Guard Against Apostasy

It has been said that, at any given time, the church is only one generation away from apostasy. We see it happen time and time again in the Bible, and in congregations around us. Others have suggested that because of Biblical ignorance, some Christians are only one sermon away from apostasy. The apostle Paul warned, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

God reveals several things that can lead to apostasy, including materialism (Deuteronomy 6:10-12), boredom (Deut. 6:13-15), disobedience (Deut. 6:16-19), and the assumption that faith and values are being passed on (Deut. 6:20-25). The responsibility rests with each one of us to make sure we are not being led away, and to encourage those around us to continue in the old paths.

To prevent apostasy, we must stand fast in teaching the Word of God. True, Biblical faith is only produced by the Word—nothing more, nothing less (Romans 10:17). It is in the gospel that God’s power to save resides (Romans 1:16). When we depart from the truth, we put ourselves and those around us in eternal danger (Galatians 1:6-9).

Take a moment to recognize and be grateful for the blessings that we receive from God, especially for our deliverance from sin. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

We need to realize how dangerous Satan really is. Yes, he “walks about like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), and we know how dangerous a beast like that can be. But the Scriptures also tell us that he “transforms himself into an angel of light,” and “his minsters also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). We must be grounded in the truth to protect ourselves from seemingly innocuous attacks from the father of lies.

Love One Another

We are commanded several times in the New Testament to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8 etc.). The Lord says our love for each other is an identifying mark of our discipleship. As we are given all things that pertain to life and godliness, God provides several examples of how to love each other.

Toward the elders, we should show obeisance. Paul tells us to remember them, to follow them, to obey them, and to be submissive. We are to do all of these things as they “watch out for your souls,” and we should strive to make their service as elders joyful (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Toward the deacons, we should support them. If our ultimate goal is to get to heaven, and our secondary goal is to take others with us, should we not also be striving to help each other every step along the way? Paul says that “those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13). Let us do whatever we can to assist our deacons in their various tasks in the church.

Toward the preachers, we must recognize the sacrifices they make in their lives. It is true that many preachers feel a need to proclaim the truth that they cannot quite explain, but that does not mean they have not made sacrifices to fulfill that desire. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). If God inspired one of His prophets to call a man’s feet beautiful, should we not support that man in his work?

Paul tells the young preacher how to treat others in the congregation, and his words should ring true for all: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

Remember, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Gatlinburg fires destroy church building and members’ homes

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Gatlinburg church of Christ

Fire has destroyed the meeting house for the Gatlinburg church of Christ (above). According to the congregation’s website, all members are safe and accounted for. The following was posted on Facebook by a friend of Rod Rutherford, who preaches for the church in Gatlinburg:

“Since last talking on the phone with you I have learned the three members have lost their homes. A friend called a friend in the Gatlinburg fire department to ask about the church building. He was told that everything on Reagan Drive was destroyed, either burned down or badly damaged beyond use. This would include our church building. We plan to worship with the Sevierville church Sunday and then have a congregational meeting to discuss our future. Our building was fully insured. If anyone wants to help those who lost their homes, we ask them to send a contribution to the Gatlinburg church of Christ and mark it For Fire Relief. We will use it to help our members first and then others as funds permit. The address is: Gatlinburg church of Christ, P.O. Box 361, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Thanks for your interest, prayers and concern.”

Personal Responsibility in Evangelism

2 Timothy 2:2

I. BRINGING OTHERS TO JESUS

    A. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:35-42)
    B. Andrew brought the lad with loaves and fish to Jesus (John 6:5-9)
    C. Andrew (and Philip) brought the Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22)

II. EXPLAINING THE SCRIPTURES

    A. Apollos was: (Acts 18:24-28)
            1. Eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures
            2. Spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord
            3. He only knew the baptism of John
    B. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated gentleness in correction
    C. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated patience in teaching
    D. Aquila and Priscilla understood the audience

III. KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES

    A. Take what you have learned, and teach others, so that they can teach ohers, who will teach others, and so on (2 Timothy 2:2; Matthew 28:19-20)
    B. Know how to rightly divide/handle aright (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 6:17; Romans 1:16)
    C. Give Christ a special place—the HIGHEST place—in your heart (2 Peter 3:15; Colossians 3:1)

IV. NEVER GIVE UP!

    A. In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9)
    B. The example of David Lipscomb, J. W. Shepherd, and the mother of the Douthit brothers
    C. You don’t know what kind of seed you are planting

Prepare Yourself to Lead (Lessons from Joshua)

Joshua 1:1-9

I. Good leaders are humble

    A. Joshua first made himself a servant (Exodus 24:13; 33:11)
    B. Even as a leader, Joshua was willing to serve
            1. He was exalted by God (Joshua 3:7; 4:14)
            2. He still served One who was greater (Joshua 5:13-15)

II. Good leaders put their faith and trust in God

    A. Spying out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33; 14:6-9)
    B. The fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5; Hebrews 11:30)

III. Good leaders are men of God’s Word

    A. One can only follow the Word if he knows the Word (Joshua 1:7-8)
    B. Joshua’s commitment to God’s Word is shown:
            1. When he reminded the 2 ½ tribes of their responsibility (Joshua 1:12-15)
            2. When he renewed the covenant at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35)
            3. When he encouraged the people to obey God, even at the end of his life (Joshua 23:6,14-16)

IV. Good leaders put God first

    A. Following God’s command is more important than following human wisdom (Joshua 8:1-2, 30-35; 9:1-2)
    B. Care about what God thinks about us more than what people think about us (Joshua 24:14-16)

A Study of Revelation

This morning, we completed a twelve-lesson study of the book of Revelation in our middle school class. It was a challenging study, but the kids were up to the challenge and encouraged me the whole way.

We approached the study from the understanding that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. I relied heavily on Foy E. Wallace’s commentary as well as Paul R. Blake’s study. Other resources consulted included James Burton Coffman’s commentary and Arthur Ogden’s The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets.

My class notes are not as in-depth as any of the above sources, as mine were designed to be studied in twelve class sessions that lasted about 35-40 minutes each. I offer my notes here as a study aid, but encourage those who are not limited by time to investigate the resources listed above for deeper study.

Click here to download A Study of Revelation: Class notes compiled by Jason T. Carter (PDF format).

The Responsibility of the Hearer

The listener has a great responsibility in preaching. Observe the attitude and action of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11: “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

We are to consider how our lives compare to the Word, not resisting the preaching by making excuses or rationalizing sinful behavior. We must prepare our minds and hearts for the lesson, ready to apply it so that we can serve God more faithfully. It is not enough to just sit quietly and listen to the sermon; we must act accordingly based on what we learn. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).

We also have a responsibility to make sure the preacher is staying on track, that he is not preaching doctrine that contradicts the revealed Word. We should study along with the lesson, not just accepting what the preacher says, but verifying that his message is in agreement with God’s inspired Word.

Men who commit their lives to gospel preaching take on an important work; we should be as supportive of them as we possibly can. As long as they preach the truth we should encourage them at every opportunity. Show them that we are listening by turning to the Scriptures during the sermon, by taking notes, by putting their words into action in our everyday lives. Tell them how much we appreciate the sacrifice they have made to serve God.

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.

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12)