Alive in Christ

I answer some interesting phone calls at the 911 center. Just a few days ago, I spoke to a confused individual who was trying to figure out whether he was alive or dead. After determining his location, my co-workers sent police and an ambulance to help him. The officers wanted him to come downstairs to his front door to meet them, to which he said, “Well, if I’m a ghost, I can just float down there!” I agreed with his logic, and suggested that he try walking through the door without opening it. “If you can’t float through the door, you’re not a ghost,” I advised.

While the incident was amusing and sad at the same time, many Christians live in the same state of doubt, unsure whether they are alive or dead spiritually. When a person obeys the gospel, God moves him from a state of spiritual death to life.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together in Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7).

Don’t be confused anymore. If you have obeyed from the heart the gospel and are striving to live faithfully for the Lord, you are alive in Him!

Jesus Heals a Paralytic Man

Have you ever wanted to meet someone so badly that you were willing to do just about anything to meet them? When Jesus walked the earth, people traveled from great distances and fought enormous crowds to get close to the Savior. Some—such as the paralytic man in Mark 2—put even more effort into it.

There are several things that we can learn from this incident. First, we learn that Christ “preached the word to them” (Mark 2:2). Jesus was compassionate and healed many people, but that was not His main purpose here. His primary goal was to teach truth. Likewise, we can do all the good deeds in the world, but if we’re not teaching people about God’s love and His grace and our response to that, and trying to lead others to Him, we’re not doing enough.

Another valuable lesson here is the importance of friendship. Friends help each other achieve their goals, no matter what obstacles are placed before them. They came to this house and there was a tremendous crowd, but they were determined to get the paralytic man before the Lord. They uncovered a portion of the roof and lowered their friend down to be near the Lord.

A third important lesson is the power and authority of the Son of God. Jesus upset the scribes when He told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” The reasoned, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

James Burton Coffman writes, “The declaration of Jesus had profound implications: (1) it was an assertion of his deity…(2) It was an indication that he had read the hearts…and that he had determined the spiritual attitude of the man to have been fully consistent with the reward bestowed. (3) It proved that Jesus understood the man’s greater need as forgiveness, and so that was given first.”

The people who witnessed this miracle glorified God. Likewise, we should recognize the good things that happen today and give praise to God.

Give Attendance to Reading

The aged apostle Paul penned these words to the young evangelist Timothy: “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).

In 1966, Words of Truth ran an article by Grady Latham in which he reported the time it takes for an average person to read each book of the New Testament, as appears below.

    Matthew 1:43
    Mark :45
    Luke 1:25
    John 1:00
    Acts 1:20
    Romans :35
    1 Corinthians :28
    2 Corinthians :23
    Galatians :13
    Ephesians :13
    Philippians :08
    Colossians :08
    1 Thessalonians :07
    2 Thessalonians :04
    1 Timothy :10
    2 Timothy :07
    Titus :03
    Philemon :01
    Hebrews :26
    James :10
    1 Peter :10
    2 Peter :07
    1 John :08
    2 John :01
    3 John :01
    Jude :02
    Revelation :41

If brother Latham’s information is accurate, then the average reader could complete the entire New Testament in 10 hours and 39 minutes. Willard Collins reported in the Gospel Advocate in 1967 that a public reading was accomplished in 15 hours and 25 minutes.

Granted, one may not be able to mediate on the passages while reading if they are to be completed in this amount of time. One can, however, use a pencil to place a small checkmark in the margin next to a verse he wants to study more deeply later, or keep a small notebook handy to jot down a reference for future study.

Spend some time with God’s Word, and “give attendance to reading.”

Truth vs. “e-Error”

When used appropriately, the Internet can be a wonderful tool for Bible study and research. You can study from a variety of translations simultaneously on your computer screen or smartphone, read lesson outlines and articles about Biblical topics, even listen to gospel sermons on a weekly basis.

The World Wide Web has made the spread of the truth much easier. Unfortunately, however, the Internet has also made the spread of error much easier. We must use caution when reading the writings of men, comparing their words to God’s Word, and rejecting those things which are contrary to the truth revealed through the pages of inspiration.

I have seen error taught through e-mail and blog postings on the subjects of marriage/divorce/remarriage, polygamy, fornication, and instrumental music, among other things. A man in Texas teaches that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (before the cross) do not belong in the New Testament. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as “MMLJBC.” In a seven-month period, I received at least 30 e-mails promoting this false doctrine which is sadly influencing some in the Lord’s church.

There are others who teach that we should practice full fellowship with false denominational groups, or that the Holy Spirit operates directly on the heart of the saint without the medium of the Word, or that Christians are not under law of any kind. Such teachings may be branded as “hobbies” by some, but that is really putting it too lightly. They are not “hobbies”—they are false doctrines, and they must be rejected since they are not taught in God’s Word.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). May we be noble as the Bereans, who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Using the Word to Overcome Temptation

In his sermon on July 26, brother Tim Dooley emphasized the importance of knowing God’s Word in overcoming temptation. As he mentioned, the Psalmist wrote, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” A good friend and brother posted a saying on Facebook: “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” We must know what is in God’s Word to do His will, but it also protects us from violating His will.

If we can identify those things that tempt us most, we can better prepare ourselves to deal with situations as they arise. Consider the following temptations, and a few passages that might help Christians remain pure. Memorize the Scriptures that will help you fight temptations you face, or if you struggle with memorization, write them down on an index card and keep them in your purse or wallet.

Pornography: Psalm 101:3, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.”

Foul language/dirty jokes: Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

Laziness: Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”

Greed/materialism: 1 Timothy 6:6-10, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Pride/selfishness: Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

Worldliness/idolatry: Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Bad attitude at work: Colossians 3:23-24, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

Racism/sexism: Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Disobeying God: John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Disobeying parents: Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Disobeying the elders: Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Envy: Proverbs 23:17, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day.”

Apathy: 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

You may not struggle with any of these temptations, but there is something that keeps gnawing at you, trying to pull you away from God. Be honest with yourself, know yourself, and identify that temptation. Then discover how God has equipped you to deal with it through His Word.

Stand and Fight

2 Samuel 23:11-12

I. Shammah Stood His Ground

    A. The church needs Christians to fight the battle against evil (Ephesians 6:11,14; Joshua 23:10)
    B. What can be accomplished by faith? (Hebrews 11:32-38; Proverbs 28:1)

II. Shammah Fought and Defended the Land

    A. Spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:11-13,17; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3)
    B. Satan is powerful – but God is more (1 Peter 5:8-10)
    C. God perfects, establishes, strengthens, and settles us through:
            1. Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
            2. Purity (2 Timothy 2:22)

III. The Lord Brings the Victory

    A. Satan doesn’t stand a chance! (2 Samuel 23:12; Romans 8:31-39)
    B. Faith is the victory (1 John 5:4-5; Revelation 2:10)

The Growth of the First Century Church

Acts 2:44-47

I. Their United Effort

    A. “Together” / “Common” / “With one accord” (Acts 2:44-47)
    B. NOT unity in diversity! Unity in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:20-21)
    C. Striving for peace (Acts 6:1,7; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:1-3)

II. Their Steadfast Nature

    A. Steadfast in doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13)
    B. Danger of not being steadfast (Galatians 1:6-9)
    C. Self-discipline (Romans 12:1)

III. Their Belief in the Message

    A. “Into all the world” (Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23)
    B. Unafraid when opposed (Acts 4:18-20; Galatians 1:10)
    C. Despite persecutions, they believed (Acts 8:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:24-27; Acts 12:1-2; 8:4)

“Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say”

An American website recently reported that the media in the United Kingdom was shocked by singer Adele’s obscene language during her Glastonbury concert. According to the article, the singer of the popular song “Hello” cursed more than thirty times. It was further reported that “the average adult curses once every eight seconds.”

Brothers and sisters, this is one area in which we must strive to be well below average! Is the average adult so poorly educated that he can find no better way to express himself? I am not suggesting that controlling one’s tongue is a simple task; James makes that clear in his epistle. However, he writes, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Paul says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Obviously, this refers to more than just obscene language. This can include gossiping and lying, sinful uses of the tongue that have destroyed many relationships—both in and out of the church—throughout history.

Paul expands on this in Colossians 3:8-10, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”

I will never cease to be amazed at the things I hear and read coming from self-proclaimed religious people. Claiming to be Christians, they will commit the very sin that James condemns in James 3:10! As the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must be setting a better example for those around us.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Be Strong and of Good Courage

As Moses neared the end of his life, he told the children of Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, because God is with you.” Then he said the same thing to Joshua, who would be his successor as the leader of God’s people. “Be strong and of good courage, because God is with you.”

When God spoke to Joshua after Moses’ death, the Almighty repeated the same thought three times to his new mouthpiece: “Be strong and of good courage.” God made a promise to Joshua and to the children of Israel, that if they were strong and courageous, He would take care of them and they would prosper.

Certainly, it took a great deal of strength and courage to accomplish what the Lord commanded, but knowing that God was on their side, Israel took possession of the land that was promised to them. At the end of his life, Joshua again encouraged the people to continue with these attitudes of strength and courage in the Lord.

Sadly, Israel turned from God several times. Throughout the book of Judges we read of several occasions that the people disobeyed God and needed to be restored. God would raise up a leader to bring them back, and they would be faithful for a while before failing away again. The cycle repeats over and over, not only in the book of Judges, but throughout the Old Testament.

This still happens today in the church. There are some people that will disappear for weeks or months, then will come back for a little while, then leave again. What can we do when we notice this happening? Have you called your missing brethren to encourage them to return? Have you asked what you can do to help them? Sometimes, showing that you are concerned is encouragement in itself.

We must develop strength and courage in order to lead others to Christ, and to bring others back to God. The words that were spoken to Joshua still apply to us today: “Be strong and of good courage.”

As Christians, where do we find our strength? The apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Peter writes, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). Our strength comes not from ourselves, but from God the Father and Christ Jesus.

And what of the courage? It is in Christ that “we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:12). Just as He promised to be with the children of Israel in their battles against the nations around them, He will be with us as well. That knowledge should motivate us not only be courageous, but content with our portion in life as well. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Are you strong and of good courage?

Just Because We Don’t Know…

Brother Wayne Jackson once wrote an article in which he stated, “As far as I am able to determine, medical science has yet to find out any purpose for the appendix.” Since that article was written, some evidence has come to light showing that the appendix plays a role in the function of the human immune system.

So what? Just because we don’t (or didn’t) know the exact reason for the appendix, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t doing some work for us. Likewise, in the body of Christ, the fruits of one’s labors may not be evident to us, but that doesn’t mean they are not laboring.

There are many who do their work in the kingdom behind the scenes, privately encouraging those who need encouragement through cards, calls, and visits. It would be foolish to suggest that such things are not needed, or that those who perform such tasks are not important in the kingdom of Christ.

Just as the different members of our physical bodies have different functions, so the different members of the spiritual body of Christ have different functions. Not everyone serves in a public way as an elder, or a deacon, or a Bible class teacher—but everyone must function in some way! Consider carefully Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:21-22, and respect and support your fellow workers in their tasks.

Always keep in mind that what you do, even if it is not seen by men, is seen by God. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). For this reason, we should be diligent in our service for the Lord. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

Whether you are a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear, or even an appendix, you do have an important function in the body of Christ. Be sure you are fulfilling your duty.

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)