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“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
Someone said, “Christianity is all in your mind.” There is much truth in that statement. The mind is primarily responsible for growth in the Christian life. Let us notice what the Scriptures say about your mind:
GOD KNOWS ALL YOUR THOUGHTS
Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
God is keenly interested not only in our actions but also in our thoughts. It is estimated that you have 10,000 thoughts a day. To God, your mind is a window without curtains.
YOUR CHRISTIAN BATTLEFIELD IS YOUR MIND
The world, the flesh and the devil fight for your mind.
- Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
- Colossians 1:21, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled”
- Hebrews 12:3, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Man is a very complex creation. Have you ever seen a suicidal puppy or a depressed canary? You say, “What makes thoughts so difficult to control?” Secrecy and the absence of restraint. A parent can control a child’s actions but not his thoughts. God is very interested in our thoughts because thoughts produce actions. God destroyed the world by flood because man had unrestrained thoughts.
Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
In Romans 1:28 God speaks of the reprobate (rejected) mind in the downward progression of a civilization.
In Romans 7:25 Paul says: “…with the mind I myself serve the law of God;…”
The mind is the control room or computer of the Christian life. The control room must be guarded. Lot never guarded his mind.
2 Peter 2:8, “(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)”
SEEING AND HEARING
When the mind is right, the actions are right. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE, BUT WHAT YOU THINK–YOU ARE! (Read that over until it sinks in.)
Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”
In order for a Christian to alter his behavior, the thinking must be changed! You must plan and guide what enters your mind. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. That is one of the things wrong with hypnosis, drugs, and liquor. They put the mind in neutral so the devil can jump into the driver’s seat. Keep a busy mind! Do you know one reason God destroyed Sodom?
Ezekiel 16:49, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
Idleness was a cause.
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say: “Behind every human tragedy there is a slow process of evil, wicked thinking.” No one ever falls into sin. They have been falling a long time. We only saw them when they landed. Sin began in their thoughts.
Sir Francis Bacon was asked what he thought the outlook was for the next generation. He declared, “Tell me what the young people are thinking and I’ll tell you.”
THOUGHTS produce ACTIONS
ACTIONS produce HABITS
HABITS produce LIFE-STYLES
What you put into the computer comes out. Put in 48 hours of television a week and you’ll have someone who acts, talks, and thinks like television personalities. Put in 30 hours of rebellious radio music per week and you’ll have someone who has philosophies and rebellion like the groups he hears. What have you been programming into your computer?
True, you can’t help but have some evil thoughts cross your mind from time to time, but do you entertain them? Someone said if you nurse sin on the knees of thought it will grow into a giant. You will never regulate your passions until you regulate your thought life.
TRANSFORMING YOUR THOUGHTS
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
A transformation is an inward change that produces an outward change. A biologist cannot change a caterpillar into a butterfly-it has to come from the inside. So it is in the Christian life. Worry and depression are not solved by psychiatrists, but by thinking what God wants us to.
Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
In Philippians 4:8, God gives us a list of things to occupy our thoughts: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Sad to say, the average mind is like a toilet. To keep it clean, it needs constant flushing with godly thoughts, much prayer, much Scripture, and much grace.
THE THREE MINDS
There are three types of minds mentioned in Scripture. You have one of them. There is the natural mind, the carnal mind, and the spiritual mind.
NATURAL MIND — UNSAVED
1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
This is a non-Christian. He has no spiritual appetite for the things of God. He cannot comprehend spiritual truth. He is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). He may be outwardly religious and morally clean but cannot comprehend the Christian life. His thoughts will be what is right in his own eyes, situation ethics, humanism. The natural mind thinks whatever comes natural to a lost person.
CARNAL MIND — WORLDLY CHRISTIAN
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Carnal means “of the flesh.” The carnal mind is a saved person who lives for the flesh. The church at Corinth was full of carnal Christians. Paul called them babies. He said they could only swallow the milk of the Word. They had to be taught when they should have been teaching. They were cliquish, immature, divisive, and easily offended.
The Christian with a carnal mind is not satisfied in Christ alone. He chases after things, amusements, and delights rather than in the things of God. He is quarrelsome, touchy, and often is the source of chruch problems. He has feeble digestion and cannot get his own food spiritually. Deep Scriptures do not interest him. There is very little difference, if any, between the natural man and the carnal minded man.
The lost see no difference and have no conviction when around a carnally minded Christian. The carnal mind needs to get right with God, be serious, and fill itself with scriptures! (See also 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Romans 7:14-15; James 4:4.)
SPIRITUAL MIND-SPIRITUAL CHRISTIAN
1 Corinthians 2:15, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
This is the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit and has a mind full of Scriptures. He is mature, has understanding of spiritual things, has the ability to teach other Bible truths, and is fruitful. He has the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
If you think the thoughts Jesus did, you will live the way Jesus did. To do that we must think Scriptures—meditate upon them. Because of that, our minds will be going forward, will not be in neutral and will not have a chance to go backward (backslide). The spiritual minded man needs to make sure he does not get satisfied. (See also Hebrews 5:12, 14; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:22-23.)
LET US NOT BECOME SATISFIED!
SOURCES: Things I’ve Learned by Bob Jones, Sr.; The Battle for the Mind, Catlay
What is a friend? The world has its idea of what a friend is. They usually count a friend as being a resource; someone who can help you or give you things when you have needs. This kind of approach usually goes like this: “Oh good, they have a tractor. That will be good for me when I need one.” Some people, like the Chinese, take this one step farther with their principle called Guang Xi. This means that you keep trying to expand your “friend” base so you have access to as much resources as possible. Even though you may not like the person at all, if they have something you might need in the future, you call them friend so you can get access to it. In the world of politics, we call this corruption.
Even though Christians are in the world but not of the world, they still make friends; it is just that their basis for friendship has changed. For the Christian, a friend is a trusted confidant to whom you are drawn, or who is drawn to you. They are a companion and an ally, whose love for you is not dependent on your performance or what you can provide for them. Finally, and most importantly, a friend to the Christian is someone whose influence draws you closer to God.
Philippians 3:18-19 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
Paul experienced people who called him a friend but they were not. His sorrow over this was they were the enemies of Jesus Christ. This left no or little basis upon which to build a friendship. These “friends” were those who served fleshly appetites. They found humor in their shame and they had no concern for eternity. They were interested in the three greatest foes to the Christian: the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
If you develop friendships where you don’t have the fundamental basic foundation in common, you are doing a disservice to that person and to yourself. That friendship is doomed to failure. If you find yourself in this situation, you should ask yourself, “Why am I even interest in this friendship? Is my motive so that it will benefit me? Or, is God putting us together?”
Developing the right kind of friendships can be difficult. It takes understanding of how friendships are established. The Child of God should approach making friends with the determination of “if you reject Christ then you must also reject me, for He is my greatest friend.” When asked to compromise or violate the Scriptures: smile and say, “No thank you. I’ve committed my life to Jesus and I don’t want to displease Him by doing that.” It is important to let God choose your friends, based on their needs and desire for God’s help and not worldly ambitions or desires.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
Everyone has a limited capacity for friendship; you can’t be friends with everyone. Still, some people have more friends than others. This does not mean that some people don’t have any friends at all; each person has a different capacity for numbers of friendships and everyone has the capacity to develop intimate friends.
There are four levels of friendships:
- Acquaintances: With acquaintances, there is occasional contact and general conversation. Information is shared, but it is that which would be public anyway. For acquaintances, you are determining the spiritual basis for a friendship. People might have from 100-1500 acquaintances in their life. They are not friends—they are acquaintances.
- Casual Friends: Unsaved friends can only be casual friends. Some specific information is shared usually regarding goals, plans, etc., For casual friends you are usually trying to identify any positive qualities for the basis of a closer friendship (i.e. Is there a basis for fellowship?). People might have from 25-100 casual friends in their life.
- Close Friends: Close friends are those whom there is a basis for fellowship. This means they share with you common beliefs, standards and goals. Close friends can become mentors or mentored. They are those whom you become involved with projects together. People might have from 7-25 close friends in their life.
- Intimate Friends: These are those who are commonly called: “Best friends.” They are always available. Not only do they provide encouragement, but they are close enough to be able to tell you of blind spots in your life. It is the sharing of Godly standards and common goals that allows this deep level of friendship. People might have from 4-6 intimate friends in their life.
There is the Biblical basis for making friends. Now that there is a little more understanding of how friendships are established, lets make friends the right way: God’s way.
Rev. 13:16-18 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred three score and six.
Many Bible readers over the centuries have been puzzled, wondering just how such a system could ever be established, but it’s no longer a puzzle. Advanced technology has brought the world closer to the Mark of the Beast than any time in history. We know that the coming Mark of the Beast will somehow be connected with the economy, for the Bible says that no one may buy or sell without it. It may very well be that cash, checks, and credit cards are soon to become a thing of the past, because electronic money is becoming more popular all the time.
One form of electronic money is the use of smart cards. A smart card looks like a credit or debit card, except it contains a small computer chip with all sorts of information about the card holder, including bank account numbers and balances. When a smart card is used, the card holder’s bank account is immediately debited at the point of sale by computer transaction. This means more profits to retailers and banks alike, because bad checks and credit card abuse would be eliminated. Many banks and credit card companies believe that electronic money will eventually usher in a cashless society where everyone will buy and sell electronically. Terry Galanoy, former director of communications for what is now Visa International has made this bold remark: “Protesting too loudly about it isn’t going to help either, because the disturbance you kick up is going to end up in one of your files. And on that come-and-get-it day when we’re all totally and completely dependent upon our card–or whatever security device might replace it–you might be left all alone without one!”
In promotional literature from the Danyl Corporation of Moorestown, New Jersey, Robert J. Merkert, Sr., senior vice president, says: “One day in the near future, we’ll be able to pay for almost everything with just one ‘prepaid stored value’ or ‘smart card.'”
Though many industry leaders are very much in favor of a cashless society where buying and selling is done electronically, there is a problem. How can it be guaranteed that the individual using a Smart Card is the authorized card holder? Some believe that this problem can be solved by combining Smart Card technology with Biometric Technology. After all, a Smart “Card” is only a piece of plastic. It’s the computer chip inside the card that stores the needed information. As unbelievable as it may sound, biometric technology has now made it possible to implant small computer chips under the skin of animals and people. The European Community’s Executive Commission has already passed legislation which REQUIRES farmers in the European Community to have their livestock implanted with microchips! In many cities across the U.S., the Humane Society is selling such implants for pets, as a replacement for dog tags.
You say, “Well, that’s just for animals. No one would ever try this technology on people.” I wouldn’t be too sure about that. According to the Bible, The Mark of the Beast, by Paul and Peter Lalond, a plastic surgeon in Florida has hit upon the idea of implanting microchips in people. This would be helpful in locating missing people, such as run away children, kidnapped children, wandering victims of Alzheimer’s disease, and parolees.
Just for a moment, use your imagination and think about the convenience of implanted microchips. You wouldn’t need any cash or checks for making purchases, for your bank account would be automatically debited every time you went through a check-out stand. You wouldn’t need to keep up with a social security card, a driver’s license, a Medicare card, a credit card, or even a smart card, because all of this information could be stored in the implanted chip. You wouldn’t have to worry about getting mugged on the street, because there would be no demand for cash in a cashless society. Now doesn’t the mark of the beast sound wonderful?
We are not saying that the government is going to make you receive a microchip implant, and we aren’t sure how the number “666” can be integrated into all this. We are simply pointing out the fact that THE TECHNOLOGY IS HERE. We do not know exactly what the Mark of the Beast will be in it’s final form, but it is obvious that the possibilities are greater today than ever before.
Only by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior can you be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9). The Lord Jesus Christ will soon return to call His church out of this world (1 Thess. 4:16-18), and only those who are saved will leave. Everyone else will enter into the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21), and they will be required to take the Mark of the Beast. Those who do will burn in Hell forever (Rev. 14:11).
When you are ready to accept the fact that you are a lost and dying sinner and that your “good works” are unacceptable to God (Rom. 3:10, 23; 4:5; 10:3), then you can begin to see your need for Jesus Christ. He came into this world to lay down His sinless life for YOU–to pay for your sins, because you couldn’t. Jesus is your only hope for salvation. Only by receiving Him as your Savior can you enter the gates of Heaven. There is no other way.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The Lord Jesus Christ has come and PAID for your sins by shedding His own Blood on Calvary. By receiving Him as your Savior, you can be WASHED from all your sins in His precious Blood (Rev. 1:5; Col. 1:14; Acts 20:28; I Pet. 1:18-19). Notice these important words from Romans 5:8-9:
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Jesus PAID your way to Heaven for you! By receiving Him as your Savior, you will be receiving God’s ONLY means of Salvation for you. Are you willing to forsake YOUR righteousness and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, your ONLY HOPE for Salvation? Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Are you willing to forsake your own righteousness, and trust Jesus Christ alone? He will save you just as He promised. Why not receive Him today? Tomorrow could be too late. Tomorrow you could face being implanted with “the mark of the beast.”
Psalm 91:1-6 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surley he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and the noisome pestilence. He shall cover the with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
Each of us will at some point of out life experience those “dark hours.” These are the times when we feel that no one cares; no one is listening. It is at these times when we feel all alone against the raging storms of life and there is no hope for ever being happy again. We feel like giving up and allowing the destroyer to have his way with us. But, friend, these are also the times when the saints have God protecting and shielding us from the rages of the storms of life. We have a shelter in a time of storm.
God is always our protector, but He does not only do that by soaring in the lofty heavens, looking down like the ever watchful eagle, He also is very near to us. When the “noisome pestilence” of life finally drives us mad with desire to give up, He is there, covering us with the feathers of His wings. In this way He takes the brunt of the storm upon Himself; He is our shelter and warmth until the storm passes over. He holds us steady so we won’t fall to certain destruction. Why then do we not feel His ever presence? This happens all too often and we don’t “feel” Him there because we are too busy looking on the storm instead of snuggling into His loving embrace. Like the young, we too are disappointed that there is a storm so we cannot go out into the radiant sunshine an frolic for a little while. We are looking at our circumstances instead of our situation.
No one likes to go through a trial—a storm of life. They are not fun because we can’t go out and do what we want to do. Instead, we must stay inside under shelter. And here is the key—we cannot do what we want to do! The storms interrupt our plans. They always come at the most inconvenient times. They are never on our schedule of the day; our things-to-do-list. They are most troublesome by nature. But, it is only from the place of protection that we can be delivered from the storm; that we can be shielded from the trial. AND, whether we know it or not, it is in these times that we get closer to God.
Almost always, when a trial comes in our life, do we run to God for our help. Amazingly, the unsaved, unrepentant, atheist will do so as well. They are always willing to accept prayer for them in their time of trial or despair. They want to have the protection and hope that comes from a loving relationship with God, but don’t want to stay under His wing. Like a child on a playground who wants to climb the monkey bars on his own falls off and gets an owey, when the hurt comes, when there is pain, he immediately runs to mommy. Why is that? They want protection, warmth, shelter and security.
So friends, if you are going through a trial today, if you have been going through some despairing times, the very best thing for you to do is to run to God, get under His wing, snuggle up to Him, and wait out the storm.
“Nice words preacher, but can you be a little more practical?”
Yes! Go to the word of God. Open your Bibles and read some comforting words. Passages that will often meet the needs in times of trouble are mostly in the Psalms. There is much healing and relief in these passages. But that is not all. Pray! If you cannot find your way to God, ask Him to find you. If you seek Him, He will find you. And, when He does, He will protect you, love you, warm you and shelter you from all of the storms of life.
It is a dangerous thing to not go to church, especially if you are a parent. First and foremost its obvious it affects your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When you are not going to church, the less you want to go. The more you go to church the more you want to go. Now we all know that it is certainly not God that is influencing us to keep us away from church attendance. That leaves only two causes; it is either at the direction and influence of Satan that we are not going to church or by the pull and draw of self.
Jesus Christ died for the church, he loves the church. He told us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. A good healthy love for the Lord Jesus Christ should be enough for any individual to continue in and be dedicated to church attendance. If you are not feeding the relationship you have with someone, then it begins to diminish. When you have a relationship with people then you certainly spend time with them. You spend time with them privately and you spend time with them publicly. The private devotion of a Christian is not sufficient for a proper and healthy relationship with God Almighty. You must join together with God’s people because Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in his name that he would be there in the midst of them. So you can either have a private relationship with God or you can have a public relationship with God, or you can have both.
Before becoming a preacher, part of my job as an electrician was to take working trips for the government. This meant that I would have to leave my family behind. I would go off sometimes for thirty days, some times for six weeks and some times for just two weeks. To me it did not matter if it was just the weekend or not, I was apart from my family, my friends and those whom I loved. If you ask my wife you will find out that the largest phone bills we ever had was when I was on trips because I was constantly on the phone with her. Why is that? I desired that relationship. I needed it to be fed. I loved her and you could tell because of the amount to time I wanted to relate with her.
We need time to be with God Almighty. Having a long distance relationship with him is not sufficient just as the phone calls from across the country to my wife were not sufficient. It filled a need but I sure couldn’t wait to get on that airplane and come home. I needed those kisses and those hugs. I needed that surrounding to be whole and complete in my life. Christians unless you have the surroundings of God and God’s people you will not ever be whole or complete in your life. It is dangerous when you are not going to church.
Another danger is how God will react. You see, relationships work both ways. Its is not all dependent upon you, although some people deceive themselves and think that it is. Relationships also depend upon the other person as well. Have you ever tried to talk with someone that didn’t want to talk with you? Have you ever tried to make friends with someone that didn’t want to be friends with you? It is near impossible. Have you ever had a friend that suddenly, for no reason at all just started keeping away from you? Maybe your relationship gradually became a long distance one? What would you do? I venture to say that you would be concerned. At the very least and there would come a point when you would decide that you wanted to figure out what the problem was. You would probably want to know if it was a problem with you or a problem with them. God is the same way. When His people move away from him, and slowly begins not going to church, It is just like the long-distance relationship. He wants to figure out what the problem is. He wants to confront you about it. Then He wants to inspire you to do what is right because he knows the relationship is healthy for you and for Him. When you are not going to church, the danger is that God may act and you are not always exactly sure how He will do that.
The third danger is, people are looking at you and your testimony. Every Christian has what is called a living testimony. It is how you act as compared with what you say. You can say to people all you want that you need to be committed to the Lord, but it will mean absolutely nothing if you are not as committed as you expect them to be. Many Christians subconsciously know this and that is why they stay away from various subjects–Subjects where the Christian might be found a hypocrite. But, my friends, people watch your life and if you are doing one thing but saying another it doesn’t help the cause of Christ. It is not neutral and it hurts the cause of Christ. You are either for Christ or you are against Christ.
When we first get saved we begin learning how to live for Christ. Slowly and gradually as the Holy Spirit begins working on us, from that day forward. All the way until the end of our life we are in the process of learning how to live for Christ and die to self. So the danger is, people are looking to see how they are supposed to live as a Christian. When they see that you are not going to church, then they begin to pick up on your example and do the same.
My friends what do people say about you? When they look at you, do they say that your interests are Jesus, the Bible or the Church? Or do they say your greatest interests are: health or birth or job or family? Anything other than Jesus means they see Jesus is not first in your life. Now let’s take this information, file it in our memories and use it for his glory. God bless you all. Amen.
A college student challenged a senior citizen, saying it was impossible for their generation to understand his. “You grew up in a different world,” the student said. “Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers…”
Taking advantage of a pause in the student’s litany, the geezer said, “You’re right. We didn’t have those things when we were young; so we invented them! What are you doing for the next generation?”
In today’s world, when a person turns to God’s word, it is important that they find it. The Devil is a master deceiver. He can make you feel as though you are absolutely at peace being wrong. He can’t change dirt into ice cream, but he can make you think you are eating the most delicious ice cream when all the time you are eating dirt. Likewise, he can do the same with the Bible. He can make you think, beyond a shadow of doubt, that you have the right words of God when all the time you have a counterfeit. Martin Luther discovered this a long time ago and he was eventually killed for speaking out about it.
Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”
I trust as you look on the Bible Comparison charts included, that you will get some semblance of the deception that Satan has put in place as a policy to cause God’s people to become weak and anemic. I hope these will open your eyes.
What is an “apostle?” What are the qualifications for “apostleship?” Who are called “apostles” in Scripture? Who are the “twelve apostles” who will sit on twelve thrones and have their names on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem? Are there “apostles” today?
The first reference of the word “apostle” gives us a clue to the meaning—Matthew 10:1-5. The key idea here is that an apostle is a “sent one;’ an ambassador delegated to carry a message (“messenger”). Every man who is called an apostle fits this description. Even Jesus Christ is called the Apostle in Hebrews 3:1. That is because He is The Sent One.
The name apostle is different than“disciple” which means “learner; pupil; follower.”
The TWELVE men ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ “to be with Him” (Mark 3:14) differed from others who were called apostles in Scripture. They were UNIQUE, in that Jesus gave them special power and authority for the performance of their office (Matt. 10:1, 8; Luke 10:19).
When Judas Iscariot fell from apostleship a replacement was chosen to fill the “twelfth” spot. The number twelve is significant.
1. Twelve is the number of the earth (4) times the number of the Trinity (3). This shows God’s intervention within the human family.
2. Twelve is Israel’s number. There are TWELVE-TWELVES in Scripture: (1) 12 tribes—Gen. 49:28; (2) 12 stones on the breastplate—Ex. 28:21; (3) 12 gates into the New Jerusalem; (4) 12 foundations of the city—Rev. 21:14 cf. Eph. 2:19-22; (5) 12 manner of fruits on the tree of life; (6) 12 months to a year with twelve constellations (zodiac) which match the twelve months—Job 38:32; (7) twelve apostles; (8) 12 thrones in the Kingdom—Luke 22:30; (9) 12 hours in a day—John 11:9; (10) 12 musical notes (7 white keys + 5 half notes); (11) 12 colors; (12) 12 national boundries (cf. Deut. 32:7-8—North America; Central America; South America; Antarctica; Asia; Africa; Australia; Middle East; Europe; Artic; the Indies; Greenland).
The question arises, who will sit on the twelfth throne and whose name will appear on the twelfth foundation? Several other men are called “apostles” in Scripture: Matthias (Acts 1:26); Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14); Paul (Rom. 1:1; 11:13); James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19; 2:9). Which of these would be the twelfth man?
Acts 1:21-22 give four qualifications for Judas’ replacement: He would have to be one who—(1) Companied with the original twelve during the earthly ministry of Christ (Luke 8:1); (2) was a witness of the resurrected Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1); (3) baptized by John; (4) ordained by the Lord (Acts 13:2 cf. 14:4, 14). That eliminates all but Matthias. You will notice in 1 Corinthians 15:5, that J
esus was seen “of the twelve.” Judas had already hung himself, so who were “the twelve” that saw the risen Christ prior to Paul? It had to be the eleven with Matthias.
Jesus with the “Twelve” had a special comission to Israel (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; cf. Rom. 15:8). That is why the replacement must be one who was with Christ while He offered the Kingdom to Israel (Matt. 10:7). Th
e apostle Paul’s ministry was primarily to Gentiles (Rom. 11:13 cf. 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).
The Scripture is clear that Matthias was numbered with the eleven, which would
What about today? Some churches claim “apostolic succession,” i.e. each generation has it’s own elite group of “apostles” to replace those of the previous generation (Mormons; Catholism; etc.) The Apostolic ministry was certified by signs and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). These “signs” confirmed that the man was really an apostle (“sent one”). If a man didn’t have the signs of an apostle (Mark 16:17-18), he was found to be a liar (Rev. 2:2) and a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13). make twelve. This is evidenced in Acts 6:2 where “the TWELVE” are mentioned. This is before Paul, Barnabas, or James are called apostles.
With the death of the last Apostle, John the beloved, the Apostolic Age came to an end. Apostles exist today only in the sense of a missionary being one “sent” by the Lord and delegated by the local church to carry the message of the Gospel (Rom. 1:5-6).
The Purpose of the church-EXAMINED.
The purpose of the church is multi-faceted, but it revolves around one—only one—activity. That activity is the winning of souls. In short, it is telling others how to be saved, encouraging them to get saved, and leading them in the process of being saved. We are very plainly told in the Bible that, “…he that winneth souls is wise.” (Pro. 11:30). The activity of winning souls stands over every endeavor a Bible believing church is involved in. It is paramount, un-negotiable and vital. If you do not think so, then you are sadly mistaken.
Today, the church has evolved into some kind of conglomerate, some kind of multi-functional business venture (emphasis on “business venture). Like some Good Samaritan club, people come together to escape the harsh attacks of evil that they withstand throughout their week. It takes the place of some good, wholesome fun that can be found no place else in the world. And, it becomes an educational source where people can go and have their morals sharpened by the word of God. Of course, all of these are not wrong, but they have somehow upset the cart; the scales have become out of balance. Where at one time soul winning was the most important thing, now it has been replaced by all of the rest. Instead of being slightly off, the church has now become grossly out of balance in the area of winning souls.
In what areas do many churches weigh heaviest? In what areas do they invest the bulk of their resources? They are vast and range from small group encouragement sessions to being the vassals of the distributors of Christian books and programs. I have been to churches where they canceled meetings so they could show the super bowl. I have preached in churches that were divided right down the middle. On each side of the aisle sat the two prominent families of the church along with their supporting families. The poor pastor was stuck right in the middle of the feud. I preached at one church where I actually did no preaching at all. The auditorium was exactly like a movie theater auditorium and the “stage” was full of rock band equipment. All they did was play Christian rock music and there was no mention of Jesus, salvation or the Bible anywhere. My preaching was the privileged task of being the guest of honor in the very front row center. This is only a small sample of what some churches now call “preaching the gospel.” It is what they have replaced for winning souls. No one in any of those churches even thinks of winning someone to Christ, let alone actually trying to do it. Yet they are all “busy about the Lord’s work.” In fact, there have been some people who have left churches where I pastored who said, “I can’t grow. In everything you say, you always say something about winning souls. Could you please stop telling me that?”
Now, to have support groups, encouragement and structure for Christian growth is truly important. It is good to have classes to teach how to rear children the Biblical way. Classes of marriage and handling of finances are necessary and the Bible speaks of these subjects and many more like them. It is necessary for Christians to, “Bear one another’s burdens…” (Gal. 6:2). It is good to be glad in the house of the Lord (Acts 2:46) and to be encouraged by the singing and worship (Col. 3:16). Not every moment of the Christians life must be winning a soul. Every soldier needs time to regroup and rearm. He even needs time away from the battle to resort. The problem is, that most churches have remained stuck in the regroup, rearm and resort area and no one is actually in the battle. They have forgotten that you cannot win a war with only the rear echelon. You must have the fighters. And, in the army, every soldier is a soldier first and foremost.
One day Jesus approached Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, He did not ask them to join a fellowship. He did not offer to them a support group. He didn’t even offer them an answer to their personal problems. What He told them was, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19). He wanted to make them into soul winners. He intended to teach them how to tell others about the gospel (good news) of salvation. He wanted them to be equipped to carry that gospel to others throughout their entire life. And, that is exactly what they did, and they did it at the hazard of their own lives. They never lost sight of the main goal. They never got their number one main order out of sight. They always had their “prime directive” before them. The Jews of old would carry God’s word in little boxes strapped to their foreheads called–frontlets (Deu. 11:18). This was in command to God’s directive to have no other Gods but Him (Exo. 20:3). It was their main mission to teach this to their children and this is how they would remember. Too bad the churches of today do not have spiritual “frontlets”. Too bad they keep forgetting their number one mission.
The apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Though he taught many of God’s principles of help to the church, he still never lost sight of this first command given by Jesus (Acts 1:8). He was committed to even going to the uttermost parts of the earth, and he was pretty successful about it. Even though he had all the cares and concerns of helping the different churches, making a living and dealing with the little concerns of life, he still found time to win souls.
We all know the gravity of the situation; the importance in winning a soul (James 5:20). It is a life and death matter for the one who is won. But in a certain sense, it too is a life and death matter for a church. Where the members of a church are not actively trying to win souls, the church, like a dried up piece of fruit, will die on the vine. It does so because the Christians within dry up and die on the vine. You can always tell those who are drying up because they present reasons why they cannot do it. Listen! People can do anything they want to do if they want to do it bad enough. Churches (dead churches) are filled with people who side-step the command to win souls by replacing it with a little program and then soothe their guilty souls by convincing themselves that they are really serving the Lord. It is really amazing how many churches spend more energy and resources in humanitarian aide rather than Godly aide.
So, let us end on a good note. Let us end on the assumption that you have determined you are going to do something about pleasing God in this area of winning souls. John 4:36 says, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” I hope that you will receive wages abundantly for your eternal work. I pray that you both reap and sow. I look forward to that for you personally and for the church as well. It would be fantastic to have a church full of those who can rejoice together—rejoicing that can only come from laboring in the field. The church does not ever need to be a dry, dead place. The only way to keep it alive and vibrant is to win souls. This is our purpose—to win souls. There is no other way around it. Nothing can replace this God given formula for joy.
People get offended for the silliest reasons.
Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
A young lady could not visit her father anymore. Years had gone by and this unsightly situation prevailed. Finally, one day it came out why she was unwilling to visit. It seems as if she was offended that her father made her wear dresses when she was young.
People get offended at the silliest things. Of course, it doesn’t seem silly at the time, but that is because they are not looking at the situation clearly. They are looking at the situation from a tainted viewpoint. They are offended because they are thinking about themselves; how it affects them, or how they are embarrassed… There is no need to get offended. In fact, the only way you get offended is because you choose to be offended.
The Bible says that if you love God, His laws and are at peace with others, nothing will get you offended. You can endure much more when you are “right” with God. Very little will offend you if you are “right” with God. When you love the law of God’s teachings, you will put them first in your life. To put God’s law first is to put the giver of God’s law first–God. When you are “right” with God, there is very little that the world can do to you because you will be in control of what you allow to affect you and what you will not allow to affect you.
You can take it to the bank–the person that is easily offended is struggling with their love for God’s teachings, rules or laws. They have either broken them or are having trouble letting them into their life so they can control their actions. In a finer sense I can say, they are having trouble giving up their “rights” to God. These type of people think that they are the standard by which things should be done, or even become vocal about the way others live their life for Christ. Somewhere in Christianity, people have lost sight of God being in control. Oh, they say that He’s in control, believe that He is, proclaim that He is, yet they still live like He is not. They fret and fear and worry and try to arrange things to their own benefit, while all the time they have abandoned the peace they can have by living like God is truly their creator and they are the created.
Christians would do well for themselves if they could just visualize they are nothing more than an “object”; created by God; for God (Rev 4:11), and not get offended about that. Then all of the struggle, worry, fear and fretting will amount to nothing, neither here or in eternity. If you could just close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself giving your entire life to God, indiscriminately, with nothing held back, and no conditions placed upon the situation, you would be better off. If you could allow that vision to slowly fade into a scenario of total obedience to God, even unto the death, you would live a much more peaceful life. Why? Because total obedience, total commitment, total dedication describes love; a love for God.
King David saw a beautiful woman that he wanted to take for his wife. He took her and she was eventually found to be with child. The trouble was that she was already married to Uriah the Hittite who was off to war. Trying to solve the problem himself, he thought if Uriah would come home, then he would surely sleep with his wife then his sin would be covered. So he wrote orders for the general (Joab) to send Uriah home. He told Uriah to “Go down to thy house…” (2 Sam. 11:8). But, Uriah slept on the floor at the door of the king’s palace and did not go home to his wife. When David discovered this he asked Uriah why he didn’t go home to his wife. Uriah answered, “The ark of the Lord, Israel and Judah all sleep in tents. My fellow soldiers all sleep in open fields. I cannot allow myself these indulgences as long as this situation exists.” To Uriah it was a matter of duty, honor and devotion to God. He loved God. But David gave secret orders for Joab to have Uriah lead the charge at hottest place of battle so Uriah would be killed in battle, and Uriah was killed.
Uriah loved not his life even unto death. His love for God gave him peace. Oh that Christians today could have that kind of dedication and love for God. If they did, they would lead much more peaceful lives because very little would offend them. When you think of God instead of yourself, little there is that you will allow to offend you.
How many Christians today would lead better, lives?
It is too bad that there has to be so much emphasis today on MONEY! We all know that the Word of God tells us that “…the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Of course, no real Christian relishes being immersed in evil, but we must all deal with this potential “time bomb” of spiritual destruction in the world in which we live today. It is almost as if it is one of those “necessary evils” to which we are bound, and can never shake loose from. WE NEED MONEY!
Families need money to live. We need “bucks” to pay for a place to live, put food on the table and clothes on our backs. These are the very basic’s of life. Everything else beyond this can be a luxury when considering the principle of “needs vs. wants.” Without the things that we need, we would be in a very bad way indeed. It is no wonder money becomes so valuable that we have a tendency to hoard it for the time when we may need it in the future. Of course, saving for specific needs is not bad, but we can get dangerously close to crossing over the line and LOVE our money. This is where we become contributor to the evil world system. Until that point, we are living under the evil effects of “love of money” that others may have; we are not actually contributors to that evil.
How does one know when they actually love their money vs. exercising good stewardship with the wealth that God has given them? It all lies in your reaction to money when you lose it. If you are devastated by the loss of it on a personal level, then most likely you are in love with it. However, if you are disappointed, but not smitten to the heart, (in other words: your joy for the Lord is affected), then you are not in love with it. You are just disappointed in your stewardship of it. But, this test is not always an indicator of love for money or not, but it is a good place to start.
God has put some very good and sure fire ways to keep from falling in love with this necessary evil, which we use every day. GIVE! Luke 6:38 tells us that we should “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” If we have a heart to give, then we can step around ever falling in love with money. Man does not give away that which he is truly in love with. For example: I would never give to you my wife. I love her. She is very dear to my heart. I would never give to you my children, grand children, siblings or parents. I love them very much. However, I can give to you something that I hold highly valuable to me, but I am not in love with it. I value it, I do not love it. I can live without money, but I cannot live without my wife.
Money needs to be this way for us in our life. To keep from loving it, we need to give; not just once, but continually. In other words, we need to develop a giving heart. It is not coincidental that when we give, it is an expression of love towards others, but when we keep to ourselves, it is an expression of love of self.
God is not timid about providing an example in giving. He gave everything He had to redeem man from loving self. He showed the depths of His love in giving. Surely we too can give, and it doesn’t always have to be money. We can give of our time, talents, as well as our treasure. These are the three basic areas of our life which we have stewardship over where we can get tripped up. If we give of these areas of our life, then we are developing a giving and loving heart. Of course, as you examine them, the easiest and most likely to give from is our money. That simple little coin or ink covered piece of paper represents effort; effort that we exerted in which we were compensated for.
God wants us to keep from loving money because it will often times cause us to err “from the faith.” The primary effect of this evil for the Child of God is a falling away from God. When we cease from giving, and the love of money becomes rooted in us, we will certainly begin a downward spiral away from God. We know that God is the greatest giver of all, and if we are to be in fellowship with Him, we will be associated with the giving God. The sacrifices and offerings that we give to His cause is only a miniscule contribution to what He gives to them every day. And here is the reason why many people lose direction and faith in God: They have lost their desire to identify with Him in this area of their life. They may have lost it for a good reason or it may be a fabricated excuse, but they have lost it. It is logical and reasonable to conclude this since God told us this can happen and there are many Biblical examples from which we may take note. Some of the most famous are Ananias and Sapphira; Judas; and Demas, but there are many contemporary examples that each of us have certainly known. So, one sure fire way to keep from falling away from God is:
- Don’t fall in love with money.
- Develop and keep a giving heart.
Falling away from God is always subtle and slow. It doesn’t happen overnight, although one specific event could be the root cause to our beginning this downward trip. The Devil engineers it to be slow and subtle because he wants it to take hold in our life. If it was sudden, it would be too noticeable. We gradually plant, replant and transplant our produce so that it can grow steadily without a growth stunting shock. If we waited until it was too big, the roots would be all torn up when we transplanted it and it would either die or not recover in time enough to bear fruit for the season. Likewise is our giving in to the love of money. It happens slowly so we are not shocked by its effect on us. If we realized it was happening, we would discontinue following its sorrow piercing path.
No Christian wants to fall away from the Lord. No Christian wants to be pierced through with many sorrows. That is why I am writing this article: to give some insight to the process in which these are the results. If we can understand the mechanics of how this happens, then we can be aware of the signs our life projects; we can deal with it before it is too late. It could suffice to just say, “Give so you don’t fall in the condemnation of the Devil.” But there is really much to be said about that one bold statement. I strongly feel if people can understand the process, then they can be better equipped to deal with the product. So, I hope this message gives you a little insight to help you keep a strong and vibrant relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are things that are important to us in life, but nothing is more important than soul winning. The soul is the part of man that lives forever. It is the part of man that feels pain or joy; happiness or sorrow. It is the center of the man.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” It is a wise and profitable thing to be a soul winner because it pleases God. He has a high evaluation of the soul winner. It is one of the dearest things to the heart of God. Consequently, it pays enormous eternal dividends. A man who turns people to righteousness is wise because he is laying up treasure in heaven.
Conversely, a Christian who is occupied with trivial matters of life is unwise. Majoring on minors is foolish. Therefore, not to win souls is to be guilty of the sin of folly.
If we are to be wise, we should actively be involved in soul winning of some kind. If we don’t know how to win a soul to the Lord, we should learn how to do so. I am sure you can ask your Pastor or Christian friend.
When is the last time you led someone to the Lord? Have you ever won someone to the Lord? There is no shortage of people that need to hear the gospel. They are wondering aimlessly through life, believing a lie that is leading them to hell. People want to be saved. They just don’t know what to do. They know there is an emptiness in their life that is not fulfilled. They know they need something, they just don’t know what it is or how to get it.
There is however, a shortage of Christians who are willing to tell the lost about salvation. There should not be, but there is. We need to be not so. The entire world is in need of the Lord Jesus Christ—and who will tell our neighbors? The Devil will have them hear all of his doctrine, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by every means possible. The Lord left the job of spreading the gospel up to us. Not the TV. Not the Internet. Not the radio. He left it up to us.
Spreading the gospel is not doing good deeds for others. It is not living a right life or even helping the poor. Spreading the gospel is to actively tell people how they can be saved; how they can know for sure they an go to heaven.
These are the last days that we are living in. We live in a unique time. No other people the history of mankind has had so much at stake as we havetoday. We are like the anchor runner in the relay race of life. Lets not drop the baton. Lets not run out of steam on the last lap. Lets give it all we have Got. Souls lie in the balance.
What creates church growth? Are members responsible for growth of the body of Christ? Jesus used an analogy from farming to explain the manner in which the kingdom of God grows (Mark 4:26-29). Once the farmer plants the seed, it grows by itself. Although fruit comes through the miracle created within the seed, the farmer has to work hard to prepare the ground for productivity.
So it is with church growth. The apostle Paul explained that he had planted churches, Apollos had watered, but it was God who gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). So how do Christians plant and water so God’s church can grow?
Empowering members to grow.
I more prefer to call this, “Allowing members to have ownership in their church.” Every member of a local church needs to feel that it is his/her church. This is a vital area in which a member can use their talents for the Lord; an area in which they can serve God, and thereby be an active part in the Body of Christ. Otherwise they become like a cancerous or foreign object. If they a member has no ownership in their church, then they will not consider it to be “their church.” These are those who fall away because they are not really connected to anything. Find something to do in your church and be a part of the body.
Using your God-given gifts to serve God and your neighbor.
God has given each member in the church certain talents that no one else has. When He leads you to a particular church it’s that He has a purpose for those talents to be used for that church’s growth. Most obviously, it would be impossible to have piano in the song service if there were no piano players willing to use the talent that God gave them. Other talents are more subtle; like fixing things, electrical work, greeting, or cleaning, just to name a few. Find out what you can do and do it in the church.
Use your passion, fire, and enthusiasm for the church.
Everyone is passionate about something. When Jesus gave sight to the young man who had never seen, He told him to tell no one. But the bible says he, “…went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter…” (Mark 1:45). He was passionate about telling others what happened to him. Some things which people are passionate about are such things as: sports, music, babies, family, health, cars, work, etc. You can tell what people are passionate about by listening to what they are continually talking about, especially after the service is ended.
Support the structure and function of the church.
When you support the structure of the church, you are building the church. Supporting the structure of the church shows respect, honor and love for it. Many churches die simply because they are filled with members who say they love the church but, do not support it. It is not supportive to tell people you love your church when you talk bad about its members behind their back. Taking an unsaved, potential member aside and warning them off about some member you don’t like is actually tearing down the church. It doesn’t matter how much you say you love the church, your actions are destructive. Paul faced this exact situation among some of the churches he planted (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
It is not necessary to agree with all of the structure of the church, but it is necessary to support it. And where you disagree, use prudence in not voicing it inappropriately.
Pray for and acknowledge inspiration in the worship services.
Prayer is necessary on all fronts. It improves the Believer’s relationship with God. However, it is vital to pray for God to inspire all aspects of the worship service. We did not come to church to hear a man give a speech or lesson. We came to hear what God has to tell us. It is vital to ask God to talk to us and give us exactly what we need in our life. Unfortunately, it hurts to get our “toes stepped on” by the message being preached. And we often blame the preacher for “preaching at me” and forget that God can use the preacher to deliver HIS message. We need preaching from God to shake us deep down in our souls so we can grow as believers. When the members of the church grow, so does the church. Pray that God will not only inspire the message, but the music, giving, specials, fellowship and our own hearts as well.
Form friendships with other members and do things together outside the church.
Everyone knows that a family cannot grow when each member of it only comes together for one or two hours a week. It is impossible! Likewise, the church cannot grow when its members only interact with each other one hour a week. It is crucial for church growth that the members develop friendships with each other and have fellowship outside the church. I know the main complaint about this is: “I don’t have anything in common with anyone else.” Unfortunately, you neglect to see the folly in such a statement—you have church in common. If you are a family with children, your kids may be friends. Why not get together and do something. How about invite someone over to eat? This is a basic and common thing for people to do so they can get to know each other.
When members have their friendships outside the church (with non church members), their hearts are slowly and subtly drawn away from the church. Therefore, the church not only doesn’t grow, it begins to shrink. It is important that Believers hold each other up. This principle is illustrated when the Israelites were battling Amalek. They prevailed over Amalek when Moses’ hands are raised up, and they lost when he gets tired and lowers his hands. So, Aaron and Hur helped him hold up his hands until the battle was over, and Israel won (Exo. 17:10-13). So must we support members when they are in time of need. This is easier when we become friends and we know what each other is going through.
Sharing your Christian life by example and story.
For the church to grow, it is essential that Believers share their faith with others. They must do everything they can to compel people to come in and hear the message of the Bible. Everyone knows the old saying: “talk is cheap.” This is very true and it indicates that talk is worthless. If then it is worthless, what then is of such value that it can make a life change in someone else? Of course, it is the life story of the Christian. The example of a believer living for God is the most powerful way to witness. When people see the life of a truly dedicated believer, and how it is lived, they are affected to their core. Your life story always supersedes what you say. Even children know this at a very young age. They will listen to mommy tell them to not get started in some bad habit, but if their mommy does it, they will eventually do it as well.
The best way to grow the church through witnessing is to tell the proper life story.
Possess sincere love for the other members.
Love accomplishes much good in growing the church. When members have loved one for another, they tend to be more tolerant and willing to accept anyone. Not only that, everyone wants to be loved; they want to experience true sincere love. The world is severely lacking in sincere love. It exists in many families, but in few other places. Since God is love and you cannot truly say you know God if you don’t have sincere love (1 John 4:8, 16), a church can never grow because you cannot grow a church without God. People know that you truly love God when you have love for each other.
It takes effort to love. You have to work at repressing your ugly thoughts about those whom you don’t like too much. But then you have to go the extra mile and set yourself aside and love the person in spite of what your feel. Love, among many other things, is the giving of self.
When a church is first formed, it is little more than a fledgling. It takes time and effort on the part of everyone for it to become established and for a root to go down into the fertile ground. Without the patient diligence of adhering to these outlined principles, it will never take hold and be able to support itself; it will always need a support to be tied to. It cannot be done by just the pastor alone. It cannot be done by just the faithful few. Everyone has to chip in and help. All hands must be involved. So, we must each ask ourselves, “which of the eight characteristics is my weakest?” Ask God for strength and allow Jesus to lead you to grow.
Which are your strengths? Use them to serve Jesus and his church.
One of the reason that we have so many pansy Christians is because people neglect the terror of the Lord. Pansy Christians are those who are too afraid to witness for Him. They are the cowards who give up at the first sign of difficulty and run for cover. In a practical sense, they can always be identified as “church shoppers.” They look for what they want instead of what God wants. God wants us to remember sin. He wants us to always have it on our mind because it is the thought of sin that brings us to God in humility; ready to accept His way, and give up the reigns of our life to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:11 says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” It is interesting that Paul said, “knowing.” What is it that Paul knew. Well, many things I am sure, but here he is focusing on the TERROR OF THE LORD! The knowledge of that is what drove Paul to witness for God. It is that unabated terrifying side of God that caused Paul to get out of his “comfort shell” and be made “manifest” to the world as a real Christian (one who would die for the Lord Jesus Christ). He was afraid of what God could do, (and would do), when He was addressing man’s sin. Where are the Christians like that today? Are they waving their hands back and forth in a “gathering” of tee-totaling” academics? Are they standing firm? NO! They are too busy “feeling” God instead of “knowing” God. They have conveniently forgot that they will one day have to give account of their Christian life to God (Rom. 14:12). They are too busy having a “great life” while all the time they are surrounded by people who are dying and going to hell. That is no laughing matter my friend. Not at all!
Acts of compassion should be motivated by the terror of the Lord. Knowing what He can and will do if we are not obedient to Him.
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
There are many places where Jesus warned against the danger of false motives. In giving, He reminded us that we must not give our tithes in order to receive glory of people (Matt. 6:1–4). He also warned us against praying to receive applause of people; prayer is for conversing with God rather than a speech to be heard and admired by people (Matt. 6:5 – 6). He warned us against displaying our personal godliness by revealing our private spiritual disciplines so as to win the approval of people (Matt. 6:16–18). Regarding these two things, Jesus was talking to his disciples about proper motivation. He declared that all worship and service should be motivated by the single desire to please God.
A motive is something which “moves.” What the mainspring is to the clock, motives are to the Christian, what the motor is to the automobile. Motives certainly do affect our lives in many ways. Some examples of these are:
- Selfishness — everyone likes to feel important;
- Self-gratification — we like that which pleases us personally, and we like to have our own way;
- Self-interest — it is human nature for each of us to look out for the best interest of self. We find it easy, even if unconsciously, to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
One does not have to be an expert in motivational research to know that the above motives are inadequate for those who would invest their lives in the Service of God and others most effectively.
When examining the early church in the book of Acts, we discover what it was that made the church so effective. Just as well, we see that they did not serve purely out of love. They were human beings like us, and they served out of mingled motives rather than the pure motive of love for God and love for others.
The early church achieved one success after another in what appeared to be an impossible assignment with tremendous handicaps. The book of Acts is a thrilling success story. What were the motives of the early Christians? Can we have the same motives today? Why did the early Christians witness so faithfully?
They discovered the joy of being a bearer of good news (Acts 2:41 – 47; 5:42; 8:8). In obedience to the command of the Lord, by word of mouth, they spread the good news of his resurrection. They proclaimed God’s love for sinners and his desire to forgive sin. They could not conceal the good news that death had been defeated and that the grave had been robbed of its victory. This was such wonderful news that it brought joy to their hearts just to bear it. For them, witnessing about the saving acts of Jesus Christ was natural. Not to have done so would have been unnatural, inhuman, and unchristian for them. They received great inward joy through witnessing.
The early church recognized and responded to the authority of the crucified but risen and living Lord (Matt. 28:18b; Acts 2:36; 5:29). They believed that God had resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead and had bestowed upon him the authority of lordship. They believed that this gave Jesus the right to issue orders and to command their time, talents, testimony, and treasure.
These early Christians believed that it was right for them to obey Christ even if this obedience brought them into disfavor with both religious and civil authorities. At the risk of being imprisoned and beaten, they chose to obey the Lord.
Many of today’s Christians consider obedience as being optional. There seems to be little recognition of the present lordship of Jesus Christ. Consequently, disobedience characterizes the modern Christian more so than does obedience. Perhaps this is why the church is not effective today. Perhaps this is even why the world seems to be changing so drastically towards evil. It certainly has some effect, not only on the Christian, but on the world surrounding him as well. The motives of the Christians of the early church were a strong sense of duty, the desire to be obedient. This is the critical element that helped motivate the early church to be a faithful witness to their generation. They paid dearly for their motives, and their sacrifice made it easier on the church which was to follow. But today, there has been a moving away from what they gained in the world, and it is none more evident as it is in the USA, where everything seems to be “fundamentally changing.”
Yes, the early church suffered the shock of persecution (Acts 8:3–4). It was this persecution that scattered the early Christians, even though they were very nationalistic and felt that Christianity was a Jewish movement. They were prejudiced against Gentiles to the extent that God put forth special efforts to reveal that the Gentiles were also included in his love and purpose of redemption (Acts 10). Had it not been for the persecution that stirred up the church in Jerusalem, it is highly possible that Christianity never would have gained worldwide significance. The early Christians went everywhere preaching the Word, not because of the compulsion of compassion, but because they were scattered by persecution.
They could have given up on Christianity. They could have just quit. But, they were surrendered to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6). The Holy Spirit came into the church on the day of Pentecost to equip each believer to be a spokesperson for God (Acts 2:17–18). He came to lead, guide, and teach the disciples as the Lord had taught his apostles (John 14:26). The book of Acts is the dramatic account of divine initiative on the part of the Holy Spirit and human cooperation on the part of our Lord’s disciples. They lived and labored in fellowship with and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is still in the heart of each believer and in the church to carry on the work of the Lord today. We need faith to believe and accept that He is present; we need to surrender and cooperate with Him. We need to pray for His power as one of God’s best gifts (Luke 11:13).
The early church believed that all people separated from Christ were lost from God and did not know the way home (Acts 4:12). Have you ever been lost in a wilderness or desert? Were you ever lost as a child in the park or in a large department store? Can you remember the fright that filled your heart when you realized you were separated from loved ones and that you were in a position of danger? The unbelieving world knows that something is wrong, but many do not know what it is. People have a deep, unsatisfied longing in their hearts that the world, with its treasures and pleasures cannot satisfy. The Bible teaches, and experience verifies, that Jesus Christ provides the answers to the mystery and meaning of life.
The early church believed that people were lost from God and living under the condemnation of sin. They believed that humankind’s only hope of forgiveness was through faith in Jesus Christ. They believed that they had been entrusted with the good news that would make it possible for people to be saved from hell and to heaven where the deepest longings of the heart would find full satisfaction in continuing fellowship with God. Because they wanted all people to be saved, they continued to bear their witness.
It was the natural, normal, and proper thing for a Christian to talk about the joy and satisfaction of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior both in time and for eternity. Consequently, day by day and week by week in the temple, in the synagogues, on the highways and streets — anywhere and everywhere — these early disciples bore their witness. With mingled motives, they loved, they labored, and they lifted men and women toward God. May the same motives command our intellect, our emotions, and our energies in the Service of God and of a needy world.
Everybody carries about within themselves their own Judas Iscariot known as: the tongue. It is personal because it is included with all of the inner workings of our heart. It sits at the center of all communications with which we are involved. Even if we do not articulate sounds into words for communication, it is still involved in the process. Our mind is always ready, at a moments notice, to call into service it’s useful talents, and it is always prepared to oblige. And too, it is very patient. It stores the intents of the heart because it has a knack of speaking truth with “technicalities” attached; masking, detouring or deflecting from that which is necessary to maintain a good reputation for it’s host. This is where it’s true power comes into play, for it can often hold us hostage. I am sure that you have had instances in your life where you have said or thought, “Did I just say that? I didn’t really mean to say that.” These instances are clear indications of the power of this little organ which God calls, “…a fire, a world of iniquity:” If it were truly loyal, then there would be no concern for this “little member”, but it is not loyal. Therefore, much effort need be expended to keep this wild mustang in control. It can set “…on fire the course of nature…”, leading us down paths that we would rather not go.
A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”
She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”
As he said so, the manager was gesturing behind him. When he turned around to see what he was gesturing at, he saw the lady was standing right there behind him. She followed him to the front of the store. Quick witted and embarrassed he said, “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half.”
Later that same day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”
“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s famous for its great hockey teams and its unattractive women.”
The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!”
“And which hockey team did she play for?”
The tongue must be bridled if there is any hope of taming this unruly organ. This is very important because Jesus said, “… every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36).
Our tongues get us in trouble by lying – Pro. 6:17; 25:18
A man was being baptized in a remote village, high in the mountains. before his conversion, he had been an outrageous liar, and the villagers were skeptical of this sudden change of heart. The missionary doused him in the freezing waters of a mountain river and the man emerged shivering.
“Is it cold?” the missionary asked anxiously.
“No, it’s fine,” said the man.
“Dunk him again, Pastor,” shouted a villager, “he’s still a liar!”
Even what seems to be innocent “white lies” are bad. A lie is a lie and the Lord does not like a “lying tongue” (Pro. 6:17). The Lord always likes the truth. Perhaps you think, “What about times when I might incriminate myself? Should I tell the truth even if I know it is going to hurt me or someone else?” Do you remember times in the Bible where the Lord Jesus Himself would not answer the inquiries of the Pharisees? What did He do? He said nothing at all. This concept was first exposed in the lives of many people today through the Walt Disney movie: “Bambi.” There was a rabbit (Thumper) who said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” How great this principle works in many circumstances, but not all of them. There are times when you have to say the hard truth, but you can always make it easier to receive if you use a little tact. But, these circumstances are not the norm.
Our tongues gets us into trouble by Flattery – Psa. 5:9; Pro. 6:24
There is a story that centers on a king and the members of his court who were continually full of flattery. “You are the greatest man that ever lived…You are the most powerful king of all…Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do, nothing in this world dares disobey you.”
The king was a wise man and he grew tired such foolish speeches. One day as he was walking by the seashore he decided to teach them a lesson. “So you say I am the greatest man in the world?” he asked them. “O king,” they cried, “there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there will never be anyone so great, ever again!”
“And you say all things obey me?” he asked.
“Yes sire” they said. “The world bows before you, and gives you honor.”
“I see,” the king answered. “In that case, bring me my chair, and place it down by the water.” The servants scrambled to carry the royal chair over the sands. At his direction they placed it right at the water’s edge. The King sat down and looked out at the ocean. “I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?”
“Give the order, O great king, and it will obey,” cried his entourage.
“Sea,” cried the king, “I command you to come no further! Do not dare touch my feet!”
He waited a moment, and a wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet. “How dare you!” he shouted. “Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!” In came another wave lapping at the king’s feet. The king remained on his throne throughout the day, screaming at the waves to stop. Yet they came in anyway, until the seat of the throne was covered with water.
Finally the king turned to his servants and said, “It seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is He who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of His hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him.”
Flattery is false leading. When you flatter someone, it is not a compliment. It is building in them a false confidence, which God considers wicked (Psa. 5:9). If you are continually given to flattery, then no one will trust anything you say; your mouth becomes unfaithful to the truth. It is practically impossible for anyone to discern between flattery and truth. So, they pretty much discard everything you say.
Our tongues gets us into trouble by Proud speaking – Psa. 12:3-4; Pro. 10:31; Isa. 54:17
Everybody gives in to pride at different times, but there is a difference in being proud and using proud speech. There is a modern day saying for this kind of speech called: “talking trash.” It means that you are self promoting in your speech. You talk yourself up to others making them feel lowly and inadequate. People engaged in the use of proud speaking have always done more or seen more than you have. No matter what type of story you tell about your life, they have one better than you. You can get an example of this when you consider the verbal sparring of two grade school children. One says, “My daddy is smarter than your daddy.” The other says, “My daddy has been to more schools than your daddy has.” Not wanting to be outdone, the first responds with, “My daddy is stronger than your daddy”, and so forth it goes.
I was fortunate to see much of America before I graduated High school. My dad was a traveler. When I was in the navy, many of the young men who were my peers would tell stories about their hometowns or states. They would ask, “Have you ever seen…?” Almost every time, I would answer, “Yes! I’ve been there.” I was unaware that this was bothering them until one day a shipmate said in frustration, “Isn’t there any place where you haven’t been?” Well, sure there was, but I didn’t realize that my speech sounded like I was being proud; always trying to be better than they were by being more places than they. Of course, that was not my intention, but it was how they were taking it.
The Lord does not like the tongue that speaks proud things (Psa. 12:3-4). In fact, He says that He will “cut off” the tongue that speaks such things. In a practical way, a person that is always speaking like they are better than you are is pretty much excluded from people’s lives. In that sense, they are “cut off” from others. Like a person that uses flattery, everything they say is pretty much discarded.
Our tongues get us into trouble by speaking too much – Ecc. 5:3; Pro. 12:13; 18:6-7
It is foolish to talk to much. You usually find this is predominate in the person whom is a “relater” or is lonely. The relater likes to talk too much because they are trying hard to establish a relationship with someone by telling all about themselves and their lives. They figure, the more I tell about myself, the more they will know about me and have a good chance to like me. The Bible says, “…a fool’s voice is know by multitude of words.” Unfortunately, there are many problems that come from this line of reasoning. The most obvious is that the one listening will be gaining all of the knowledge while the talker is really learning very little. Rosalind Ferguson said, “A flow of words does not mean a flow of wisdom” and she is right.
The lonely person simply has no one to speak with on a regular basis. Therefore, they feel that the opportunity to speak to someone is an opportunity to release all of the stored up conversation residing in them. They speak so much and so fast that you can hardly get a word in. They will even ask you a question and then answer their own question, hardly giving you a chance to reply at all. Or, they will ask you a question without really caring what the answer is because they are happy to just get an opportunity to speak. When trapped talking to a lonely person, all too often people take the Plato approach.
A verbose and extremely boring man said to the philosopher, “I hope I’m not boring you?” Plato smiled ingeniously.
“Oh, no,” he said, “I wasn’t listening.”
In either case, it is foolish to speak too much. Invariably you will say something more than what you should say. Because you are so caught up in the moment of being able to speak to someone, you end up searching for new things to say. This is when you really have to be aware of what you are doing. You can easily recognize these times because you will find yourself starting at the beginning of what you already said and then going through it all again. This is called “circular speaking.” You just keep going round and round again through all of the issues that you have on mind, speaking with no sight to an end.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
Our tongues get us into trouble by speaking to swiftly- James 1:19; Pro. 18:13
People who speak too swiftly are those who never completely listen and formulate an idea before they speak out. They hear the first tid-bit or what another is saying and in blinding light-speed their minds go to work thinking of how they want to respond. All the time, the first person is continuing to speak; and hasn’t even finished their sentence yet.
These are the kind of people who don’t hold on to a matter long enough to consider it’s ramifications if passed on too soon. They are not good stewards of the information they gain by communicating with others. The trouble with the person who speaks too quickly is that he often says something he hasn’t completely thought through yet.
Finally, there are those who hear about something happening to someone else and will simply believe what they hear, no matter how absurd it may sound, without validating it’s truth. The Bible tells us this is a “folly and shame” to answer “…a matter before…” hearing it (Pro. 18:13).
Our tongues get us into trouble by Talebearing – Pro. 18:8; Lev. 19:16
Talebearing is simply gossip. Gossip is a very destructive form of communicating. I believe every gossip comes with an oversized nose because they are usually the nosiest people there is. They like to gain information because they get the thrill out of telling what they know. Therefore, the more they know, the more they get to tell and the greater the thrill.
Without consideration for others, the gossip will convey words that are hurtful and destructive to an innocent person who is not present to defend themselves. The talebearer is not the conveyer of things that are happening in lives of their friends. They are conveyers of DESTRUCTIVE things that will hurt someone who is not present (Pro. 18:8). All gossips should be stopped immediately and can be if you use one simple tool: Tell them you are going to repeat to the victim what they are going to say. In fact, you can cut them short by saying to them, “Wait a minute! If you are not willing to tell them to their face, then I don’t want to hear it. But if you insist, be assured, I will be confronting them because, if I am a loving friend, it is my duty to validate anything being said about them in person to their face. After all, wouldn’t you expect the same?”
A family was entertaining some friends for dinner. The hostess, anxious to show that they upheld Christian standards in their own home, asked her five-year-old to say grace. There was an awkward pause, followed by a reassuring word from the boy’s mother, “Well, darling, just say what Daddy said at breakfast this morning.” Obediently the boy repeated, “Oh God, we’ve got those awful people coming for dinner tonight and I wish they weren’t coming. But if they do come, then please give us grace. Amen!” (Oops).
Words can hurt bad and when they are being said behind the victims back, it is called GOSSIP!
Our tongues get us into trouble by Backbiting – Pro. 25:23; 6:19; Rom. 1:30
Similar to gossip, backbiting is destructive. However, there is a slight difference. Backbiting is when a person is intentionally trying to cause damage or harm to another. It is a premeditated form of gossip.
Joey wanted the job and he was certain to get it, but there was one other person who was equally qualified. The boss was thinking it over to see which one he would choose. “Come back tomorrow and I’ll decide. I want to think it over.”
That afternoon, almost completely unable to deal with the indecision, Joey decided he should do something to help his cause. He decided to call the boss. “Hello, Boss? I just wanted to tell you how much I would work hard for you. And…I think you would be making a big mistake hiring Jim.”
“Why would you say something like that?”, asked the boss.
“Well, I grew up with him and he was a always a really lazy person. Our teachers in high school were always frustrated with his poor performance.”
“Well, thank you for telling me that. I’ll keep it in mind while I think about it.”
The next day Joey and Jim showed up at the appointed time. Both were anxious and they really wanted to get this job. Sitting down at the table with them, the boss said, “Well, I’ve made my decision. It was hard at first until I talked with someone last night who made my decision very easy.” Joey kept a straight face, but inside he was beaming with satisfaction. “I’ve decided that Jim should have the job. I would be happy to have someone who is honest working for our company.”
This story illustrated how backbiting is intentionally trying to hurt someone. Joey was intentionally trying to hurt Jim for no other reason than his own self promotion. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work as well as he planned.
God hates backbiters (Rom. 1:30), and He very clearly makes that known that backbiters are, “…worthy of death…” (Rom. 1:32). It is especially distasteful to Him because He told us that he hates it (Pro. 6:16-19). God hates any form of self promotion; and backbiting is one of the worst that there is.
How do you deal with a person that is a backbiter. What do you do when someone is telling you something and you suspect they are doing nothing more than saying mean, ugly, terrible things about a person behind their back, just because they want to hurt them by manipulating you? Proverbs 25:23 says, “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” The cold northern wind turns the rain into snow or makes it so cold that the clouds do not drop their contents upon us. God compares this with an angry countenance. That is to say, a cold angry look, coupled with cold words about the backbiting will cause it to stop. So, you cut it off quickly and decisively. You can tell them in a very strong tone: “I don’t want to hear any of that!” If it continues, then just walk away and break contact with them until it is resolved.
Cursing – Psa. 109:17-18; Rom. 3:13-14
Cursing is when you are wishing a higher power to render evil into the life of another person. Again, the motive behind this is to hurt someone. It is similar to backbiting, but instead of manipulating someone to have an evil opinion of the victim, you are asking some higher power to provide the pain instead.
When we talk about cursing someone today, we naturally think about voodoo or witchcraft or some similar cultish thing. But, God in the Bible has cursed things. He clearly cursed the serpent whom deceived Eve (Gen 3:14). He cursed the earth to make it grow thorns and thistles ( Gen 3:17-18). Of course, God is not cultish, but He is a higher power. In fact, He is the highest power.
God does not like it when His creation whishes to curse another of His creations. He likens it to the poison of asps (Rom. 3:13-14). He would rather have us use our tongues to be a blessing to people instead of cursing them (Psa. 109:17-18).
So we see that cursing is not only the speaking of an occasional bad word. Those words are not empty in their content, because what is carried with them is an attitude of the heart of the person using them. Of course, I will not list them here for example, but if you think about each one, they are not used for any good or well wishes to anyone. Each one that is used is meant to hurt someone or to exclaim a hurt you are undergoing. They are hurtful words and if you use them regularly, they are just as hard to quit using as to quit smoking cigarettes. They can become addictive, but once you realize it is an addiction that is not self-destructive, but is always destructive to others, it is easier to get a handle on their use.
Hurting others – Pro. 12:18; Col. 4:6; Tit. 2:8
Proverbs 12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
There are times when we are not cursing, not gossiping and not backbiting, but we still are saying destructive, hurtful words. God speaks about this kind of use of the tongue. In Proverbs 12:18 He speaks about people who use words like a piercing of a sword. These are the words that can hurt all the way down into the heart. They are hurtful, unimaginable words, but they exist in the world today. They are everyday common words, but when coupled by the right attitude, and given at precisely the right time, they can hurt more than anything else.
A mother had raised her daughter all of her life because of a nasty divorce. Young Susan had grown to be quite a rebellious teen and it didn’t seem as if mom was able to connect with her anymore. No matter what she tried, Susan was rebellious in her quest to gain adulthood. One day, as Susan was leaving the house for what appeared to be a date, mom asked, “Where are you going honey?” Susan looked sternly at her mom and with words that were as cold as ice said, “That’s none of your business! Why do you care anyway?”
“I love you…”, then she was cut off. Susan speaking over top of her shouted, “Well, I hate you!” and walked out the door, slamming it as she went.
There was no backbiting. There was no gossip or cursing, but the words hurt mom deep down in the very inner recesses of her heart. Susan was using words designed to hurt mom and she was very effective at doing so. This is why God says to: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6). There is nothing you can do to defend yourself against such words when they are directed towards you. You can only absorb them and guard your heart by looking on the bright side if you can find one.
Remaining silent about Christ – Acts 1:8
The worst and most despicable use (or should I say misuse) of the tongue is to not use it when you should. Our tongues are so unruly and evil that they resist being involved in spreading the gospel. When it comes time to speak a word of testimony, our tongues miraculously have nothing to say. This is because they are evil by nature and must be controlled. They must be told when to speak and when not to speak. There have been times when I have been around a most talkative person, who when the subject of the gospel came up, they closed up like a great giant clam, almost daring you to pry them open. The tongue should be ready and willing to speak about Christ. Why is it that it does not? People say that they can’t THINK of anything to say, but I don’t believe that to be true. They know what they have learned about getting saved. If they are saved, they know something about Jesus. They know they don’t need to be a Bible Scholar. All God asks of us is to be witnesses. Everybody who is saved can be a witness. Everybody can tell what they have seen and experienced. But it is the deceitful tongue that thinks it is in control, and it is if you don’t keep it in control.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Merry Christmas! Every year, people all over the world get ready for Christmas by putting up a Tree and decorating it. They buy presents and wrap them in pretty papers and put them under their Christmas Tree. But, do you know why Christmas is celebrated and what the Tree and the presents mean? Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s take a closer look at His story.
A long time ago, an angel appeared to a virgin named Mary in the land Israel. Luke 1:30-32 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest…” At the birth of the Son of God, a star shone above where He lay for all to see. A star is put on the top of the Tree to represent this majestic star. Some wise men from the East followed this star to where the Son of God lay. Matthew 2:9-11 “…and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was…And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…” God had a special plan for His Son, who left His royal throne in heaven to become man in order to bring salvation to all men.
The colors on the Tree have special meaning which tell His story:
- White represents Jesus’ purity and sinlessness because only the Son of God was born without a sinful nature.
- Black represents sin which brings death. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…” Every man is a sinner by nature, so without intervention, everyone will die and go to Hell.
- Orange is the color that represents the torturing fires of Hell.
- Red represents the blood of the Lord Jesus. The shedding of blood is the only payment for sin, and only the pure blood of the Son of God could pay the sin debt for all mankind.
- The brown branches on the Tree represent the tree upon which Jesus was crucified. After His death, His body was placed in a tomb and sealed. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “…that Christ died for our sins …And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day…” On the third day, Jesus Christ rose victorious over sin and death. By rising from the dead, He conquered death that He might give life.
- The green branches of the Tree represent life. Because Jesus now lives, so can we. What is the gift that God offers to man? Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The gift which God offers us is life, which we can receive through Jesus Christ.
- The gifts under the Tree represent the precious GIFT which Jesus extends to all. If we accept the gift of eternal life, we will live with the Lord Jesus in heaven forever.
- Yellow is the color on the Tree that represents heaven.
What about YOU? You and I and every person in the world are sinners by nature. Sin causes death which means that without intervention, you will die and go to Hell. However, the good news is that the Lord Jesus paid the price for your sin and now offers YOU the gift of life, which is known as salvation! You can be saved from your sins! Will you accept the gift? What a great tragedy it would be for you to choose to spend eternity in Hell separated from the Lord Jesus who paid such a high price for you!
If you are serious about receiving God’s gift, then you can tell God directly by praying a prayer like this one to Him and He will save you:
Dear God, I see that Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ has paid a high price for me. I’m a sinner on my way to Hell. I don’t deserve Your gift, but I ask You to save me. Thank You, God, for saving me. Amen.
A. J. Gordon was the great Baptist pastor of the Clarendon Church in Boston, Massachusetts. One day he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”
“I trapped them out in the field.”
“What are you going to do with them?”
“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”
When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”
“I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”
“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.” The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost — paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!'”
This is what Jesus did for each saved saint of God. He set us free from the cage of sin in which we are trapped. It is only by His precious blood that the door of sin is open and freedom is at hand. Jesus paid for our sin. He is the only one who could ever pay for it, because His blood is pure and sinless. Ours is not. No matter how much we may cry out that we don’t belong in the cage of sin, our blood is still sinful. What binds us, what holds us is the sinful blood contained within our veins. As it bleeds out, more is produced in it’s place, and it is just as sinful as that which it replaces.
Our problem is a blood problem. Let me simply say it like this, “we have bad blood.” Yes, there is bad blood between us and God, and it can never be purified. We can only have an advocate who will accept us, and then present us to the Father based on the pure blood coursing His veins—That is what Jesus Christ did.
The door is now open. The way is made clear. There is nothing standing in the way that would hinder us from leaving the cage of death. But, sadly, there are many who will not venture into the open air of the heavens. With fear or pride they huddle in the back of the cage, making excuse after excuse about why it cannot be real. At the same time, they witness (over and over again), another one step to the edge and soar with open wings, into the open free air. How terrible life must be for those who live in fear. How hopeless life must seem for those who will do anything but stretch their wings and fly.
If you are not saved today, I hope you will come to your senses and get right with God now. ~Pastor Coale
The Chinese Character Story booklet that I had written long ago is now available in digital form on amazon.com. This book has inspired readers throughout the world, both in it’s English and Chinese format. It has been used to show that the ancient Chinese forefathers knew emphatically the story of creation, even though China denies creation today. It is an amazing story showing how God embedded the story of creation in the written Chinese language that is still widely used today.
It is in inspiration to see how God works on those who proclaim to be His enemy, using their efforts to deny God, to actually prove God’s existence, all without their knowledge they are being used by Him.
It is a truly good tool to use with the atheist who points to the far eastern religions of China. Once they see that the Chinese ancestors clearly believed in God, they are perplexed about answering how that could be.
This book will open your mind to the “relationship” approach to living that the Shemite people thrive in. I truly hope it will be a blessing to you.
The Chinese translation of this booklet can be obtained here for anyone who has a Chinese friend. This booklet has opened the door to lead many Chinese people to the Lord. Sincerely, Ron Coale
People who are truly saved have a desire to learn more about God. They are drawn to anything that will teach them about the wonderful savior who died for them. They have a desire to grow as a Christian, but how do they do that when they are surrounded by a world of sin? How do they find light when they are engulfed in a world of darkness?
I have thought about this many times. It doesn’t seem as though any one will grow if they are not related to or surrounded by the Lord Jesus Christ. The light of Christ dwells in every true Christian, but every Christian does not know this. Or, they know it, but do not reckon it to be true. They live like Christ is only present when they are in church, reading their Bible, praying or when they are talking to the preacher. To navigate this world of darkness, we need the light of Christ. Since Christ lives in us, we all possess the light of Christ, but how do we make it work for us?
I know that it is a very big step to take but the short answer is you must surround yourself, you must saturate yourself with God’s people, God’s music, God’s television shows, God’s books, God’s paintings and God’s word. Douse yourself, emerge yourself in God. If you do it will have an effect on you life. You will grow as a Christian. When you go out into the world, you will know how to invoke the light that lives in you.
As a pastor I am often asked, “How do I live as a Christian? I keep failing. I don’t know how to take the things I learned and use them successfully. How do I keep my mind on Christ?” I too had this question when I was just a new Christian.
Learn to surround yourself with Christian things. Get rid of all things you know Christ would not like.
I learned to surround myself with Christian things. This first involved taking down all NON-Christian things. I got rid of all things that I had that I knew Christ would not like. For me, this involved cleaning out my liquor cabinet, flushing all of the recreational drugs and throwing away all related paraphernalia. I burned all my bad magazines, broke all 300 of my records and threw away all clothing that had disrespectful messages and pictures. it was like a spring cleaning. I rid myself of any worldly distractions. It was like cleaning the slate of my life so there was room to add the new things I so desperately needed.
After this I started reading my Bible every day. I didn’t always understand it, but I read it anyway. Then I began going to church. Here I didn’t understand everything either, but I always asked questions. The pastor was always happy to give me an answer. I bought Christian music, posters and books. I put them all over my apartment. Everywhere you turned you could see God. I hung out with the people I met at church and it didn’t take long to see that they were not prudes like I initially thought them to be. If it had God in it, I was involved.
This filled my mind with thoughts about God which effectively pushed out thoughts of the world. It was “out with the old and in with the new.” If you are going to get rid of the old man, you must replace it with the new man. The Bible refers to this as a purging process (1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Tim. 2:21; 2 Pet. 1:9). People don’t get this though. They think that when they become a Christian, they can just start leading a new life. So, they neglect the old life. As hard as they try to live the new Christian life, the old life keeps showing through. They have neglected to purge out the old ways to make room for the new ways. This is essential if they are going to be successful at leading a victorious Christian life.
Christians can never grow if they do not address getting some of their old ways removed from their life. There will never be room for the new life to take hold if they are not willing to allow the old to be “pushed out” (purged).
In summary, the way to grow as a Christian is to allow the old to be pushed out by the new. Get rid of the things that draw you away, or distract you from God. Then surround yourself with the things that you want in your life. Then the purging process will successfully accomplish what it is intended to do.
Matthew 9:13 …for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that He did not come to the earth to call the righteous to repent. The righteous have no need to repent; they are already “right” with God. Their problems with sin are already taken care of. However, God’s opinion is that there are none who are righteous except the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
The person, who feels they are “right” with God, will never come to the Lord. They will make excuse after excuse to avoid a confrontation with God. They justify keeping control of their life by convincing themselves that they are “right” with God.
On the other hand, the person who feels there is something that is not “right” between them and God will come to Jesus. Because the Lord is perfect and they are not, there is a repentant attitude that accompanies them. These are the people that the Lord Jesus came to the world to call.
Do you have a need for Christ? Are you righteous or a sinner? You can be right by agreeing with God and coming to Him as a sinner. Only then can your sin problem be solved and you can be “right” with God.
God gave the Law so that mankind would realize they are sinners. The Law is foundational in what we know as the Ten Commandments. No man can keep the Law unless they are perfect, but that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to convince stubborn man that he cannot attain to God’s standard.
Why would there be a great move to remove the Ten Commandments from public facilities? Because man doesn’t want to confront God’s standard. Man doesn’t want to know he is a sinner, but hiding one’s head in the sand does not change the truth.
Let’s do everything we can to keep God’s law before people. It really needs to be written on the hearts of the individual. It’s not weather it’s on a building or in a school. This important thing is that it makes its way to the heart of a person.
THE LAODICEA CHURCH WE LIVE WITH
Revelation 3:14-20 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Today we find ourselves living in the Laodicean Church age. It is the last period of time before the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rapture out His church. Compared to the other periods of church history, the Laodicean is the worst of all and that is because of the apathy of believers in Christ. The word “Laodicean” means the “rights or justices of the people.” Literally the civil rights of the people. It is a time when the church is more interested in their individual rights and have totally forgotten the rights of God—their Creator. Unfortunately, this is the mess that the church is in when God returns to get us. AND, do not fret my friends; there will be no exercising of personal rights at the rapture for God’s rights will overshadow all. When He says, “come up hither,” will it not be with anger in His voice rather than that of the compassionate Jesus Christ Superstar that many envision Him to be? Will He not be angry at the church for lack of interest in winning the lost to Him?
The last church claims a belief in God while at the same time living a dead, skin-deep Christianity. People in this church, profess belief in the “fundamentals of the faith” while embracing ecumenical works. It is a church where you cannot really tell what it stands for or what it stands against. It is a church which conveniently balances itself on both sides of the fence; it is neither hot for God or cold against Him (vs. 15). It is the worst kind of church there can be: LUKEWARM (vs. 16)—close enough to God to be warmed by the Bible, and far enough away to be chilled by the world. It is the epitome of rotten apostate modernism.
God is an extremist. He does not believe in getting along with the world in a kind of “fake Christianity”. He “would thou wert cold or hot.”
The Laodicean church makes God sick (vs. 16)—sick enough for Him to “spue thee out of my mouth.” Why is this? Could it be because of the tremendous material assets this church has that others in history did not? Could it be because it is more interested in bragging about its busses, holdings, how much the property is worth, how much the offerings are or how many missionaries it supports? After all, this church says it is “…increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” But God sees the truth. He gets to the heart of the matter. His response to all of our vast access to resources that we are “… wretched, you’re miserable, you’re poor, you’re blind, and you’re naked.” This is the opposite of how we see our self. People today have too many churches to go to. The pastor does something that they don’t like, or another church member does something that they disagree with, they just “hop on over” to another church that more fits their need. People in this age are more interested in themselves instead of God, and God’s preacher better tell them what they want to hear or else.
The great problem with the church today is that Christians are afraid to stand up for Jesus. Oh, we sing the song, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus…”, but that is just lip service. Christians have worked out a way to be a Christian on Sundays and just a regular guy the rest of the time. That way they can AVOID CONFRONTATION. This is a joke of a Christian who claims that he has to put on the “armour of God”, when he knows in his heart that he is not really going to use it.
This Laodicean church lives by feelings, just like the rest of the world. Like the Israelites of old, temples to Baal have been erected amongst our ranks and the only thing that can “shake the church” loose from them is some tragedy; else God will never get our attention. If there was one thing that I could make the church see, it would be the reality and magnificence of GOD. Hence, people would see how much they owe to Him. But God does not demand our deaths; He demands our death to self, so that we might be able to live the true life that He intended. It is sad that it takes hard times in our life to bring us to our senses.
God counsels that we buy of Him “…gold tried in the fire…” (vs. 18). That is to say, He counsels that we see things as they truly are; that faith in Him is worth much more than gold or riches or prestige or honor (1 Pet. 1:7). This entire world is going to be burned up and all that is contained therein. There is absolutely nothing that will survive His hot wrath. Any investment in this world is futile. I know that right about here the concept of “stewardship” is usually slipped in, but there is a vast difference in caring for things that perish verses things that do not. The only thing that will not perish will be the souls of men who are right with God. This is “stewardship” in its most correct form: to win souls, develop them and teach them how to win more souls. But this cannot be done without “CARING”.
You say, “I don’t see it that way.” I know. I know there is a problem with how you look at things. That is why God urges to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve…” (vs. 18). This is why the Devil has so many things to look at in the world today. This is why things like TV, pornography, movies, sports, internet, etc. work so good for him. Man is curious, and his curiosity will never be satisfied. This is a good thing if it is channeled to learning about the personality and character of God. But this is not so. Man is more interested in tickling his sin nature. The “forbidden fruit” only becomes the draw to man when he looks at it (Gen. 3:5-6). We have a problem with our eyes. Therefore, we need the eyesalve of God’s Word that we can see correctly. Can you imagine the fruit of the tree looking rotten, moldy, corrupt and covered in maggots? In other words, can you imagine being able to see sin for what it is? The only way that can be done is to:
- Stay in your Bible. You need the Bible. It is your strength and your sword. Without it, you will only see what the world is showing you. Or, you will only know what the world tells you about the Bible. The cults (Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) are experts at offering a candy coated glob of slop.
- Stay in Church. Don’t just “attend” church, come expecting something from God. Expect that God is speaking to you from the Bible via His messenger. Presuppose that God is real and He can do anything even in spite of the preacher or teacher. Expect God to be a blessing to you and discard the thought that you will be a blessing to God.
- Pray faithfully. Tell God how special He is to you. Talk to Him. Tell Him how much of a blessing He is to you. Tell Him what you think of His Book, His church and His preacher. Tell Him what you would request of Him, but resist the urge to give Him your grocery list of problems to solve for you.
- Witness! This cannot be stressed strong enough. You must witness for God. There are many ways in which you can do this. Use your mind and think of a way you CAN do it instead of inventing ways you cannot do it. The fact of the matter is this: if you love something strong enough, you can do things you never thought you would be able to do. Or, if you want to do something bad enough, you will figure out a way to do so.
It is time now to repent of being a lukewarm Christian. Can you truly say you are giving your all to Him? Are you tithing? Are you attending church? Are your words just more empty promises to God? God’s way for dealing with those whom He loves in this Laodicean church age is to rebuke and chasten. REPENT! Change your ways. Be zealous about Him (vs. 19). Be given over to the draw of the Holy Spirit. Be zealous for Him and the things that He loves and forget about the world. Stop comparing yourself to others who are not living for the Lord.
Do you realize that at the end of the Laodicean church age Jesus is outside the door of the church? The door has been slammed shut in His face. He is knocking to come in and who is listening? Are you? Do you hear His humble rap upon the door? Why is He on the outside in the first place? Who came to church and left the Lord outside? I do not want to be a Laodicean even though I happen to live in this age. You don’t have to leave Him outside. You can bring Him in with you. Or, you can answer the door. The problem why many do not is that they don’t even hear His voice anymore (vs. 20). They are too worried about money, satisfaction of self, offending others or becoming accountable to God’s word (they don’t want to hear what He has to say about their sin). But if YOU open the door to Him, He will come in to you and have fellowship with you, even in spite of anyone else. But until you do, until you open the door of your heart, you can not have sweet fellowship with Him. You will be a Laodicean.
Contemporary motivational speakers are those who give comments that will motivate a person to do something. They don’t motivate a person to do something that person didn’t originally want to do, but something they already felt like doing. In other words, motivational speech doesn’t have any effect on a person unless they were in agreement in the first place. Adolph Hitler was a great motivational speaker, as was Mao Tsi Dong, Joseph Stalin and Barak Obama. They were (and are) masters at finding things that people want and presenting it in a way to motivate and inspire people. On the whole, contemporary motivational speakers are “martial arts encouragers.” They use a persons strengths and weaknesses against them, in order to get them to do what they want them to do–usually to buy a product or financially support a cause. In order to accomplish their unseen agenda, they must be sure to stay away from anything negative, else their victims, like the rabbit who is almost caught in the snare, comes to the sudden realization that they are to be trapped, and hop away breathing a sigh of relief.
The truth is, there are two kinds of motivational speakers: Those who tell you what you want to hear (like cheer leaders) and those who tell you what you don’t want to hear (like preaching about sin and death); Jesus was the latter. In fact, all of the prophets and preachers of God in the Bible were of the latter sort. They had a message of hope that was coupled with a message of doom and destruction. It is the message of doom and destruction, coupled with the anger of God displayed in His wrath that was the motivational injection that lethargic people needed. When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), the Pharisees were shocked into doing something. Noah said, “God’s gonna make it rain and flood the earth killing every living thing. That’s why I’m building this here boat.” He was scoffed at until God’s wrath was coupled with the message this preacher of righteousness had (2 Peter 2:5). They were motivated when they were suddenly caught in the snare of the Devil. With their negative message of destruction came a message of hope; they were coupled together.
The negative message first identifies a need in a persons life. It is a message of judgment and sentence. It is meant to be a warning of some bad or sinful action. It is designed to “wake people up” (1 Cor. 15:34; Rom. 13:11) from a dangerous activity, thought or influence. Then there is hope. Until then, a message of hope cannot be given because the people will not take it seriously. There is nothing to motivate them; nothing to move them or provoke them to do something about their evil ways. A fitting example of this is seen in the preaching of the prophet Zephaniah. He brought the message that the Lord was determined to pour His indignation upon the nations. The message further said that God was going to devour all the earth with the fire of His jealousy (Zeph. 3:8). A negative message to be sure. Why? Why such a message from the Lord? Because God wanted to motivate people to call upon Him (Zeph. 3:9). First the negative, then the positive. This is Biblical and true motivational speaking, and it comes with a price.
John the Baptist had a very motivational message that he preached in the wilderness. It so motivated people that King Herod wanted to hear it for himself. But when John came into his presence, Herod did not like what he heard. He did not hear a sickening sweet motivational speech doting on all of Herod’s achievements. He heard John talk to him about his brother Philip’s wife, to whom he was not wed. John said, “…It is not lawful for thee to have her.” (Matt. 14:4). How did this motivate Herod? It certainly didn’t make him leave the encounter feeling good about himself. In fact, Herod wanted to “…put him to death…” (Matt. 14:5). After some time of imprisonment, this is exactly what happened (Matt. 14:9-10).
So it is no secret that people don’t like to hear negative preaching, and sometimes it cost the preacher, but people need it. They need it to motivate them to do right. Without the negative message, coupled with the wrath of God, people are left to their own devices. And what parent would leave their children to their own with no discipline? Only those who don’t love them. Positive reinforcement never did anything for anybody other than to give the parent a way of escape from disciplining their children. It provides a good way to pass the responsibility on to others.
Preachers who are not regularly preaching against sin, are doing their congregations a huge disservice. They are taking the easy way out; trying to be their friends and be hugely popular. It is always easier to let someone else discipline the members of your church, but God will not hold such preachers unaccountable. Weak-kneed preaching on sin equals popularity, but is comes with a price–skin deep Christians who are looking to have a good time on this earth and enjoy it until Jesus gets back. That is a foolish surmise.
We have a job to do. We are to tell people about Jesus and the gospel. Jesus never told us to have a good time of fellowship until he came back. That is the equivalent of taking your talent and burying it in the sand. That will make Jesus mad. Has any preacher ever told you that if you are not doing something to win souls to Jesus, you are inviting trouble into your life? That God will be mad about that? Why not? That wouldn’t be very motivational by today’s standards, but it sure goes a long way with God. Would you hate your preacher for telling you that truth? Would you leave the church? Or, would you try to do something about it? After all, you do know the Lord is coming back, don’t you?
Many Christians know this. But they just want to have a good time and get by until He comes. After all, is it a sin to enjoy life? Of course not, but it will only be enjoyable up until you see the scowl on the face of the Saviour when He turns His eyes upon you and asks, “What did you do about what I asked you to do?”
There are two kinds of motivational speakers: One that tells you what you want to hear, and one that tells you what you need to hear. Both are motivational. The main difference between the two is your attitude in the way you take their message.