department stores during this time of year. In the New Testament, the church financed its work through the contributions of its members (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Returning to the question, “Should a Christian give to the Salvation Army?” I would counter with the question, “Should a Christian support an organization that teaches religious error?” What saith the Scriptures? Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

A Christian has no more business giving to the “Salvation Army” than he does to any other humanly-originated false religion or denomination.

Thanksgiving

We focus a lot on gratefulness on this day, and rightly so. We have been blessed with so much in this life, and have been promised so much more in the next if we are faithful.

Paul was thankful, not only for the church at Rome, but for their faithfulness. Romans 1:8, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” How exactly was their faith made known? It was through their “obedience leading to righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18; 16:19).

He was also thankful for the congregations in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:4), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:6); Philippi (Philippians 1:3), Colosse (Colossians 1:3), and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:2). Again, note that the thanks is based upon their actions through faith: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Paul commands us to be thankful. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17; cf. Ephesians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:15). Should we need such a command? Perhaps we shouldn’t, but we are weak and forgetful people, so it serves as a good reminder that we should frequently count our blessings.

The greatest blessing, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). May we never forget His love for us!

Saving Faith

There can be no denying that faith is essential in God’s plan of salvation. Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Paul writes, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

The Hebrews writer identifies the marks of the faith that saves in Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Before anything else, we must believe that God exists. This is the very foundation of saving faith. We can be certain of His existence through the evidence of His creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:3), as well as through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Second, we must believe that God is a rewarder (Hebrews 10:35-39). Peter calls it “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4), and that the “end of your faith” is “the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 3:9).

Who does God reward? The Hebrews writer says that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God desires men to seek Him and find Him (Acts 10:26-27). The Savior said that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

The logical result of these things—believing in the existence of God, believing in a rewarding God, and seeking Him—is obedience. If we truly believe what He has revealed, we will submit to Him. We will not try to make excuses or find loopholes, but quickly do what is necessary to please Him. We can avoid struggling with submission and obedience by spending more time in His Word, further developing and strengthening our faith.

Attributes of Apollos

Acts 18:24-28

I. APOLLOS’ LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD

    A. “Mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15)
    B. “Instructed in the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25)
            1. John’s baptism (Mark 1:4; 11:30; as opposed to Matthew 28:19)
            2. Re-baptism in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-5)

II. APOLLOS’ ATTITUDE WHEN HE LEARNED THE TRUTH

    A. He humbly accepted correction
    B. He believed that those in error should change (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 18:26)

III. APOLLOS’ TREMENDOUS ZEAL

    A. “Being fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11)
            1. zeo – “to boil with heat, be hot…metaphorically, used of ‘boiling’ anger, love, zeal for what is good or bad”
            2. Zeal must be based on truth (Romans 10:1-3)
    B. “Vigorously refuted the Jews publicly” (Acts 18:28)
    C. The teacher is not the thing to put your faith in; put your faith in God (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

The Importance of Encouragement

Acts 4:36-37

I. ENCOURAGEMENT OF OTHER CHRISTIANS

    A. Barnabas took action (Acts 9:26-28; 8:1-2)
    B. We must seek opportunities to encourage others

II. ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE CONGREGATION

    A. “With purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:19-26)
    B. The attributes of Barnabas (Acts 11:24)
            1. “A good man”
            2. “Full of the Holy Spirit”
            3. “Full of faith”
    C. The action of Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3)

III. ENCOURAGEMENT IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

    A. From “Barnabas and Saul” to “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:42-49)
    B. Accepting our roles in His church (1 Timothy 3:1; Acts 20:28-30; Hebrews 13:17; 3 John 1:9-11; 1 Peter 5:2-3)

IV. ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE FACE OF CONFLICT

    A. The conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:35-41; 2 Timothy 4:11)
    B. We must never compromise the faith (1 Corinthians 1:10; Jude 1:3)

Does Doctrine Matter?

Several years ago, Rick Warren released a book called The Purpose Driven Life. While the premise of the book is a good one, much religious error is propagated throughout its pages. It is not a book that should be read or studied by those who do not have a good grounding in the Scriptures, as they may be misled by the author’s errant views.

Take, for instance, what Mr. Warren says on page 34, concerning the final judgment: “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?”

Think about this statement for a moment. Does not one’s “religious background and doctrinal views” depend directly upon one’s acceptance, love, and trust of the Savior?

If one truly accepts Jesus, he will follow Him. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Do you accept Jesus as the only way into a righteous relationship with the Father?

If one truly loves Jesus, he will follow Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Do you obey Jesus, or do you only say you love Him?

If one truly trusts Jesus, he will follow Him. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Do you trust Jesus, or do you “explain away” this crystal-clear statement?

One who accepts, loves, and trusts Jesus will have the “religious background and doctrinal views” that God expects and desires of His people. “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

Doctrine does matter! We must give heed to those things taught in the New Testament—not only accept them as true, but obey them! If we reject the words of the Lord, if we rebel against Him and refuse to obey, we have no one to blame if we are lost (John 12:48).

“My God is too big for one religion”

I have seen those words on a bumper sticker. Many people who call themselves Christians (regardless what the Bible says) would say something similar to that, though they would probably substitute the word “denomination” for “religion.” Ecumenism is a dangerous concept—“One church is as good as any other,” or, “You believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe.” God is quite clear that there is but one faith (Ephesians 4:5), and that we are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). People may call me intolerant, but I am more concerned with what God thinks than what man thinks (Galatians 1:10).

But this particular bumper sticker—“My God is too big for one religion”—takes the idea of ecumenism even further. If one truly believes this statement, then not only are all “Christian” denominations included, but so are all religions that outright reject the Christ – Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, etc.

A Roman Catholic priest once said on Larry King Live, “Jesus rejoices when His Father is glorified. And when a Muslim or Jew glorifies the Father I can’t imagine Jesus coming and saying, ‘Oh, well, when are you going to look at Me?’ The joy of Jesus is the glorification of God.” Yet, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Melvin Talbert, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Church, was asked by Larry King if he thought his religion was right. Talbert answered in the affirmative, but denied that all others were necessarily wrong. “I believe my God is large enough to be inclusive of all human beings who were created in God’s image and that includes those religions that are not Christians.”

God’s Word is firm: those who wish to come to the Father must do so by Jesus—not Mohammed, nor Buddha, nor the Pope, nor any other teacher of error. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

The Hope of the Faithful

In whom do you place your hope? During the election season, many intelligent people seem to lose their ability to reason, throwing all of their hope for tomorrow on a political candidate. Certainly, we must consider the issues before casting our vote, and we must base our choices on the promises made during the campaign, but never forget that a person—whether your preferred candidate or the other—has the ability (and often the penchant) of letting you down.

Isn’t that how it is with all people though? Have you ever been disappointed by your parents? Or your siblings? Perhaps a teacher didn’t follow through with a promised grade adjustment in high school, or a preacher failed to shake your hand after worship services. Your long-time friend forgot to wish you “happy birthday” on Facebook, your boss neglected to praise you for a job well done, your children ignored you when you asked them to make their beds…you get the idea. People can and people will disappoint us. They don’t intend to, but they do.

There is One in whom we can place our hope, One who will not disappoint us. We sing the hymn written by Edward Mote:

    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

Let us keep our focus above, on God and His promises, and place our hope in Him. The Psalmist wrote:

    Remember the word to Your servant,
    Upon which You have cause me to hope. (Psalm 119:49)

And again:

    Why are you cast down, O my soul?
    And why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
    For the help of His countenance. (Psalm 42:5)

Pray for the men and women in office, and work to make this nation better, but place your hope in the One who is above.