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NEW TOPIC: Suffering

 
Click to activate interactive biblical references:

If you have any questions about articles on this page, please contact:
Bryan Gibson's, whose e-mail address is
mailto:prattmont@knology.net

or Dave Brown, whose e-mail address is dbrown@cs.ua.edu

 

Salvation—The Power and the Conditions

By Bryan Gibson

March 31, 2013

A.       Let’s read carefully Ephesians 2:1-10.

1.         The emphasis in this passage is almost entirely on what God has done for our salvation.

2.         His power, His grace, His love and mercy are all highlighted in this passage.

3.         Look at the specific things God did.

a.         “When we were dead in trespasses and sins,” God “made us alive” (vv. 1, 5).

b.         God “raised us up together” (v. 6).

c.         God “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6).

d.        God “saved” us (vv. 5, 8).

e.         And we could add even more to this list if we went back to 1:3-14 (God chose us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgave us, etc.).

4.         God did for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. The folks in Capernaum were right when they asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

B.       But did the Lord (through Paul) mean to completely dismiss any role we may have played in our salvation?

1.         “not of yourselves” (v. 8).

a.         “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40, ASV).

b.         Earlier, the question was asked, “what shall we do?” (v. 37), and that question was answered in v. 38—“repent and be baptized…”

2.         “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (v. 9).

a.         “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

b.         “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

C.       So why even say that salvation is “not of yourselves,” or that it is “not of works”?

1.         Because, again, the emphasis in this passage is on the power of God. The power or the means of our salvation is the primary subject of this passage, not the conditions that man must meet.

2.         This discussion about the power of God begins back in 1:15 (read vv. 15-20).

a.         Now, see 2:1. The same power that raised Christ from the dead raised us from the dead (when we were “dead in trespasses and sins”).

b.         And that same theme continues throughout the passage, capped off by the statement in v. 10, “For we are HIS workmanship.”

D.       Let’s make a distinction, then, between the power or means of our salvation, and the conditions upon which this power or means will be exerted or applied.

1.         This same passage does at least briefly touch on a condition of our salvation—“For by grace you have been saved through faith” (2:8).

2.         Faith is not the power or means of salvation; it is the condition we must meet in order to be saved by God, and that faith must express itself in obedience to God.

E.        Let’s illustrate this with three incidents, two from the O.T., and one from the N.T.

1.         The conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6).

a.         Jericho was a gift of God—“I have given Jericho into your hand” (v. 2); “the LORD has given you the city” (v. 16).

b.         The power or means by which these walls fell? The power of God.

c.         But when was this power exerted or applied to the walls? When by faith they did exactly what God told them to do (marching, blowing trumpets, shouting, etc.).

d.        Jericho was a gift of God, but they still had to take it—“Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (v. 20).

2.         The healing of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).

a.         Naaman washed 7 times in the Jordan River, but that was not the means, or the power behind His cure.

b.         God’s power healed this man, but only when He believed enough to do exactly what God told him to do.

c.         Naaman certainly had no trouble giving God the glory—“now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel…” (2 Kings 5:15).

3.         The healing of the blind man (John 9).

a.         Jesus healed this man (means), but only after this man went and washed in the pool of Siloam (condition).

b.         Like Naaman, he had no trouble giving the glory to God—“He has opened my eyes” (John 9:30).

F.        We’ve already discussed this to some degree, but suppose this question was asked to everyone involved in these three incidents, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
(Acts 4:7).

1.         Would they have credited themselves, or the works they did? Of course not.

2.         We’ve already seen the statements of both Naaman and the blind man.

3.         “God gave us that city”; “God healed me of my leprosy”; “God opened by eyes.”

G.       Let’s relate all this back to our salvation.

1.         Salvation is a gift of God. The power to save us is all in the hands of God, and that power is available to all because Jesus died for all (Hebrews 2:9).

2.         There is “power in the blood,” as we sing sometimes, but when is that power applied? When by faith we do exactly what He has commanded us to do.

3.         Acts 2:37-38, 41.

4.         Do you think any of these people walked away saying, “Look what WE did!?” The power was not of themselves, nor of the works they did; it was the “exceeding greatness of His power” (Ephesians 1:19).

5.         Obey these conditions today, and God will redeem you; He will forgive you; He will make you alive; He will adopt you as one of His children; He will raise you up to sit with Him in the heavenly places; He will save your soul; He will make you an heir of His eternal home.

 

 

The Purpose of Redemption

by Bryan Gibson

March 17, 2013

 

Why did God redeem the Israelites from Egypt? According to the Scriptures, He did it for several reasons: 1) to deliver them from slavery (Leviticus 26:13); 2) to have a people He could call His own, a special group of people separated from all other peoples on the face of the earth (Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Kings 8:53); 3) to make this special people into a holy nation, obedient to His will, so that He might dwell among them (Deuteronomy 7:6; Exodus 19:6; Jeremiah 7:23; Exodus 29:46); 4) to give them (obedient) the land (inheritance) He had promised to them (Leviticus 24:38; Deuteronomy 26:1; 6:23); 5) to make a name for Himself, to bring praise and honor to His name (2 Samuel 7:23; Deuteronomy 26:19).

Know these reasons well, because their redemption was a preview (shadow) of our own. God redeemed us for the very same reasons He redeemed them.

To deliver us from slavery, in our case, the slavery of sin.

“…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin…he who died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17).

To have a people He could call His own, a special group of people separated from all other peoples on the face of the earth (a group that now includes both Jews and Gentiles—people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation).

“who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people…” (Titus 2:14). “But you are a chosen generation…His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9). “I will be Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18). “…for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

To make this special people into a holy nation, obedient to His will, so that He might dwell among them.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” (1 Peter 2:9) “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22). “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17).

To give those who obey the inheritance He promised to them.

“to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”(1 Peter 1:3-4). “…knowing that you have a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). “…He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

To make a name for Himself, to bring praise and honor to His name.

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6); “…to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12, 14). “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). “But you are a chosen generation…that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Peter 2:9).

 

Interview with the Prodigal Son

by Bryan Gibson

March 11, 2013

The parable of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15:11-32. I encourage you to read it in full before you read the rest of this article. Using what we learn from the text of the parable to form his answers, let’s ask the prodigal son a few questions about his experiences. Here’s hoping this will help someone who has taken that same journey into the “far country” (world).

Question #1: Why did you leave your Father’s house in the first place?

Whatever may have been on my mind, it gave me freedom—the freedom to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. And that’s exactly what I did—in fact, I spent every bit of money I had.

Question #2: What was it like out in the far country?

Not even close to what I thought it would be. I thought I was free, but I ended up in the confines of a pig pen. I thought I was free, but I became a slave—a slave to this so called “free lifestyle.”

And I’ll tell you something else about the far country—it’s hard to find true friends in that place. When I was at my lowest point, at the point when I needed help the most, no one helped me; no one was there to give me what I needed the most. What I’m trying to tell you is that love, in its highest form, does not exist in the far country. You can find it in my Father’s house, but you won’t find it there.

Question #3: Why did you decide to go back to your Father’s house?

I finally came to my senses. I realized that the folks back in my Father’s house were a whole lot better off than me, that the life I once had was much, much better than I ever thought. I thought the far country had a lot to offer, but it was really just an illusion. There’s nothing substantial about it; it doesn’t last, and it leaves you feeling empty. If anyone understands the phrase, “the passing pleasures of sin,” it’s me!

People tell you, “If you really want to live, go to the far country.” That’s a lie. It’s more like, “If you really want to die, go to the far country.” Because that’s what happened to me—I died, not physically of course, but in all the ways that matter the most. My soul, the only part of me that will endure, was just as dead as it could be. I returned to my Father because I wanted to live again. I returned to my Father because I was lost and needed to be found—by someone who truly cared.

Question #4: What kind of reception did you get when you returned to your Father’s house?

Better than I deserved, I can tell you that. I squandered all my money—my Father’s money—on prodigal living, yet when I went back and humbly confessed my sin, my Father received me with open arms. And let me just tell you, I’ve never seen such rejoicing in all my life. Now I know what true freedom feels like.


God Is Our Refuge

by Bryan Gibson

March 1, 2013

Here’s a sampling of the many passages that offer this assurance. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” (Deut. 33:27). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). “…for my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (Psalms 57:1). “…and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler” (Psa. 91:4). “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge” (Prov. 14:26).

Specifically, this “place of refuge” is found in our relationship to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:17-20), a relationship formed and maintained by faithful obedience (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 John 2:3-6).

This relationship offers a refuge from many harmful things, but especially from sin and its consequences—both in this life and in the life to come. What follows is just a partial list.

God is our refuge…

From substance abuse—by teaching us not to be brought under the control of anything (1 Corinthians 6:12), and by offering us far better ways to cope with the problems of this life.

From sexual immorality and all its consequences—by teaching us the sanctity of marriage (Hebrews 13:4); and by showing us that sexual relations outside this bond of marriage are sinful (1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).

From the perils of greed—by warning us about the love of money, by revealing its many temptations and snares, and by giving us a better set of priorities (see 1 Timothy 6:9-11).

From the fear of failure—by completely redefining prosperity and success (Matthew 20:26; 3 John 1:2).

From the rebellious spirit that clashes with authority—by replacing it with an attitude of submission to authority (1 Peter 2:13-3:12).

From the despair that comes from being unloved—by assuring us of His great love for us (Romans 8:35-39), and by surrounding us with brethren who would lay down their lives for us (1 John 3:16-18).

From the crippling effects of anxiety—by giving us the perfect prescription for the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-9).

From the self-serving attitude that destroys so many relationships—by teaching us to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23), to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-8).

From other poisonous attitudes like wrath, bitterness and envy—by replacing them with attitudes like self-control, gratitude, kindness, and tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:31-32; James 4:13-18).

From the heartaches of this life—not by removing them, but by giving us sufficient grace to cope with them (2 Corinthians 12:9), and by promising something far better in the life to come (Revelation 21:4).

From the shackles of denominationalism—by teaching us a way that we can simply be Christians, serving Christ and Him alone, free from associations, conventions, or any other organization of churches beyond the local church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23-24; Colossians 1:18; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

From the condemnation of sin—by assuring His children that if we repent and confess our wrongs, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9).

From the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15)—by promising us that if we live and believe in Him, we will live again, that we will in fact live forever with Him (John 11:23-26; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Relationship Between Truth and Emotion

by Bryan Gibson

February 22, 2013

Seemed like a good time to write this article, seeing that more and more people seem to think that emotions trump truth. Let’s explore the relationship a little closer, from a Scriptural standpoint, and then issue a couple warnings.

The truth, provided we have a good understanding of it, will produce a wide array of genuine emotions—fear, sorrow, compassion, joy, gratitude, etc. Jesus certainly experienced a range of emotions (Mark 3:5; 11:15-17; Luke 7:13; 10:21; 19:41; Hebrews 5:7), and so did Paul (Acts 20:19, 31; Romans 9:2; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 7:7, 13; 11:29; Philippians 3:18). No need to ever be ashamed of the emotions which spring from an understanding of truth.

The truth will also regulate our emotions, in several ways. 1) Emotions can be pretty fickle—we feel one way one moment and entirely different the next (e.g. Acts 14:8-19; Galatians 4:14-16). Truth is the great moderator—it can prevent these wild swings of emotion. 2) Emotions can also be misdirected—we feel one way when we should feel another. At Mt. Sinai, the Israelites “rejoiced in the works of their own hands” (Acts 7:41)—in short, they rejoiced in iniquity (see 1 Corinthians 13:6). We’ve got too many people asking, “How can this be so wrong when it feels so good?” Yet, to his worldly minded readers, James wrote, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). The truth, properly understood, will direct our emotions in keeping with the truth (see 3 John 1:4). 3) Emotions can also easily get out of control, which is often the case with anger (“outbursts of wrath—Galatians 5:20). There’s no better anger management course in the world than the one found in the truth of God’s word. 4) Not that there won’t be occasional outpourings of emotion, but the truth also produces more settled emotions—the kind that produce steadfast, immovable Christians (1 Corinthians 15:58)—a joy that remains with us, even in times of sorrow (John 15:11; 2 Corinthians 6:10); a gratitude that enables us to “give thanks always” (Ephesians 5:20); a fear that will consistently steer us away from “evil” and the “snares of death” (Proverbs 8:13; 14:26-27); etc.

Finally, the truth will root out certain emotions, ones that have no place in the life of a Christian. Self-pity comes way too easily for way too many people, but the truth simply won’t allow it, not with its emphasis on self-denial (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:26; Philippians 2:3-8).

Now, for a couple much needed warnings. First, resist any and all efforts to change God’s plan—for any reason, including the desire to generate more emotion. More than anything else, we want people to have conviction, which will in turn produce the genuine emotions we spoke of earlier.

Secondly, don’t judge others to be unemotional or lacking in spirituality, simply because they show very few outward displays of emotion. There’s a far better way to judge the depth of one’s faith and love, and their spirituality in general, and that’s by consistent service to the Lord.

 

The Effects of Jealousy

by Dave Brown

February 16, 2013

 

There are some striking parallels between the books of Exodus and Acts. Both tell of the origins of a new people (one physical, and the other spiritual). While there are many analogies, one of the more interesting and sublime involves the sordid effects that jealousy has on human reasoning.


The words "envy" and "jealousy" are often used to define each other, and there is little distinction between them. Both are deep seated sinful emotions that inevitably lead to destructive actions. Envy is a negative feeling of ill will when someone else prospers or is complimented, perhaps due to feeling that the such is unjust, and that the benefit received by another would more justly go to "me." Jealousy, which carries with it an inference of heated inner feelings, is more attributed to those who already have some advantage and are fearful of losing it due to some statement or event (e.g., a jealous husband, or a jealous king). But they are so closely related, and the hateful motivations behind them are so similar, that we can consider them to be practically synonymous, especially when talking about their consequences. Since here we are dealing with the emotions of those in power, we will use the word jealousy.

 

Jealousy is, of course, what caused the death of our Lord (Mt. 27:18; Mk. 15:10), so I am sure that none of us minimize its soul-condemning power as a sin. What we often neglect, however is the effect that it can have on our powers of reasoning.


Let's begin with an event that occurred early in this history of the first century church as recorded in Acts 5:16-24:

16 And there also came together the multitudes from the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folk, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. 17 But the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy, 18 and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in public ward. 19 But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said, 20 Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life. 21 And when they heard (this), they entered into the temple about daybreak, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison-house to have them brought. 22 But the officers that came found them not in the prison; and they returned, and told, 23 saying, The prison-house we found shut in all safety, and the keepers standing at the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed concerning them whereunto this would grow.


The expression in verse 17, that the rulers were "filled with jealousy," is in stark contrast to Acts 4:31 where it states that the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. Now notice in verse 24 what it was that these same rulers were perplexed about. You and I would be perplexed about how the apostles managed to escape the jail when the doors were not even opened and the keepers had not seen anything. But they were totally hardened to that, having already being exposed to numerous miracles performed by the apostles. Their concern was with keeping the gospel of Christ from growing. To reasonable people, this seems border on insanity!


Now in Exodus it says that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." This statement that is made about a half dozen times in the book of Exodus, and an almost equal number of times the implication or statement is made that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. A question came up in our class: how could Pharaoh be so illogical and reject what was clearly before his very eyes? Since it is clear that Pharaoh was fearful of losing his power (as a god) to the LORD, that would fit our definition of jealousy? Clearly, he was jealous of the powers that Moses and Aaron displayed.


Question: did God harden the chief priests hearts that we read about in Acts 5? We stated early in this article that nothing good can come from jealousy. Those who harbor jealousy and continue in it will not only destroy themselves but will destroy those around them. We have all seen ample demonstrations of this. Why are they so self-destructive? Simply because they have lost their ability to reason logically.


Another flaw inherent in the jealous is that they tend to think that everyone sees the world as they do. In Acts 5:27-28 in says: "And the high priest asked them, saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Where did they get this idea? It was never the intent of the apostles to overthrow the religious or political leadership. That was not at all the intent of the gospel. However, jealous political leaders tend to view others as coveting their political power.


This was also true of Pharaoh. In Exodus 1:9-10 it says: "And he [Pharaoh] said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, if a war should occur, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land." Now where did he get that idea? Just as the high priest, he projected his evil nature onto everyone else, producing a terrible distortion of reality. He was blinded to the fact that their motives were completely different from his.


If we do not have an accurate perception of reality, we cannot make intelligent and reasonable decisions. Our decisions will be counterproductive to ourselves and those around us.


Ponder over Proverbs 27:4: "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?" Notice that the culprit here is not with the envious person, it is with envy itself. Wrath makes you cruel; anger makes you outrageous; but what does envy do to you? It disables your very power to reason about those to whom your hatred is directed. Who is able to stand given that? Destruction is inevitable.


God has pre-wired those who are full of jealousy to be unable to have an accurate perception of reality when it comes to dealing with those who they envy. This is the reason that both Pharaoh and the Jewish leaders acted in such an unreasonable way toward God's people, and ultimately toward themselves. We use the word "pre-wired" in the sense that this is the absolute way in which God has made us. In this sense then, when we are consumed with jealousy, it is our human nature created by God that causes our hearts to be hardened; and thus it can rightfully be said that "God hardens our heart." God is ultimately in control of all things, and this is one aspect of our lives that is totally invariant. The consequences to those who are filled with jealousy are inevitable.


This should be a fearful lesson to all of us. When something good happens to someone else, does that bother you? When someone says something positive and complimentary about someone else, do you immediately want to take issue? Do you think (if not say): "I am just as good as he is, why aren't these good things happening to me?" If so, these are indicators of envy and jealousy. Flee from them because your inner nature will stop you from thinking logically when these thoughts fill you heart and mind. In that sense, God is hardening your heart. It is up to you to keep it from happening. God is not going to reward jealousy. Its reward is determined, and the only escape is repentance. "A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh; but envy is the rottenness of the bones" (Prov. 14:30).

 

 

The Hottest Book in the Old Testament?

by Bryan Gibson

February 15, 2013

The Book of Zephaniah may very well fit that description, because you can almost feel the heat of God’s wrath when you read it. In this particular prophecy, the “fire of His jealousy” (1:18; 3:8), His “indignation” (3:8) and “fierce anger” (2:2; 3:8) is directed against all nations (1:2-3; 2:4-15), and in particular the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem (1:4-6).

To those in sin (1:17), to those who refused to receive correction (3:2, 7), to those who refused to repent (2:1-3)—here’s what God says He will do. “I will…consume (1:3); utterly consume (1:2); stretch out my hand (1:4); cut off (1:4); punish (1:8-9); search…and punish (1:12); bring distress (1:17); make speedy riddance (1:18); destroy (2:5); reduce to nothing (2:11); lay bare” (2:14). And if that’s not graphic enough, here’s His description of their approaching judgment: “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (1:15).

God’s wrath is real, and He does not make idle threats, but He did offer this word of hope: “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD” (2:3). The righteous may not have always been spared from the physical destruction that came upon these nations, but thanks be to God, their eternal salvation would be secure.

So that’s the bulk of this book—a very somber warning about the wrath of God. There is, however, a noticeable change in tone toward the end of the book, when the prophet begins to speak of the spiritual remnant that will one day be gathered in Christ (3:9-20). “I will…restore (3:9); rejoice over you with gladness…quiet you with love…rejoice over you with singing (3:17); gather (3:18); save (3:19); appoint you for praise and fame (3:19-20); bring you back” (3:20). See the difference? These promises sound a whole lot better than the ones cited above.

But who is it exactly that will receive these blessings from God? He’s speaking of the remnant gathered in Christ, so one must first be baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27) to receive these blessings (see also Ephesians 1:3). But notice what else is said about this remnant. Anyone can be a part of it, because it’s composed of people from many different nations (3:9-10). The people who compose this remnant will be devoted to the one true God—they will all bring their offering (worship) to Him, and all will speak a “pure language…call on the name of the LORD” (3:9-10). Furthermore, they will “serve Him with one accord” (3:9), indicating the unity that would characterize them. Their character is such that they “shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth” (3:13). These people won’t be the arrogant sinners described earlier in the book (2:8, 10; 3:4); they will be “meek and humble” (3:12). Sin won’t get the best of them, because even when they do sin, they will humbly receive correction, and they will humbly repent.

So that’s the picture of the people God will bless today, and ultimately save eternally. Everyone else? “But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish…” (Romans 2:8-9). God’s wrath is real, and He does not make idle threats.  

Blinded By Human Reasoning

by Bryan Gibson

January 31, 2013

Blinded to the truth—it can happen to any of us (2 Corinthians 4:4), and it happens sometimes because we rely too much on our own reasoning (Proverbs 3:5-7). A particular teaching seems “foolish” to us, and so we reason that it cannot be the truth. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Reasoning, of course, is vital to our understanding of the Scriptures (Acts 17:2; Hebrews 5:14), but we need to be careful that our reasoning doesn’t take us away from the truth, that we don’t reason our way out of what is plainly taught. We would do well to remember these inspired words: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Getting God to agree with us is altogether the wrong approach. It’s our job to bring our minds and lives into agreement with His will (2 Corinthians 10:5). And that won’t happen unless with approach the Scriptures with humility. “The humble He guides in justice; and the humble He teaches His way” (Psalms 25:9).

The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-14 illustrates this principle very well. Naaman went to Elisha’s door, hoping to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha sent out a messenger to Naaman with these words: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean” (v. 10). Simple, right? A little too simple for Naaman, evidently. “Indeed I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy. Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage” (vv. 12-13). Fortunately for Naaman, his servants intervened and persuaded him to go and wash in the Jordan (vv. 13-14). Naaman came very close to rejecting the truth, because it did not agree with his own reasoning. Naaman’s story ended on a good note, but for countless others, the ending is tragic, because they never do come around to the truth.

One passage that many have reasoned to death is Matthew 19:9: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” This teaching seems too hard for many, and so the human reasoning begins. When some people get through “explaining” this passage, people can divorce and remarry as many times as they wish, for whatever reasons they wish, and still be pleasing to God. But the passage says what it says, and no amount of human reasoning can change it. The teaching of Jesus is right; it is what is best for us; and we must humbly accept it and practice it.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18).

Isaiah’s Descriptions of God

by Bryan Gibson

January 23, 2010

 

The Book of Isaiah contains some wonderful descriptions of God and His ways, so let’s use it as our primary source to get better acquainted with the great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14-15).

 

There is only one God—the One who reveals Himself throughout the pages of Scripture. “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9; see also 1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

 

The one God is eternal, which is exactly what He means when He says, “I am the First, I am also the Last” (Isaiah 48:12; see also Revelation 1:17).

 

The one eternal God is all-knowing and all-powerful, which means that He can declare “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), that He can announce what is yet to come and then “bring it to pass” (Isaiah 46:10-11; 48:3-6).

 

In “the greatness of His might and the strength of His power” God “laid the foundation of the earth” and “stretched out the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26; 48:13), and now rules over them for the benefit of His people (Colossians 1:15-17; Ephesians 1:22-23).

 

God “formed the earth…to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18), and so He “gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42:5).

 

These people to whom God gives “breath”—He does not leave them to their own devices (Isaiah 30:1). He gives them commandments, the purpose being to lead them in the way they should go (Isaiah 48:17-18; see also 2:3; 54:13).

 

To keep His people in the way they should go, God refines them with affliction—“I have refined you…I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). He does it for our own good, so “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).

 

God carries His people through this “furnace of affliction”—“Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).

 

But don’t become impatient when His help seems far away; and don’t think that He has abandoned you, because God does things in His own time (Isaiah 40:27-31). “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

 

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3)—that’s what Isaiah heard the seraphim cry when he saw his vision of the Lord. God is holy, and therefore cannot tolerate sin, something which Isaiah understood all too well (Isaiah 6:5—“woe is me”).

 

And yet to those in sin God the Redeemer offers forgiveness and salvation, righteousness and peace, joy and gladness (Isaiah 35:8-10; 43:25; 46:12-13; 48:18). Come to Him on His terms, and “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

 

But don’t wait to get right with Him, because God holds all men accountable, and He will bring “vengeance” on those who continue in sin (Isaiah 47:3; 48:22). His way is called the “Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8), so leave your sins behind and walk in the way which leads to “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 35:10).    

              Garbage Trucks (and Mouths)

by Bryan Gibson

January 12, 2013

 

The sanitation crews in my town do a great job. Throughout the week you see them stopping at homes and businesses, loading the garbage on to trucks. Unfortunately, some garbage has to be left behind—that which comes from people’s mouths. These trucks weren’t designed to pick up that kind of trash, and if they were, there wouldn’t be enough of them. To put in bluntly, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t “cuss.” Some people know it’s wrong, and just don’t care; others perhaps are just ignorant of what the Bible says. So that we all know for sure what the Bible says, let’s consider the following:

·         God hears every word we say (Psalms 139:3-4), and in the Day of Judgment we will give an account to Him for the words we’ve spoken (Matthew 12:34-37). Some will refrain from bad language when “ladies are present,” or when the “preacher is around.” God is always present—and He will hold you accountable!

·         The teaching of Christ in the New Testament is plain: do not use corrupt, filthy, or coarse language (you might want to look up these words). This would certainly include “dirty jokes” (politely referred to as “off color humor”), and what are commonly referred to as “cuss words” (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4).

·         Strictly speaking, profanity is a separate category from the ones in the previous point. Words become profane when sacred words and concepts are treated in a common and trivial fashion. Today, when you hear, “Oh my God,” or “Jesus Christ,” in many cases, it’s to express disgust or surprise—not exactly the reverence the Lord intended. The Lord’s name is sometimes even used in combination with other expletives. One would have to be truly blind not to see the blasphemy involved. And while we’re on the subject, is it really any better to use euphemisms, such as “golly,” or “Jee” (“gee”)? It’s not hard to see where these words (and others) come from—why not use some other words that we know for sure do not profane the Lord.

·         Some argue that since the Bible doesn’t contain a list of prohibited words, we can’t label any particular word as sinful. On this point, we quote Wayne Jackson: “The Bible could not possibly provide a list of ‘forbidden’ words, since words come and go. Some words become obsolete, and fade from the human vocabulary with the passing of time. Too, new words are ever being born. A ‘word list’ could never be totally relevant, even if it were possible to construct such. The biblical documents deal with different abuses of language, in a general way, but there is no catalog of prohibited words...Words become ‘bad’ by virtue of their connotation, motive, etc., and such circumstances can change from time-to-time, or from place-to-place.” For example, “bloody” might mean one thing to us, but in some parts of the world, it would be considered offensive speech.

·         Foul language is often directed to other people (“cussing someone out”). Would this not be an example of speaking evil of others, something the New Testament also condemns (Titus 3:2; James 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:1-2). “Foul” language is an appropriate description, because it indicates language that is out of bounds—that which has “crossed the line.”

·         Should the same tongue that is used to bless God curse man? (James 3:9-10).

·         Foul language is often spoken during a “fit of anger,” or an “outburst of wrath.” This is certainly no excuse, because God expects us to control our temper (Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Titus 1:7). “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

·         Adults are often greatly disturbed to hear small children using foul language. Guess where they learned it?  In many cases, from their own parents.  Surely, we can set a better example than that.

·         Many (especially youth) use foul language because it puts them with the “in crowd”; it makes them feel more accepted by their peers. But remember, our goal is not to please others; our goal is to please God (Galatians 1:10). The Lord is looking for some young people who willing to go against the crowd and stand up for what’s right. Any takers out there?

·         Others use foul language to add emphasis to what they’ve said. Some feel like they can get their point across better if they “cuss” (football coaches come to mind). The Oxford English Dictionary contains 295,000 words, with over 600,000 different word forms. I believe we can find a word in there somewhere to give the needed emphasis, without resorting to foul language.

Conclusion:

Two passages very aptly express the attitude we should have toward this subject:

Psalms 141:3: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Psalms 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

“Exercise Yourself Toward Godliness”

by Bryan Gibson

December 16, 2012

The word godliness appears 16 times in the New Testament, in the New King James Version (Acts 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2, 10; 3:16; 4:7-8; 6:3, 5-6, 11; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:1; 2 Peter 1:3, 6-7; 3:11). Using these passages, here are a few quick points we can make about godliness.

  • We can’t go to heaven without it (2 Peter 3:11-12).
  • It doesn’t come without effort (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:5-7).
  • It is attainable, because everything that pertains to it has been revealed in the gospel, the only source that can produce godliness (2 Peter 1:3; Titus 1:1; 1 Timothy 6:3).
  • The mere profession of it is not enough—it must be exhibited in our speech, dress, teaching, good works, worship, etc. (2 Timothy 3:5; 1 Timothy 2:9-10).
  • It brings great reward—in this life, but especially in the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8; 6:6).

But that still doesn’t tell us exactly what godliness is, does it? With one exception (1 Timothy 2:10), the word godliness is translated from the Greek word, eusebeia. Literally, it means to worship well, to be very devout (Robertson, Vincent). Here are some different definitions of eusebeia, from different sources. “A holy reverence or respect for God, piety towards God” (Wuest). “Reverence towards the one and only God, and the kind of life that He would wish us to lead” (Eusebius). “Godliness, as denoting character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). “That piety which, characterized by a God-ward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him” (Vine).


According to these definitions, then, we could do the right thing, and still not be practicing godliness—if we do the right thing for all the wrong reasons. If we do the right thing only because we want to please our parents, that’s NOT godliness. If we do the right thing to be seen of men, or to make ourselves look better, that’s NOT godliness. In other words, if we do the right thing, and it has nothing to do with God, that’s NOT godliness. But, if we do the right thing because we want to please God; and we want to please Him because we love Him, revere Him, and fear Him, THAT is godliness.


Joseph did the right thing when he refused to have sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife, and he did it for the right reason: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). That’s godliness. Nehemiah did the right thing when he conducted himself differently from the governors who came before him. He did not put heavy burdens on the people; didn’t eat the governor’s provisions; and he worked on the walls like everyone else (Nehemiah 5:14-18). He didn’t do it for political advantage or to gain favor with the people; he did it “because of the fear of God” (Nehemiah 5:15). THAT is godliness.


Job did the right thing when he treated even his servants with the utmost respect, and his reason had everything to do with God. “Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15). If he did treat them unfairly he would have these questions to answer: “What then shall I do when God rises up? When he punishes, how shall I answer Him? (Job 31:14). That is godliness, and like many words, it’s best understood when seen in action.


“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Have You Asked Jesus to Come into Your Heart?

by Bryan Gibson

November 30, 2012

 

Today, when the question is asked, “What must I do to be saved?” one popular reply is, “Ask Jesus to come into your heart.” It could be that someone reading this article was told these very words, or at least something very similar.

Before we deal specifically with that teaching, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. One who desires to have Jesus in his heart should be commended—that desire is right and good. Look at the promise Jesus made in John 14:23: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” At least three different passages speak of Christ being “in you” (Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27). Ephesians 3:17 is even more specific: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). So on this matter there can be no dispute. Jesus wants to dwell in our hearts, and we should want Him to be there.

But, as right as this desire may be, “Ask Jesus to come into your heart” is NOT the correct answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?” We know this because this same question was asked a couple of times in the New Testament, and that is NOT what they were told to do. Let’s look closer to see exactly what they were told to do.

In Acts 16:30 a man asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their reply? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). But that’s not all they said—look at the next verse. “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32). The details of this sermon are not provided, but the response to it is recorded: “And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33). We can safely infer that they were told to be baptized, because that’s what they did immediately following the sermon.

The question is also asked in Acts 2:37, this time by a group of people: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They had actually been told to do something in the previous verse: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” This was essentially the same thing Paul and Silas said in Acts 16:31—“believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” But again, that’s not all they were told to do. Look at verse 38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The response was overwhelming—“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).

So to the question, what must I do to be saved, what is the correct answer, the Biblical answer? Let’s put together what we learned from the passages above. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31; Acts 2:36). Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38). Confess your faith in Jesus (not mentioned specifically in the passages above, but this is clearly what people did to express their faith before being baptized—see Romans 10:8-10; Acts 8:37). Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; Acts 16:33). If you truly want Jesus to dwell in your heart, then you will obey these commandments.

A Great Man

by Bryan Gibson

November 21, 2012

 

For the last two months, it’s been my pleasure to teach a very fine group of junior high and high school boys, all of whom have become Christians. We’re studying great men of the Bible, in an effort to identify the characteristics of a great man (in God’s eyes, of course). So far, we’ve studied Job, John the Baptist, Joseph, Timothy, Joshua, Boaz, and David. Here are the characteristics we’ve identified so far.

He demonstrates humility by exalting the Lord, not himself. See John the Baptist (Matthew 3:14; John 1:15, 19-27, 29-30; 3:26-30) and David (1 Samuel 18:23; 2 Samuel 7:18; 2 Samuel 22) for two very fine examples.

He exercises “genuine faith” in the Lord, like Timothy did (2 Timothy 1:3-5), enabling him to conquer or overcome any obstacle standing between him and the Lord’s will (don’t tell Joshua they can’t take the land of Canaan—Numbers 14:6-9).

He fears the Lord, which influences every aspect of his life. It influenced the way Boaz treated his workers (Ruth 2:4-5), the way he treated Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 2:8-12; 3:15-17), and the respect he had for God’s law (Ruth 3:11-12; 4:1-12).

He has no idols—he puts nothing or no one before God. Trusting in someone or something other than God would mean denying God, and Job wasn’t about to do that (Job 31:24-28).

He obeys God, like Joshua did—even when the task presents a great challenge (Exodus 17:8-13), and even when it seems like there might be a better way (Joshua 6—a rather unusual battle strategy, don’t you think?).

He knows the Scriptures, like Timothy did (2 Timothy 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 4:6), but he’s always hungry to know more (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:13, 15-16).

He teaches the Scriptures accurately, as Timothy was admonished to do (1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:15), and boldly, as John the Baptist did (Matthew 3:7-8; Mark 6:18; Luke 3:10-14, 18-20).

He takes full advantage of his opportunities to speak for God. Joseph stood up and spoke up for God, and as a result, everyone around him learned a little bit more about God—Potiphar and his wife, the jailer, the other prisoners, the butler and the baker, and even Pharaoh himself (Genesis 39-50).

He guards his mind from impure thoughts (Job 31:1-4). Hard to imagine anyone more committed to this than Job, who said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” Don’t we all wish David had done the same?

He keeps himself from sexual immorality, with the same resolve that both Job and Joseph had (Job 31:9-12; Genesis 39:7-12).

He not only guards himself from sexual immorality; he also guards his reputation, something Boaz was obviously concerned about—for himself and for Ruth (Ruth 3:14).

He shows honesty and integrity in all his dealings, both with God and man—something to which Job had fully committed himself (Job 31:5-8).

He shows genuine concern for his brethren, like Timothy did (Philippians 2:19-24), and like Joshua did, when he implored his brethren to serve the Lord (Joshua 23:1-24:24).

He shows no respect of persons, because he recognizes that the same One who made him in the womb made them (Job 31:13-15).

He uses his home and his other resources to care for those in need (Job 31:16-23, 31-32; Ruth 2:8-9, 14-16; 3:17). You can’t help but be impressed by the measures Boaz took to take care of Ruth and Naomi.

He even loves his enemies (Job 31:29-30), a quality David demonstrated toward Saul (1 Samuel 24; 2 Samuel 1), and two of his chief rivals, Abner and Isbosheth (2 Samuel 3:31-39; 4:9-12).

He recognizes and appreciates godly characteristics in others, in much the same way that Boaz saw these things in Ruth (Ruth 2:11-12; 3:11-12).

He perseveres in the face of adversity, just like Joseph did through all his trials, and just like Timothy did, when he endured the hardships of those preaching journeys. Adversity is a good test of character, and they both passed with flying colors (“you know his proven character”—Philippians 2:22).

He does not give in to bitterness, no matter how poorly he may be treated. If anyone could be excused for being bitter, it would be Joseph, but you won’t find a trace of it (Genesis 45:5-8; 50:15-21).

He attends to his work, and all the responsibilities that go with it, just like Joseph did—as overseer of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:6), as overseer of the other prisoners (Genesis 39:22-23), and as Pharaoh’s right hand man (Genesis 41:40-41, 55).

He exerts a great influence on other people—consider the impact Joshua had on an entire generation of Israelites (Joshua 24:31).

No man is sinless (1 John 1:8, 10), even a great man, but when he does sin, he honestly confesses his sins and seeks forgiveness (Job 31:33-34; 2 Samuel 12:13; 24:10); and he does so with a humble and contrite heart (Psalms 38:8; 51:17).

“Well Done”

by Bryan Gibson

November 14, 2012

 

That’s what we all want to hear, especially from the Lord, and that’s what the church in Thessalonica did hear, especially in chapter one. Using 1 Thessalonians 1 then as our text, let’s identify the things for which Paul commends these brethren, the things for which he gives “thanks to God” (1:2).

For the manner in which they received the gospel—“you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit (1:6). You don’t often see affliction and joy used in the same sentence, but if we go back to Acts 17, when the gospel was first planted in Thessalonica, we can understand why. The opposition to the gospel became so intense that the brethren “sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (Acts 17:10). That’s the environment in which they not only received and obeyed the gospel, but did so joyfully. Later, Paul thanks God again for the way they received the gospel: “…we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God…” (2:13). That’s the key to everything else said about these people—the attitude they had toward the gospel.

For their genuine conversion to the Lord—“you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1:9-10). Remember, these people heard the gospel, a message designed to convict people of sin, reveal the consequences of their sin (“the wrath to come”), and then show them how they can be saved from “the wrath to come.” Jesus, they learned, was the only one who could save them from this wrath, and so like others we read about in the Book of Acts, they “were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins” (Acts 2:38). The emphasis, though, in the passage above is on their repentance, something that must precede baptism. The apostles preached that people “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). That’s exactly what these folks did—they turned from their dead idols to serve the true and living God, all the while looking forward to the return of their Savior.

For “their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope” (1:3)—three virtues absolutely necessary to go to heaven. This same trio of virtues is found again later in the epistle: “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (5:8). Clearly, these Christians in Thessalonica did more than just profess these virtues; they put them on—they exercised them. Look again at the wording in 1:3, and this time notice the effects of these virtues—WORK of faith, LABOR of love, and PATIENCE of hope.

For their good example—“you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe” (1:7). They became good examples, collectively and individually, because they were following the Lord (1:6). When you receive the gospel in the manner they did, when you are genuinely converted to the Lord like they were, and when you exercise faith, love, and hope to the degree they did—you will have a great influence on who knows how many people living today, and even on generations to come.

For spreading the same gospel which they had joyfully received—“for from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.” Not surprising is it, not when you consider the impact the gospel had made in their lives. It’s really pretty simple—they wanted others to have what meant so much to them.

Ten Things to Say to Our Children

(From the Scriptures)

by Bryan Gibson

November 7, 2012

 

The scriptures are rich in advice as to how to raise children.  Think of how much better world this would be if all parents would follow this advice.  Here is a sampling of a few of the many things that the scriptures provide to us in this regard:

  1. “We DO have the right to tell you what to do.” Here’s what Paul wrote to Philemon, on the matter of receiving Onesimus: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you…” (Philemon 1:8-9). Paul chose to “appeal,” but as an apostle, he had the right to “command.” We don’t have the authority of an apostle, but the Lord did give us authority over our children (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20)—a point we may need to remind them of from time to time.
  2. “Let me (us) have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my (our) heart in the Lord” (Philemon 1:20). That’s the very same message we need to communicate to our children—that our joy is based on their obedience to the Lord. Another inspired writer put it this way: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). He may not have been talking about his biological children, but the principle is the same.
  3. We have “confidence in your obedience” (Philemon 1:21), or in some cases, “we are confident of better things concerning you” (Hebrews 6:9). Paul couldn’t be certain how Philemon would react to his appeal, but what he did know about Philemon (Philemon 1:4-7) gave him confidence that Philemon would obey. Hard to imagine Philemon not responding favorably after Paul expressed such confidence in him. The situation described in Hebrews was a little different. The writer had just rebuked them, but he didn’t consider it a hopeless situation. He knew they could do better, and that’s the message he communicated to them. And that may be exactly what our children need to hear on occasion. Let’s hope we don’t have to use the same words Paul used to his spiritual children in the churches of Galatia: “I would like to be present with you now and change my tone; for I have doubts about you” (Galatians 4:20).
  4. “Shall I (we) come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21). No parent in his right mind relishes the thought of using stern measures, and neither did Paul toward his brethren in Corinth. And we don’t have to, provided they do the right thing. Sometimes we just need to let our children know that the ball is in their court. “If you don’t want a spanking, if you don’t want to be grounded, etc., behave yourself. That would make it easier on all of us.”
  5. “We’re doing this for your own good,” or, to put it the way Paul did, “But we do all things, beloved, for your edification” (2 Corinthians 12:19). The rules we establish, the curfews we put in place, the discipline we administer—if we’re the kind of parents we ought to be, it’s all done for their good, and especially their spiritual good. Will they always see it that way? Will they always be convinced that we have their best interests at heart? No, they won’t, and that’s exactly why we may have to tell them the same thing Paul told his spiritual children.
  6. “Always do the right thing, even when we’re not around.” Here’s the way Paul put it to his spiritual children: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). “It’s Him you need to please, not us, and His ‘eyes…are in every place’” (Proverbs 15:3)—that’s the message we need to communicate to our children.
  7. “Pray for forgiveness, because your heart is not right in the sight of God.” That’s essentially what Peter told Simon when he tried to buy the power to impart the Holy Spirit to others (Acts 8:18-24). We hope and pray we don’t have to say it too often, but if that’s what they need to hear, that’s what we need to say. The quicker our children understand the seriousness of sin, the better off they’ll be.
  8. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you” (1 Timothy 4:14)—that’s exactly the way Paul expressed it to Timothy. Perhaps Timothy’s gift was miraculous in nature, and while those gifts have ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), all gifts (talents) come from God, and our children need to learn to be good stewards of those gifts. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God…do it as with the ability God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11). Don’t overestimate their gifts, but do encourage them to use the ones they have (see also Romans 12:3-8).
  9. “Continue in the things which you have learned” (2 Timothy 3:14)—again, the very words Paul wrote to Timothy. “Perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1); “evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13)—that’s what Paul warned Timothy about, and that’s what our children still face today. It’s a scary situation, but here’s the good news—everything they need to overcome can be found in the Scriptures. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  10. “You’re on your own now.” “Leave…and cleave” means just that—they’re leaving us to cleave to their spouse (Matthew 19:3-6), so let’s make sure we give them the freedom to do just that. Be sure they understand, too, that this also means financial independence. They may need help from time to time, maybe to finish college, or to relieve some temporary situation, but it shouldn’t become a long term situation. Our sons especially need to understand that the responsibility to provide for their family is ultimately theirs, not ours (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:12).
  11. Did we say ten? Here’s one more for good measure: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

A Reed Shaken by the Wind?

by Bryan Gibson

October 24, 2012

Jesus posed this question to the multitudes concerning John the Baptist: “What did you go out to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” (Matthew 11:7). I’m not sure what they thought in the beginning, but by this time they knew that John the Baptist was anything but a reed shaken by the wind. Not this man, not the man who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), and of whom Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater…” (Matthew 11:11). John knew the will of the Lord; he wasn’t afraid to speak it (Luke 3:7-14, 19-20; Mark 6:18); and what others thought about him, said to him, or did to him was not going to shake him in the least.

Ironically, the man who killed John the Baptist (ordered his execution—Mark 6:27) was just the opposite. If there was ever a reed shaken by the wind, it was Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee (Luke 3:1). When Herod first imprisoned John, he was afraid to do him any further harm, because he knew “that he was a just and holy man” (Mark 6:20). That, and the fact that he also “feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet” (Matthew 14:5). Herod even enjoyed listening to John preach (Mark 6:20), despite the fact that John had rebuked him “for all the evils” he had done, including his unlawful marriage to Herodias (Luke 3:19-20; Mark 6:18).

So why would a man with such strong feelings for John end up killing him, something for which he was “exceedingly sorry”? (Mark 6:26). He did it, because unlike John, Herod had no real conviction. Pleasing the people around him (especially his family), saving face, maintaining his image—all that meant more to him than doing the right thing. It’s not hard to see what was behind the decisions Herod made. He put John in prison because he wanted to please his wife (Mark 6:17-18). He made a foolish oath (“whatever you ask me…up to half the kingdom”—Mark 6:23), because he wanted to please His step-daughter, who had pleased him with her dancing. Never in his wildest dreams did he think she would ask for the head of John the Baptist. But, even at this point, Herod still could have done the right thing. He could have recanted this foolish oath, but he didn’t, because he wanted to please “those who sat with him” (Mark 6:26)—those important people he had invited to his birthday feast (Mark 6:21). No way he’s going to look weak in front of these important people, so “immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother” (Mark 6:27-28).

Do you see the difference in the two men? Both Herod and John knew the will of the Lord, but only John stood for it. And John stood for it, because he had a single-minded desire to please the Lord—to magnify Him and not himself (“He must increase, but I must decrease”—John 3:30). Herod, on the other hand, was “tossed to and fro” (Ephesians 4:14), like a reed shaken by the wind, because he “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Both men lost their head—just in different ways.

Is Your Preacher Telling You the Truth?

by Bryan Gibson

October 20, 2012


Preface.
  James 3:1
."Be not many (of you) teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment." It is one thing to make a mistake; it is a very much more serious thing to lead others to do the same. When we teach we need to be sure we are just reflecting what the scriptures clearly teach on a given topic. -- dave

."Tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)—that describes some people, but not the folks in Berea, because when Paul preached to them, they “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They didn’t take for granted that Paul was preaching the truth. They checked it out to make sure it was the truth. Preachers and teachers, even those with good intentions, don’t always teach the truth. It’s our responsibility to listen carefully, and compare what we’ve heard to what the Scriptures teach. “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). That’s our God-given responsibility—to test everything we read and hear. And that’s exactly what the brethren in Ephesus did—“you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). Sure wish the brethren in Thyatira had done the same, because it may have saved some souls from hell (Revelation 2:20-23).


What will happen to us if we believe a lie? “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:15). “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).


If you do hear your preacher say something that is not the truth (a lie), talk to him about it. Show him from the Scriptures where he is wrong. If he is the kind of man he should be, he will thank you and change what he is preaching. That’s exactly what happened with a preacher named Apollos. “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.

When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:25-26). The text doesn’t specifically say that he changed his teaching, but look at the next verse: “And when he desired to cross into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him…” (Acts 18:27). Hard to believe these brethren would have written this letter on his behalf if he had not been willing to change.


Make no mistake about it—there is a whole lot of error being taught today, and some of it may be coming from your preacher. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been there, how popular he may be, how many degrees he may have, how eloquent and persuasive he may be, etc. Ground yourself in the truth, and then put him to the test. If you do find error, do your best to persuade him of the truth, but above all, make sure that you don’t believe and practice a lie. You already know the consequences if you do.  



Which of the Following Passages Is True?

(Faith vs. Works)
by Bryan Gibson
October 6, 2012

John 3:16 or Hebrews 5:9?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

One promises eternal salvation to “whoever believes”; the other promises eternal salvation to “all who obey.” Which one is right?

John 6:47 or John 8:51?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (John 8:51).

So who is it that receives everlasting life—the one who believes in Jesus, or the one who keeps His word? Did Jesus contradict Himself?

Acts 15:8-9 or 1 Peter 1:22?

“So God…made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9).

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth…” (1 Peter 1:22).

Purification, or cleansing—is it by faith, or by obedience? Which one of these passages should I believe?

Acts 10:43 or Acts 2:38?

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I want to receive the remission, or forgiveness of my sins. Do I need to just simply believe, or do I need to take further action—repent and be baptized? Again, which one of these passages contains the truth?

The truth is…they all contain the truth. There is no contradiction. The above passages, especially when paired together, clearly illustrate what is plainly taught in James 2:14-16. Read the entire passage, and especially take note of the following verses:

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (v. 17).

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (v. 26).

“Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (v. 22).

“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (v. 24)

Comment: all of these passages can all be harmonized simply by realizing that the bible definition of faith requires action – see Hebrews 11, which gives the definition and illustrates it with examples of a number of persons who had faith in the Old Testament.  Consider the question: after reading this last verse in the article above, how could anyone make the statement “you are saved by faith only?”  “Faith only” according to the bible definition of faith is an oxymoron, so I must confess; I do not know what someone is trying to say when they say: “you are saved by faith only.”  This statement has all kinds of implications that would lead a person to believe that they are saved when in fact they are not, and I know of no other more harmful act that one human can do to another than to give that person the assurance that they are saved when in fact they are not.  I would hate to stand before God in judgment having committed such an offense and not having repented of it. – dave brown




A Study of Miracles From the Book of Acts

by Bryan Gibson

September 2012

Editorial comment:  Please note that in this article the word “miracle” is being used ONLY in its purely biblical sense.  This is not the common usage of the word “miracle” today.  People use it to refer to any act of God.  We believe  God acts in the affairs of men – if not, then why would we pray?  God brings about some astounding things today that we might be correct in attributing to Him.  However, in no case can it be asserted that these things are obviously supernatural.  As unlikely as they might be, they still conform to the laws of nature.  This was not true in biblical times (e.g., those events described as miracles in the book of Acts).  Recognize that no one ever had to prove that a miracle occurred – it was such an obvious supernatural event that everyone knew it.  It was the miracle that was the proof that what was being revealed was the will of God.  The obvious supernatural event was the proof; and that event never had to be proven to be a supernatural.  It was self-evident to them.  – DBB


The Book of Acts is filled with miracles, so let’s use it to make the following nine observations about miracles.


1.         Miracles, wonders, signs—these are the different words used to describe miraculous activity (2:22, 43; 4:16, 22, 30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; 19:11). Acts 2:22 uses all three of them: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst…” Miracle comes from the Greek word dunamis, and means force or power (think dynamite, which is derived from the same Greek word). Sign is used, because a miracle signifies something; it makes something clear or obvious. In the passage cited above, the miracles of Jesus signified (made it clear) that He was the Son of God. And wonder is used, because a miracle is anything but natural. You don’t use the word wonder to describe some ordinary event, or something that could have a natural explanation.


2.         The power these miracle workers exhibited was far superior to the power Simon claimed to have (8:9-13), or that which people claim to have today. Words like “notable” (4:16), “evident” (obvious) (4:16), “great” (6:8), and “unusual” (19:11) are used to describe the various miracles, signs, and wonders they performed. Know anyone today who can raise the dead (9:36-43), strike someone blind (13:8-12), and heal everyone brought to him, and do so immediately (3:7; 5:16; 9:34; 28:9)? We’ve seen people hold poisonous snakes, but do you know anyone who has been bitten and suffered no harm, no swelling or anything (Acts 28:3-6)? “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and napkins were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (19:11-12). Know any man or woman who possesses that kind of power today?


3.         So indisputable were these miracles that even the enemies of the gospel could not deny them. Acts 3 describes a man who was “lame from his mother’s womb” (3:2), which was hardly a secret, because he was “laid daily at the gate of the temple called Beautiful” (3:2). Here’s the record of his healing: “Then Peter said, ‘…In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God” (3:6-8). The reaction of the Jewish authorities? “Seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it…that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it” (4:14, 16). If such a miracle were performed today, not even the worst skeptics could keep a lid on it. News outlets all over the world would be covering it, and Twitter, Facebook, and every other form of social media would be absolutely blowing up. That’s the defining feature of the miracles found in the Book of Acts and elsewhere in the Bible—so clear, so obvious, so spectacular, that no other plausible explanation could be offered.


4.         The people who performed these miracles, signs, and wonders did so by the power of the Holy Spirit. The apostles spoke in tongues (languages) “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Cornelius and his household also spoke in tongues—after they had “received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:44-48). Jesus performed many miracles, because He was “anointed…with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). Some men in Ephesus “spoke with tongues and prophesied,” but again, it was after “the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:6). And these passages certainly harmonize with other New Testament passages—like Romans 15:19 (“in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God”), and Galatians 3:5 (“He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you”).


5.         This power, however, did not come from the Holy Spirit alone. These miracles were actually a unified effort from each person in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Look carefully at this prayer from the apostles: “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they make speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). They’re praying to the Father, asking Him to stretch out His hand—asking Him to grant them the power to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, then, did not act independently of the Father, and Jesus was involved too, because these miracles were performed in His name (or by His authority). “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk” (Acts 3:6). “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (Acts 16:18). Performing miracles, though, involved more than just calling on the name of Jesus, a point which some folks learned the hard way. In an effort to cast out an evil spirit, they used the name of Jesus, but they lacked His authority. BIG mistake, because here’s what happened: “And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (read the full account in Acts 19:13-17).


6.         Because these miracles were performed by the power of the Holy Spirit, one had to receive the Holy Spirit—with miraculous effects—before he or she could perform them. We use the phrase, “with miraculous effects,” because there is a sense in which every Christian receives the Holy Spirit, including the Christians we read about in the Book of Acts. Only certain ones, though, performed miracles, so we must make a distinction between the manner in which every Christian receives the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 4:6-7; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:21-22), and those who received it with miraculous effects. The apostles received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised them it would happen (John 14-16; Acts 1:4, 8), and it did happen (note the miraculous effect—“and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues”—Acts 2:4). Interestingly enough, for a period of time (up until Acts 6), the apostles were the only ones who performed miracles (Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12).


7.         Others received the Holy Spirit—with miraculous effects—when the apostles laid their hands on them. The first two non-apostles to perform miracles were Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (Acts 8:6). Earlier, the apostles laid hands on each of these men (Acts 6:6), and the significance of that is clearly explained in two passages: (1) Acts 8:18: “when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given”; (2) Acts 19:6: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”


8.         Cornelius and his household—they were the lone exception; they were the only other ones who received the Holy Spirit without the laying on of the apostles’ hands. They too were baptized with the Holy Spirit, and it certainly had miraculous effects (Acts 10:44-48). That this was a highly unusual event can be seen in Peter’s words when he recounted what happened: “And as I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us as the beginning” (Acts 11:15). To describe this unique event, Peter had to go back to the time when the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit (“at the beginning”). So this was not a regular occurrence; in fact what happened here had a very special purpose: to convince the Jews that God made no distinction between them and the Gentiles, to show that the Gentiles could be saved through Jesus Christ—without having to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Acts 11:17-18; 15:5-11).


9.         These miracles, signs, and wonders had two very clear purposes—in some cases to reveal God’s word (e.g. prophesying), and then in other cases, to confirm God’s word, to confirm that what was spoken was indeed the truth, that it came from God. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and we know that’s true, because He was “attested by God…by miracles, wonders, and signs” (Acts 2:22). “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 8:6). “Therefore they (Paul and Barnabas) stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3). And these passages are in perfect harmony with what is taught elsewhere about the purpose of miracles (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4; 1 Kings 17:24). What’s interesting, and further confirms the point we’re making is that miracles were not performed when what was taught could be validated by the Scriptures (Acts 17:1-4, 11), nor were they performed when some point had already been revealed and confirmed (Acts 15:12).


Based then, on the nine observations above, here’s the all-important question: Do men and women today have the power to perform miracles? First, have you seen any, or heard any reports of any being performed? We’re talking about clear, indisputable miracles—ones like we referenced earlier from the Book of Acts. As pointed out previously, miracles such as these could not be hidden—news like this would travel the world in practically an instant. Secondly, the promise made to the apostles—“You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5)—anyone promised that today? As noted before, the only other folks who were baptized with the Holy Spirit were Cornelius and his household, and that had a unique, one time only purpose. Thirdly, anyone today had the apostles lay hands on them? Of course not, because they’ve all been dead for nearly 2000 years. Remember, this was the only other way people could receive the Holy Spirit, with miraculous effects. Fourthly, hasn’t the word of God been fully revealed and confirmed? (John 16:13; Ephesians 3:1-5; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:3). Remember, the purpose of these miracles was to either reveal or confirm God’s word. If that has been accomplished, then why would any man or woman need to perform them today? You don’t need a miraculous revelation today to preach the truth, because it’s all there in the Scriptures. And to confirm whether or not someone is preaching the truth today, you just compare it to what the Scriptures say. This full and complete revelation—isn’t that what Paul was looking toward when he spoke this prophecy: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

Knowledge: The Keynote of 2 Peter

by Bryan Gibson
August 9, 2012

Start reading 2 Peter and it won’t take you long to see that knowledge is the keynote, or the central theme of this epistle (1:2-3, 5-6, 8, 12, 15; 2:20; 3:17-18). Let’s explore this theme a little further, using these two questions to frame our discussion: (1) What is it exactly that God wants us to know? (2) What benefits will come from this knowledge? Let’s see what answers this epistle provides.

What is it exactly that God wants us to know?

God wants us to know the truth He has revealed to us—truth which contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (1:3). We know it’s the truth, because it was made known by “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (1:16), and what these eyewitnesses heard and saw confirmed and fulfilled what the prophets had already spoken (1:19), and these same prophets “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (1:21).

God wants us to know both the Old Testament and the New Testament—“be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (3:2).

God wants us to know Him, especially as He is revealed through the life of Jesus (1:2-3, 8). We need to know what He says, but we also need to know Him through what He says. That’s important, because He wants us to be “partakers of the divine nature” (1:4), to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God wants us to know all the incentives offered to us in His word—all the “exceedingly great and precious promises” (1:4). All the knowledge in the world can’t save us, unless we “do” (1:10), and to help us do, we’ve got all these wonderful promises set before us (see 1:10-11; 3:10-14).

What benefits will come from this knowledge?

Knowledge will enable us to escape the corruption and pollutions of this world (1:3-4; 2:19-20), because the truth will convict us of our sins, reveal the eternal consequences of our sins, and then show us the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. And we won’t ever want to go back to those pollutions, because the more we grow in knowledge (3:17), the more we appreciate the contrast between the ugliness of sin and the beauty of righteousness.

Knowledge will protect us from false teachers. An entire chapter is devoted to warning us about false teachers—their danger (2:1-3), their doom (2:4-10a); their character (2:10b-16), and their influence (2:17-22). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” and we won’t be “led away with the error of the wicked” (3:17-18).

Knowledge of the truth will enable us to become “partakers of the divine nature” (1:4). The more we grow in knowledge, and the more we do what we know, the more like Christ we become.

Running the Race

by Bryan Gibson
July 6, 2012


Hebrews 12:1-17 is our text, where the life of a Christian is compared to a race. Let’s see what points we can glean from this text about this race.

This race is no sprint; it’s a marathon, and so endurance is absolutely essential. “Lest you become weary and discouraged” (v. 3)—that’s what concerns the Lord, and that’s why He gives the following admonitions: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1). “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (v. 12, ESV).

We won’t endure, if we try to run with the weight of sin. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (v. 1). Pursuing holiness (v. 14)—that’s what this race is about and we can’t do that and hold on to sin at the same time. And we can’t lay aside sin if we don’t clear from our path any stumbling blocks—anything that might lead us into sin, anything that might injure our souls. “Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (v. 13).

It always helps to have a crowd behind you, and we most certainly do. Those in the “stands” include people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Isaac, and all the other men and women of faith discussed in Hebrews 11. These are the people He’s talking about when He says we’re “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (v. 1). They know what it’s like to do right when no one else is even trying (Noah); what it’s like to have the pleasure of sin tugging at you (Moses); what it’s like to be asked to do something when you don’t really understand why (Abraham); what it’s like to believe in a promise that almost seems too incredible to believe (Abraham and Sarah); etc. And they’re all saying the same thing—“You can do it, too!”

As much encouragement as these “fans” may offer, our biggest source of encouragement is our Savior, Jesus Christ. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (vv. 2-3). He’s the reason we started the race, and He’s the reason we’ll finish it. He’s waiting for us at the finish line, sitting at the right hand of God, and if we endure, we’ll get to sit with Him (Revelation 3:21).

The “hostility from sinners” (v. 3), the suffering we endure for righteousness’ sake (vv. 4-11)—it’s all part of the training regimen, and it will make us stronger, because it gives us opportunity after opportunity to exercise our faith. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v. 11, ESV).

The prize for this race—it’s eternal, so let’s make sure we don’t give it up for something that’s not. Esau sold his birthright for one morsel of food (v. 16)—a far more tragic mistake would be to sell our souls for something that doesn’t last. Make that mistake, and we’ll have eternity to regret it.


The First Epistle of Peter: A Textbook on Suffering
(Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson
June 3 and 10, 2012

Some folks suffer because they do wrong. There is nothing commendable about that (4:15; 2:20). Other folks suffer because they do right. That is commendable, especially in the eyes of God (2:19-20; 3:14a). The obvious conclusion: “…it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (3:17).


It may be better, but it’s not easy! It’s not easy to be thought of as strange or ignorant, to get ridiculed and insulted, to endure false accusations, to be excluded from the “in crowd,” to maybe even face the threat of death. The people to whom Peter wrote his first epistle—that’s what they were facing, and here’s what he said to help them (and us) endure. We’ll divide this up into a series of do’s and don’ts, just to make the points as clear as possible. Here are the don’ts—we’ll save the do’s for next week, if the Lord wills.


Don’t be surprised by suffering, as if was some “strange thing” (4:12). Elsewhere, Paul wrote that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Get used to it; it will happen.


Don’t be discouraged by it, and don’t let it wear you down, because it only lasts “a little while” (1:6)—especially when you contrast it with eternity.


Don’t be ashamed of it, or embarrassed by it; instead glorify God for it (4:16; 2:6). The folks who are saying and doing these things to you—they’re the only ones who should be ashamed (3:16).


Don’t be afraid of those who persecute you—it’s not like they can do you any lasting harm (3:13-16). They killed the Christ, and look how things turned out for Him (3:18, 22). Noah and his family—no doubt they suffered for the stand they took, but they were the ones standing on dry ground when the flood ended (3:18-22).


Don’t retaliate—do not return “evil for evil, or reviling for reviling” (3:9). Follow the example of Christ (2:21), “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (2:23).


Don’t think you’re the only one—brethren near and far are suffering the same things, perhaps even worse (5:9).


Don’t try to fit in with the world to avoid this suffering—that’s the very thing the devil wants you to do (5:8). This world is not your home, so don’t behave like it is. “…as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (2:12). Don’t live any longer “for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (4:2). Cast your lot with the people of this world, and that’s when you’ll be in real trouble, because “they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (4:5). And it won’t be pretty, because rest assured, their suffering will last more than just “a little while.”




The First Epistle of Peter: A Textbook on Suffering

(Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson


Let’s pick up right where we left off last week. It’s not easy to suffer for doing the right thing—just ask the Christians to whom Peter wrote his first epistle. Here’s what Peter wrote to encourage them (and us) to endure. We covered the DON’TS last week; so now let’s see how many DO’S we can pick out from this epistle.


DO study God’s word—obedience to His word gave you life, and that same word will now help you grow. Crave it the same way a newborn baby craves milk (1:22-2:3).


DO keep on doing good (2:12, 15, 20; 3:6, 11, 13, 16; 4:19), no matter how much pressure is put on you to do otherwise, no matter how much suffering you have to endure. That won’t be easy, so DO remember these three things: (1) Remember the purpose for which you were called out of darkness—to “proclaim the praises” of God, to be a light to those who are still in darkness (2:9-10, 12; 3:1-2, 16). (2) Remember what it cost your Savior to bring you out of darkness, what it cost Him to redeem you from the slavery of sin—His own “precious blood” (1:18-19). (3) Remember that your heavenly Father will judge you according to your work, and that He will do so “without partiality” (1:17).


DO learn to rejoice in the “blessing” (3:14) of suffering, for the following reasons: (1) You are suffering for Christ, the very one who suffered for you (4:13-14). (2) It has a good purpose—to “try” or “prove” you; to make you stronger; to help you develop a genuine faith (1:6-7; 4:12). (3) It presents a great opportunity—it’s when you’re suffering that your light shines the brightest (2:12, 15, 20). (4) It has a good end—partake of Christ’s sufferings, and you will also partake of His glory (4:13).


DO “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (3:15). And don’t just say it; practice it. Back up your verbal defense with “good conduct” (3:15-16).


DO look out for your brethren, because they’re suffering too (5:9). Love them “fervently” (1:22; 4:8); “be hospitable” to them (4:9); use your gifts to minister to them (4:10); and speak to them “the oracles of God” (4:11).


DO remember that even though you are “rejected indeed by men” (2:4), you are accepted by God. He has made you part of His chosen generation, His royal priesthood, His holy nation. The world may not make you feel very special, but you are special to Him (2:9).


DO “be serious and watchful in your prayers” (4:7), because you do need God’s help.


DO remember that God is with you—that He will keep you by His power (1:5); that He will care for you (5:7); that He will “exalt you in due time” (5:6); and that He will, “after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (5:10).


DO “rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13). That’s when you’ll finally get to go home, to the place God has reserved for you in heaven, an inheritance which is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (1:3-4). You’ve been reproached and reviled for too long (3:9; 4:14)—that’s over, from here on out it’s nothing but praise, honor, and eternal glory (1:7; 5:4, 10).


You see—“it is better…to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (3:17).



The Bible vs. Books About the Bible

by Bryan Gibson
May 25, 2012


I don’t read many books about the Bible, but I do read the Bible—frequently, and sometimes for long stretches. In the interest of full disclosure, that hasn’t always been my practice. Back in my early to mid 20’s (I’m 50 now), I read a lot of books about the Bible, but I cut way back and here’s why. Unsound ideas had begun to creep into my mind, and it scared me. When I did get around to actually reading the Bible, I could tell that these uninspired authors were taking me in a different direction. These weren’t what some would call major departures from the truth, but how far does one have to stray to be wrong? I wanted to be right about everything, and I knew the Bible was right.


I’m sure there’s been some downside to my present practice. No doubt I’ve missed some wonderful insights from other authors, but I want to make sure that the source of all my teachings is the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and there’s only one book that can provide that. “The entirety of Your word is truth…” (Psalms 119:160)—that’s what David said and I believe it with all my heart.


Perhaps you’re thinking that you can read all this outside material without being influenced by error, that you can properly discern between truth and error. Maybe YOU can, but many have proven that they cannot. I read and hear lessons from my own brethren that sound more like the popular authors of today than they do Jesus or His apostles. It is clear to me at least that they’ve read more books about the Bible than the Bible itself. Personally, I prefer an inspired author over an uninspired one any day (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I’ve yet to find an uninspired author that can match their skill in argument, their fire, their heartfelt compassion, their beauty of expression, etc. In other words, I’m more impressed with THE word than I’m their words.


I know I’m going to be challenged on this, so let me add this for clarity. I don’t put all books about the Bible in the same category. Concordances, word studies, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias—these pose little or no danger, and they can be most helpful in better understanding the text. I don’t read many commentaries, because they do pose a greater danger, but at least there’s an effort to stick to the Bible text, and to prove each point that is made. The worst culprits seem to be the “devotional style” books, where the author often goes for long stretches without citing a Bible verse to prove his point. It’s easy to get caught up in their “fresh, contemporary” style, and not even bother to search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so (Acts 17:11).


Yes, I know the Bible contains some things “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16), but God assures me that I can understand His will for me (Ephesians 3:1-5; 5:17). I’m not anywhere close to brilliant, but I am capable of understanding, and I plan to pursue this understanding as diligently as I possibly can (Proverbs 2:1-5).


“Give me the Bible, holy message shining, thy light shall guide me in the narrow way, precept and promise, law and love combining, till night shall vanish in eternal day” (“Give Me the Bible,” E.S. Lorenz, Priscilla J. Owens).

Editor's note: the reason someone can study the bible all of their lives and still not get what God is trying to communicate was explained a long time ago by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2.  -- dbb 

Let Me Not Wander From Your Commandments

by Bryan Gibson

“With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments” (Psalms 119:10). Impressive, yes, but even more impressive when you consider all that David had to go through, all the things that could have easily made him wander. So take a few minutes to compare your attitude to the one expressed here by David. Would any of the following cause you to wander from God’s commandments?

When brethren rebuke you. David’s afflictions took many forms, including the rebuke he received from the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). Afflictions didn’t drive him away; they made him cling more closely to God’s commandments. “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word…It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalms 119:67, 71).


When worldly people make fun of you
. And make fun of you they will, if you consistently do the right thing (1 Peter 4:4). David faced that, too, and here’s what he said about it: “The proud have me in great derision, yet I do not turn aside from Your law” (Psalms 119:51).


When persecution gets even worse
—when enemies lie about you, seek to destroy your name, or maybe even try to kill you. Would any of these cause you to wander from keeping God’s commandments? David experienced all these things (Psalms 119:61, 78, 85-88, 95, 109-110, 157, 161), and yet it did not diminish his resolve. “But I have not forgotten your law…but I will meditate on your precepts…but I did not forsake your precepts…but my heart stands in awe of Your word…yet I have not strayed from your precepts”—David made all these statements in the midst of heavy persecution.


When filled with sorrow and grief
—due to sickness, the death of a loved one, the unfaithfulness of a loved one, etc. Again, listen to David who experienced many occasions of sorrow. “My soul melts from heaviness, strengthen me according to Your word…trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights” (Psalms 119:28, 143).


When God seems so far away
, when you get to the point that you ask, “When will you comfort me”? (Psalms 119:82). David certainly knew that feeling, because he was the very one who asked that question. But look at the very next verse: “For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, yet I do not forget Your statutes” (Psalms 119:83).


When the world seems so attractive
, when it appears to offer more than Christ does. David was no stranger to the pull of the world, which explains why he made this plea to God: “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way” (Psalms 119:35-37).


When “smart people” seem to have better answers
, when their explanations seem to make more sense than the explanations found in God’s word. As for David, well, let’s just say that he was less than impressed. “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies…I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts” (Psalms 119:98-100). David was wiser than any of these men, because he knew God’s wisdom.


Bottom line; don’t let anything diminish your resolve to keep the commandments of God. Don’t let anything shake your confidence in God or in His word. “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven…The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalms 119:89, 160).

Resolutions for Husbands

by Bryan Gibson

1. I will make the same resolution that Joshua did: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

2. I will prepare my heart to seek, obey, and teach the law of the Lord, just like Ezra did (Ezra 7:9-10).

3. I will not discuss whether or not we’re going to worship services, whether it’s Sunday morning, or any other service. If our brethren are gathered together to worship the Lord, I plan for us to be there, and it will take more than a minor illness, more than a few aches and pains to keep us away (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 11:26; 20:7).

4. I will work together with you in the kingdom of the Lord, just like Aquila did with Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-4; 1 Cor. 16:19).

5. I will join with you in showing hospitality to our brethren (1 Peter 4:9).

6. I will not do like Lot did and take us somewhere to live that will clearly be detrimental to our family (Genesis 13:11-13).

7. I will gladly “spend and be spent” for your soul (2 Corinthians 12:15).

8. I will love you “fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

9. So that you “know the love which I have so abundantly for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4), I will love you, not just “in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). In other words, I will “prove” my love to you (2 Corinthians 8:24).

10. And one of the ways I will prove my love is by listening to you. “Swift to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19)—that will be my motto, toward God’s word, toward you, and toward all others (Proverbs 17:27-28; 18:13; 29:20).

11. I will love you—even through the most difficult times. Christ doesn’t abandon His bride during these times (Romans 8:35-39), and I won’t abandon you. If we face financial difficulties, I will still love you, even if you’re the cause of them. If you become overweight, I will still love you. If you become very ill and I have to spend all my time taking you to the doctor, I will still love you. If you become an invalid and can no longer do anything for me, I will still love you. God joined us together and I won’t let anyone or anything tear us apart.

12. I will love you, even if you don’t return it (Matthew 5:46; Luke 14:12-14). If you should ever say, “I don’t love you anymore,” I will keep right on loving you, and I will seek to win back your affections.

13. I will not give in to bitterness, no matter what you may say or do (Colossians 3:19).

14. I will not ever seek revenge against you. If you speak ill to me, I will speak kindly to you. If you throw something at me, I will pick it up and put it back where it belongs (Romans 12:17-21).

15. I will be kindly affectionate to you (Romans 12:10).

16. I will sacrifice my time, my body, all my material possessions—for the Lord I serve, and for you. I will gladly become poor so that you can be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 John 3:16-18). If we can’t afford two new sets of tires, I will drive around with the bald ones. Should the situation call for it, I will even give my life for you.

17. I will praise, compliment, and encourage you (Proverbs 31:28-31), just as the Lord does His bride (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:2; Phil. 2:19-20, 25, 29-30).

18. I will do for you the very things I want you to do for me (Matthew 7:12).

19. I will appreciate the work you do in the home, especially the work you do in raising our children, because that’s the most important work in the world (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 5:14; Titus 2:3-5).

20. I will not put more on you than you bear (Matt. 11:28-30; Gal. 6:2). I will not put more work on you than you can handle; I will not micromanage you; and I will I not make it impossible to please me.

21. I will get rid of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and malice, and replace them with kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, patience, and courtesy (Ephesians 4:31-32; 1 Peter 3:8).

22. I will make sure that what happens to you is a big deal to me. I will rejoice when you rejoice, and weep when you weep (Romans 12:15).

23. I will nourish and cherish you—for the benefits it brings you, but also for the benefits it brings me—because we are ONE flesh (Ephesians 5:28-31). What makes YOU better makes ME better.

24. Using Christ’s rule over His house as a pattern, I will not rule selfishly. I will look out for your interests as well as my own (Philippians 2:3-4); in fact, I will give preference to your interests (Romans 12:10). I will go places you want to go, do things you like to do, and if we can afford it, buy you the things that you enjoy. I will not pay more attention to the television, or to the internet, than I do to you.

25. I will rule unselfishly, but I will not be weak or indecisive (Isaiah 40:10-11). I will seek your input, but there may be times when I have to go against you. I will make those tough decisions, and expect you to abide by them.

26. I will be a good provider. I will not “overwork to be rich” (Proverbs 23:4), but I will work hard and be dependable in my work. I will do my best to keep us from being dependent on others (1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). I will not, however, take a job that will keep me from seeking first the kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

27. I will make a covenant with my eyes, which means I will not look upon another woman, much less flirt with another woman (Job 31:1).

28. I will not let the sun go down on my wrath; I will try to work out whatever issue has come between us before it festers and leads to greater problems (Ephesians 4:26-27).

29. I left my parents to cleave to you, so I will not let them run our marriage (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). I will not run to my parents every time there’s a problem, and I won’t let you run to yours.

30. I will not lie to you or deceive you in any way (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9).

31. I will say, “I’m sorry,” when I do you wrong, and I will repent (Matthew 5:23-24).

32. I will forgive you when you say, “I’m sorry,” and I won’t keep up with how many times I do it (Matthew 18:21-35).

33. I will not let you walk out of the house wearing something that might cause others to question your purity, something that makes it look like you profess something other than godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10).

34. I will try not to be overly possessive, but I will challenge you if I believe you are flirting with another man, or have just become too close to another man (1 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 13:14).

35. I will seek to satisfy your physical desires, so that you are never tempted to look elsewhere (1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Proverbs 5:15-20).

36. I will not ask you to do anything that violates your conscience (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:13).

37. I will learn to be content (Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-8). Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, I will be thankful for what we do have (Ecclesiastes 6:9). And I (we) will be most thankful for the riches we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 2:7).

38. I will not let the children come between us, because if we can keep our relationship strong, it will benefit both us and them. To bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), we need to grow together in Christ and present a united front (2 Peter 1:5-11; 3:17-18)

39. I will pray for God’s help, to do all these things I have resolved to do (James 5:16).

The Perfect Way to Train Our Children
(Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson

January 29, 2012

The perfect parent doesn’t exist, but the perfect pattern does—the one given by our heavenly Father. To better understand how to raise our children, let’s look at the methods our heavenly Father uses to train us. This will take several weeks, so please stay tuned for the articles that follow.

Obedience—that’s what our heavenly Father expects, even demands from us (Matthew 7:21; 28:20). To accomplish that, He goes to great lengths to make sure that we understand and respect His authority. “Thus says the LORD”—that’s how many of the Old Testament prophets began their message. “I am the LORD”—that phrase is repeated over and over again in Leviticus, as well as other Old Testament books. “Listen and do what I say, because I am the LORD”—that’s His message in a nutshell. And the message is the same in the New Testament. Jesus has now been given all authority (Matthew 28:18-20), and that explains phrases like, “we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus”; “you know what commandments we gave through the Lord Jesus”; “we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). The Lord has spoken and we better do what He says (Luke 6:46).

Application

Obedience—that, too, is what we should expect, even demand from our children (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20). To accomplish that, we need to imitate our heavenly Father—we need to make sure they understand and respect our authority. “Listen and do what I say, because I am your father (or mother), and the Lord put me in charge.” However we may express it, that’s the message we need to get across to our children. If they scream “NO” at us when we tell them to do something, if they roll their eyes or stomp their feet, if they wait to do it when it’s convenient for them, or if they just simply refuse to do it—we haven’t done a very good job in getting this message across.

Disobedience to parents is serious business (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2), and they need to know it. Our children will bring us so much more joy, now, and in the future, if we can instill in them this respect for authority at a very early age. And the added bonus is that this respect for our authority will help instill in them respect for other authority figures—like coaches, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, and most importantly, their heavenly Father.

Conclusion

“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:8). Wouldn’t it be great if we had the same understanding of authority that this man had, and wouldn’t it be great if we could pass that same understanding on to our children?

Next week: We’ll look at another method God uses to further encourage our obedience.

The Perfect Way to Train our Children

(Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

February 5, 2012

To better understand how to train our children, we’re looking at some methods our heavenly Father uses to train us. In part one, we discussed how our heavenly Father goes to great lengths to make sure we understand and respect His authority, and how we should do the same for our children.

To reinforce His authority, and to further encourage our obedience, our heavenly Father rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior. And we’re not just talking about heaven and hell. Sure, heaven is the ultimate reward and hell the ultimate punishment, but along the way, our Father uses other forms of reward and punishment, too.

On the reward side, for example, our Father lets us know when we’re pleasing Him, with all the commendations scattered throughout the New Testament epistles, and with specific phrases like, “for this is well-pleasing to the Lord,” or “well-pleasing to God” (Colossians 3:20; Philippians 4:18). Not that He needs to say that for every act of obedience, but it sure helps to hear it from time to time. And He rewards obedience in other ways, too. Pray to me, He says, and “the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Do what the Father says, and He “will be with you” (Philippians 4:9); He will “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19); He will give you “grace” (1 Peter 5:5). Read the through the Book of John sometime and just notice all the rewards Jesus offers to those who follow Him (4:14; 6:35, 37; 7:38; 8:12, 36; 10:9-10; 12:26, 46; 14:23, 27; 15:7, 10).

On the punishment side, He also lets us know when we’re NOT pleasing Him (see the New Testament letters). Their rebuke is our rebuke—if we’re guilty of the same things. And what about the built-in consequences to sin—to lying, envy, sexual immorality, drinking, etc.? Aren’t those a form of punishment, too? Disciplinary action by the church, the type commanded in 1 Corinthians 5—that’s a form of punishment, too (2 Corinthians 2:6).

More examples of each could be cited, but what we’re trying to show is the balanced way in which God trains us. He praises us; He rebukes us. He rewards us; He punishes us. Both sides serve to keep us in line.

So that’s what we should strive for in the way we train our own children—this ideal balance between reward and punishment. It’s certainly easy to swing to one extreme or the other. Some parents excel in praising their children, but lack the courage to correct them. Others will spank their children, yet offer very little praise and encouragement.

Children need both. They need to hear things like, “good job;” “we’re really proud of you;” and “keep up the good work.” They need to be rewarded for good behavior. But they certainly need correction and punishment, too. They need to hear words of disapproval, and they also need to feel the firm hand of correction, especially in the early years (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15).

Look for more principles in the next article.

The Perfect Way to Train Our Children

(Part 3)

by Bryan Gibson

To help us with our own children, we’ve been looking at some methods God uses to train His children. Here’s what we’ve seen so far: 1) God demands obedience, and to accomplish that, He goes to great lengths to make sure His children understand and respect His authority. 2) To further encourage obedience, and to reinforce His authority, God rewards/praises good behavior and punishes/rebukes bad behavior. Let’s look at three more.

Our heavenly Father is concerned about our physical well-being, but He puts far more emphasis on our spiritual well-being. While most of us have been blessed far beyond our needs, that’s really all He promises—the basic necessities of life (Matthew 6:11, 25; 1 Timothy 6:8). Spiritual blessings—that’s a completely different matter. He lavishes those upon us (Ephesians 1:3-14), and included among those is a vast storehouse of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:1-3). He’s far more concerned with preparing us for eternal life than making us comfortable in this life. So when it comes to our own children, let’s not get too caught up in providing them things, that we neglect their spiritual training. If we don’t bring our children up in the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), we have failed, no matter how much we may give them materially.

Our heavenly Father is approachable—He encourages us to talk to Him, to bring our problems to Him. He’s sympathetic to our weaknesses, our problems, and He very much wants to help us (Hebrews 2:16-18; 4:14-16; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7). And so, first, we should teach our children to pray, teach them that their heavenly Father does indeed answer prayer and that He wants to help them. But shouldn’t we be approachable, too? It’s awful hard to give them the specific help they need sometimes if we don’t listen. We go to our heavenly Father in prayer because we have confidence in His willingness and ability to help us. Granted, we don’t have the same wisdom and power of the heavenly Father, but our children do need our help and they need to be confident that we’re both willing and able to provide it. If we don’t listen, they may stop coming, and they may seek answers in all the wrong places, or from all the wrong people.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t just teach us how to live; He shows us—through the perfect example of His Son (1 Peter 2:21), and many other fine examples in the Scriptures (Philippians 3:17). The application to parents couldn’t be more obvious. We need to be living examples of everything we want them to be, or more importantly, what God wants them to be. If we want them to have virtues like kindness, forgiveness, self-control, modesty, discretion, etc., they need to see them in us. If we want them to study the Bible, they need to see us doing it. And the same goes for faithful attendance, prayer, showing hospitality, and a number of other things that faithful Christians ought to be busy doing. Of this one thing, we can be certain—children will remember much longer what we did than what we said.

The Perfect Way to Train our Children

(Part Four)

by Bryan Gibson

God wrote the Book on childrearing, and one of the ways He teaches us is by example. We’ve been looking at the different ways He trains His children, and here’s what we’ve discussed so far: 1) God demands obedience, and to accomplish that, He goes to great lengths to make sure His children understand and respect His authority. 2) To further encourage obedience, and to reinforce His authority, God rewards/praises good behavior and punishes/rebukes bad behavior. 3) God is far more concerned with our spiritual well-being than our physical well-being. 4) God is approachable—His children know that they can bring their problems to Him and He will help them. 5) God doesn’t just teach His children how to live; He shows them. Many more principles could be cited, but let’s look at just two more in this article as we bring this series to a close.

Our heavenly Father expects a lot from us (Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 1:9-12, 28), but He does allow room for growth. This doesn’t mean that He excuses sin or treats it lightly, but it does mean that He shows patience while we strive diligently to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Think about Christ’s work with the apostles, and how often they fell short of His expectations. James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56). These two, along with the other apostles, argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 22:24-30). Peter vehemently denied any association with Jesus (Luke 22:54-62).

Jesus did rebuke them, sometimes very strongly (Matthew 16:23), but He stuck with them, and look at the results—especially with Peter, James, and John. Read the Book of Acts, and you’ll see what fine men they turned out to be. So it’s fine to have high expectations for our children (Ephesians 6:4), but let’s do realize that it’s a long training process and that it takes time for them to develop some of the qualities we want them to have (Hebrews 12:11). Obedience can be established at a very early age, but other qualities like unselfishness and meekness—these will take some time. Of course, if we’re not careful, we can show too much patience. The time may come when they ought to be doing certain things, when maybe they should have advanced more, and we need to let them know about it (see Hebrews 5:11-14).

Most every parent would claim that they love their children, but is it the kind of love the heavenly Father shows His children? Do we have the kind of love that loves righteousness and hates sin (Hebrews 1:9)? The kind of love that’s willing to rebuke and chasten (Revelation 3:19)? Does our love act in harmony with truth, or with knowledge and discernment (Philippians 1:9)? Does it willingly sacrifice for the good of others, and specifically our children (John 10:11, 15, 17-18; 1 John 3:16-18)? Does it love even the undeserving (Romans 5:6-8)? Does it exhibit the following characteristics: suffers long and is kind; does not envy; does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own; is not provoked; thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)?

Our heavenly Father regards His children as the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8)—do we feel the same way, and do we treat our children accordingly? Do we sometimes put more on our children than they can possibly bear? Our heavenly Father doesn’t (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 10:13). Do we ever show partiality among our children, like Isaac and Jacob did (Genesis 25:27-28; 37:3-4)? That’s not the way our Father treats us (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Peter 1:17), and aren’t we glad for that? Can you imagine the impact it would make on the hearts and lives of our children if we could learn to love the way our heavenly Father does?  

 

The Sin of Dissatisfaction

by Dave Brown
January 21, 2012

Dissatisfaction is not a sin per se. Indeed we all need to be dissatisfied over our lack of zeal for the Lord’s work, and for not overcoming those sins that tend to plague us the most. It is what we are dissatisfied over that is the key. Dissatisfaction is the motivation for many if not most sins. Consider for examples:

Adam and Eve were dissatisfied with a life without care in the garden, and they gave it all up and chose to believe the lie that they would be as God: “in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

The Children of Israel were dissatisfied with being freed from their slavery and murmured to the point of expressing their desire to go back to Egypt where they had what they thought was better food and drink (Exodus 16:2).

Korah, Dathan and Abiram were dissatisfied with their positions of leadership and desired to usurp the authority of Moses (Numbers 16:1-3); this type of dissatisfaction was also the problem with Diotrephes (3 John 9) and others in the first century church, as it is in the church today.

When we stop to think about it, is not all sin caused by dissatisfaction? It might be dissatisfaction with what we have—not being thankful for what God has given us. Or, it could be dissatisfaction with God’s law for us, which He gave us to make us truly happy and to give us peace (Psalms 1; Matthew 5:1-16, 6:25-34; 11:30).

Adultery is dissatisfaction with our lawful God-given mate. Theft is dissatisfaction with what we have (which in many cases amounts to extreme wealth compared to what most have in this world). A failure to attend services in worship to God is dissatisfaction with the 160 or so other hours that God has given us in a week. A failure to give is dissatisfaction with the other 90% (or so) of the remainder of what God has given to us. Complaining about our lot in life is basically being dissatisfied with the life that God has given to us.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul stated it this way: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” This is something that Paul had to (and we have to) learn … it does not come naturally, although it is probably much easier for some than for others. But Paul stated that he learned it. At one point in his life he was not satisfied with serving a man who had died on a cross. Jesus told Nicodemus of Paul: “… for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake” (Acts 9:16). The sufferings of Paul go beyond anything that we have encountered, but he learned to be content, and so can we. It was through suffering that Paul learned how to be content (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

What is the first step? Be thankful. Can you be discontented and thankful at the same time? Perhaps, but if you are truly thankful for your life and for what God has given you, it will be extremely difficult to be discontented. And, if we are not discontented, our tendency toward sin will be greatly reduced.

Need a Lift?

by Bryan Gibson

January 15, 2012

For your spirits, that is? Philippians 4:1-13 provides some divine help. Using that passage, along with a few others from the same epistle, here are six ways to lift your spirits, guaranteed by God.

Rejoice in your brethren, your family in Christ. “My beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown”—that’s how Paul described his fellow saints (4:1). Earlier in this same epistle, he wrote, “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (1:8). You’re not in this alone; find those who are “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27)—your “fellow workers” (4:3), and rejoice in them.

Make a conscious effort to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). Sounds very much like a commandment to me. Remember, Paul was in prison when he wrote this epistle (1:12-14), but he sure didn’t sound like he was down in the dumps. Focus on your blessings, not your burdens, and give thanks to God (4:6). In fact, go ahead and give thanks for your burdens, too, because they may be just what you need to keep you humble.

Stop worrying so much and start praying. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:6). Paul most certainly understood the power of prayer (1:3-5, 9-11, 19), and so should you. After all, you’re praying to the One who “shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (4:19).

Get your mind on the right things, and see if you don’t feel better right away. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—mediate on these things” (4:8). What a contrast to the mindset of those described in the previous chapter: “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: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (3:18-19).

Obey the Lord. Hard to be at peace when you don’t know the Lord is with you. But here’s how you can know: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:9). “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (2:12-13).

Learn to be content. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:11-13).

We Commend To You the Following People

by Bryan Gibson

January 5, 2012

The New Testament writers commended a number of different Christians for the good they did—people like Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), Dorcas (Acts 9:36-39), Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:3-4), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30), and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18)—just to name a few. We would like to commend the following present day Christians, for these two reasons: to encourage them to keep up the good work (Galatians 6:9), and to encourage others to imitate them (Philippians 3:17; 3 John 1:11).

The names have been changed to spare these people embarrassment, because they’re much too humble to ever commend themselves.

Bill works a full time job, but he still finds time for Bible study. He teaches Bible classes regularly and he preaches whenever and wherever he is needed. He’s not paid to do it; he does it because he sees a need.

Jack studies as diligently as Bill does, but he doesn’t have the same ability. He doesn’t teach or preach, at least not publicly, but he does all he can. He invites people to the assemblies of the church; he visits the sick; he goes to funerals; he and his wife have people in their home; he volunteers for work around the church building, and a number of other things that often go unnoticed.

Marissa gets meal lists together—she gets people to volunteer to cook meals for families who temporarily may be unable to do it themselves. They may have a new baby in the house, a prolonged illness, a recent surgery, etc. Rather than ask, “Is there anything I can do?” she just goes ahead and does it.

Susie is a young Christian who enjoys being around people her age, but she still cares about her elderly brothers and sisters in Christ. She visits them with her parents; she sends cards to them; she talks to them before or after worship; and she prays for them.

Betty is an elderly Christian, but she’s very concerned about her younger brothers and sisters in Christ, especially the teenagers. She commends them for the good they do; she encourages them to remain faithful to the Lord; she occasionally attends their school functions and their ball games—just anything to let them know that she cares about them.

Joanie teaches a class of 4 and 5 year olds. She understands how impressionable these young minds are, how eager they are for knowledge, so she fills their mind with the word of God. It’s no surprise that many of the young ones she taught in the past have now become Christians.

The Jacksons, because they live in a college town, take a special interest in the college students. They encourage them in their spiritual duties; they invite them into their home; they feed them occasionally; and just in general provide a nice refuge from what can sometimes be a very unwholesome environment.

Carla, for very important spiritual reasons, doesn’t want her children or any of the other teenagers in the church to participate in the high school dances. So what she does is organize what some refer to as a “prom alternative.” The teenagers get to dress up and enjoy some much more wholesome activities.

Jeff and his wife, Melanie, pay special attention to those members who for whatever reason don’t always get included. They understand that every member is important, and they don’t want anyone to be left out.

Tom and Mary have already raised their children in the Lord, so now they turn their attention to those who have just started. They understand it’s hard work, so they want to encourage these young parents to stay the course, to raise those young children to serve the Lord.

The Wilsons give generously on the first day of the week, but that doesn’t mean they’re through giving. They’ve been known to sacrifice certain parts of their lifestyle, just to be able to further support those who preach the gospel.

Anna is in bad health, confined to her home, so she can’t do some of the things her fellow-Christians do. But what she can do is pray, and does she ever. She prays for the elders and deacons, for preachers everywhere, for the spread of the gospel, for the physical and spiritual welfare of all her fellow-Christians. It’s hard to measure just how much good she does without even leaving her house.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, keep up the good work!

A Good Minister of Jesus Christ

by Bryan Gibson
January 1, 2012

“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ…” (1 Timothy 4:6). Using the surrounding verses, specifically verses 1-16, let’s identify some characteristics of a good minister of Jesus Christ.

A good minister will NOT “depart from the faith” (4:1); he will not give heed to any teaching that is not according to Christ, including the things specifically mentioned in this text (4:1-3, 7).

And here’s why he will not depart from the faith. A good minister will be “entirely” or “wholly” dedicated to his studies (4:13, 15); he will be “nourished in the words of faith” (4:6); and he will “carefully” follow everything he has learned from the teaching of Christ (4:6).

A good minister will only teach “these things” (4:6, 11)—things he has learned from the “words of faith,” or the teachings of Christ. He says only those things which are “faithful…and worthy of all acceptance” (4:9).

A good minister will keep a tender conscience, not one that’s been “seared with a hot iron” (4:2). This tender conscience will keep him from ever “speaking lies in hypocrisy” (4:2), from ever teaching or practicing anything that would violate or trouble his conscience. If he has even the slightest doubt concerning what he’s about to teach, he won’t dare teach it, at least not until he determines for sure if it’s the truth or not.

A good minister will be careful, not just about his teaching, but also about his life.

“Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (4:7-8).

“Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (4:12).

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…” (4:16, NAS).

A good minister doesn’t get lazy; he will continue to get better at everything he does, to the point that his “progress may be evident to all” (4:15).

A good minister has his “hope set on the living God” (ESV), and so he is willing to “both labor and suffer reproach” (4:10). He won’t ever change his message just to make things easier on himself.

A good minister is motivated by the hope of his own salvation and the salvation of others. “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (4:16, ESV).

Note: All quotations from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

Quiet, Please (Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson

December 18, 2011

 

 “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, NIV). Ambition…quiet life—those don’t seem to go together, do they?  What does it mean to “make it your ambition tolead a quiet life”?  We can safely say that it does NOT mean any of the following.

 

What God Did Not Say

 

“Make it your ambition to be ‘seen by men’; do whatever it takes to get noticed.” The Pharisees were noisy that way, and Jesus didn’t like it one bit (Matthew 6:1, 5; 23:5).

 

“Make it your ambition to be obnoxious, to always be heard, to always get the last word.” That doesn’t exactly conform to the quiet life, nor does it conform to the way of love, which “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Fools talk more than the wise, because they don’t stop to think before they speak. “Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known” (Proverbs 14:33).

 

“Make it your ambition to get your own way.” That was the way of men like Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-6) and Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10), and they both made a lot of bad noise.

 

“Make it your ambition to defy authority.” You can’t stay in the principal’s office and lead a quiet life. You can’t accumulate traffic citations and lead a quiet life. In short, you can’t be a lawbreaker and lead a quiet life. Be respectful toward the authorities, and do what they tell you to do (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

 

“Make it your ambition to know as much as you can about your friends, your neighbors, and your brethren in Christ.” Here’s the full text of 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” (NKJV). You can’t cause the commotion a busybody does and still lead a quiet life (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11; 1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Peter 4:15).

 

“Make it your ambition to be a drama king or queen.” We’re all familiar with these people, right? Everything that involves them (or their children) is a big deal—if it’s good, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world; if it’s bad, it’s a crisis like nothing the world has ever seen. “All eyes on me”—that’s how they operate. Kind of hard to do that, though, if you understand what it means to deny yourself or crucify yourself (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20).

 

“Make it your ambition to be at the center of as many personal feuds as possible—with co-workers, teachers, coaches, friends, brethren, etc.” You can accomplish this by being the person who is never treated right, and whose children are never treated right either. Just be the opposite of what you’re supposed to be—self-centered, quick-tempered, and unyielding (Proverbs 14:17; Philippians 2:3; James 3:17-18). Don’t even try to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).

 

 

Quiet, Please (Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

December 25, 2011

 

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, NIV). How exactly do you lead a quiet life? We’ll use God’s word, and let Him answer that question.

 

Develop a quiet spirit—it’s the only way you can hope to lead a quiet life. A quiet spirit—it’s about more than just volume, because quite frankly, sometimes you do need to raise your voice. A quiet spirit is peaceable, submissive, meek and humble, perfectly content to give all the glory to God (1 Peter 3:3-4; 4:10-11; 5:5-6; James 3:17-18).

 

Do your duty—that’s the beauty of this quiet life; you don’t have to do anything spectacular to please God. Look at the duties described in the surrounding verses—love your brethren; mind your own business; do your work; take care of your family (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12). Not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. Don’t get so busy trying to make a big splash that you neglect your basic duties.

 

Mind your own business. Don’t “turn a blind eye” to the sins and weaknesses of others (1 Thessalonians 5:14), but don’t go looking for problems, either. Strife is opposed to quietness (Proverbs 17:1), and strife is exactly what you’ll cause if you become a busybody. Stay busy with your own business, and this likely won’t become a problem.

 

Mind your appearance—in particular avoid the appearance that screams, “ALL EYES ON ME” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Revealing clothes, tattoos for everyone to see, multiple piercings, crazy hair, long hair on men, short hair on women—these are just a few examples.

 

Do all the good you can, but “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). No need to make a big show of your good works—God knows what you do and He will reward you (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18; Hebrews 6:10).

 

Don’t complain (Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:10-11). Like the Israelites, we’ve become pretty adept complainers. The economy, the weather, our health, our brethren, the preacher, the elders, our spouses—you name it and we’ve probably complained about it (or them). Someone please explain, though, how you can regularly complain and still lead a quiet life. That’s not the kind of noise we need to be making.

 

Instead, be content (Philippians 4:11-13; Ecclesiastes 4:6), and that will require some quiet reflection, or quiet meditation. “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

 

Be respectful toward the authorities (at all levels) and do what they tell you to do (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). As was pointed out last week, you can’t be a lawbreaker and lead a quiet life.

 

If you lead, do so with humility, and with the utmost concern for those whom you lead. Follow the example of Jesus (Matthew 12:15-20), and practice His principles of leadership (Matthew 20:25-28)—especially if you’re in a position of leadership within the church. If you’re the kind of leader that always has to “shout” (Ecclesiastes 9:17), the kind that always has to be heard (Proverbs 17:27-28), you’ll make a lot of noise, but you’ll have a difficult time gaining respect.

 

Teach and practice the truth, without compromise. Or, to use the language of Scripture: “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). That’s how you keep things quiet in a local church. It’s those who teach and/or practice error who keep things stirred up; they’re the ones who “cause divisions and offenses” (Romans 16:17).

 

 

Resolutions for 2012

by Bryan Gibson

December 11, 2011


Planning to make some resolutions for 2012?  If you do, don’t just think about this life; think about the one to come (1 Timothy 4:8).  Here are some we need to carefully consider, some that were made by different Bible characters.  They provide excellent examples for us.


Joshua:
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).  You may not be able to change what everyone else is doing, but you can set the proper course for your own family.


The Israelites:
“The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey” (Joshua 24:24). According to Joshua 24:31, this particular generation of Israelites followed through with this resolution: “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua.” Resolutions aren’t worth much if we don’t keep them.


Hannah:
“If You…will give your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Sam. 1:11). Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalms 127:3), so it’s only proper that we “give them back.” It’s not showing a whole lot of gratitude to be given a child by the Lord, and then refuse to bring that child up in the ways of the Lord.


David
: “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (Psalms 119:15-16). Let’s all resolve to spend more time in His word this year than we did last year.


Isaiah:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I, send me’” (Isa. 6:8). The Lord’s kingdom needs more workers with this kind of resolve. Need someone to visit the sick? “Here am I, send me.” Need someone to teach that class? “Here am I, send me.” Need someone to teach the
lost? “Here am I, send me.”


Habakkuk:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Habakkuk resolved that the lack of material things would not keep him from rejoicing in the Lord. He understood that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15)—that we “have a better and enduring possession...in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34).


The Prodigal Son:
“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you” (Luke 15:18). We, too, need to resolve that whenever we do wrong, we will go to our Father in humility and openly confess our wrong. We will not try to hide it, or deny it, or explain it away, because we understand that one day we will have to answer for it (2 Corinthians 5:10).


Paul:
“For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Now that’s commitment!

How to Listen to a Sermon

by Bryan Gibson

December 1, 2011

 Attentively. “…the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:12). Do your best to eliminate any distractions, anything that would take your attention away from God’s word. And yes, that may mean moving closer to the front.

 Eagerly, or readily. “…they received the word with all readiness” (Acts 17:11). “…the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them…” (Acts 13:42). It’s what you need to live (Matthew 4:4), even more vital than your “necessary food” (Job 23:12). Why wouldn’t you be eager to hear it?

Not gullibly. “they…searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Preachers sometimes preach error—not always intentionally, but it does happen. Develop a love for the truth, a love that drives you to discern truth from error (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). “Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way” (Psalms 119:128).

 Reverently. “…you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God…” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). “…we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33). If what you hear is not God’s word, tell the preacher you expect better next time. There’s too much pabulum in too many pulpits; don’t let it happen where you worship.

Meekly, or humbly. “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). “…the humble He teaches His way” (Psalms 25:9). You don’t know the right way to go (Jeremiah 10:23), but the Lord does. What you hear may be different than what you presently believe and practice. If it’s the truth, it should make you tremble—at least until you’ve made the necessary changes. “…But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).

Joyfully. “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The word “gospel” means good news, so why shouldn’t it bring joy? It brings bad news first, when it convicts us of sin (John 16:8), but it then shows us the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. It won’t bring us joy, though, unless we obey what we hear. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

Thank You God

by Bryan Gibson

November 25, 2011

For the gift of Jesus, a gift best described as “indescribable” (2 Corinthians 9:15). He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)—what more can I say!

For Your grace, which is “exceedingly abundant” (1 Timothy 1:14); for Your “tender mercy” (Luke 1:78); and for Your “great patience” (Romans 9:22). For all the opportunities you’ve given me to repent (2 Timothy 2:24-26), I sure am grateful.

For the spiritual blessings I have in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3), including redemption from sin (Romans 7:24-25; Colossians 1:13-14; Luke 2:36-38); peace with You (Romans 5:1); the assurance that my prayers are heard and answered by You (John 11:41-42; Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16; 1 John 3:21-22; James 5:16); victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57); and an heir of the most wonderful inheritance I can imagine (Romans 8:16-17; Ephesians 1:11-14; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-4).

For revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 3:1-5), a message which can be clearly understood by those with humble hearts (Matthew 11:25).

For the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

For those with good and honest hearts (Luke 8:15) who welcome the gospel as Your word (1 Thessalonians 2:13), and who then obey the gospel (Romans 6:17).

For my brethren—for the grace given to them (1 Corinthians 1:4); for the gifts given to them by Your grace (1 Peter 4:10-11); for the way they better equip me to serve You (Ephesians 4:11-13); for their faith and love (Romans 1:8; 2 Corinthians 8:16; Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Philemon 1:4-5); for their fellowship in the gospel (Philippians 1:3-5); for the encouragement and comfort they give me (Acts 28:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4); for the joy they bring me (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10; Philemon 1:7); for their generosity (2 Corinthians 9:10-14; Philippians 4:10); and for all the sacrifices they make (Romans 16:3-4).

For open doors to teach others the gospel (1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12-16).

For those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4)—sent by You “for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7).

For all my trials, tribulations, etc., because they’ve made me more humble (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 12:7-10); they’ve given me greater perseverance; they’ve improved my character; and all of this together has given me greater hope (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).

For food, clothing, shelter, good health, safe travel, etc. (Matthew 6:25-33; 15:36; Acts 27:35; Romans 14:6; Philippians 4:18-19; Philemon 1:22; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; 6:8; 3 John 1:1-2), for really every good thing (Ephesians 5:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18), because “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

No Sin November

by Bryan Gibson

November 17, 2011

Lots of men are presently participating in what’s called “No Shave November.” But here’s a new campaign in which both men and women can participate—let’s call it “No Sin November.” That’s right, let’s see if we can avoid sin in November—at least what’s left of it, and then let’s see if we can extend it into the months that follow.

This campaign to avoid sin does have Scriptural precedent. “Go and sin no more”—that’s what Jesus said, both to the man whom he had healed of an infirmity, and to the woman caught in adultery (John 5:14; 8:11). “So that you may not sin”—that’s one of the reasons John wrote his first epistle” (1 John 2:1). “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4)—that’s how seriously we must take this endeavor.

What’s sad, though, is that for at least some people, this effort has no chance to even get off the ground. Some, because their heart is so far from the Lord, “cannot cease from sin” (2 Peter 2:14). Many have become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13); they’ve become so “accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23) that they are “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19)—their once tender conscience has now been “seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). The only thing that can save them is a heart transplant—a “new heart” (Ezekiel 18:31), a heart that says “show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths” (Psalms 25:4), a heart whose “aim” is to be “well pleasing to Him” in all things (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

With that kind of heart in place, let’s get started with “No Sin November.” Here’s our seven step plan of action: 1) Remove stumbling blocks—anything that might cause us to sin (Matthew 18:8-9). 2) Pray diligently (Matthew 6:13; 26:41). 3) Guard our minds, because what goes in will come out, in some form or another (Proverbs 4:23). 4) Choose our friends carefully, because they can lead us astray (Proverbs 12:26). 5) Keep our anger in check, because many sins are committed in the heat of anger (Ephesians 4:26-27). 6) Flee, or run away from temptation and sin—just like Joseph did (Genesis 39:7-12), and just like we’re taught to do in God’s word (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Proverbs 22:3). 7) Study God’s word diligently, because it gives us the strength to overcome temptation and sin (Psalms 119:9-11).

Okay, don’t want to discourage anyone, but here’s the reality. We will fail, at least at some point (1 John 1:8, 10). We may not even make it through the rest of November without sinning. And the sin we commit may not even be what we’ve done, but what we’ve left undone. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Let’s make sure, though, that when we do fail, it’s not for lack of effort. It’s those who hate sin, who diligently strive to avoid it, who will come back to the Lord with a “broken and a contrite heart” (Psalms 51:17). One who has this kind of heart will acknowledge his sin, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and once again determine to “sin no more” (John 5:14; 8:11). 

Who’s in?

Learn From Others’ Mistakes

by Bryan Gibson

November 11, 2011

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Here’s hoping we learn something from Bible history—that we don’t make the same mistakes these people did.

Learn from Adam and Eve, to never blame anyone else for your sins (Genesis 3:12-13).

Learn from King Saul, that envy will eat you alive (1 Samuel 18:5-9).

Learn from King Ahab, to not surround yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear (1 Kings 22:1-8).

Learn from Lot, to be careful where you “pitch your tent” (Genesis 13:12-13; 19:1-38).

Learn from Korah and his cohorts, to not rebel against authority (Numbers 16:1-35).

Learn from the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, to not give yourself over to sexual immorality (Genesis 19:1-11; Jude 1:7).

Learn from Eli, that the results can be disastrous if you don’t restrain your children (1 Samuel 3:13).

Learn from King Herod, to not enter into an unlawful marriage (Mark 6:18).

Learn from King David, that it would be wise to be like Job and make a covenant with your eyes (2 Samuel 11:1-5; Job 31:1).

Learn from Demas, to not love the world or the things in the world (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17).

Learn from the rulers of the synagogue, that you should not give in to peer pressure (John 12:42-43).

Learn from Nadab and Ahihu, to not act without authority when it comes to religious matters (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Learn from Naaman, to never try to come up with a better plan than the one God has given (2 Kings 5:9-12).

Learn from David and his fellow-Israelites, that God is not pleased when we fail to consult Him about the proper order (1 Chronicles 15:13).

Learn from Diotrephes, that only One has preeminence, and it’s not you (3 John 1:9-10; Colossians 1:18).

Learn from the Christians in Laodicea, that lukewarmness is disgusting to God (Revelation 3:14-22).

Learn from Balaam and from Achan, to not let greed get the best of you (Numbers 22-24; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 1:11; Joshua 7:10-26).

Learn from Jacob, to not show partiality among your children (Genesis 37:3-4).

Learn from Ananias and Sapphira, that a lie cannot be hidden from God (Acts 5:1-11).

Learn from King Nebuchadnezzar, to give God the glory and not yourself (Daniel 4:28-33).

Learn from Jephthah, to not make a rash vow or promise (Judges 11:29-40).

Learn from Felix, to not wait for a convenient time to obey the gospel (Acts 24:24-27).

Know any others we can add to the list?

Hebrews 11: A Postscript

by Bryan Gibson

June 29, 2011

Hebrews 11 has often been called the roll call of faith—it details what a number of Old Testament characters accomplished by faith. Let’s put a little postscript on the end of that chapter to include some New Testament characters.

By faith Crispus obeyed the gospel of Christ, despite the fact that it cost him his job (Acts 18:8).

By faith the Ethiopian eunuch insisted that he be baptized immediately (Acts 8:35-39).

By faith the Christians in Ephesus made a clean break from the past, when they burned the books they had used in their sinful practices, the value of which was 50,000 pieces of silver (Acts 19:18-20).

By faith many of the Corinthians also repented, when they turned to the Lord and stopped practicing such things as fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

By faith, Eunice, without the help of a believing husband, raised her child in the training and admonition of the Lord (Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; 3:14-15).

By faith, Priscilla, working side by side with her believing husband, did much to promote the kingdom of God (Acts 18:2-3, 18, 24-26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19).

By faith Peter and John withstood threats against them and continued to boldly preach the gospel of Christ (Acts 4:13-22).

By faith Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God—in prison, with their feet in stocks, and still suffering from the beating they received earlier in the day (Acts 16:22-25).

By faith Barnabas sold his land, not to benefit himself, but to meet the urgent needs of others (Acts 4:32-37).

By faith Dorcas did many good works, especially for widows (Acts 9:36-39).

By faith Gaius showed hospitality to those who preached, and in so doing became a fellow-worker for the truth (3 John 1:5-8).

By faith, Philemon, a member of the church at Colosse, showed love for all the saints, and in so doing brought joy and consolation to the hearts of many (Philemon 1:4-7).

By faith a few in the church at Sardis continued to faithfully serve the Lord, even when most in the congregation did not (Revelation 3:1-6).

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

“And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Reasons I Don’t Drink

by Bryan Gibson

June 23, 2011

I don’t want to become an alcoholic (drunkard), because I know what happens to them—in this life (e.g., Noah in Genesis 9:20-24; and Lot in Genesis 19:30-38), and the next (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Completely abstain from alcohol—that’s the best way to make sure I never become one.

I love my wife and children, so I don’t want them to develop a drinking problem either. My drinking could put a stumbling block in front of them (and potentially others), and that’s enough right there to cause me to lose my soul (Matthew 18:6-7; Romans 14:13). Keep my family safe and provide the best spiritual environment possible—these are my duties as a husband and father, and drinking doesn’t seem to be compatible with either one. Again, it’s my conviction that the best course is to completely abstain.

Drinking problem or not, alcohol can still harm me mentally and physically. I know that from medical studies, from my observations of others, and from my study of the Scriptures (Leviticus 10:8-11; Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; 31:4-5; Isaiah 28:7-8). Just thinking about the mental effects alone—doesn’t that explain the warnings about drinking and driving? And doesn’t it also explain why companies don’t want their employees to drink at all during working hours?

Speaking of drinking and driving, that’s something I would just as soon completely avoid. “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10), so obviously I don’t want to put him in harm’s way on the highway. It scares me to think about killing someone because I was too impaired to think clearly or react properly. It would land me in jail, but the mental anguish might just be the worst part. But I don’t intend to let this happen, because I don’t intend to drink.

I worry, too, about alcohol’s effect on my ability to resist temptation. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). It doesn’t take much alcohol to lower my powers of resistance, and I don’t want to give the devil even the slightest advantage. I want all my defenses in place, so clearly the best course for my soul is to completely abstain.

And finally, I have to consider the way drinking could hurt my influence on others. Because I want to save as many people as possible, it’s very important that I preserve my influence for good (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Could I drink and still be that same “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”? (Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 2:14-16). For example, if you readers saw me drinking, or knew that I drank, would you take these articles as seriously? That’s what I thought.

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’” (Proverbs 23:29-35).

Tornado Terror

by Bryan Gibson

June 23, 2011

It’s been one of the deadliest tornado seasons on record. No need to rehash the details here, because if you’ve been following the news, and especially if you live in one of the affected areas, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t presume to know God’s precise role in these events, but I do know what He wants you to learn from them.

Life is fragile, uncertain, and all too brief. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). And it may vanish a lot sooner than you think, because that tornado that missed you this time may kill you the next. Don’t take tomorrow for granted, for it may never come. Prepare today to meet the Lord in judgment (Luke 12:20), and if you know someone else who’s not prepared, help them get ready too.

Sin messed up everything. Death and destruction, whether from tornadoes or any other cause, didn’t even exist in the beginning, not until Adam and Eve sinned, were driven from the garden and denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:17-24; Romans 8:20-22).

Rest your hope, then, on the one place where there is no sin. Those horrible scenes of devastation should make you long for a place where nothing but “righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), a place therefore free of death and destruction (Revelation 21:4), a place where you can once again eat freely from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7; 22:1-2, 14).

Trust in God, not in yourself. Hard to feel more powerless than when a powerful tornado is bearing down on your house, and then if you do survive, to go outside and see everything that man has built reduced to rubble. “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). No doubt many have leaned on Him more in recent days than they have in a long time.

Cling to the things that endure. Many lost everything they own, things they spent a lifetime accumulating. Calamity has taught us again that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15), but instead in a relationship of faithfulness to the Lord, a foundation that cannot be swept away by any storm. “Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

Repent, or perish! The folks who perished in these tornadoes—there’s no reason to believe they were any worse sinners than those who survived (Luke 13:1-5). But once they did perish, their eternal fate was sealed. They will either receive eternal life or eternal death. Now, suppose you had perished in one of these tornadoes. Would you have perished eternally? Would you have been ready to meet the Lord? If you have not repented of your sins, then the answer is NO!

Keys to a Successful Marriage

From a Renowned Marriage Counselor

June 23, 2011

Who is our renowned marriage counselor? The very one who instituted the marriage relationship—God. Let’s look at His formula for success.

Leave father and mother and cleave to your spouse (Genesis 2:18-24). Don’t go running back to your parents every time there is a problem. Work it out between you two.

Cleave to each other “until death do us part” (Matthew 19:3-12; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Malachi 2:13-16). Divorce is sinful unless it is for the cause of fornication (sexual immorality). So, unless fornication has occurred, don’t even think about getting a divorce. Dismiss divorce as an option, and you’re much more likely to work out your problems. Remember what you “vowed” to do—with God as your witness!

Husbands, nourish and cherish your wife; love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-29, 33). Supply ALL her needs, just as Christ supplies all the needs of the church (Philippians 4:19). Don’t let headship go to your head. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28). Follow His example—don’t put more on your wife than she can bear.

Wives, love your husband (Titus 2:4-5; Proverbs 31:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7); respect him (Ephesians 5:33) and obey him (Titus 2:4-5; Ephesians 5:22-24). Remember, love is a verb (an action word). It’s not just a feeling; it’s what you do—even if you get very little in return.

Look out for each other’s needs and interests as well as your own (Philippians 2:3-5). Don’t just think about what you can get out of marriage; think about what you can put into it. Constantly ask the question, “what more can I do for my spouse?”

Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26-27). If you get mad, don’t stay mad. Get it resolved before too much damage is done. Replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Don’t ever try to “get back” at your spouse (Romans 12:17-21). If your spouse wrongs you in some way, do not wrong them in return. That’s not the answer. The above passage is clear: “overcome evil with good.”

Don’t lie to one another, or deceive one another in any way (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 31:11). If you do, make sure you heed the next point.

Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16, read Matthew 5:23-24, and replace “brother” with “spouse”). If you’re too proud to admit your faults, then you’re too proud—period!

When your spouse apologizes, be sure to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22, 35, again replacing “brother” with “spouse”). Don’t treat some offenses as unforgivable. We would all be in trouble if the Lord did that.

Praise, compliment, and encourage each other (Proverbs 31:28-31). Husbands, don’t say, “She knows how I feel. I don’t have to say anything.” Go ahead and say it. Tell her how you feel. Tell her what you appreciate about her.

Your bodies belong to each other, so satisfy each other’s desires, so that neither one is tempted to look elsewhere (1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Proverbs 5:15-20). Keep this in mind, though—adultery is never justified—even if your spouse deprives you.

Do not flirt with someone other than your spouse (1 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 13:14; Proverbs 7:21-27). Recognize tempting or compromising situations, and stay as far away from them as possible. You may not plan to have an affair, but get careless, and it may happen sooner than you think. Develop the same conviction Joseph had: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

Learn to be content (Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Matthew 6:31-33). “Count your many blessings; name them one by one…and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” You may have more than you realize, especially if you count the things that matter most. “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

Good News for the Lukewarm

(Revelation 3:14-21)

by Bryan Gibson

June 23, 2011

That’s right—the Lord actually has some good news for you, but first the bad news. You may have your brethren fooled; they may even consider you faithful. But to Christ, who knows everything about you, you’re disgusting and repulsive. “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth’” (Revelation 3:14-16).

“But that’s not me,” you say, “because I’m not lukewarm.” Be careful, because the Christians in Laodicea didn’t think so either—until the Lord set them straight. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:17-18).

Now that’s a tongue lashing, but remember—it’s from the Lord, and He says it because He loves you. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Did you hear that? Mercifully, Christ is giving you another chance, another chance to repent. You may be disgusting and repulsive to Him now, but turn your lukewarmness into zeal, your laziness into diligence, your half-heartedness to whole-heartedness, and He’ll welcome you back with open arms. It’s time you did more than just talk religion; it’s time you actually practiced it, and not just occasionally, but daily.

And that leads us to the good news you’ve been waiting to hear—what Christ will do for you—if you repent. The same One who earlier said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth,” now says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). The same One who earlier called you “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,” now says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).

What a difference repentance—your repentance—can make. Here’s hoping you get some good news today—that you’ve been restored to fellowship with the Lord, and that you can look forward to being exalted with Him in heaven.

“Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).

Unbridled Speech

by Bryan Gibson

June 23, 2011

Think about the purpose of a horse’s bridle, and then read this passage: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless” (James 1:26). Not sure you’re guilty? Here are some examples of unbridled speech, right here in the Epistle of James.

Claiming faith when your life says otherwise. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). Some folks say all the right things; they just don’t practice them. They “believe” in Jesus; they’ve just got a funny way of showing it, or to be more precise, not showing it. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers [or talkers] only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Speech that reveals partiality or respect of persons. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8), whether your neighbor looks like you or not. Surely we know better than to judge according to the flesh, but if for some reason we don’t, here’s what the Lord says, through James: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ…with partiality” (James 2:1). “…but if you show partiality, you commit sin…” (James 2:8-9). “So speak and so do as those who will judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:12-13).

Teaching that’s done merely to impress others. “Let not many of you become teachers” (James 3:1), especially “if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts” (James 3:14). If these are the things that motivate you, “do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14), which is just another way of saying, “keep your mouth shut.” Leave the teaching to the “wise and understanding among you,” those whose conduct and speech demonstrate the “meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Praying for personal advantage. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). That’s a far cry from the prayer of our Savior, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 24:42). The Lord’s will, not my personal gain or pleasure—that’s what prayer is all about.

Speaking evil of brethren. “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law…” (James 4:11). Correct and rebuke brethren we must (James 5:19-20), but this goes way beyond that, to the point of contempt for our brethren.

Boasting of great plans, with no mention of God. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, SLOW TO SPEAK, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). If you’re serious about bridling your tongue, that’s a good start.

“Wouldn’t Be Prudent”

by Bryan Gibson

May 12, 2011

Prudent: 1) “…exercising sound judgment in practical matters…cautious or discreet in conduct; circumspect; not rash…” (Webster’s New World Dictionary); 2) “using good judgment to consider consequences and to act accordingly” (Encarta Online Dictionary). Synonyms: careful, cautious, discreet, wise, farsighted. Antonyms (opposites): reckless, foolish, simple, shortsighted.

I never thought much about prudence until it became sort of a buzz word under President George H. W. Bush’s administration. “Not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent”—you may recall comedians using that line when they impersonated President Bush.

God talked about prudence, though, a long time before President Bush did, and it’s what He says that really piques my interest. Using His word, let’s look at some things it wouldn’t be prudent for me to do.

Wouldn’t be prudent to lose my cool, pop off, or fly off the handle, even when folks insult me. “Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore an insult” (Proverbs 12:16, NRSV).

Wouldn’t be prudent to just talk all the time. “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (Proverbs 12:23). Wouldn’t be prudent, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the increased likelihood of sin. “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

Wouldn’t be prudent, especially in religious matters, to believe everything I hear—to direct my steps by what I think may be right, although I haven’t really checked to make sure. “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps” (Proverbs 14:15). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits…” (1 John 4:1). What would be prudent is to make certain that what I teach and practice is the truth. “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit” (Proverbs 14:8). “Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

Wouldn’t be prudent to close my ears to rebuke and correction, because I’ll just keeping making the same mistakes over and over again. “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent” (Proverbs 15:5). “He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (Proverbs 15:32).

Wouldn’t be prudent to ignore spiritual red flags—places, people, situations that might endanger my soul. “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).

Wouldn’t be prudent for me to take prudence too far, to be so careful that I never get anything done. “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

Here’s Your Warning

by Bryan Gibson

May 5, 2011

There are warnings, and then there are divine warnings (Matthew 2:12; Hebrews 11:7). See if any of these apply to you.

If you do a lot of good; help a lot of people, but only do it to impress others, here’s your divine warning: “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

If you love the praise of men more than the praise of God, here’s your divine warning: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

If you blindly follow everything you hear from religious teachers, here’s your divine warning: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

If you’re doing, saying, maybe even wearing something that causes others to sin, here’s your divine warning: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

If you somehow think that sincerity it all that matters, that it doesn’t matter what you believe, here’s your divine warning: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 1:9). And another: “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

If you’ve become overconfident in your ability to handle temptation, here’s your divine warning: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

If you’ve decided that you just can’t be content with the things you’ve got now, here’s your divine warning: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). And another: “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

If you’ve become too harsh and overbearing with your children, here’s your divine warning: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).

If you’ve become the church malcontent, the one who constantly grumbles against his brethren, here’s your divine warning: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9).

If you believe like so many that you cannot fall from grace, here’s your divine warning: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). And another: “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

Paul’s Voyage To Rome

by Bryan Gibson

May 5, 2011

“I appeal to Caesar”—when Paul said these words to Festus (Acts 25:11), it enabled him to do something he had wanted to do for many years (Romans 15:23), and that was to preach the gospel in Rome (Romans 1:8-15). Despite his status as a prisoner, Paul did “bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11; 28:16, 30-31), but he also had some things to say on the way to Rome, on that long and stormy voyage described in Acts 27-28. And here’s how he spoke—by the things his shipmates observed in him.

They saw a man who gained the favor of the centurion. Julius allowed Paul to go to his friends in Sidon and receive care (Acts 27:1-3); he saved Paul’s life when he kept the soldiers from killing the prisoners (Acts 27:42-44); and he gave Paul unusual liberties when they arrived in Rome (Acts 28:16, 30-31). The Lord used this centurion to make sure Paul got the opportunity to “bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11), to make sure that all this “turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).

They saw a man who was not ashamed of his identity, someone who was not ashamed to confess God’s name. “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve…” (Acts 27:23). Doesn’t sound like much, until you contrast this with our own behavior—how we sometimes might disguise our identity, for fear of what others might think or say or do. Don’t ever be ashamed to say you’re a Christian—it might just get others interested in becoming one, too.

They saw a man who had faith in God. When the storm became so severe that all hope was lost (Acts 27:20), the Lord spoke to Paul and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Paul relayed this message to the others and then offered this assurance: “Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:25). That’s the kind of faith we all need.

They saw a man who prayed to God. “And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all…then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves” (Acts 27:35-36). We don’t pray to been seen (Matthew 6:5), but there’s nothing wrong with being seen praying.

They saw a man who had family everywhere, referring of course to his family in the Lord. On this journey alone, Paul was greeted by brethren from Sidon, from Puteoli, and from Rome. Surely it impressed others to see the care they gave Paul (Acts 27:3), the hospitality they showed him (Acts 28:13-14), and the distance they traveled to offer him encouragement (Acts 28:15). And surely it impressed them to see how much this meant to Paul. “When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15). Folks outside this family would have to be impressed.

“Strictly Enforced”

by Bryan Gibson

May 5, 2011

When a law or rule is strictly enforced, like a speed limit or a dress code, it means at least two things—unless it’s posted merely for effect. 1) The authorities will be watching closely; 2) They will punish us if they see us doing something wrong. But here’s the thing about man-made rules and laws—they’re not all strictly enforced. We’ve got to obey them (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1), regardless, but the fact is, when it comes to man’s laws, some are more strictly enforced than others.

That’s not the case with God’s law—not at all. Every single commandment is strictly enforced, so we dare not take any of them lightly. Jesus said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19). We can’t obey some commandments, even the “weightier” ones, and leave “the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, “Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you” (Acts 3:22). To all His apostles, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). Epaphras prayed that his brethren would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

Remember, “strictly enforced” means two things, so let’s apply them to God’s law. First, does God watch us closely? You better believe it. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). All things are naked—even our minds and hearts. Jesus said, “I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23). No transgression, no act of disobedience, ever escapes His attention.

And then the second one—does God punish disobedience? To the Scriptures we go. “But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth…indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish…” (Romans 2:8-9). “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:2-4).

So our salvation is entirely dependent on our obedience—is that what we’re saying? Not at all. None of us will be perfectly obedient to the law of Christ, the law that we’re all under today (1 Corinthians 9:21). We will have to seek forgiveness time and time again (1 John 1:8-2:2). But that doesn’t mean that we can be casual about obedience. Every commandment of Christ is important, and every commandment is strictly enforced. Treat them as such, and we’ll never have any problem repenting of sin and seeking forgiveness, and we’ll receive the reward He has promised to “those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Money Talks

by Bryan Gibson

April 14, 2011

It sure does, and this time it has some heavenly wisdom to impart. Listen carefully, because it may be speaking to you.

I’m not evil, as some suppose. To the contrary, I can actually be quite useful. Use me properly, and you’ll enjoy this life more (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19; 1 Timothy 6:17), make this life better for others (1 Timothy 6:18), advance the cause of the gospel (Philippians 1:5; 4:14-16), and in so doing better prepare yourself and others for the life to come (1 Timothy 6:19). So work hard to obtain me (Ephesians 4:28); be wise with your investments (Matthew 25:26-27); and put some of me aside (2 Corinthians 12:14)—for the needs of others, for the Lord’s work, and for the future needs of you and your family.

Understand, though, that I do have limitations. I don’t last (Psalms 49:10-11; Proverbs 23:4-5), so I’m a poor substitute for the things that do—things the Bible calls “enduring riches” (Proverbs 8:18), or “true riches” (Luke 16:11). You can have a lot of me, but still have “nothing” (Proverbs 13:7)—if you’re not “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21), if you don’t have the things that matter most, things like a good name and loving favor (Proverbs 22:1); a generous heart (Proverbs 11:24-25); a peaceful, godly home (Proverbs 15:16-17); righteousness and integrity, and all the other qualities that characterize a “man of God” (Proverbs 16:8; 19:1; 28:6; 1 Timothy 6:11). If you have these things—the things I can’t buy—you are rich, no matter what your bank statement says (Proverbs 13:7; James 2:5; Revelation 2:9).

So use me, but don’t fall in love with me or put your trust in me (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Mark 10:24; Psalms 49:7-9; 52:7). I’m a pretty good servant, but I make a lousy master. Here’s what typically happens to those who get greedy for me, or who “overwork” (Proverbs 23:4-5) to get more and more of me. The word of God can’t produce fruit in them, because it’s been choked by this pursuit (Matthew 13:21-22); they forget God, the very source of everything they have (Deuteronomy 8:11-18; Proverbs 30:9); I become their security blanket, or “strong city” (Proverbs 10:15; 18:11); they do just about anything to get me, no matter how sinful or illegal (Proverbs 13:11; 20:17; 22:16; 28:8); they become increasingly ungrateful (Proverbs 27:7); they neglect the needs of those around them, including their family (Proverbs 14:31; Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 16:19-31; James 5:1-6); their anxiety (and maybe their blood pressure with it) increases (Ecclesiastes 5:12); and a whole bunch of other bad things (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Put your trust in me, and I’m warning you, it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for you to go to heaven (Mark 10:24-25).

So please, make God your master, and me your servant (Matthew 6:24). Use me to serve Him; that way, you’ll always have a place you can call home (Luke 16:9).

The 5 Best Decisions I/We Ever Made

by Bryan Gibson

April 14, 2011

I’ve made some poor decisions in my life, some that I deeply regret. But, with God’s help, and later my wife’s help, I’ve made a few good ones too, and these are the five best.

#1  I decided to become a Christian. “O Happy Day”—that’s what we sang the night I was baptized into Christ almost 37 years ago (Galatians 3:27), and I’m even happier today than I was then. There’s no better place to be than “in Christ,” where “every spiritual blessing” is found (Ephesians 1:3), not the least of which is the hope of eternal life (2 Timothy 1:10). I have experienced the truth taught in Proverbs 4:18, that “the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” In other words, the experience of being a Christian just gets better and better every day.

#2  I decided to preach the gospel full time. That was about 28 years ago, and I still remember how I felt at the time: “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I had reached the point where I felt like this was what I had to do, that the Lord had given me sufficient ability to preach the gospel, and that I needed to use this ability to His glory (Matthew 24:14-30; 1 Peter 4:10-11). It’s a big responsibility, and it’s hard work—if you do it right, but it’s also the most rewarding work in the world—not financially, of course, but in all the ways that matter most.

#3  I decided to marry a faithful Christian. I popped the question 27 years ago, and as excited as I was then, I feel even better about that decision today. “Marry someone stronger than you”—that’s what I heard, and that’s exactly what I did. If evil companions corrupt (1 Corinthians 15:33), then good companions purify (Proverbs 13:20), and that’s what she’s done for me. She’s made me very happy, but more importantly, she’s made me better. She’s helped get me ready for heaven, and a man can’t ask for more than that.

#4  We decided to have children. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalms 127:3). We knew what that passage said—before we had children; now we know what it means. We rejoiced and gave thanks when each of our four children was born (John 16:21), and that joy and gratitude has only increased through the years.

#5  We decided to raise our children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we did at least set very clear goals for our children. We wanted them to become faithful Christians, marry faithful Christians, and raise faithful Christians themselves. And so we prayed for them; we set the best example we could; we taught them the Scriptures; we took them regularly to church services; we taught them reverence in worship; we put them in the company of faithful Christians, as often as we could; we firmly used the rod of correction; we praised them when they did right; we protected their minds and hearts from the filth of the world, as best we could; and a number of other things that we learned from the Lord. His plan is best; we just need to do a better job of executing it.

An “Interview” with Timothy

by Bryan Gibson

April 8, 2011

This article follows the format of previous articles, where we conducted “interviews” with Peter and Paul. Obviously, we can’t do a live interview with Timothy, so for answers we turn to everything revealed about Timothy—his preaching journeys with Paul, recorded in the Book of Acts; the scattered references to him in the New Testament letters; and the two New Testament letters addressed specifically to him.

Question: Tell us about your early years—your family situation, your upbringing.

Answer: My father was Greek, my mother Jewish. But that’s not even the biggest difference between them—my mother became a Christian, my father did not (Acts 16:1). Spiritually speaking, both my mother, Eunice, and my grandmother, Lois, had a big influence on me. They demonstrated before me a genuine faith, and they saw to it that I knew the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:14-15; 1:5).

Question: You spent the better part of two preaching journeys with Paul. How would you describe your relationship with him?

Answer: Well, here are the various ways he described me: “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17); “as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:22); “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2); “a beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). He was my spiritual father, in the sense that he brought me to life through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15), but we were still brothers in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). I carefully followed both his example and his teaching (2 Timothy 3:10-11), but I was not a disciple of Paul. I was a bondservant of Jesus Christ, who sought the things of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1; 2:21). Together, we were fellow-workers for Jesus Christ (Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 16:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). As you said, we did spend a lot of time together, but when we were apart, one thing I knew for certain was that he was praying for me night and day (2 Timothy 1:3).

Question: Before you accompanied Paul on his preaching journeys, he took you and circumcised you (Acts 16:3). Doesn’t that conflict with what Paul taught elsewhere concerning circumcision?

Answer: Not at all. If my case had been like that of Titus, where others tried to compel me to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3-5), then Paul would have stood his ground. What we did was in no way designed to bind circumcision on others; we just felt like it would make it easier to preach the gospel, especially among the Jews who knew my background (Acts 16:3). We understood that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything” (Galatians 5:6), but it was going to take some time to convince others.

Question: Did you have any idea what you were getting into, when you decided to travel with Paul and preach the gospel?

Answer: In some measure, yes. I knew all about the persecutions and afflictions Paul faced when he first came to the area where I grew up, specifically in Lystra and Iconium (2 Timothy 3:10-11; Acts 14:1-20). I would have preferred to preach the gospel under more peaceful conditions (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but what I endured as a Christian, and as a gospel preacher—it did strengthen my character (Philippians 2:22), and for that, I’m very thankful.

Question: Tell us about these different churches that you and your companions planted and then revisited during those preaching journeys.

Answer: The main thing you need to know is that we taught the same thing in every local church—whether it was Philippi, or Thessalonica, or Corinth, or Ephesus. That’s the confidence Paul expressed in me, when he sometimes sent me back to visit these churches—that I would teach the very same things he had taught, the things given to him by the Lord. For example, here’s what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Woe to any man who teaches anything different today.

Question: Help us better understand the work of an evangelist. Perhaps you can summarize what Paul wrote to you in those two epistles.

Answer: Preach the word, to the lost and to your brethren—that’s the key admonition (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:6). It’s easy to venture off into other things that don’t profit, so hold fast to the word (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 4:7; 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:16-18; 2:23). You won’t find a more profitable source than the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Be varied in the way you present the word—instruct, command, charge, convince, rebuke, and exhort (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:6, 11; 5:7; 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:2). Your fellow-Christians are your family in the Lord—treat them accordingly (1 Timothy 5:1-2). You can’t do all the teaching yourself, so teach others to become teachers (2 Timothy 2:2). Pray for all men, because God is interested in all of them (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Practice what you preach (1 Timothy 4:12, 16). Much more could be said, so be sure to read the two epistles to me in their entirety, along with the epistle to my fellow evangelist, Titus.

Question: And what qualities does an evangelist need to be effective in this work?

Answer: Possess both a genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:5), and a genuine love—a love for God and the souls of others (Philippians 2:20; 1 Timothy 1:5), and a love completely free of prejudice or partiality (1 Timothy 5:21). Must be studious, because to effectively preach God’s word (2 Timothy 4:2), he’s got to spend a lot of time reading it and meditating on it (1 Timothy 4:6, 13, 15; 2 Timothy 2:15). He’s got to be cautious in his approach to God’s word, because he doesn’t want to stray from the truth, on any point (1 Timothy 4:6; 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:14-18). And he has the courage to stand for that truth, no matter what the cost may be (2 Timothy 1:7-8). He is “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1), so he endures or perseveres to the end (2 Timothy 2:3, 10, 12; 3:11; 4:5). He is humble and gentle (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:24-25), but not afraid to correct and rebuke (1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 2:25; 4:2). He’s got business to attend to in this life, but eternal life and what it takes to obtain it—that’s his real focus (2 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 6:6-12). He takes just as much heed to his life as he does his preaching (1 Timothy 4:16), and so he maintains his purity—both in heart and in life (1 Timothy 5:2; 2 Timothy 2:22). His example is a sermon in itself (1 Timothy 4:12).

 

Send ME

by Bryan Gibson

April 8, 2011

The Lord needed someone to go preach to His people. When the Lord asked, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

We could stand a few more folks like Isaiah today, folks who make themselves available to do whatever the Lord needs done. For some, it’s always “send him,” or “send her.” We need more folks willing to say, “send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to take the gospel to this community, and beyond (Acts 8:4)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to invite others to come hear the gospel (Acts 10:24)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone who can give more liberally (2 Corinthians 9:6), so that more people can be taught the gospel? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to teach that class (Hebrews 5:12-14; 2 Timothy 2:2)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to restore that erring brother (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to commend the faithful, to maybe keep them from growing “weary” (Galatians 6:9)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to teach and encourage the young people (Titus 2:3-8), who face some pretty difficult temptations (2 Timothy 2:22)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to go and encourage Christians in other places (Philippians 2:19-24; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to visit the sick (Matthew 25:36, 39-40)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to give “pleasant words” (Proverbs 16:24) to the discouraged? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to comfort the grieving, to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to pay closer attention to the elderly, and to others who may have special needs (Acts 9:36-39; James 1:27). “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to provide financial assistance to those who have fallen on hard times (Ephesians 4:28; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 6:18)? “Here am I, send ME.”

Lord, do you need someone to forward this article to others? “Here am I, send ME.”

What’s In a Name?

by Bryan Gibson

March 10, 2011

Everything, especially when it comes to the names God uses to describe me. He uses these names to teach me different things about myself—about my privileges and my responsibilities, about my relation to Him and my relation to others, about my character and my life. Here are some names He calls me, and a few things I’ve learned from each one.

I am a Christian (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), which means that I belong to Christ, or that I live in Christ (think about the suffix “ian”). My job then is to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21), to “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6), “to be conformed” to His image (Romans 8:29). When in Christ, do as Christ does.

I am a disciple of Christ (Acts 6:7; 9:1, 19, and many others), which makes me both His student (Matthew 11:28-30; 28:19-20; John 8:31-32) and His devoted follower (Luke 14:25-33). This name challenges me to study more, and to adhere more carefully to what my Teacher says.

I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1, 15, 18, and many others), a name that reminds me that I’ve been sanctified or set apart from the world (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), a name that calls me to a life of holiness (Ephesians 5:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:13-16).

I am a believer (2 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:2), and so I can say with Paul, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Because I believe in the Lord, I will speak for Him (2 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Peter 3:15), and I will live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; James 2:14-26).

I am a servant or slave of God, which means that I’m obligated to obey my Master (Romans 6:15-23). My Master owns me, because He paid for me, with the precious blood of His Son (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:17-19). My complete loyalty belongs to Him, because it’s really impossible to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Because I am a servant of God, I am also a servant of others, and so I must follow the example of Jesus (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:5-11) and look out, not only for my own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4). This is the very thing that will make me great, at least in the eyes of God—“whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

I am a child of God, a wonderful blessing indeed (1 John 3:1), because for one, it puts me in line for a wonderful inheritance (Romans 8:16-17). But it’s also a great responsibility, because a child should bear some likeness to his Father, and will do his best to honor and obey Him (1 Peter 1:13-14; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 John 3:9-10).

I am a brother in Christ (Romans 14:10, 13, 15, 21; Philippians 1:14; Colossians 1:2), which means, of course, that I have other brethren, and that together we belong to the family or household of God (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). There’s only one way to treat brothers, and that’s to show them brotherly love (Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; Hebrews 13:1; Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 1 John 3:16-18).

I am a member of Christ’s body (Romans 12:3-8), an obvious analogy to the human body, where Jesus is the Head (Colossians 1:18), and individual Christians the different body parts (1 Corinthians 12:27). I’m no more essential than the other members—the other body parts, because it takes us all working together to keep the body healthy and growing (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:11-16).

I am a soldier in the Lord’s army (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2), so I must be willing to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3), and I must be willing to fight—for the faith, and against sin and Satan (Jude 1:3; 1 Peter 5:8; Timothy 1:18; 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6). The Lord provides all the armor and weaponry I need (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Like every other Christian, I am a priest in the temple of God (Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10; 20:6; Ephesians 2:21), with complete access to the throne of God, through my High Priest and Mediator, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22). My primary function, in this spiritual temple, is to offer spiritual sacrifices (Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 2:5; Philippians 4:18; Romans 12:1-2).

I am one of the elect, or chosen of God (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:10), because I am in Christ, and He has “chosen us in Him” (Ephesians 1:4). The fact that I’m among His elect doesn’t guarantee that I’ll always be—“be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). God’s chosen people, just like His chosen people in the Old Testament, have an important mission to fulfill—to glorify Him (1 Peter 2:9), and the best way to do that is to model His character before the people of this world (Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 3:12-14).

On this earth, I’m just a sojourner, a stranger, a pilgrim (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). Wouldn’t it be foolish, then, for me to get caught up in the lusts of this world? (1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 John 2:15-17). I’m not home, not yet, and I won’t be—until I’m with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

Hasty Generalization (Part 1)

by Dave Brown

February 25, 2011

Hasty generalization is the logical fallacy that occurs when a person draws a general conclusion based on insufficient evidence. It is one of the most common errors in reasoning within our society, often creating a false sense of reality. Worse yet, when we bring this habit of thinking into our interpretation of scripture, it leads to the acceptance of many false doctrines. It is usually the result of basing a conclusion on just one or a few passages, and ignoring the balance of what the scriptures teach.

Let us consider some well-accepted doctrines that have come from this logical flaw. Most of the doctrines of Calvinism were obtained through the process of hasty generalization. Let us review them, recalling the TULIP acronym:

·       Total Depravity. The bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Nowhere does the bible teach the generalization of this fact into the doctrine that individuals are totally incapable of choosing to obey God under any circumstances.

·       Unconditional Election (universal predestination). The bible clearly teaches that certain things have been predestined from before the worlds were made (Rom. 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11), e.g., that there would be a group of individuals that would be saved. But to extrapolate this to mean that all things (or even all the saved) are predestined is not taught in scriptures. Further, it defies the assignment of personal responsibility to individuals for their own sins, which is something that we see from the time of Adam (Gen. 3:17) through every book in the bible, to the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:10-15).

·       Limited Atonement. The bible clearly teaches that those who do not avail themselves of the blood of Christ will be lost (Jn. 14:6); but nothing in the bible supports the generalization of this to infer that salvation cannot apply to all men everywhere who subject themselves to the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Rom. 5:18; 1 Tim. 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:11). The limit is with us, not God.

·       Irresistible Grace. The bible clearly teaches that, in some sense, God has given the Holy Spirit to those who are saved (Acts 5:32; 1 Jn. 3:24). In no passage is it indicated that the influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. On the contrary, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19) necessarily implies that the Christian can resist the influence of the Spirit.

·       Preservation of the Saved. The bible clearly teaches that no outside force can take salvation from us (Rom. 8:37-39). It does not say that those saved cannot fall away through their own neglect (e.g., 2 Thes. 2:3; Gal. 5:4), and the continued warnings throughout the New Testament to Christians to this effect totally refutes the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”

It is dangerous to base any doctrine on just a few verses, and even worse to generalize the clear teachings of certain verses well beyond anything stated in the bible and to the contradiction of other clear passages. Instead we must seek the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) on any given subject and draw conclusions that are supported by all of them.

Hasty Generalization (Part 2)

by Dave Brown

February 25, 2011

In the first part of this article we showed how the tenets of Calvinism were largely created and maintained by the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. This flaw of reasoning is caused by laziness and jumping to conclusions based on partial evidence. This appeals to religious people who are looking for quick support for what they want to believe. To everyone we plead – if you want to know the truth, give diligence and study it (2 Tim. 2:15), and seek after God (Heb. 11:6).

Investigate the following doctrines that have been based on his logical flaw:

·  Faith only. Clearly, we are saved by faith (John 3:16), and we cannot be saved by the works of our own making (2 Tim. 1:9), or those of the Old Testament law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). But it is very clear that the bible teaches that faith cannot exist without producing works, and if we have the type of faith that God requires, good works have to follow (Heb. 11). See Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 11:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Tit. 1:16, 2:7, 14, 3:8; Heb. 10:24; James 2:14-26, 3:13; Rev. 2:2, 5-6, 2:19-23, 3:1-15; 14:13; 20:12-13. “Faith only” is an oxymoron – we dare not make it a pillar of our religion. If we take the necessity for faith only to its logical conclusion, any good work becomes sinful.

·  Modern day revelation. The bible in general and the New Testament in particular were written in a time of miracles that produced and confirmed the revelation. Some have hastily concluded that such still continues. The totality of biblical teaching on the subject, including 1 Cor. 13 and the decrease in dependence on miraculous revelation in the book of Acts, shows that this is not so. If miracles as exemplified in the New Testament occurred today they would cause such a stir that everyone would quickly know it from news sources. Miracles were never intended to be hidden – they revealed and proved the truth.

·  Bible complexity. There are certainly some difficult books and some passages in many books of the bible that are difficult, and Peter even talked about some of Paul’s writings being difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). It is a hasty generalization, however, to conclude that the entire bible is this difficult. Paul and the Hebrews writer talked about the simple milk of the word and the more difficult meat (1 Cor. 3:2; 9:7; Heb.5:12-13). We are encouraged to read and understand it (Eph. 3:4), starting with the milk and building our understanding from that (1 Pet. 2:2).

·  Judging others. The often quoted Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”) is often used to prove that we should not judge at all. However, a reading of the next four verses shows that this command is given to those who have no right to judge others since they are in worse sin themselves. Jesus said in John 7:24: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” “According to appearance” refers to hasty conclusions without full investigation, i.e., hasty generalization. Christians are commanded to exercise discipline (e.g., 1 Cor. 5), and this requires us to judge, but we must do it motivated by love and according to biblical principles (e.g., see Mt. 18:15-17).

·  Racism. Very closely associated with judging others – when we judge an entire race, nationality or other group based on the actions of just a few of them, this too is the result of the logical error of hasty generalization.

These are just a few examples of false and misleading principles that have been derived by the logical flaw of hasty generalization. It is imperative if we are to understand God’s word that we not jump to conclusions based on a single passage or verse, but that we see the entirety of the biblical teaching on the subject, and thereby teach and practice “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Fools, Fools, and More Fools

by Bryan Gibson

February 25, 2011

You can find them in the Bible—the rich man was one (Luke 12:20), and so were some of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:17, 19), and the Galatians (Galatians 3:1). Fools, we’re told, can often come from among those who profess to be wise (Romans 1:22). The Book of Proverbs, though, contains the most detailed description of the fool, so let’s put some of those passages together and see what we’ve got.

A fool is easy enough to spot (Proverbs 13:16)—eventually both his speech and his behavior will give him away (Proverbs 12:23; 15:2). Everyone can see he’s a fool, everyone that is, except himself. Let’s just say that he has a pretty high opinion of himself (Proverbs 12:15; 14:3; 30:32), and perhaps that’s the reason he keeps doing the same foolish things over and over again (Proverbs 26:11).

No one can tell him anything, because he is “right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). He won’t listen to heavenly wisdom and instruction, even when it comes from those who love him the most (Proverbs 1:7, 22; 10:8; 12:1; 18:2). So rather than do what the Lord tells him to do, he just does what “feels right” or what “seems right” (Proverbs 28:26; 16:25).

Someone like that—you wouldn’t expect sin to bother them, and that’s exactly the case. A fool mocks at sin (Proverbs 14:9); it’s like sport to him (Proverbs 10:23); he’s not even thinking about the consequences of his actions (Proverbs 14:16; 9:13-18).

He may not listen very well, but he sure can talk. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know when to quit (Proverbs 10:14; 12:23; 14:33; 18:2; 29:11). Other folks might think better of him if he could just learn to keep his mouth shut (Proverbs 17:28).

A fool is no laughing matter, because he can do a lot of harm, and not just to himself. The fact is, he’s more dangerous than “a bear robbed of her cubs” (Proverbs 17:12), and much of that has to do with the fact that he gets too angry, too quickly, and stays that way too long (Proverbs 12:16; 14:16-17, 29; 27:3). He’s never met a fight he didn’t like (Proverbs 18:6-7; 20:3).

A fool has little or no regard for others, so it’s not surprising that he would slander others (Proverbs 10:18), or that he would bring grief and shame to his parents (Proverbs 15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:13).

“A fool and his money are soon parted”—that’s not a direct quote from Proverbs, but the principle is certainly there. Luxury doesn’t fit him well (Proverbs 19:10), because he’ll only squander it (Proverbs 21:20).

Is there any hope for the fool? There most certainly is, if he’s willing to repent. Foolishness is a hard habit to break (Proverbs 27:22), but it can be done. “Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding” (Proverbs 9:6). “O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart” (Proverbs 8:5).

“That You May Believe”

by Bryan Gibson

February 10, 2011

It’s the reason the gospel of John was written—“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may life in His name” (John 20:31).

So the gospel of John is a defense of Jesus. Here are the various witnesses who testify on His behalf.

Moses (the law), the Psalms, and the Prophets. “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). These different divisions of the Old Testament Scriptures contain detailed prophecies of the coming Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled every one of them (e.g. John 7:42; 13:18; 19:24, 28, 36-37).

John the Baptist. The “star witness” perhaps, because was sent to “bear witness” of the Christ (John 1:7), to prepare the way for Him. He knew Jesus was the One, because God had told him, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33). John witnessed this when he baptized Jesus, and so with full confidence he proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God (John 1:34). Here’s what some had to say about his testimony: “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true” (John 10:41).

Those who saw His signs (miracles). This list includes Nicodemus (John 3:2), the Samaritan woman (John 4:39), the nobleman whose son was healed by Jesus (John 4:53), the blind man whom Jesus healed (John 9:35-38), and those who witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45). Even His enemies could not deny His miraculous power: “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him…” (John 11:47-48).

Those who heard Him preach. Many believed in Jesus when they heard the Samaritan woman say, “He told me all that I ever did” (John 4:39); others were convinced by Jesus Himself: “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). “And as He spoke these words, many believed in Him” (John 8:30). When officers were sent to arrest Jesus, rather than apprehend Him, they came back to the chief priests and Pharisees and said, “No man ever spoke like this Man” (John 7:46).

Those who saw the empty tomb, and who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection, a number which includes Mary Magdalene, the first person to see the resurrected Jesus (John 20:11-18), and Peter and John, who got a close up look of the empty tomb (John 20:1-8), and then together with the other apostles, a close up look of Jesus himself (John 20:19-23). And don’t you love the testimony of Thomas, who after Jesus said, “Reach you finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing,” Thomas answered and said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28).

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:31). I didn’t see what these witnesses saw, but I believe their testimony, and I believe in Jesus.

“That You May Believe”

(Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

February 25, 2011

Various forms of the word “believe” occur 102 times in the gospel of John. That’s great, because it gives us a wonderful opportunity to study the subject further. To keep things as clear and simple as possible, let’s do this in a question and answer format.

Q:  So the purpose of this book, according to a previous  article, is to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Why those two things specifically? What about all the other things Jesus claims to be?

A:  These two things are fundamental to all His other claims. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so therefore I believe that He is everything else He claimed to be—my Savior (John 4:42); my Lord (John 13:14); my teacher (John 13:14); my example (John 13:15); the bread of life (6:35, 48); the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5); the door (John 10:7, 9); the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14); the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); and the vine (John 15:1, 5).

Q: So is that all it takes to be saved—believe in Jesus? That’s what passages like John 3:16 seem to be saying.

A: Clearly, there is a type of faith or belief that cannot save us. Just simply acknowledging that Jesus is everything He claimed to be is not sufficient. Belief that begins and ends in the mind, that has no impact on behavior, is not pleasing to the Lord. For evidence of that, see John 2:23-25, where although some “believed in His name…Jesus did not commit Himself to them.” He did not commit to them, because they had not committed to Him. To those who “believed in Him,” Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed” (John 8:30-31). Certain rulers “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). Would anyone argue that these “believers” were saved?

Q: So how exactly do we demonstrate our belief or faith in Jesus? Or to ask it another way—if we truly believe He is all the things described above, how will we respond to Him?

A: By loving Him and keeping His commandments (John 8:42; 14:15, 21-24); by feeding on, abiding in, and keeping His word (John 6:57-58, 63-68; 8:30-32; 8:51); by listening to and following His voice (John 10:27); by refusing to listen to any other voice (John 10:4-5); by living in Him (John 11:25-26); by putting self to death (John 12:20-26); by doing as He did (John 13:14-17); by loving as He loved (John 13:34-35); and by bearing much fruit (John 15:5-8).

Q: What is promised to those who demonstrate their faith in the way just described?

A: The right to become children of God (John 1:12); loving fellowship with both the Father and the Son (John 14:21, 23; 15:10); everything the soul could possibly need—will never hunger or thirst (John 4:14; 6:35); light for this dark world (John 8:12: 12:46); freedom from the slavery of sin (John 8:36); honor from the One who matters most (John 12:26); peace and security (John 14:27: 6:37); answers to our prayers (John 15:7); abundant life (John 10:10); everlasting life in a place prepared especially for us (John 3:15, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40; 11:25-26; 14:1-3).

Leaving Home for College?

by Bryan Gibson

February 4, 2011

This is a critical time in your life—on your own for the first time, without the direct supervision of your parents. Here are two very different choices you can make.

You can do what the prodigal son did, and just throw off all restraints (Luke 15:13, 30). And you’ll have fun doing it—at least until the consequences catch up to you. You may eventually come to your senses, just like the prodigal son did (Luke 15:17-19), but think of all the damage you may do in the meantime, the hit you’ll take to your reputation, the opportunities for good that you’ll never get back.

Or, you can do what Joseph did when he left home—you can remember God, all the time, and specifically in the following ways.

In the difficulties you face. Joseph didn’t leave home of his own accord; he was sold into slavery by his envious brothers (Genesis 37:28; 39:1). You wouldn’t expect much from Joseph under these circumstances, but consider this: “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:2-3). The Lord was with him—that’s what made the difference, but the key thing here is that Joseph knew it. Joseph knew the Lord was with him, because he continued to trust and obey Him, even when times were tough.

In the responsibilities you have. Whether serving in Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:4, 6), overseeing prisoners (Genesis 39:22-23), or tending to a widespread famine (Genesis 47:13-16), Joseph was faithful to God in meeting his responsibilities. So trustworthy, in fact, that his “bosses” didn’t even feel the need to check up on him. You’ll have responsibilities with school, with a job perhaps, and most importantly of all, with the local church you join. There’s no reason why you can’t be as trustworthy as Joseph.

In the temptations you face. Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to have sexual relations with her, but God was still on his mind. “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then I can do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9). You’ll face this very same temptation, plus a whole lot more, so remember God, and remember Joseph’s response.

In the opportunities you have to speak to others.  Think about all the different people who learned about God, through Joseph’s speech and behavior—both Potiphar and his wife (Genesis 39:1-12), the jailer (Genesis 39:21-23), the butler and baker (Genesis 40-41), and even Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:14-16)—just to name a few. So be like Joseph—stand up and speak up for the Lord. You’ll probably never know just how many people you’ve influenced for good.

The Ugliness of Selfishness

by Bryan Gibson

February 4, 2011

Here is God’s case against selfishness, at least in outline form: 1) He specifically condemns it (Romans 2:7-8; Galatians 5:20; James 3:14-16). 2) He shows us its ugly fruits, through men like King Saul (1 Samuel 18:8-9), and the rich fool depicted in the parable (Luke 12:13-21). 3) He specifically commends (and commands) the opposite virtue of unselfishness (Mark 8:34; 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 13:5; Philippians 2:3-4). 4) And He provides us some great examples of unselfishness, of Christ Himself (Philippians 2:5-8), and men like Timothy (Philippians 2:19-24), and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30).

It’s time then, with God’s help, that we rid ourselves of selfishness, and all its ugly fruits. But that’s not really the focus of this article. Our children, too, need to learn the ugliness of selfishness. We need to demonstrate the unselfishness of Jesus Christ, and we need to train them to do the same.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, at least some of the potential consequences if we don’t—if we let our children grow up with a self-centered approach to life. They won’t give liberally (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), which means the needs of others will go unmet. They’ll have a difficult time enduring the hardships of life (2 Timothy 2:3; 3:12). They’ll likely develop some other ugly fruits of selfishness, like envy and revenge (James 3:14-16; Romans 12:17-21). They may have trouble holding down a job (1 Timothy 5:8), unless, of course, the conditions are just right. And they may not give enough time to their families. Can we see just how ugly this business of selfishness can get? Don’t most sins have selfishness as their root?

So how can we teach them to be unselfish?

·       Point them to a cause much greater than themselves—the cause of Christ, a cause dedicated to seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). Make sure they know what Paul meant when he said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

·       Set a good example—demonstrate unselfishness toward brethren, neighbors, and toward the children themselves.

·       Point out other good examples—from the Bible (e.g. Dorcas—Acts 9:36-39), and from people they may know personally.

·       Teach them to share—their time, their possessions, their money, etc. (Hebrews 13:16). Teach them that ultimately, these things don’t really belong to us, and that one day, we will give an account for how we’ve used them.

·       Point out to them some good things they can do for other people, specific acts of unselfishness they can perform (Matthew 25:34-40). Willingness is not always the problem; sometimes they just don’t know what to do.

·       Don’t always take their side, with teachers, coaches, administrators, etc. “The other person is always wrong” is a dangerous (and sinful) attitude for them to develop.

·       Teach them everything the Bible says about unselfishness—the passages we’ve already noted, plus a whole lot more. Here’s a good one for them to memorize: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

For Whom Did Christ Die?

by Bryan Gibson

January 21, 2011

According to our Calvinist friends, the answer is not everyone (and that may include you). According to them, Christ died only for the “elect,” and by the “elect,” they mean those individuals who were chosen for salvation before the world began. This particular tenet of Calvinism is called “limited atonement” or “particular redemption.”

But, to borrow a phrase from both Romans 4:3 and Galatians 4:30, “what does the Scripture say?” Using some plain words from God’s word, let’s answer the question, for whom did Christ die?

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

Conclusion:

Jesus died for all men, because God wants all men to be saved (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).  This offer of salvation is extended to all men (Titus 2:11); the “elect” or the “chosen” are those who put their trust in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14), those who respond to this offer in faithful obedience (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; Hebrews 5:9), those who determine to “live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Isn’t it about time YOU accepted His offer?

Beware…Grow

(The Message of 2 Peter)

by Bryan Gibson

January 15, 2011

These two key words are used at the very end of 2 Peter, in the following passage: “You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… (2 Peter 3:17-18).

These two admonitions—beware and grow—sum up the message found in this epistle. One points to a problem, the other to the solution; one warns of danger, the other points the way to safety.

Beware. Look again at the above passage, specifically the warning issued—“beware lest you also fall…being led away with the error of the wicked.” He’s talking about false teachers, the kind of folks discussed in the previous verse, who “twist” the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16)—not to mention the destruction of those who follow after them. Chapter 2 is entirely devoted to a discussion of false teachers—their danger (vv. 1-3), their judgment (vv. 4-10a), their character (vv. 10b-16), and the influence they can have on others (vv. 17-22). Beware of false teachers. They’re doing the devil’s work, which is exactly why they’ll get to spend an eternity with him. If we’re not careful, we may end up in the same place.

Grow—in the truth, the truth taught by “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2), whose reliability is unquestioned, because they were eyewitnesses, and because they confirmed what had been prophesied many years earlier (2 Peter 1:16-21). Grow—that’s what the remainder of this epistle is about. That’s how we keep from being led away, how we keep from falling, how we know when someone has twisted the Scriptures. How much does this epistle emphasize the need for growth? Consider this passage: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:5-7). And this one: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). The rewards of this growth? “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, 10-11).

So let’s beware—of false teachers, and anything else that might lead us away from the truth; and let’s grow, because that’s what will keep us out of danger, and ultimately lead us to eternal life.

How Much Fun Are We Actually Missing?

by Kyle Gibson (kwg0003@auburn.edu)

December 16, 2010

What is the big fuss about all the “fun” that people of the world seem to be having? Why has it become so appealing to participate in worldliness? The person who throws up in a trash can at a bar, loses his wallet, and then can’t remember anything about the past night—ask him how much fun he had (Proverbs 23:29-35). Ask the person who is pregnant, has an STD, or ruined a friendship how much fun the fornication was (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). Ask the people who gamble how much fun it is to lose all their savings. Ask people that use drugs how much fun it is to waste all their money solely on drugs, and never have money for anything else. Read Ecclesiastes sometime and see what Solomon, a man who experienced everything one could possibly experience in this world, had to say about how empty the sins of this life really are.

Satan has presented us with all kinds of temptations, ones that have become very accessible, and is desperately trying to convince us how fun they are. The bottom line is that God makes certain things sin because there’s a reason behind it. While we would need to obey him regardless if he has a reason or not, He has our best interests in mind and wants our lives to be free from all the pain and horrible things that result from sin.

These types of sins also attract the kind of people who will not always be there for you. While they may seem like they’re fun to be around and will be the best friends you could ever have, they also won’t hesitate to throw you under the rug because, at least in many cases, they only have their own interests at heart (Proverbs 24:1-2). Relationships and friendships you build with Christians is one of the most amazing things in the world. Just sit back and try to truly appreciate how friendly, hospitable, and genuine brothers and sisters in Christ actually are (Philippians 2:1-4). It really is a special bond that we have with each other that is unparalleled in this world. Always willing to lend a helping hand, provide a meal, talk about anything, or just hang out as friends, friendship with fellow Christians is one of the best things we can experience here.

Enough with the complaining about how the world is becoming a more sinful place each passing day, morals being at an all-time low, or temptations becoming too hard to withstand; we must appreciate the love we share for one another and for God! There is no way I could look Paul in the eyes and say that it’s too hard to serve God these days, after all that he went through (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Rather than wish you were participating in the sinful things in life, consider yourself blessed that you are enjoying a much more fruitful and enjoyable life, free from the heartaches and emptiness of sin.

No Need to Be Bitter

by Bryan Gibson

December 16, 2010

Joseph could have been, after his brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:12-28), but he wasn’t (Genesis 45:5-8; 50:15-21). David could have been, after Saul tried numerous times to kill him, but he wasn’t (1 Samuel 24:8-12; 26:7-12; 2 Samuel 1:17-27). Paul could have been, after his friends deserted him, but he wasn’t (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

Think you would have handled these situations as well as these men did? The truth is, we often become bitter over far less than what these people had done to them. It’s time, with the Lord’s help, that we rid ourselves of all bitterness, and to do that, we need to understand some of the underlying causes.

Someone wrongs us. Several things can happen in this situation. First, this person may come to us, say he’s sorry, and ask for our forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4). That’s easy—we forgive him, right? Of course we do, but what if we say, “I forgive you,” but still harbor some bitterness? Sorry, but that’s not the kind of forgiveness Jesus had in mind (Matthew 18:35), and it’s not the kind we want to receive for our own sins. On the flip side, suppose this same person does not repent, does not ask for forgiveness, even after repeated attempts to get him to do so (Matthew 18:15-17)? Do we now have a right to be bitter? It’s tempting, but the answer is clearly no. Let the Lord handle it, and let’s get on with our lives (Romans 12:17-21; Colossians 3:25). Bottom line, a wrong done to us is not the worst thing in the world. We really ought to be more concerned for the wrongdoer than ourselves, because it’s his soul that’s in danger.

Envy. Someone is better off than we are. They’ve done something we haven’t. They’re getting bragged on, and we’re not. No question, there’s a close connection between envy and bitterness (James 3:14). Just ask King Saul (1 Samuel 18:5-9), Cain (1 John 3:11-12), Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37:1-11), and the rulers who handed Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:18). So how do we handle it when others seem to be outdoing us, when others are getting more attention? “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” (Romans 12:15). “…if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). That doesn’t leave any room for bitterness.

Hard times (sickness, death of loved ones, other tragedies, etc.). In cases like these, the bitterness is often times expressed toward God. “Why me?” “How could God let this happen?” But really, wouldn’t the better question be, “Why not me?” Suffering is just something we have to endure in this sin-cursed world (Romans 8:18-25), and none of us should feel like we’re immune. Let’s remember this, too, that nothing is more certain than God’s love for us, something he forever proved when He sent His Son to die for us (Romans 8:31-32).

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Seek, Do, and Teach—Just Like Ezra

by Bryan Gibson

December 3, 2010

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

Could the same be said of us that was said of Ezra? Have we prepared our hearts to do these same three things toward the law of Christ, the law we’re under today (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2)?

First, while a knowledge of the Old Testament is vitally important, we must also seek (strive to learn) the law of Christ. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The pure milk of the word, mind you, not that which is tainted with false doctrine. It’s the truth we’re after, and not just a portion of it either. God desires that we be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

Secondly, we must do (or obey) the law of Christ. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus saves those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9)—He couldn’t have made that any clearer.

Finally, we must teach the law of Christ to others. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). By “doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). Remember, though, this admonition: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). We must use great care in teaching only that which comes from God.

May we all be more determined to seek, obey, and teach the law of Christ.

Can We Understand the Bible?

(Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson

November 23, 2010

Jesus didn’t pull any punches when He described the devil: “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). There are liars, and then there is the devil. Among his many lies is this “whopper”: the average man (or woman) cannot understand the Bible. This lie has kept many from studying the Bible on their own, robbing them of its blessings, and making them susceptible to a variety of false doctrines.

The following points should help expose this lie.

God very much wants us to understand His word—to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9); to “have the full riches of complete understanding” (Colossians 2:2); to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17); to “be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). If that’s His desire—for us to understand His word—why would He make it impossible to do so?

God also has the ability to make his word understandable. Who could argue with that, when according to Jeremiah 32:17, there is nothing too hard for God? Anyone ready to say that God failed to do what He desired to do—reveal His word in a way that we could understand it? Quite frankly, we have no business questioning either His desire or His ability.

God’s has great plans or goals for His word—produce faith (Romans 10:17); convict us of sin (John 16:7-15); sanctify us (John 17:17); set us free (John 8:31-32); revive, strengthen, and uphold us (Psalms 119:25, 28, 116); equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17); save our souls (James 1:21), etc. God’s word is powerless to do these things—if we cannot understand it.

Don’t let the devil deceive you. You can understand the will of God.

More arguments to come in part two, but in the meantime, meditate on these words from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, a portion of which is quoted in Romans 10:6-8:

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

Can We Understand The Bible?

(Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

November 23, 2010

Satan is a liar—we all know that. So why do we keep believing him? Why do we believe him when he says that we can’t understand the Bible? We began to expose that lie in part one, but let’s take it a step further this week. Let’s focus on the attitude of Jesus toward this subject. This should settle the matter—if we’re serious about following Jesus.

Jesus expected people to read the Scriptures (the O.T. Scriptures would have been in existence during Jesus’ day). When discussing points of doctrine, Jesus often asked the question, “Have you never read?” and would then quote the passage they should have read (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16; 21:42; 22:31). To the Sadducees, who said there was no resurrection (Matthew 22:23), Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29). No excuse for their error, because they should have known better. On one occasion Jesus based his argument on a single word in a passage (John 10:33-36), another time on the tense of a word (Matt. 22:29-33). Clearly, Jesus expected the Jews, to whom the law had been given, to have a thorough knowledge of it. If anything, our responsibility is even greater today, seeing that we also have the New Testament Scriptures. God has revealed “all truth” to us (John 16:13); told us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3); given us the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t even bother to read (or hear) what God has revealed?

But Jesus also expected people to understand what they read (and what they heard Him teach). Jesus introduced His teaching on one occasion by saying, “Hear and understand” (Matthew 15:10). When they didn’t understand, Jesus rebuked them by saying, “Are you also still without understanding?” (Matt. 15:16). In His explanation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talked about someone who “hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:23). He went on to say that understanding this parable was the key to understanding the other parables (Mark 4:13). Jesus made other statements like: “If you had known what this means (Matt. 12:7); “Go and learn what this means” (Matt. 9:13); “How is it that you do not understand?” (Matt. 16:11); “Why do you not understand My speech?” (John 8:43). So on this point there can be no dispute—Jesus expects us to understand God’s word. If we don’t understand, we only have ourselves to blame.

Know the best way to prove the devil a liar, especially on this subject? Pursue understanding with the same zeal described in the following passage: “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

Bookmark that passage, because you might want to come back to it again. Don’t trust others to tell you what the Bible says. Read it for yourself—you’ll be so glad you did.

Can We Understand the Bible?

(Part 3)

by Bryan Gibson

November 23, 2010

Here is quick review of the points made in the two previous articles: 1) Jesus says we can understand the Scriptures, so let’s not call Him a liar. 2) God has both the desire and the ability to make His word understandable, so let’s not question either one. 3) God’s word has great power to accomplish many things; let’s not try to nullify its power by saying that we can’t understand it.

Granted, there are some very difficult passages in the Bible, a fact that even the Bible’s writers acknowledge. On the writings of Paul, Peter said: “…in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Notice, first, that it says hard to understand, not impossible. Secondly, there is no indication given that because these passages are hard to understand, we can each have “our own interpretation.” The passage even condemns those who “twist” (or distort) the true meaning of these passages. There is a way to make these hard passages easier—“grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18). The more we study, the more we’re able to handle both the “milk” and the “meat” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

But why would God make some passages hard to understand? Why not make it where we can all understand, with the least amount of effort? The word of God, written the way it is, has a way of separating those who love the truth from those who don’t (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12), the humble from the proud (Matthew 11:25), the honest from the deceitful (2 Peter 3:16), the diligent from the lazy (2 Timothy 2:15). Proper understanding is reserved for those who want it very badly (Proverbs 2:1-5).

Here’s a point that may surprise you. Certain things in the Bible will never be understood. But isn’t the whole point of these articles that we can understand the Bible? That’s right, and we’re not wavering from that conviction. We’re not referring to those things that reveal God’s will to us. We’re talking about those things that are incidental to the main message. We don’t know the identity of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), but the main point of that passage is very clear. We may not know the meaning of all the symbols in the Book of Revelation, but we can understand God’s will for us in that book. There is a big difference between understanding the will of God (Ephesians 5:17) and understanding every word in the Bible.

If the will of God can be understood, why then do we have so much division in the religious world? Why so many conflicting doctrines, so many different plans of salvation? Is the Bible to blame? We believe it’s a “people problem,” not a Bible problem. We’ll explore that more in part four, which will be the last lesson in this series.

Can We Understand The Bible?

(Part 4)

by Bryan Gibson

November 23, 2010

Let’s begin where we left off in part three. If God’s will can be understood, why do we have so much division in the religious world? Why so many conflicting doctrines, so many different plans of salvation? Is the Bible to blame? Blaming God is not an option, so we believe it’s a “people problem,” not a Bible problem. Let’s see if we can identify some of these people problems.

Pride—the kind of pride that elevates man’s thoughts above God’s (see Isaiah 55:8-9), the kind of pride that regards even some of the simplest truths as foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Take baptism, for example. The fact that baptism is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21) is seen as foolishness to some, only because it doesn’t make sense to them. It’s very similar to the reaction Naaman had when he was told to “go and wash in the Jordan seven times” (2 Kings 5:10). Naaman didn’t think much of that plan—until his servants convinced him that he was the one being foolish (2 Kings 5:13-14).

A worldly or carnal mind—the kind of mind that “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14), the kind of mind that has difficulty understanding “spiritual things” (1 Corinthians 2:13). “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). It’s really hard to “get” what Jesus says about marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:3-12) if we are still carnal—if we still have a worldly view of marriage. What we try to do is fit the teachings of the Bible into our worldly way of thinking, and that just won’t work. Try that with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) sometime, and see how it turns out.

Pre-conceived notions. In other words, it’s not the truth we’re after; we’re just trying to justify what we already believe, or what we want to keep on practicing. Obviously, if we “twist” (2 Peter 3:16) hard enough, we can make the Bible say about anything we want. Suppose someone wanted to justify hanging himself. He turns first to Matthew 27:5 where it says Judas “went and hanged himself.” He then turns to Luke 10:37 where Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” Then, for the clincher, he uses John 13:27 where Jesus says, “What you do, do quickly.” When we put these verses together, we’ve got Jesus telling us to go hang ourselves, and to do it quickly. An extreme example, we know, but it does show how we can force the Bible to say some strange things.

Lack of effort, something we covered in previous articles (see Proverbs 2:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:15). Can we not trace a lot of false teaching back to a lack of study? Ideas get taught before thorough study has been made, and then no one bothers to verify them with the Scriptures. Both teachers and students need to be more diligent in their search for “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Let me conclude this series with a personal note. My own understanding of the Bible is far from perfect. There is much in the Bible that I still don’t understand. But I do not intend to quit trying, nor do I intend to blame God for my failures. I want my life to be conformed to the will of God, and I know that in order to do that, I must keep reading and studying. I beg all our readers to do the same.

To Our Government Officials

by Bryan Gibson

October 29, 2010

God would like to have a few words with you—not about your policies, but about your character and your behavior, about your obligations to Him and to the people you serve. Please listen carefully.

Religion is not something you talk about to get elected; it’s something you practice—all day, every day (Luke 9:23; Acts 17:11; 26:7; 2 Timothy 1:3). What I need you to do is completely submit your will to Mine, to obey Me in “all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Be like Daniel, who was so faithful as a government official that “no error or fault” could be found in him (Daniel 6:4); like Samuel, who neither cheated nor oppressed anyone, nor did he receive any bribes (1 Samuel 12:3-5); like the men whom Moses selected to judge the people—“able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain” (Exodus 18:21). Men like these are in short supply today, but there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.

Humble yourselves in My sight (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5-6). If not for Me, you would have no authority (Romans 13:1), so don’t dare walk around with a sense of entitlement. I hold your breath in My hands; it’s in Me that you live and move and have your being; and it’s Me that you’ll have to answer to in the day of judgment (Daniel 5:23; Acts 17:28; Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Don’t make the same mistake as men like Belshazzar and Herod, who did not give Me the glory (Daniel 5:22-23; Acts 12:20-23).

Don’t ever lie to the people (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:8), and yes, that includes making promises that you can’t keep. Far better to not make a promise than to make one and not keep it (Ecclesiastes 5:2-5). Your integrity is at stake, a precious asset indeed. “He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known” (Proverbs 10:9). “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).

On all issues addressed in My word, take an uncompromising stand. For example, you can’t be for Me and for gambling at the same time. Gambling is driven and sustained by greed or covetousness, and that’s something I hate (Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5). Abortion and homosexuality—there’s really no “wiggle room” on either of these issues, because they are both an abomination in My sight (Psalms 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5; Romans 1:24, 26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Jude 1:7).

Can you be involved in politics and still “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”? (Ephesians 5:11). Has it become such a dirty business that you can’t keep yourself pure? If it has become a stumbling block to your soul, then get out right now. Far better to preserve your soul than to preserve your position (Matthew 16:26).

Obedience

by Bryan Gibson

October 21, 2010

“By faith Abraham obeyed…” (Hebrews 11:8). Now, let’s insert our name in the place of Abraham, because what he did is what we must do. Here’s a look at what the Bible teaches about obedience—in outline form.

The Perfect Example of Obedience, Jesus Christ

Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15; see also John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

Jesus obeyed His Father in heaven (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29, 55; Hebrews 5:8), “to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus obeyed the governing authorities (Matthew 17:24-27; Mark 12:13-17).

Jesus obeyed His parents (Luke 2:51).

Our Obedience—Required by God in Various Relationships

Children must obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20; Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2).

Wives must obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6).

Servants must obey their masters, and by the same principle, employees must obey their employers (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-25).

Citizens must obey their rulers (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Members of a local church must obey their elders, or shepherds (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

If any of these authority figures tell us do anything in conflict with God’s will, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Our Obedience to God

Manner of obedience—“from the heart” (Romans 6:17; Ephesians 6:6); “willingly” or “eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2); “not grudgingly or of necessity” (2 Corinthians 9:7); “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Extent of obedience—“all things,” or “all the will of God” (Matthew 28:20; Acts 3:22; 2 Corinthians 2:9; Colossians 4:13), including “every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Like Jesus, we must be willing to obey God “to the point of death” (Acts 21:13; Revelation 2:10).

The power behind our obedience—the grace of God (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), which produces faith, love, and hope (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; John 14:21, 23; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 5:6; 1 John 3:3; 5:3).

Concluding Passages

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).

“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Rejoice Always?

by Bryan Gibson

October 15, 2010

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). No matter the circumstances, the faithful Christian will always have reasons to rejoice. But, we don’t have to rejoice over everything that happens, especially when it involves the sin of another person. “Love…does not rejoice in iniquity…” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Nothing should make us sadder than to see people living in sin.

Apparently, some in the church at Corinth had not learned this lesson. A man in the church there was having sex with his father’s wife, and instead of mourning about it, they were “puffed up” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). Shame on them!

Jonah had a little trouble with this, too. The city of Nineveh repented at his preaching, but that didn’t make Jonah the least bit happy. In fact, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1). What would have made Jonah happy was for them to remain in sin and be punished by God. Shame on him!

And shame on us, too, when we rejoice in iniquity. Ever found pleasure in telling about someone’s affair, brush with the law, drinking problem, etc.—maybe because it made us feel a little better about ourselves? Ever found pleasure in running down someone else’s children because it made our children look better? Ever been envious of those who live in sin, and the fun they’re having? Ever bragged on our children for things they shouldn’t have been doing in the first place? Ever bragged on our own sins, maybe how we “told someone off”, or about how much we drank, or how we “whipped” somebody? How can we find any “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12), whether our own or someone else’s, when it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and leads to eternal punishment (Romans 2:5-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)?

“Love…rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6)—that’s the second part of the passage we quoted earlier, and thankfully, we have some wonderful examples of people who demonstrated this quality. When Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth, he rebuked them for a number of sins. Evidently, this letter had its desired effect, at least in some areas, because here’s what he wrote in the second letter: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:9). When Paul learned that the brethren in Thessalonica were still holding strong, he wrote, “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God” (1 Thessalonians 3:8-9). And finally, we have this wonderful statement from John: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:3-4). Nothing should make us sadder than to see people living in sin, and nothing should make us happier than to see people teaching and practicing the truth.

“Blessed Are You When Men…Exclude You”

(Luke 6:22)

by Bryan Gibson

October 8, 2010

Stand up for what’s right, and we won’t be in the “in crowd” very long. They’ll soon let us know, verbally or otherwise, that we’re not welcome in their group any more. It’s not enjoyable, but Jesus says we are blessed—if it’s “for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).

This has always been an issue for followers of Christ, going all the way back to the time when Jesus was here on the earth. Jesus warned the Jews in particular that if they became His disciples, they would be excluded from the synagogue (John 16:2). When the blind man whom Jesus had healed began to express his faith in Jesus, that’s exactly what the Pharisees did to him (John 8:34). For others, this threat was just too much for them to handle. The blind man’s parents knew who had healed their son, and they knew what this said about Him, but they wouldn’t confess Jesus, simply because they did not want to be excluded (John 9:18-22).  Certain rulers also knew the truth about Jesus, but they wouldn’t confess Him either, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).

Followers of Christ today still have to deal with exclusion. We may be excluded by people at work or at school, simply because we don’t “run with them” (1 Peter 4:4), because we’re unwilling to participate in their sinful activities. We may be excluded by other “religious” people, because we insist on going back to the “beginning” (1 John 2:24), because we refuse to do anything for which we don’t have authority from Christ (2 John 1:9; Colossians 3:17). We may even be excluded by our own family members, when our obedience to Christ takes us in a different direction from them (Matthew 10:34-37). It’s a very real issue, and we need to make sure we have the courage and the “know how” to deal with it appropriately.

So how do we deal with exclusion? How do we keep from being discouraged? 1) Let’s make sure, first, that the only reason we’re being excluded is “for the Son of Man’s sake,” that it’s strictly due to our loyalty to Him. 2) Learn to love the praise of God more than the praise of men (John 12:42-43). Seek His approval, because when it’s all said and done, He is the one to whom we must give account (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). 3) Realize that despite our exclusion from some, we are far from alone. For one, we still have other faithful brethren standing with us. More importantly, the Lord is on our side, and He won’t ever exclude us—provided we remain faithful to Him (John 6:37; Romans 8:35, 39; Hebrews 13:5). 4) Understand that by holding our ground, we may just convert others to the Lord, perhaps even those who excluded us. 5) Look to the reward. The title of this article is taken from Luke 6:22, but look at what Jesus said in the very next verse: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven…” (Luke 6:23). Better to be excluded now (by men) than to be excluded then!

What’s Happened to Worship?

by Bryan Gibson

September 30, 2010

Worship in many churches has become more man-centered than God-centered, more geared to pleasing the audience than pleasing God, more about the worshippers than the One being worshipped. Here is just some of the evidence.

More and more the demand is for preachers who can WOW an audience. You know, the ones who alternate between a wide grin and a pained expression, the ones who speak softly to draw the audience in, and then shout to drive their point home. Throw in a few dramatic pauses and you’ve got the audience on the edge of their seat. Genuine eloquence has its place (Acts 18:24), but not at the expense of building faith in God and in His word (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:5). The last thing we want from them is to preach anything hard, lest they drive some people away (although Jesus certainly did that on occasion—John 6:60-66). And they’ve got to make it “relevant,” too, because some might find portions of the Bible a little “dry.” In the end, their preaching sounds more like a seminar than it does a gospel sermon. They’re not likely to make any true disciples (John 8:31-32), but they can sure attract spectators.

Many have “advanced” way beyond the simple singing of New Testament times (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). It started with pianos and organs, but those are considered rather bland today. “Contemporary” services often feature a full array of musical instruments, and the musical selection may include some rap, or perhaps some “Christian rock.” Some churches even hold auditions to make sure they get the best musical talent available. In other words, weekly worship services have turned into weekly talent shows. Those who still sing without instruments (rightly so) are not immune, either. Many of these churches have abandoned the deeper, richer hymns for the “campy songs.” It almost makes you feel like you’ve been to a pep rally instead of a worship service. Worshippers may leave without much thoughtful reflection, but they sure had a good time.

The fact that worship is primarily an exercise of the heart (John 4:21-24) has been all but forgotten. Thoughtful meditation is no longer the emphasis; we’ve got to get everyone participating—in a physical way. In the minds of many, it’s just not worship unless we can get everyone waving their arms, clapping their hands, chanting in unison, etc. Allow me this personal observation. I’ve been involved in worship services before where the only times I expressed myself physically was when I put money in the collection plate, ate the Lord’s supper, and joined with my brethren in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord. But I still participated in everything that was done, from start to finish—with my heart. Hearts engaged with reverence and gratitude to God—that’s exactly where the emphasis needs to be.

May God help us to restore, not just the forms of New Testament worship, but also its very nature.

The Battle for Our Souls

(Ephesians 6:10-20)

by Bryan Gibson

September 23, 2010

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (6:12), so it’s not a physical battle. It’s fought in the spiritual realm, with nothing less than our eternal souls at stake. Victory won’t come easily, but rest assured, it will come—if we heed the admonitions found in the above passage. Here’s what we need to do to win.

Identify the enemy. The enemy, of course, is the devil (6:11), who is elsewhere described as “the tempter” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), a “liar” and a “murderer” (John 8:44), “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), “the wicked one” (1 John 2:13)—just to name a few. He is a powerful, ruthless enemy who abides by no code of honor, and to make matters worse, he has a loyal army behind him (6:12). Winning begins with taking our opponent seriously.

Identify the enemy’s strategy. Notice the phrase in v. 11, “the wiles of the devil.” The devil rarely uses a frontal attack; he would rather trick us or scheme us into doing something we ought not. But, “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11); all we need to do is look through Scripture to identify his tricks. He can trick us into thinking only about the present, with no thought to consequences—like he did with David (2 Samuel 11-12); trick us into believing that tomorrow, not today, is the day of salvation—like he did with Felix (Acts 24:25); trick us into believing a lie, because the man he uses to teach it “seems so sincere” and “is such a good speaker” (Romans 16:18); trick us into siding with the majority, despite what Jesus said (Matthew 7:13-14); trick us into thinking that this world has all we need—like he did with Demas (2 Timothy 4:10). These are just some of his “fiery darts” (6:16), but here’s the point: winning is easier when you know ahead of time your opponent’s plan of attack.

Make full use of our allies. First and foremost, the Lord is on our side, which gives us a distinct advantage, especially when we’re “praying always” (6:18). The instruction here is not “man up”; it’s “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (6:10). We can also count on help from our fellow comrades, from “all the saints” (v. 18)—through their prayers, their encouraging words, their good example. It sure does help to witness first hand those who are resisting the devil at every turn. Witnessing others get the best of Satan convinces us we can do the same.

Use every weapon and form of protection the Lord has provided. “Put on,” or “take up” the “whole armor of God” (6:11, 13). It basically comes down to doing these five things. 1) Possess an unwavering faith in God (“taking the shield of faith”); 2) know the truth (“having girded your waist with truth”; “take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God); 3) obey the truth (“put on the breastplate of righteousness”); 4) teach the truth to others (“having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”); and 5) stay focused on the final victory (“take the helmet of salvation”—see also 1 Thessalonians 5:8). “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (6:13). When the battle is done, let’s make sure we’re the ones left standing.

7 Lessons on Love

by Bryan Gibson

The word love appears 362 times in the New King James version of the Bible, so we’ve got a lot of material from which to choose. For this article, though, let’s see what wisdom we can glean from the Book of Proverbs.

#1: Proverbs 19:8 speaks of one who “loves his own soul,” so let’s start there. One who loves his own soul will work diligently to keep it (19:16), guard it (22:5), preserve it (16:17), and avoid anything that would destroy it (6:32; 21:23).

#2: One who loves his own soul will love that which is designed to nourish his soul—the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that comes from God’s word. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul… (19:8). Love wisdom and it will “preserve you…keep you…promote you…bring you honor…place on your head an ornament of grace…give you a crown of glory” (4:5-9). Only a fool would despise instruction (1:7); only a fool would wrong his own soul (8:36).

#3: One who loves his own soul will love those who rebuke him. “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). On the other hand, “he who disdains instruction despises his own soul” (15:32). If one loves his own soul, how can he be angry with someone who is trying to save it?

#4: One who loves the souls of others will correct and rebuke them. If those “whom the Lord loves He corrects” (3:12), shouldn’t we do the same? How can we claim to love someone when we don’t have the courage to turn them back to the truth? “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed” (27:5).

#5: One who loves the souls of others will forgive and forget. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (28:13). They can count on it from God, but wouldn’t it be a shame if they didn’t receive it from us? “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (10:12).

#6: It doesn’t matter how much one has if he doesn’t have love. You just can’t put a price tag on the genuine love we both extend and receive. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred” (15:17). “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold” (22:1).

#7: Not everything that is called love is really love, at least not as God defines it. Listen to the adulteress in 7:18: “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love.” She may call it love, but it’s not. She doesn’t love God’s word; nor does she love her own soul, the soul of her husband, or the soul of the one whom she enticed. Love and lust are not the same, and it’s high time we learned that lesson. Any “love” that acts in conflict with truth is not really love.

A Man After My Own Heart

by Bryan Gibson

That’s the kind of man God was looking for in his next king, and he found one in David (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). We should expect, then, to find some good qualities in David, qualities we would do well to imitate if we want to be described in the same way.

Let’s begin with his humility—the key to the other virtues he possessed. Put yourself in David’s place. You’re still just a young man, but you’ve killed Goliath, the mighty Philistine champion (1 Samuel 17:48-54); you’ve assumed command of King Saul’s army (1 Samuel 18:5); and women are singing your praises (“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands”—1 Samuel 18:7). Might be tempting to strut a little, don’t you think? Not David. When King Saul offered his daughter to him, David responded, “Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I am a poor and lightly esteemed man?” (1 Samuel 18:23). When God later promised him that his house and kingdom would be established forever (through the reign of Christ), David reacted in similar fashion: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18). “On the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 22:1), David didn’t boast; instead he spoke the words of a song to the Lord, praising HIM for this salvation from his enemies (read all of 2 Samuel 22). Not hard to see why the Lord picked David, is it?

Because David was humble, he was always willing to confess his sins. He did so when he sinned with Bathsheba (“I have sinned against the Lord”—2 Samuel 12:13); and when he sinned by numbering the people (“I have sinned greatly against the Lord in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly”—2 Samuel 24:10). But David wasn’t forgiven merely because he confessed; he was forgiven because he came back to the Lord with a broken and contrite heart (Psalms 38:8; 51:17). Maintain this kind of heart, and you can still be a man after God’s heart.

David also loved his enemies, a quality near and dear to God’s heart (Matthew 5:43-48). He demonstrated it toward Saul, when after Saul had tried just about every means available to kill him (e.g. 1 Samuel 18:10-11; 19:9-10), he resisted the urge to do the same to Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-22). He also demonstrated it toward Abner and Isbosheth, two of his chief rivals. You would have thought David would have been delighted when they were both killed, but he mourned over both of them (2 Samuel 3:31-39; 4:9-12), just like he did when he heard the news of Saul’s death (2 Samuel 1).

God is still looking for men (and women) after His own heart. Has he found one in you?

If I Knew I Were Going to Die Tomorrow,
What Would I Tell My Children Today?

by Bryan Gibson

Forgive me for the sins I’ve committed against you. There may be things you still have against me (Matthew 5:23-24), and so I want to make sure that I’m forgiven by you—and by God. I’ve tried hard, but I know my example has been imperfect. I’ve been too harsh at times, other times not firm enough. Please forgive me and make it your aim to be a better parent to your children than I’ve been to you.

I love each and every one of you. Your mother and I rejoiced the day each of you were born (John 16:21), but that was nothing compared to the feelings we had when you were born again (John 3:3-5). I’m looking forward to an eternal reward (2 Timothy 4:6-8), but you children have been my reward here on this earth (Psalms 127:3-5). I’ve tried to demonstrate my love in a number of ways, but I do hope that you remember most the love I’ve shown for your soul.

Take really good care of your mother. When you get children of your own, you’ll appreciate her even more than you do now. She has always been willing to “spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15). I would like to believe that she has made up for my deficiencies as a parent—when I didn’t have the time, she did; when I was too soft, she was firm; when I was too harsh, she provided the softer touch. Stay in touch with her and help her with whatever she needs (1 Timothy 5:4).

Serve the Lord faithfully, and that means daily (Luke 9:23). The very reason Jesus died for you is that you might live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). I pray that you remain healthy, and that your families prosper financially, but above all, I pray that your souls will prosper (3 John 1:2). Whatever you may accomplish in this life, whatever happiness you may find—it won’t mean a thing if you lose your soul (Matthew 16:26).

Keep your nose in God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 2:1-3). I’ve been studying it closely for many years, and I’ve fallen in love with it. I shudder to think where I would be without it, the foolish decisions I may have made without its guidance, how unprepared I would be for this time of departure (2 Timothy 4:6).

Keep heaven in your sight at all times. It’s where I plan on going, and it’s been my hope for each one of you since the day you were born. I wish I could tell you that this time of sorrow will be your last, but it won’t. But that’s okay, because these times of sorrow will make you long for a better place—a place that Jesus has prepared for you (John 14:3); a place where you will never die, where there will be no more pain and sorrow (Revelation 21:4); a place that needs no light, because it is completely lit up by the glory of God (Revelation 21:23; 22:5). Think of the best day you’ve ever had, multiply that joy by 10 million (is that enough?), and then imagine every day throughout eternity being just like that.

One more thing—please sing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” at my funeral. It’s my favorite song.

Forget About the President—Are YOU a Christian?

by Bryan Gibson

August 27, 2010

Is President Obama a Christian? That question has been hotly debated in recent months, and we don’t intend to resolve it in this article. Let’s forget about the President for a minute, and focus on another question, one much more relevant to you—are YOU a Christian?

Since the term “Christian” is used so broadly today, let’s see if we can clarify the question—by first discussing what the question is not.

The question is not, “Are you a good person?” Obviously, a Christian ought to be a good person, but is that really enough? Cornelius was a very good person (Acts 10:1-2, 22), but he was not a Christian, at least not until he did what Peter commanded him to do (Acts 10:48).

The question is not, “Do you feel in your heart that you are a Christian?” Isn’t it at least possible that you’ve been deceived, that what you feel in your heart may not actually be the case? “Whoever trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). If there was ever anything you needed to be absolutely certain about, this is it.

The question is not, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?” Obviously, this is essential to being a Christian, but the fact is, you can believe this and still be lost. Demons believe in Jesus (Matthew 8:28-29), but would anyone argue that they are saved? What about the rulers who believed in Jesus, but refused to confess him, “lest they be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). Believing the gospel, including what it says about Jesus, is the beginning point, but what is ultimately required is obedience to the gospel (Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; 10:16; 16:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

Clearly, then, there are things you must DO to become a Christian. The people in Acts 2 certainly understood that (“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”—v. 37), and so did the Philippian jailer (“Sirs, what I must I do to be saved?”—Acts 16:31). So let’s take our New Testament and see if we can find the answer to this extremely important question.

You must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that He indeed died for your sins and rose again (John 3:16; 8:24; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). No argument here, right, for how can one be saved without believing in the Savior, or become a Christian without believing in the Christ?

But what about repentance? Didn’t Jesus make it equally clear that one must repent of his sins? “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). That’s the very thing Peter commanded his listeners to do, in both Acts 2:38 and 3:19. Becoming a Christian involves turning to the Lord (Acts 9:35; 11:21), but you can’t turn TO Him until you’ve turned FROM sin (Acts 3:26; 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Remember the rulers who refused to confess Jesus (John 12:42)? You must be willing to do that, just like the Ethiopian treasurer did (Acts 8:37). “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet. Would you agree that one cannot become a Christian until he has put on Christ, until he has entered into Christ, until he has been united with or joined with Christ? But at what point does that take place? “For as many of us as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27; see also Romans 6:3-5). Despite what you may have heard, you must be baptized in water to be saved—to become a Christian. And if you still have any doubts about that, please read Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:47-48; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21.

And so here’s the question you need to ask yourself: Have I taken the necessary steps to become a Christian? If not, please do not delay. Obey the gospel before this day is over, because it just may be the last opportunity you’ll ever have.

The Chief Duty of An Elder

by Bryan Gibson

August 27, 2010

It’s not managing the church’s money, even though that is a necessary part of his job (Acts 11:30). It’s not making decisions either, although he will be required to make many. It’s not even teaching the gospel, even though he must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2), so able in fact that he can “exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

First and foremost, an elder is someone who watches for souls. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account…” (Hebrews 13:17). Elders are described as shepherds, and isn’t that their main duty—to keep a very close eye on the flock? “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). When the apostle Peter addressed “the elders who are among you” (1 Peter 5:1), he gave them this command: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers…” (1 Peter 5:2). Elders must overSEE, because one day they will give an account to God for how closely they watched (Hebrews 13:17).

And so what then is the most important quality an elder can possess? A genuine, sincere concern for the souls of others (Philippians 2:20). It’s easy enough to have that concern for one’s family and close friends, but notice carefully what Paul told this group of elders: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to ALL THE FLOCK, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Every blood bought soul is important, and so no one should be overlooked.

One thing an elder must avoid, then, is showing partiality—playing favorites, treating some members more favorably than others. Perhaps the following “impartiality test” will help an elder see if he is truly taking heed to all the flock.

(1) Will you show an obvious difference in the way you treat your family, and everyone else? Remember, these other members of the flock are your family, too. (2) Will you treat those who have challenged you, or found fault with you, the same as those who have not? (3) Will you praise and promote the good work of some, while ignoring others? (3) Will you target certain ones for rebuke, while constantly excusing others? (4) Will you move quickly to help some brethren with their problems, while leaving others out in the cold? (5) Will you act quickly to withdraw from some, while dragging your feet on others?

No one knows more about shepherding than the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4), and there is certainly no partiality with Him. Follow His example, and you’ll not only gain the respect and love of your brethren, but you’ll also receive “the crown the glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

Character Sketch of a Godly Woman

by Bryan Gibson

August 13, 2010

Who better to give us a picture of a godly woman’s character than God himself? This is what she looks like, according to what He has revealed in His word.

She has a genuine faith in God, the kind seen in both Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), the kind that holds up under trials and tribulations (1 Peter 1:6-9). Her faith is genuine and strong, because she has been “nourished in the words of faith” (1 Timothy 4:6).

She loves God above all (Matthew 10:37; 22:37), which means that she walks in His commandments (2 John 1:6), with an aim to be “faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). The love Christ has shown her (1 John 3:16-18)—that’s the kind she shows her husband and children (Titus 2:4), her fellow saints (1 Timothy 5:10), and everyone else for whom Christ died (Hebrews 2:9). It’s not a “blind” love; it’s a love that acts with “knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). It’s just not in her character to gossip or slander or falsely accuse someone (Titus 2:3; 1 Timothy 3:11; 5:13).

She is pure and chaste and holy (Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2)—in her thoughts, her speech, her actions, and yes, even in the way she dresses (1 Timothy 2:9-10). She wouldn’t dare use “enticing speech” (Proverbs 7:21), so why would she dress to entice? Her aim is to purify herself, “just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

She is not self-indulgent (Matthew 23:25), self-seeking (Romans 2:8), or self-willed (2 Peter 2:10); she is self-controlled and discreet (1 Timothy 3:11; Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:5-6; Titus 2:5). Her aim is to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), to be able to say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

She possesses a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), the opposite of loud and proud. It is not in her character to be boisterous, argumentative, or contentious (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15-16).

She maintains a submissive, respectful, and obedient attitude toward her husband (1 Peter 3:5-6; Ephesians 5:22-24, 33; Titus 2:5).

She is reverent (1 Timothy 3:11)—toward God and His word, and toward her duties as a Christian. She knows that she cannot take lightly the things that pertain to God and to eternity, and so she is willing to sometimes put aside less important duties to give heed to these things (Luke 10:38-42).

She has a heart for hospitality, a heart that wants to provide for preachers (Acts 16:14-15, 40), for the afflicted (1 Timothy 5:10), for really anyone who might be in need (Proverbs 31:20; Acts 9:36-39; Romans 16:2).

Can you think of other qualities? We would love to hear from you.

Psalms 119: A Tribute to God’s Word (Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

August 10, 2010

We’re using Psalms 119 to answer a few questions about God’s word. Let’s add two more to the two we discussed last week. Again, all quotations come from the New King James Version.

3.  In what manner, and to what degree should I keep God’s word?

Keep all His commandments.

“Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them” (vv. 128-129).

Keep all of them with my whole heart.

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (v. 34).

Keep them continually, to the very end.

“Hold me up, and I shall be safe, and I shall observe Your statutes continually” (v. 117).

“So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever” (v. 44).

“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end” (v. 33).

4.  What is the word of God able to do for me?

Cleanse my way, keep me from sin.

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (v. 9).

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (v. 11).

Revive me.

“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word” (v. 25).

Strengthen me.

“My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word” (v. 28).

Give me an answer for those who reproach me.

“So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word” (v. 42).

Comfort me.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life” (v. 50).

“I remembered Your judgments of old, O LORD, and have comforted myself” (v. 52).

Give me hope.

“My soul faints for Your salvation, but I hope in Your word” (v. 81).

Give me life.

“I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life” (v. 93).

Make me wiser than the wisest.

“You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (vv. 98-100).

Give me joy

“Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart” (v. 111).

Give me understanding.

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (v. 130).

Direct my steps.

“Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (v. 133).

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105).

Give me peace

“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (v. 165).

Psalms 119: A Tribute to the Word of God

by Bryan Gibson

July 29, 2010

Psalms 119 has 176 verses, and all but two (vv. 122, 132) contain some term or description of God’s word. So if you want to gain a better appreciation for God’s word, this is a good place to start. Let’s use this psalm then to answer a few questions about God’s word. We’ll cover two in this article, and then two more next week. All quotations are from the New King James Version.

1. How strong should be my desire for God’s word?

“I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments” (v. 31).

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (v. 18).

2. What should be my attitude toward God’s word?

Regard it as the truth.

“Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right…” (v. 128).

“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth” (v. 142).

“You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth” (v. 151).

“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (v. 160).

Be in awe of it.

“Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word” (v. 161).

Delight in it.

“I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (v. 16).

Love it.

“My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes” (v. 48).

“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97).

“Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (v. 127).

Hate that which is contrary to it.

“Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way” (v. 128).

“Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (v. 104).

What Happened to My Zeal?

by Bryan Gibson

July 23, 2010

We’ve all seen it happen—people who seemed to be so zealous in their service to the Lord, only to become very weak or even fall away. We need to know why, to keep it from happening to us, and to help others avoid the same fate. For answers, let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 8-9.  Paul was busy collecting funds from various churches in order to relieve needy Christians in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Some churches had already given liberally and willingly (2 Corinthians 8:1-5), and in these two chapters Paul urges the church at Corinth to do the same. Since these two chapters speak so often of zeal or diligence, let’s see what we can find to help us better understand how some people’s zeal can wane, or even disappear.

Their zeal, or diligence may be more style than substance, more talk than action. That was the very thing Paul didn’t want to happen in Corinth. These brethren were eager to help, and had promised to do so (8:10-11; 9:1-5), but it was time now to “complete the doing of it” (8:11), to “show…the proof of your love” (8:24). Zeal is not just what you’re eager to do, or promise to do; it’s about what you actually get done.

Their zeal, or diligence, may be more of the self-serving type. For these people, it’s not about bringing glory to the Lord (8:19; 9:13); it’s about bringing glory to themselves. The churches of Macedonia were praised for their zeal, for giving so willingly and liberally (8:1-5), but they did so because “they first gave themselves to the Lord” (8:5); and they did that because the Lord had given Himself for them (8:1, 9). Could it be that the zealous person who fell away was in it more for himself than for the Lord?

Their zeal, or diligence, may not be well-rounded. Look carefully at what Paul said to the church at Corinth: “But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also” (8:7). His desire was that they show the same zeal in giving that they had shown in these other areas. We’ve all seen Christians who were all fired up for various aspects of service, only to fade very quickly. A more well-rounded zeal may just be the antidote for that.

Their zeal, or diligence, may be mostly out of compulsion (“because I have to”). These brethren in Corinth needed to give, but notice the approach Paul uses in various passages: “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love…” (8:8); “that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation” (9:5); “not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7). When we can move beyond the “because I have to” stage to the “freely willing” stage (8:3), our zeal will remain strong.

Their zeal may have waned or died because they just didn’t realize how much good they were doing. To make sure that wasn’t the case in Corinth, Paul wrote, “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you” (9:12-14). Please don’t grow weary—diligent service in the Lord’s kingdom accomplishes more good than we can even sometimes imagine.

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).

Prayers for a Newborn Child

by Bryan Gibson

July 17, 2010

Using a number of different Bible passages as our guide, here are some prayers that could be offered for a newborn child.

Heavenly Father, for this child whom you have graciously given us (Genesis 33:5), we give You thanks. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayers for a child (1 Samuel 1:27).

Father, we thank You for the great joy that this child has already given us (John 16:21), and may our joy  increase more and more through the years as we see our child walking in the truth (3 John 1:4; Proverbs 23:24-25).

Father, help us as parents to develop the same purity and innocence, the same humble dependence that our child possesses, because we know that what we see in our child is what You want to see in us (Matthew 18:3; 19:14).

Father, help us to set the proper example for our child, to walk in all your commandments and ordinances blameless (Luke 1:6).

Father, it is not in us to know what’s best for our child (Jeremiah 10:23), so please teach us what we shall do for this child (Judges 13:8).

Father, help our child to increase in stature and wisdom, and in favor with God and with men (Luke 2:52; 1 Samuel 2:26).

Help us, Father, to give this child back to you (1 Samuel 1:11), by teaching our child to become one of Your children, and by leading our child to an eternal home with You (1 John 3:1-3).

Help us, Father, to train this child in Your ways (Ephesians 6:4), to diligently teach our child the Scriptures from the very beginning (2 Timothy 3:15; Deuteronomy 6:7), to mold our child into the image of your Son (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:13).

Help us, Father, to be firm in our discipline (Proverbs 3:11-12; 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17), so that our child learns self-control and respect for authority; but keep us from being too harsh, lest our child be provoked (Colossians 3:20-21; Ephesians 6:4).

Father, in future years, help our child to avoid the kind of friendships that would be destructive spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20).

It may be many years off, but Father, please help our child to find a faithful Christian (Ephesians 1:1) to marry, someone who will help our child reach their full potential in the kingdom of God (Acts 18:24-26).

What is the Cost of Prayer?

by Dave Brown

July 2, 2010

Have you ever thought about what your prayer costs you? You might say “nothing,” and that would be very close. But it does require us to turn from our daily pursuits and to center our hearts and minds on spiritual things so that we can communicate our petitions to God. Even though small, it takes a part of our lives.

In not being willing to give up the time it takes to pray, Christians forfeit unfathomable blessings. Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). Of course, this verse does not give us the right to become God. Many forsake prayer if they cannot have such immediate gratification. Jesus words, however, assure that we will receive our righteous requests; for example, to help us fight the sin and temptations of this world (1 Cor. 10:13).

We also forfeit the right to expect God to respond to our prayers when our lives are stained by sin. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16), and conversely, it has always been understood that “God does not hear sinners” (John 9:31; 1 Pet. 3:12). We should not view righteous living as a cost; it is a gift of blessings and happiness once it becomes a way of life (Mt. 5:1-12). Those who fail to see this cannot expect to have their prayers heard by God.

The Bible has given some specific examples of sins that cause our prayers to be in vain: (1) refusing to forgive – Mark 11:25-26, (2) husbands not giving due honor to their wives – 1 Pet. 3:7, and (3) those making long self-serving prayers to be seen of men – Mt. 23:14. But any sin can separate us from God, and thus nullify our prayers (Isa. 59:2).

Now let us consider some of the things that we give up by ineffectual prayer:

·       Changing the course of major international events, as was the case of Elijah (James 5:16-18). Never, ever marginalize the infinite power of God. Are there not things in the world that we know should be changed for the betterment of all mankind?

·       The release from our anxiety and the acceptance of God’s peace – “the peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:6-7). Do you really want to continue in your anxiety (Mt. 6:25-34)?

·       Deliverance from persecution (Phil. 1:19; Acts 12;5), even to the point of death (2 Cor, 1:9-11). Paul was giving thanks for those who were praying for him. Do we not know of people, and entire groups of Christians in some nations, who need our prayers?

·       The salvation of others (Romans 10:1). Can we say that we have obeyed God’s law to love our neighbors when we fail to pray for their salvation? This would certainly be extended even to our enemies (Mt. 5:44).

·       The forgiveness of our sins (1 Jn. 1:9). For those who have been born again (Jn. 3:5) and baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3), forgiveness from our sins must be sought through repentance and prayer (Mt. 6:12).

Let us give thought not to the cost of prayer, but to the tremendous benefits that we are giving up by not dedicating ourselves to righteous living and prayer as we should. This is a tremendous incentive to our being godly and righteous, for without faithfulness our prayers will not be heard.

Consider all that you lose both now and in the world to come when you spend your life in sin, not the least of which is giving up the power of prayer here and now in this life.


Learning to be Content

by Bryan Gibson

July 1, 2010

The following is Paul’s “thank you note” to the church at Philippi, written while imprisoned in Rome. Read it carefully, because it contains some very important lessons.

(10) “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. (11) Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: (12) I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (14) Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. (15) Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. (16) For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. (17) Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. (18) Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. (19) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (20) Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:10-20).

Zero in on verses 11-12 for just a minute, especially the latter part of v. 11: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Let’s use this passage and a few others to discover his keys to contentment.

He was thankful—for their care (v. 10), for sharing in his distress (v. 14), for the aid they sent him on previous occasions (vv. 15-16), for doing something “well-pleasing to God” (vv. 17-18), for the fact that his and their needs were supplied by God (v. 19). This is the one of the big keys to contentment, because it’s hard to be thankful and discontented at the same time.  “Count your many blessings, name them one by one”—it won’t make our hardships disappear, but it will make them seem a lot less significant.

He did what he had earlier admonished these brethren to do—he looked out “for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). He was too concerned about their welfare to spend much time thinking about his own (Philippians 1:27-28; 2:19-24; 2:25-28). Yes, he was thankful for the gift they sent him, but he was more thankful for the spirituality they had demonstrated in sending the gift (vv. 17-18).  We can learn to be content, too, but we’ll first have to learn to quit thinking about ourselves all the time. Get busy looking out for others, and we’ll soon forget our own woes.

Material things were not his top priority, so much so that he didn’t even like to “speak in regard to need” (v. 11). Look at v. 17 again: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” It’s much easier to be content when the “one thing” that matters most is laying hold of eternal life (Philippians 3:12-14).

In regard to material things, he focused more on necessities than luxuries—“you sent aid once and again for my necessities” (v. 16); “God shall supply all your need” (v. 19). There’s nothing wrong with abounding, or being full (v. 18), but there is something wrong when this is expected, when having an abundance is taken for granted. Don’t forget what Jesus taught us to pray—“give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Do that and it will actually increase our gratitude—especially when God chooses to bless us beyond what He has promised.

He trusted in God’s provisions—both spiritual and material. After talking about how he had learned contentment, he quickly deflected the credit—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v. 13). God provided for Paul’s needs, and will do the same for all His children. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (v. 19).

What God Has Not Given Us

by Dave Brown

June 17, 2010

God has given Christians the most precious gift that anyone could give—His son Jesus Christ through whom we have received promise of eternal life. Paul said: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). While this gift is conditional on our being faithful to Him (Revelation 2:10), faithfulness itself is a gift of God in that it leads us to have the best possible life on this earth, including happiness and peace of mind, while we await our eternal reward. Jesus said that we would “receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." (Luke 18:30) God has also given us the privilege to assist in imparting this gift to others by entrusting to us the gospel. “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). We have been entrusted with the ability, through teaching the gospel to others, to assist them in learning about and accepting these wonderful gifts.

We may not be able to state the extent to which this is true, but we know that the Bible teaches that great blessings fall upon those individuals and those nations that uphold and respect God’s laws. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). So, to the extent that we teach and practice faithfulness to God, we bring blessings not only to ourselves, but through the influence we have on others, to society as a whole. God has given us much.

What God has not given us is the ability to control the moral state of our society, or the actions of any person in our society other than ourselves. We see the evils all around us, and we can teach by word and example against them, but we are not in any position to control them. We are pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:3; 1 Peter 2:11). Even men and women in the highest positions in our society can only influence things, and most often they are powerless to exercise their own will when it comes to the actions of others. When we see the futility of their attempts, we might ask, what can someone with virtually no political or economic power do to counter the evil in this world?

The answer is to first realize that if you are setting out to do good, God is on your side…or perhaps more accurately, you are on God’s side in attempting to influence our world for good. Do not think that you are powerless—but for the relatively few good people in this world perhaps it would have been destroyed long ago (2 Peter 3:7-9).

Next, recognize that the pathway toward accomplishing God’s will is not in the realm of political or economic power. The Bible does not say: “get elected so that you can have influence” or “get rich so that you can change things.” It does say: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Wealth and political power are not evil within themselves, and if you have wealth or influence these should be employed for the Lord. But few of us have these things, and they are not essential to accomplishing great things for God. In fact, they can create barriers toward our serving God in His way when we trust in them more than in God. Jesus said, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Look around you at all of the Christians you know, and find that servant—that person who is willing to serve God and his/her fellow man without recognition or reward. In a sense you will have found Jesus, for it should be clear that Jesus is living in them. Emulate their best traits and it will help you on the goal to following Jesus (Philippians 3:17; 1 Peter 2:21).

Appointing Elders and Deacons

by Bryan Gibson

June 10, 2010

Appointing elders and deacons in a local church can sometimes be a painful process. It doesn’t have to be, but when people don’t behave the way they should, it can make life miserable for everyone. Let’s put YOU in the middle of certain scenarios that could develop and then discuss how best to handle them—according to the Scriptures.

You have the desire to become an elder or deacon, but your motive is self-promotion. You can’t serve, because you don’t love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 again, especially where it says “love…does not parade itself…does not seek its own…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Please remove your name immediately from consideration, because you’re not the kind of servant the Lord seeks (Mark 10:43-45). Hopefully, your brethren will see this ego problem ahead of time and not submit your name in the first place.

Your name is put forward for consideration, either as an elder or a deacon, and someone approaches you with a question about your qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Perhaps they have a very specific objection. Be careful, here, because this test will reveal a lot about you. Remember, “love suffers long and is kind…is not puffed up; does not behave rudely…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). If you get mad with them, then you weren’t qualified in the first place. And don’t say, “If it’s a matter of sin, they should have come to me sooner.” Perhaps they should have, but that is not the key issue here. If their objection is valid, humbly admit it; if it’s not valid, patiently explain to them wherein you think they are wrong.

You have the desire to become an elder or deacon, and for whatever reason you weren’t appointed this time. First, make sure you don’t have any ill feelings toward those who were appointed—“love…does not envy…” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Secondly, don’t let this get you down, especially to the point that it affects your faithfulness to the Lord. Think about all the ways in which you can still serve—teaching, giving, visiting, even helping the elders watch for souls (Hebrews 13:17). The Lord rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), regardless of whether they ever serve as elders or deacons. If you react badly to not being appointed, it may mean that you sought it for the wrong reason anyway.

You really wanted a certain person to be appointed, but because a number of people raised objections, he wasn’t appointed. Please don’t rail against your brethren, because “love…believes all things…” (1 Corinthians 13:7). In other words, don’t immediately assume that your brethren “had it in” for your favorite candidate. It may just be that they saw some things that you were unable to see. And whatever you do, don’t be guilty of any “behind the scenes” actions where you try to coerce brethren into giving up their objections. Conversations between brethren can be fruitful; just be sure that both your motives and your tactics are pleasing to God.

Preaching that Pleases God

(1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)

by Bryan Gibson

June 3, 2010

I started preaching about 28 years ago, and since that time I have relied heavily on the following passage. Read it carefully, and then look at the important lessons taught within.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12: For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. (2) But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. (3) For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. (4) But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. (5) For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. (6) Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. (7) But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. (8) So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. (9) For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. (10) You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; (11) as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, (12) that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

The Content of our Teaching

No surprise here, it’s “the gospel of God” (vv. 2, 8, 9). Sermons that feature just a little gospel and a whole lot of something else—they may please some people, but they won’t build faith and they won’t save souls.

The Motive Behind our Teaching

We should never preach in order to please men (v. 4), or to gain glory for ourselves (v. 6). If either is our motive, we will eventually compromise the truth, and we just can’t let that happen. It’s not money we’re after either (v. 5), but souls (v. 8). We preach in order to please God (v. 4), and what keeps us going is the longing we have for the souls of others (v. 8).

The Manner of our Teaching

Balance is the key. We must be bold (v. 2), because the truth won’t always be popular. The delicate nature of some souls may require us to be “gentle…just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (v. 7). Other situations call for more firmness, “as a father does his own children” (v. 11). Sometimes we need to exhort, sometimes we need to comfort, and sometimes we need to charge (v. 11). The faithful preacher always strives to find the proper balance.

Our Conduct

Teaching is accomplished both by word and by deed, and so we should behave “devoutly and justly and blamelessly” (v. 10).

Our Reward

What a joy to see those whom we have taught “walk worthy of God” (v. 12), and an even greater joy for them to be “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming” (v. 19).

A Painful but Necessary Task

by Bryan Gibson

May 21, 2010


Read carefully the following text from  
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15:

(6) But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. (7) For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; (8) nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, (9) not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. (10) For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. (11) For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. (12) Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. (13) But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. (14) And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. (15) Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

To make the teaching in this text as clear as possible, let’s break it down into five parts.

1. The Problem

One specific problem is identified in v. 11: “…there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. They should have known better, both from Paul’s teaching (v. 10), and from his example (vv. 7-9). There are other ways to walk disorderly, of course, which explains the more general warning given in v. 14: “…if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle.” A church must take action against those members who refuse to obey the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 5 for further teaching on this subject).

2. The Action to be Taken

“Withdraw from” is the command given in v. 6, an action which is further explained in v. 14: “…note that person and do not keep company with him.” Don’t make the mistake of supporting those who refuse to do what they know is right—“if any man will not work, neither shall he eat” (v. 10).

3. The Spirit in Which This Action Should Be Taken

“Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (v. 15). His soul is precious, so don’t cut off all contact with him. Just make sure that your contact with him is for the purpose of urging him to repent.

4. The Purpose of This Action

The purpose is stated very clearly in v. 14: “that he may be ashamed.” It’s that shame that will hopefully lead him to repentance.

5. The Way This Action Could be Avoided

Get back to work and quit depending on others to take care of you—“we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (v. 12). But that’s not the only commandment given through Jesus Christ. If every member would obey Him (v. 14), the action described above would never be necessary.

The Mind of a Christian

by Bryan Gibson

May 14, 2010

Here are some things that should characterize the mind of a Christian, using Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.

A mind that will not accept error, a mind that strives for the faith of the gospel (“stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). Stand fast, even when so many around you don’t (3:1-3, 17-19). Stand fast, no matter what others may say or do to you—“not in any way terrified by your adversaries” (1:28). A mind filled with courage and conviction—that’s the kind that pleases the Lord.

A mind that does not rest on past accomplishments, but keeps pressing, keeps reaching, right to the very end. Paul had this mind (“not that I have already attained”; “I do not count myself to have apprehended”—3:12-13), and so should we (“as many as are mature, have this mind”—3:15). No matter how well we may be doing spiritually (1:3-8), we can always do better (1:9-11).

A humble mind. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (2:3). Note the contrast in 1:21: “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Selfish ambition should never be the motive for preaching (1:16), or anything else we do in service to the Lord. After all, our goal is to exalt Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Paul’s “earnest expectation and hope” was that “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (1:20).

A mind that sincerely cares for others, which is obviously not a problem for someone who is humble-minded. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others (2:4). That’s the very mind which prompted Jesus to come to this earth and give His life on the cross (2:5-8). May the same thing be said of us that was said of Timothy: “For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state” (2:20).

A peaceful mind, absent from anxiety (4:6-9). This passage offers the perfect prescription for “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (4:7). 1) Rather than focus on your burdens, focus on your blessings—be thankful (4:6). 2) Unload your burdens on God—He can handle them a lot better than you can—“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). 3) Meditate on the all the virtuous things listed in 4:8. It’s hard to have good mental health when your mind is a garbage dump. 4) Obey the Lord, using the good examples of men like Paul—“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these DO, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:9).

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

The Internet: Good or Evil (Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

May 14, 2010

In last week’s article, we looked at some dangers posed by the internet. Let’s look this week at some of its positive uses—from a religious standpoint.

Bible Study

The internet has a wealth of information that can aid one in his study of the Bible. You can find free Bible software (e-sword is good one), online searchable Bibles (e.g. Bible gateway), sermons, Bible class material, articles, etc. If you haven’t done so already, please check out the site for the Prattmont Church of Christ. It features over 200 articles covering a variety of topics, sermon outlines, Bible class material, and audio sermons (you can even subscribe to a podcast of these sermons. We would also encourage you to check out biblethought.org, in particular the discussion on the Seven Myths of Denominationalism. John Gibson will be with us this summer (July 11-16) for a special series of lessons. You can read his articles and listen to his sermons at pepperroadchurch.org. If you use Facebook, join the group “Plain Words from God’s Word.” If you like what you see, tell all your friends about it. There are a number of other good sites, but please be warned—there is also a boatload of false doctrine on the internet. Always “search the Scriptures to make sure these things are so” (Acts 17:11).

Teaching the Lost

Nothing can completely replace personal contact in teaching the lost, but it is nice to know that you can put something on the World Wide Web and it can read by people all over the world. Our task is to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15)—the internet affords us a great opportunity to do just that.

Finding a Faithful Church

We have written often in this e-bulletin about the need to find a church that is following the New Testament pattern, one that is determined to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 1:9). Several sites can help you locate one of these churches (bible.ca, findthechurch.com, goodfight.com). We can’t personally vouch for each one of the churches listed in these directories, but we do have a reasonable degree of confidence. Always compare everything you see in a church to the pattern revealed in the New Testament.

Encouraging and edifying others

We wrote last week about how the internet has become an avenue for gossip, backbiting, slander, etc. Why not use it more constructively? We have instant contact with so many people, affording us a wonderful opportunity to offer words of encouragement. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). “Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The Internet: Good or Evil?

by Bryan Gibson

April 30, 2010

Depends on how you use it, right? Let’s look this week at some of the dangers posed by the internet, and then next week at some of its positive uses.

Pornography

Access has never been easier to pornography, with websites that feature just about every sexual perversion known to man. Obviously, these sites must be completely avoided (see Matthew 5:27-28; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:11-12; 1 John 2:15-17). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

Improper companionships

Instant messaging, chat rooms, social networking sites—these have all become very popular, but they can also be very dangerous. The person you’re “chatting” with—it just might be a sexual predator. Ask your local police force how many are lurking out there in cyberspace. They’ll know, because many of them have a special task force monitoring this sort of thing. What about married people who use these features to “reunite” with old boyfriends or girlfriends? It starts out innocently enough, but then the conversation gets more serious, and before you know it someone’s marriage has been destroyed. One of the dangers of internet conversation is that people will type something they would never dream of saying face to face. The Bible contains a number of warnings about the kind of companions we need to keep (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 22:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We need to read and heed these warnings, because they also apply to online “friendships.”

Gossip, backbiting, evil speaking, slander, etc.

“And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13). It’s much easier to gossip nowadays—you don’t have to wander from house to house. People type things “which they ought not” and then with the press of a button, it’s sent around the world, or at least to all one’s “friends” and contacts. Don’t think this is a big deal? Just ask someone who has been the victim of an internet rumor. “Love…is kind…does not behave rudely…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Wasted time

It is very tempting to spend far too much time “surfing the net.” The World Wide Web has put a tremendous amount of information right at our fingertips, and while that can be good, it can also become an obsession. Remember the admonition given in Eph. 5:15-16: “…walk carefully…redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” It’s awful hard to be “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1) when so much of our time is spent on the internet.

Surrounded by Faithful Christians

by Bryan Gibson

April 22, 2010

Timothy was a strong Christian, and here is the evidence: “For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord…” (1 Timothy 4:17). Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do” (1 Corinthians 16:10). “But I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to send Timothy to you shortly…for I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state” (Philippians 2:19-20).

To whom should we give credit for the kind of man Timothy became? First and foremost, the praise should go to God, something which Paul acknowledged in 2 Timothy 1:3-5. But how about the people God used to help Timothy? Let’s start with his upbringing. Timothy’s father was not a Christian (Acts 16:1), but his mother and grandmother were, and they made sure he knew the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15). There were also the good brethren from the area in which he grew up (Acts 16:2). And look at the good influences he had on those preaching journeys, men like Paul and Silas and Luke, not to mention the countless brethren he came in contact with on those same journeys. Throughout his life, Timothy was surrounded by faithful Christians, and together they helped him become the kind of man he was. Could he have been faithful without them? Sure he could, but who thinks that he would like to have started over without them?

I’m not yet the man Timothy was, but I can certainly relate to what it means to be surrounded by faithful Christians. Both my parents were faithful Christians, and they raised me accordingly. I grew up in a church where obedience to the Lord was more than just talk; it was exemplified. I was surrounded by “brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers” (Mark 10:28-30)—faithful Christians who took a personal interest in my spiritual welfare. I received the sound, Scriptural teaching I needed, both by word and by example. I was encouraged, warned, comforted, corrected—all the things necessary to help someone be faithful to the Lord. And what’s more—I’ve had this same blessing all my life, and it continues till today. I’ve been laboring with the brethren of the Prattmont Church of Christ for 26 ½ years, and it’s quite possible that I’ve received more good from them than they’ve received from me. Where would I be today without all these good influences in my life? It’s hard to say, and quite frankly, it scares me to even think about it. I’ve known some good brethren who have been faithful to the Lord without the many good influences I’ve had, and I thank God for them. That being the case, I still feel compelled to offer this prayer: “Thank you, God, for surrounding me with faithful Christians from the first day until now, and help me to take full advantage of this wonderful blessing.”

“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Shall We Continue in Sin?

By Bryan Gibson

March 19, 2010

The full question is found in Romans 6:1: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Here’s Paul’s answer, and there’s nothing wishy-washy about it. “Certainly not!” or “God forbid!—depending on which translation you use. The Holy Spirit, through whom Paul is writing, could have left it at that, but he goes on to provide at least four different proofs for his answer, all of them centering around the significance of our baptism. Here are four reasons why Christians cannot continue in sin.

#1: We cannot continue in sin, because “we died with Christ” (Romans 6:8), and in so doing “died to sin” (Romans 6:2). Prior to be buried with Christ in baptism, we crucified (put to death) the old man, with all his sinful ways (Romans 6:6). What He’s talking about here is genuine repentance, and it should have preceded our baptism, if we truly “obeyed from the heart” (Romans 6:17). “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” (Romans 6:11)—it’s hard to be dead to sin and practice it at the same time.

#2: We cannot continue in sin, because we were raised with Christ—raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Here the scene shifts to what happens after the burial—the resurrection to a new life. We quoted the first half of this earlier; now let’s complete the thought: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11). Every aspect is crucial—the death, the burial (where sins are forgiven), and the resurrection. There’s no way we can continue in sin if we understand the significance of each.

#3: We cannot continue in sin, because when we obeyed the gospel, we changed masters. We were set free from sin, our former master (Romans 6:6-7), and thank God for that (Romans 6:17). We presented ourselves to God in obedience, and so now we belong to Him—“slaves of God” (Romans 6:22), or “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Anyone interested in going back to the old master? Wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

#4: We cannot continue in sin, because its fruits are bitter, and its end is eternal death. Look at the difference in the rewards given by the two masters: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:21-23). Sounds like only one of these masters really has our best interests at heart.

Thank You God

by Bryan Gibson

March 12, 2010

For the gift of Jesus, a gift best described as “indescribable” (2 Corinthians 9:15). He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20)—what more can I say!

For Your grace, which is “exceedingly abundant” (1 Timothy 1:14); for Your “tender mercy” (Luke 1:78); and for Your “great patience” (Romans 9:22). For all the opportunities you’ve given me to repent (2 Timothy 2:24-26), I sure am grateful.

For the spiritual blessings I have in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3), including redemption from sin (Romans 7:24-25; Colossians 1:13-14; Luke 2:36-38); peace with You (Romans 5:1); the assurance that my prayers are heard and answered by You (John 11:41-42; Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16; 1 John 3:21-22; James 5:16); victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57); and an heir of the most wonderful inheritance I can imagine (Romans 8:16-17; Ephesians 1:11-14; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-4).

For revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 3:1-5), a message which can be clearly understood by those with humble hearts (Matthew 11:25).

For the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

For those with good and honest hearts (Luke 8:15) who welcome the gospel as Your word (1 Thessalonians 2:13), and who then obey the gospel (Romans 6:17).

For my brethren—for the grace given to them (1 Corinthians 1:4); for the gifts given to them by Your grace (1 Peter 4:10-11); for the way they better equip me to serve You (Ephesians 4:11-13); for their faith and love (Romans 1:8; 2 Corinthians 8:16; Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Philemon 1:4-5); for their fellowship in the gospel (Philippians 1:3-5); for the encouragement and comfort they give me (Acts 28:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4); for the joy they bring me (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10; Philemon 1:7); for their generosity (2 Corinthians 9:10-14; Philippians 4:10); and for all the sacrifices they make (Romans 16:3-4).

For open doors to teach others the gospel (1 Corinthians 16:8-9; 2 Corinthians 2:12-16).

For those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4)—sent by You “for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7).

For all my trials, tribulations, etc., because they’ve made me more humble (2 Cor. 1:8-9; 12:7-10); they’ve given me greater perseverance; they’ve improved my character; and all of this together has given me greater hope (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).

For food, clothing, shelter, good health, safe travel, etc. (Matthew 6:25-33; 15:36; Acts 27:35; Romans 14:6; Philippians 4:18-19; Philemon 1:22; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; 6:8; 3 John 1:1-2), for really every good thing (Ephesians 5:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18), because “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Let Us Pray

by Bryan Gibson

March 5, 2010

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Here are some attributes of God, which should encourage faithful Christians everywhere to keep on praying.

God has great power, so much so that “by the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of heaven by the breath of his mouth” (Psalms 33:6). We “stand in awe of Him, for he spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalms 33:8-9). No need to worry if God is capable of answering all my prayers, or even all the prayers of faithful Christians everywhere. If we were to all pray at the same time, and all make different requests, it still wouldn’t tax Him in the least.

God has great compassion and lovingkindness. “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalms 86:15). “How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalms 36:7). God doesn’t just have the power to help us; He wants to help—because He cares.

God has infinite knowledge and understanding—“Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:5). That being the case, how can He not know what is best for us? Remember, His perfect understanding even includes that which is yet to happen. We ask for things sometimes, only because we know (or think) we need it right now. We don’t always think about what that means for us “down the road.” Aren’t we glad that God knows, and that what He gives us won’t hurt us in the long run?

God’s infinite knowledge and understanding extends to every single individual. “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works” (Psalms 33:13-15). God doesn’t just know what mankind in general needs; He knows what I need. Everyone’s situation is just a little bit different—that’s no problem for God. He keeps up with all His children, and He knows what’s best for each one.

God is faithful, meaning among other things that He’s always available. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalms 121:1-4). Ever needed help and had a hard time getting in touch with family or friends? That’s never an issue with God. Call upon Him any time—He never sleeps; He never takes a break; He never goes “out of town.”

God is righteous. “In Your faithfulness answer me, and in Your righteousness” (Psalms 143:1). If there was even a hint of unrighteousness in God, He might occasionally lead us down the wrong path. No need to worry, for because of His righteousness, we can be confident that His answers will always keep us in the path of righteousness.

A Christian’s Daily Walk

(From Ephesians)

by Bryan Gibson

February 26, 2010

WALK “no longer…as the rest of the Gentiles walk” (4:17), or even the way you “once” walked (2:1-3; 4:22). Now that you’ve “learned Christ” (4:20-21), you know better; you know how you’re supposed to behave. “Put off...the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts...and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22, 24).

WALK in the “good works which God prepared beforehand” (2:10). This is the very purpose for which you were “created in Christ Jesus,” so don’t mess with the design—either by not walking in these good works, or by trying to substitute your works for His.

“WALK worthy of the calling with which you were called” (4:1). God’s call to you includes several demands: to be united with all believers in one body (1:10; 2:14-16); to be holy and without blame (1:4); to show to others the riches of God’s grace and wisdom (2:7; 3:10). Do your best to answer His call for you, because you sure don’t want to miss out on the “hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4; 1:18).

“WALK in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (5:2). Love the Lord “in sincerity” (6:24), and show “love for all the saints” (1:15). To show the love of Christ to your brethren, you’ll have to “let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (4:31). On the positive side, or the “new man” side, you’ll need to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (4:32). This kind of love applies in the home, too, especially to you husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (5:25). And, it also applies when you go out to teach the lost. Speak the truth “boldly” (6:19), but speak it “in love” (4:15). Do it the way Christ did it.

“WALK as children of light” (5:8). You were “once darkness” (5:8), but not any longer, so “have no fellowship with the fruits of darkness, but rather expose them” (5:11). Take the light you’ve received from Christ (5:14), and shine it on others. It will “make manifest” (5:13), or obvious, their sins, and yes, it may make them mad, but it may also bring them to Christ.

“WALK circumspectly,” or carefully (5:15). Your window of opportunity to make a difference in the world doesn’t last very long, so don’t waste it—“making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (5:16). Don’t waste your time by acting like a fool (5:15), by being “unwise” or ignorant of God’s will (5:17), by being “drunk with wine” (5:18). Spend your time understanding “what the will of the Lord is” (5:17), and instead of being filled with wine, “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18).

Jesus Is Really Serious About Repentance

by Bryan Gibson

February 12, 2010

“Just As I Am”—most of you have either heard the hymn or even sung it. It’s a good hymn, properly understood, but it seems that some have gotten the wrong impression from it—that Jesus will accept us just the way we are, without any real repentance on our part. We can’t have our cake and eat it too—we can’t have a relationship with Him and with the world at the same time. Jesus is serious about repentance, as we can see from the following points.

His message was not, “Come as you are; you don’t have to change a thing.” Jesus preached that people should repent—“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17); “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

His message of repentance was not just directed to the crowds in general; He directed it to specific individuals. To the lame man whom He had just healed, Jesus said, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Let’s remember these words the next time we sin—“sin no more”—that’s the message from Jesus.

And this same message was not just directed to sinners, or to those who were not His people—it was also directed to saints (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19). Sorry, but the “once saved, always saved” doctrine just doesn’t square with Scripture. A Christian who sins needs to repent, or he’s going to be in a lot of trouble (notice the “repent...or else” warnings in the passages listed above (and consider the next point).

Jesus made it clear what would happen to people if they didn’t repent—“unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). To those cities who did not repent at His preaching, Jesus warned of condemnation. For example, here’s what He said to Capernaum: “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24).

But He also made it clear what would happen to people if they did repent—His Father would welcome them with open arms, the kind of reception pictured in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). When one repents, he escapes the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26), he is saved from spiritual death (James 5:19-20), and he can now be forgiven of his sins (Acts 8:22).

Jesus loves us, but He hates sins, and He hates what sin does to us. Make no mistake about it; this call to repentance is an expression of His love for us. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

A Message to the Sinner

A Summary Of Romans 1-3

by Bryan Gibson

February 7, 2010

You may not think you’re a sinner, but you are. Like everyone else (3:9, 23), you have sinned. “But I’m not as bad as...”—don’t even go there, because you’re in the same boat with them (3:9). And don’t try to make any excuses for your sins, because there are none (1:20). Maybe you weren’t taught as much as others were; maybe you grew up in some bad circumstances—it doesn’t change the fact that you are a sinner and accountable to God.

Because you have sinned, you are guilty before God (3:19), and you deserve to die (1:32). In your present condition, you will receive indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish (2:8-9). Think as long and as hard as you wish and you cannot even imagine a fate worse than that.

But here’s the good news, and you do need some. God loves you very much, and so He doesn’t want to punish you. He’s always had a plan to save you (1:1-4; 3:21), and that plan is revealed in the gospel (1:17). You’re guilty, but He can justify you (3:24, 26); you’re in bondage to sin, but He can redeem or deliver you (3:24). And what He would love to ultimately give you is eternal life (2:7, 10).

But here’s the problem. God is righteous, and so He cannot just overlook, or pass over your sins. He can’t just give you a free pass. To maintain His righteousness or justice, He must punish sin (1:32; 3:25-26).

And He did punish sin—through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus died in your place; He took what was coming to you. God’s wrath against you was appeased when Jesus offered Himself. That’s what the Bible means when it says that Jesus was “set forth as a propitiation” (3:25). It is His death, then, that makes possible your salvation, your justification, your redemption (3:24-26).

Jesus died for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be saved—it doesn’t even necessarily mean that YOU will be saved. It is only those who have faith in Jesus who will be saved (1:16; 3:22, 26)—those who express this faith by obeying His commandments and seeking His forgiveness when they don’t (2:5-10).

You can keep doing what you’re doing, but just understand that in so doing “you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (2:5). Why choose guilt when you can be innocent? Why choose bondage when you can be free? Why choose turmoil when you can have peace? Why choose shame when you can have honor? Why choose eternal death when you can have eternal life?

An “Interview” with Peter, the Apostle (Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson

January 15, 2010

Obviously, it’s impossible to do a “live” interview with Peter. However, by looking at his life and his teaching, we can conclude what his answers would be to these questions. The plan right now is to do this “interview” in three parts.

Question: Tell us how you were first introduced to Jesus.

Answer: Through my brother, Andrew. He learned about Jesus from John the Baptist, who one day pointed to Jesus walking by and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” That same day Andrew followed Jesus to the place he was staying and spent the day with Him.  He came to me as soon as he left and said, “We have found the Messiah.” He then took me to meet Jesus, who when He saw me said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (or Peter), a name which means stone or rock. I appreciate His patience with me, because it sure did take me awhile to become the rock He wanted me to be.  [See John 1:35-42.]

Question: It was several months later when Jesus called you to follow Him. What convinced you to do it?

Answer: By that time I had spent more time with Jesus and had gotten to know Him better. But you need to know what happened the day He called me. James and John and I had spent the previous night fishing and had caught nothing. Jesus came along while we were washing and mending our nets. There were so many people who wanted to hear Jesus teach that He asked me to put my boat out a little distance from the land so He could teach the multitudes from there. When He stopped speaking, He said to me, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” I was tired from the previous night, and I didn’t think we would catch anything, but I did what He said. Before long we had caught so many fish that the net began to break. James and John brought the other boat to help us, and we filled up both boats with so many fish that the boats began to sink. I was so overwhelmed by the greatness and power of Jesus that I fell at His knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus then said to me, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” How could I possibly say no to Him? When we got to the shore, I left everything behind and followed Him. [See Luke 5:1-11; Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 4:18-22.]

Question: Leaving everything behind, at least to some, might seem very difficult. Any regrets?

Answer: None whatsoever. When I reminded Jesus later that we had left all to follow Him, here’s what He said: “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Just prior to my conversation with Jesus, He had offered a rich young ruler the opportunity to follow Him. He turned Jesus down, because he mistakenly thought that he would lose too much. Not very smart—to turn down an investment that yields a hundredfold! [See Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.]

An “Interview” With Peter, the Apostle (Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

January 22, 2010

Question: Let’s talk about the confession you made in the presence of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). You then went on to proclaim the very same thing in the presence of others (Acts 2:36). Explain how you could be so certain.

Answer: I saw Him heal my mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31). I was with Him when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:49-56). I saw Him walking on the Sea of Galilee, the same power which He even gave me—at least until my faith began to waver (Matthew 14:24-31). I was there on the mountain with Him when He was transfigured, when His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. I heard the voice from the cloud which said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:1-5; see also 2 Peter 1:16-21). And here’s the clincher: I saw His empty tomb (John 20:2-8), the same tomb that had been sealed and well-guarded (Matthew 27:62-66). And then I saw Him! I saw His hands, through which nails had been driven; I saw His side, which had been pierced with a sword. I ate with Him, had conversations with Him (John 21:10-23). There’s no other way to explain it—Jesus was raised from the dead. You can trust my testimony concerning Jesus, because I was an eyewitness to these great events—and to many more.

Question: Unfortunately, what many remember most about you is that after His arrest, you denied Jesus three times. Can you explain how that happened?

Answer: I was easy prey for Satan, because I was overconfident. The other disciples—I could see where they might stumble, but not me (Matthew 26:33). “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”—that’s what I said to Jesus. In my first epistle, I wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I was anything but sober and vigilant. I didn’t heed the warnings Jesus gave me—“Satan has asked for you” (Luke 22:31); “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). I was prepared for a physical battle (John 18:10-11), when I should have been prepared for a spiritual one.

Question: And how did it make you feel that you had denied someone with whom you had such a close relationship?

Answer: When Jesus turned and looked at me after the third denial, I was so ashamed that I went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:61-62). I didn’t just weep, though; I repented. I failed Jesus this time, but He still had big plans for me—to strengthen my brethren (Luke 22:32), to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17), to preach the gospel throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20). And that’s exactly what I did, only this time with more faith and courage (see Acts 1-12, especially chapters 4-5). I wasn’t perfect; in fact, Paul had to rebuke me to my face one time (Galatians 2:11-14). But, I appreciate the Lord’s patience with me, because for the most part I finally became the rock He wanted me to be (John 1:42).

Question: Speaking of strengthening your brethren, what instruction do you have for your brethren to help them overcome temptation, to keep them from denying Jesus?

Answer: First, don’t be overconfident like I was. “Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17). Secondly, don’t make brash statements about what you will or won’t do; just work on getting stronger spiritually: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love...for if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:5-7, 10). Thirdly, “be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). That’s what I should I have done in the Garden (Matthew 26:41), and that’s exactly what you need to do—every day, several times a day.

An “Interview” with Peter, the Apostle (Part 3)

by Bryan Gibson

January 29, 2010

This week will conclude our series of “interviews” with Peter.

Question: You spoke earlier about the miracles you saw Jesus perform. Tell us now about the miracles you performed.

Answer: Like the other apostles, I did perform a number of miracles, some while Jesus was still with us (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:14-15; 6:7; Luke 9:1-2), and then many more after He ascended to heaven (Acts 2:43; 5:12-16). I’ll mention a few in particular. I healed a man in his forties, who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1-9; 4:22), as well as a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed (Acts 9:32-34). I also raised from the dead a lady named Dorcas, who was well known among the saints in Joppa for her good works and charitable deeds (Acts 9:36-42). Unlike the acts performed by at least one man we met (Acts 8:9-13), these were all genuine miracles, a fact that even our enemies could not deny (Acts 4:15-16).

Question: What was the purpose behind these miracles?

Answer: Not fame or fortune, I can assure you of that. We were always careful to give credit to Jesus, because it was in His name and by His power that we performed these miracles (Acts 3:12-16; 4:8-10). He baptized us (apostles) with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8; 2:32-33), which not only gave us the power to preach (and later write) by inspiration, but also the power to perform these miracles. These miracles were designed to confirm that what we were preaching was indeed the truth (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4). In other words, performing these miracles in His name would persuade people that we were also preaching in His name. Unfortunately, there were some who tried to use the name of Jesus to perform signs—without proper authority (Acts 19:11-17). The Lord certainly made them wish they hadn’t done that. One other thing about these miracles—they were never intended to last through the ages, only until the word of the Lord could be fully revealed and confirmed.

Question: In the early years of the church, many Jewish Christians were resistant to receiving the Gentiles, unless they became circumcised and kept the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-5). What was your stance on this?

Answer: It took me awhile, but when God sent me to preach to the Gentiles (Cornelius and his family), I learned the truth—that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34); that whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him (Acts 10:35); that we should no longer bind the law of Moses (Acts 15:10); that salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is available to all men (Acts 15:8-9, 11).

Question: Anything else you would like to say that we haven’t covered?

Answer: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). It’s hard to imagine now, but in the hours leading up to the arrest of our Savior, the other apostles and I actually argued about who would be the greatest (Luke 22:24). Jesus put us all to shame that same night when He laid aside His garments, girded himself with a towel, poured water into a basin and began to wash our feet and wipe them with that same towel (John 13:3-5). When our Lord says, “be clothed with humility,” He’s only asking us to do what He has already done.

Do You Need To Be Baptized...Again?

by Bryan Gibson

January 7, 2010

When Paul came to the city of Ephesus on his third preaching journey, he found some men who needed to be baptized again. Read the following passage carefully:

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:1-5).

It’s hard to fault these 12 men (Acts 19:7) too much, because they had not been taught properly. Apollos, “who knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), had already done some teaching there in Ephesus before Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). No doubt these 12 men had been influenced by such teaching; however, when they learned the truth, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).

It could be that some of our readers were not taught properly prior to their first baptism, and therefore need to be baptized again. To help you decide, consider these four elements of the “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5), the one that is according to the Scriptures.

1) It requires the right subject—one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and has repented of his sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:12). 2) It requires the right action—burial or immersion (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). 3) It requires the right purpose—to be saved, or to receive the remission or forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21); to enter “into Christ” (Romans 6:3-4), or to “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). 4) It requires the right authority—“in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 19:5).

Let all that soak in for a minute—perhaps you need to go back and read the previous paragraph again, together with all the passages cited. Do you need to be baptized again? You certainly DO, if any of the following were true of your first “baptism.”

1) You were not a proper subject for baptism. Perhaps you were baptized as an infant, making it impossible for you to believe on Christ and repent of your sins. Or perhaps you were older and still didn’t meet these conditions. 2) You were “baptized” by sprinkling or pouring. True baptism is a “burial”; in fact it pictures both the burial and the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:3-5). 3) You were baptized for the wrong reason or purpose, or maybe you didn’t understand the purpose. Many believe that sins are forgiven before baptism, but that doesn’t agree with the plain teaching of Scripture. You can’t be “baptized...for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), if you believe that remission of sins has already taken place. 4) You were baptized in the name of, or by the authority of, someone other than Jesus.

If you have questions about your previous baptism, don’t dismiss them too quickly. Your soul is much too valuable for that. Make sure that you do the right thing, and that may very well require you to be baptized again. If we can assist you in any way with this matter, please feel free to contact us.

The Wrath of God Almighty

by Bryan Gibson

December 18, 2009

According to Jesus, more people will be lost than will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to be lost. I’ve read the descriptions of hell and of God’s wrath in the New Testament, and quite frankly, they scare me to death. “Outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30); “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41); a “lake which burns with fire and brimstone”; a place where there “be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42)—no thank you. I don’t want to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9); nor do I want to “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Revelation 14:10). I want no part of His “fierceness” (Revelation 19:15), His “vengeance” (Hebrews 10:30; 2 Thessalonians 1:8), or His “fiery indignation” (Hebrews 10:27). Surely all of this is reserved for just the worst kind of people, the absolute dregs of society. Well, I’ve done some reading through the New Testament, trying to put together at least a partial list of those who will be experience God’s wrath. Here is that partial list—you might be in for a surprise.

·           Those who do not know God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

·           Those who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 3:36; 8:21-24).

·           Those who believe in Him, but won’t stand up for Him (John 12:42-43; Matthew 10:33).

·           Those who say, “Lord, Lord,” but do not obey (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46); who “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16).

·           Those who are “self-seeking and do not obey the truth” (Romans 2:8-9).

·           Those who practice sin, whether they be His children or not (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:8-9; Ephesians 5:5-6; Colossians 3:5-6), and are unwilling to repent of their sin (Matthew 3:8-12; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22-24; Romans 2:5; 2 Corinthians 12:20-21).

·           Those who serve the Lord faithfully for a time, who have their names written in the Book of Life; but who then fall away and have their names blotted out of the Book of Life (Hebrews 4:11; 10:35-39; Revelation 3:5; 20:15; 21:17; 22:19).

·           Those who teach false doctrine (2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-9).

·           Those who because they do not love the truth, believe a lie instead (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 22:15); and as result do not abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 1:9; John 8:31-32).

·           Those who serve the Lord half-heartedly, because He is only a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

·           Those who show no mercy, either by neglecting the needs of others (Matthew 25:31-46), or by showing partiality or prejudice in their dealings with others (James 2:1-13).

If any of us be guilty of any of these things, let’s keep this in mind: “The Lord...is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Bill Ryan’s Funeral—February 9, 2002

by Bryan Gibson

December 10, 2009

The following article contains excerpts from a funeral I preached back in 2002. It’s a little lengthy, but be sure you read it all.

Bill Ryan’s last year was his best year, despite his battle with brain cancer. Let me explain. Bill was born on July 15th, 1941, but he was born again in the early part of 2001. That’s when both he and his wife Betty were baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. As Bill said, there was no way to get around Acts 2:38 (“repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”). They both then became members of the Prattmont Church of Christ, and they did this out of conviction. This church was patterned after the local churches in the New Testament, and they wanted to be part of it. Bill and Betty were good people before they did any of this, but it was in the last year of Bill’s life, to use Betty’s own words, that they “made their lives right with God.” That’s why it was the best year of his life.

I first met Bill and Betty in March of 2001. Their son, Phil Ryan, called to ask me if I would be interested in studying the Bible with them, because he thought they were ready to do that. Boy, were they ever ready! I don’t know when I’ve seen two people more eagerly embrace the gospel. They couldn’t get enough of God’s word. They reminded me of a man in the Bible named Cornelius. When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house to teach him and his family the gospel, Cornelius said, “We are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:33). Cornelius couldn’t wait to hear what he needed to do to be right with God, and neither could Bill and Betty. They had not heard much Bible teaching in the churches they had visited, so they were delighted to have this opportunity to sit down with an open Bible and learn the will of God.

Jesus used different types of soil to illustrate the different types of hearts that receive the gospel (Luke 8:4-15). Well, the gospel certainly found fertile soil in the hearts of Bill and Betty. And let me assure you, this initial enthusiasm for the word of God did not wane. They continued to study diligently; because they wanted to know everything there was to know about how to please God.

I was with Bill and Betty when they received the news of Bill’s cancer. It was on a Wednesday, and as you might expect, it was tough day for both of them. But guess where they went that night? That’s right—to mid-week Bible study. They were spent, emotionally and physically, but they still wanted to meet with their fellow Christians—study with them, sing with them, and pray with them.

What did we see in Bill Ryan through this entire ordeal? We saw an unwavering faith or trust in God. Bill never once questioned God about this illness. He never took on a “woe is me” or “why me” attitude. He knew that God’s grace had saved him from His sins, and that this same grace would lead him home (as we sang about earlier). Bill Ryan believed with all his heart the words of Psalms 23:4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” We also saw in Bill Ryan an unshakeable hope, a hope that became an anchor to his soul (Hebrews 6:19-20). Often, when someone succumbs to cancer, we say that he fought a losing battle. His was not a losing battle, because he knew there was victory in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Bill saw death, not as the end of his life, but the beginning. He understood that to depart and be with Christ is far better than anything this life might have to offer (Philippians 1:23). Finally, we saw a man at peace—at peace because of his faith and hope. Paul described this peace as one that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). It’s hard to preach about this peace, because it’s hard to put into words. It is best understood when you see it demonstrated in someone’s life, and we saw it in Bill Ryan’s life, even when he was staring death in the face.

Before closing, I need to do something that I know Bill would want me to do, and that is to appeal to those of you who have not made the same decision that he made. When Bill Ryan wanted to be saved from His sins and become a Christian, he knew that he had to follow God’s plan. He knew that “belief only” was not sufficient. He knew that neither “asking Jesus to come into your heart” nor “praying the sinner’s prayer” were what people were taught to do in the New Testament. What Bill Ryan learned from his study of the New Testament was that upon believing in Jesus as the Son of God, he needed to repent of his sins, confess his faith in Jesus, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Bill understood the plain command in Acts 2:38, and he obeyed it.

Remember, too, what both Bill and Betty did after they were baptized into Christ. They joined themselves to a group of Christians who were committed to following Christ in everything they did—in their worship, in their work, in the way they were organized, in really every respect. They didn’t find a perfect church, but they did find one determined to follow God’s perfect plan. What Bill and Betty found in the denominational world troubled them. They saw division, which the Lord plainly taught against. They saw churches that had drifted more towards entertainment than edification, more towards feeding bellies than feeding souls, more towards secular education than spiritual education. They wanted to be part of a local church that would be true to the mission that God gave each local church. I plead with all of you, on God’s behalf, make the same decision that Bill Ryan did—because He did what God told him to do in His word. One day you too will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Will you be able to walk through this valley without fear? Will you have the assurance that God is with you? Not unless you have made your life right with God. Today—right now—would be the perfect time to do that.

The Harm of False Teaching

by Bryan Gibson

December 3, 2009

Bible teachers, including myself, sure do need to be careful—careful that we teach, not our own wisdom, but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), careful that we preach the word, not just what makes people feel better (2 Timothy 4:1-5), careful that we not go astray from the truth on any issue (Galatians 1:6-9). Read very carefully Paul’s warning to Timothy:

“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (NAS—“accurately handling the word of truth”). But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer (NAS—“gangrene). Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:14-18).

Several phrases in the above passage indicate the harm that can be done when teachers stray from the truth.

“to the ruin of the hearers”

What a scary thought, that we could actually ruin those who hear our teaching. The goal is to save souls, not ruin them, and it’s only by teaching the truth that we can accomplish that goal (James 1:21; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; John 8:31-32).

“increase to more ungodliness”

There is too much ungodliness already; we sure don’t want to add to it. Only the truth, taught in its fullness, will enable people to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). So let’s teach the truth, even when people desire something else (2 Timothy 4:2-4), because if we don’t, the ungodliness so rampant today is only going to get worse.

“spread like cancer” (or gangrene)

False doctrine spreads rapidly, because it typically appeals to the “flesh” (2 Peter 2:18). What appeals to the flesh, though, is very detrimental to the soul—it eats away at the soul, much like cancer or gangrene eats away at the body. The truth, on the other hand, is “wholesome” or healthy (1 Timothy 6:3). Let’s make sure we give people the proper nourishment (1 Timothy 4:6).

“overthrow the faith of some”

How would you like that on your record when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), that you destroyed the faith of some who might otherwise have believed to the saving of their soul (Hebrews 10:39)? The very thought should make us tremble, and more determined than ever to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Job Was a Righteous Man

by Bryan Gibson

November 24, 2009

Job 31 is a wonderful chapter, filled with practical application. It contains Job’s defense of himself—of his attitudes and conduct toward God. He offers this defense, primarily for his friends, because they were convinced that Job was suffering because of sin. Let’s take a closer look then at his attitudes and conduct in the following areas. We’ll just let Job speak for himself, because we’re sure you’ll be impressed.

Toward impure thoughts (1-4). “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps?”

Toward falsehood and deceit (5-8). “If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity. If my step has turned from the way, or my heart walked after my eyes, or if any spot adheres to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat; yes, let my harvest be rooted out.”

Toward adultery (9-12). “If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door...that would be wickedness; yes, it would be iniquity deserving of judgment...a fire that consumes to destruction, and would root out all my increase.”

Toward his servants (13-15). “If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?”

Toward the poor and needy (16-23). “If I have kept the poor from their desire, or caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or eaten my morsel by myself, so that the fatherless could not eat of it...if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or any poor man without covering; if his heart has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have raised my hand against the fatherless...then let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket. For destruction from God is a terror to me, and because of His magnificence I cannot endure.”

Toward covetousness or idolatry (24-28). “If I have made gold my hope, or said to fine gold, ‘You are my confidence'; if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because my hand had gained much...this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above.”

Toward his enemies (29-30). “Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy, or exulted when evil befell him? No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking for his life in a curse.”

Toward hospitality (31-32). “Have the men of my tent not said, ‘Who can find one who has not been satisfied with his meat’? The stranger has not lodged outside, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.”

Toward covering or concealing sin (33-34). “Have I covered my transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I feared the great multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me...?”

God’s Student Handbook

by Bryan Gibson

November 19, 2009

Most students receive a handbook, outlining the behavior expected of them and the penalties if they don’t. Here are some instructions from God’s handbook, most of which you won’t find in any other handbook. To keep it simple, we’ll use Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians as our source for all of these.

School can be pretty trying at times, so you’re going to need God’s help. The same power He used to raise Christ from the dead is available to you (1:19-20), but only if you’re in Christ. It is only through Him (3:12) that you have access to the “exceeding greatness of His power” (1:19), the same power that is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (3:20). So if you’ve reached a responsible age, and you’re not already a Christian, become one today.

Value your education, but even more so your spiritual education. God’s chief concern for you is that you grow spiritually, that you “come to…the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:11-15).

No matter how much pressure they may apply, don’t do the sinful things that others are doing—Christ is your model, not them (4:17-24). The Lord says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (5:11). Let your light shine—you may be surprised by how many are drawn to it.

Respect your superiors (teachers, administrators, coaches, etc.) and do what they tell you, even when they’re not around (6:5-8). They may not watch you all the time, but the Lord does.

Don’t lie to anyone—to yourself, to your classmates, or to your superiors (4:25). You want everyone to trust you, and the sure fire way to accomplish that is to be honest with everyone. Keep in mind, too, that there other ways to lie than with your mouth. When you turn in an assignment, you’re saying in effect, “this is mine.” If it’s not, that’s a lie.

If you get mad, don’t stay mad (4:26), because if you do, you’ll give the devil a “foothold” (4:27, NIV), and he won’t let go until you say or do something you’ll regret. Uncontrolled anger leads to a lot of sins, so work hard to keep it under control.

Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you (4:28), and that includes answers to a test.

Don’t use foul language (4:29; 5:4), no matter how cool you and others may think it sounds. The Oxford English Dictionary contains 295,000 words, with over 600,000 different word forms. That gives you a lot of choices, without having to resort to foul language.

Treat others the way you want to be treated. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:31-32). Be especially kind to those students who may not have the blessings or advantages you do.

Resist and overcome the temptation to have sex before marriage. “Walk in love...but fornication...let it not even be named among you” (5:2-3).

Abstain from alcohol. Yes, the passage says, “do not be drunk with wine” (5:18), but just a little alcohol in your system makes it harder to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (6:11). Weaken your resistance just a little bit, and you can be sure that he will move in for the kill. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (6:13).

A Good Husband and Father

by Bryan Gibson

November 5, 2009

We’re not interested in the world’s description—only God’s. Here is God’s description of a good husband and father.

He has the same resolve that Joshua expressed many years ago—“But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). Leading his family to heaven is number one, and his leadership reflects that. To set the proper example, he does just as Ezra did—he prepares his heart to seek the law of the Lord, to obey it, and to teach it (Ezra 7:9-10).

He rules his house, using Christ’s rule as a pattern (Hebrews 4:14-16). That being the case, he doesn’t rule in a selfish way, but in a way that takes into account the needs of everyone in the family (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; 1 Peter 3:7; Philippians 2:4; Matthew 20:25-28). As careful as he is to avoid becoming too harsh or selfish, he also knows that he can become too soft. He is not afraid to make the tough decisions, decisions he is convinced are right, but may not be popular with the rest of the family.

He loves his wife, not just “in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Again, Christ is His pattern—the love He has for the church (Ephesians 5:25). With Christ as His model, he sacrifices himself for her (1 John 3:16-17); he doesn’t put more on her than she can bear (Matthew 11:28-30); he strives to meet her every need (Philippians 4:19); he shares his possessions with her (Ephesians 1:3, 7; 2:7); he is kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32); and he loves her through even the worst of times (Romans 8:35).

He loves his children, and so he does the very best thing for them—he brings them up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). He provides for their every need—physical, emotional, and above all, spiritual—just like his heavenly Father does for His children. He is firm in his discipline, not afraid to use the “rod” (Proverbs 3:11-12; 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17), but he is careful not to go too far. He doesn’t want his children to become provoked or discouraged (Colossians 3:21), and so he balances correction with praise.

He is a good provider (1 Timothy 5:8). He doesn’t “overwork to be rich” (Proverbs 23:4), but he knows it takes money to live, and so he works hard and is dependable in his work (Ephesians 6:5-8). He understands that it’s his job to provide for his family, not someone else (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12). Circumstances may arise when he has to ask for help, but he knows that it’s much more satisfying to eat the labor of his own hands (Psalms 128:2).

He knows what a big job he has, so he prays for God’s help, with the full assurance that he will receive it (1 John 5:14-15). He prays daily, earnestly, and fervently (2 Timothy 1:3; Colossians 4:2, 12), because this is the most important job he will ever have, and he wants to get it right.

A Good Wife and Mother

by Bryan Gibson

October 29, 2009

We’re not interested in the world’s description—only God’s. Here is God’s description of a good wife and mother.

She is beautiful on the INSIDE, possessing such qualities as faith, love, wisdom, discretion, graciousness, reverence, meekness, self-control, purity, holiness, etc. (Proverbs 14:1; 11:16; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 2:15; 3:11; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-6). She is concerned with her outward appearance (Proverbs 31:22), but she is more concerned with the beauty that doesn’t fade (1 Peter 3:4; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; Proverbs 31:30).

She loves her husband (Titus 2:3-4), not just “in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). In other words, she doesn’t just say it; she demonstrates it—in a number of ways. “She does him good...all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12). In her mind (and the Lord’s), his needs are just as important as hers (Philippians 2:3-4). The love she has for him “suffers long and is kind...does not envy...does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

She doesn’t just love her husband; she respects him, especially in his role as head of the house (Ephesians 5:22-24, 33). She discusses matters with him, but she carefully avoids becoming contentious (Proverbs 21:9, 19; 27:15-16). Because final decisions rest with him, she willingly submits to him, even when she disagrees (Ephesians 5:24; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:5-6).

She may not be the head of the house, but she is the manager (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:4-5; Proverbs 31:27), and she takes this God given role seriously. Her husband should be willing to help with household responsibilities, but he is not nearly as well equipped for this job as she is. God knows what He is doing.

She knows her children are a gift from God, and so she gives them back to Him (1 Samuel 1:11). Together with her husband, she brings them up in the ways of the Lord (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Timothy 5:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14). She teaches her children, by word and by example. She trains them the same way God trains us—she praises them when they do well, and corrects them when they do wrong. When she says, “I have no greater joy than to see my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4), she means it.

She is a very busy woman, but she still finds time to help with the needs of others (Proverbs 31:20; 1 Timothy 5:10). She shows hospitality; she visits the sick; she comforts the bereaved; she encourages the weak; she does all the good she can, by all the means she can, in all the ways she can, in all the places she can, at all the times she can, to all the people she can, as long as she can.

The Courage to Go Against the Crowd

by Bryan Gibson

October 22, 2009

It must have been a sight to behold—a gold image that stretched 90 feet into the air. King Nebuchadnezzar was proud of his handiwork, and so he invited officials from throughout his kingdom to come to a dedication ceremony (Daniel 3:1-2). They all gathered in front of the image, and the following announcement was made: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:3-6). Put that kind of incentive before people, and you can understand what happened next. When the band played, everyone fell down and worshiped the image (Daniel 3:7).

Well, almost everyone! Three of the king’s officials—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refused to worship the image. Never mind that this order came from the king, and never mind that everyone else was doing it, and never mind that they would be tossed alive into a fiery furnace. They were determined to do right, no matter what price they had to pay (Daniel 3:12). God said to worship Him and Him alone, and that’s what they were determined to do.

Speaking of the king, he was incensed when he found out. Daniel 3:13 says that “Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (Daniel 3:13). It would have been easy for them to waver at this point, but when the king offered them a second chance, and once again announced the punishment if they didn’t comply, this is what they had to say: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). In other words, “Our mind is made up—whether God chooses to save us or not. We will not worship this image, or any of your other gods.” So much for waffling before the king.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—let’s remember those three names and the courage and conviction they displayed. We will all face situations where their example may just give us the courage to do the right thing. If these three men were alive today, this is what they would say: Do the right thing, no matter how much pressure there may be to do otherwise. Do the right thing, even if you’re the only one courageous enough to do it. Do the right thing, no matter what the earthly consequences may be.

Do You Want to Be Made Well?

by Bryan Gibson

October 15, 2009

This was the very question Jesus asked a man who had suffered with an infirmity for thirty-eight years (John 5:6). Can you imagine the man saying, “Thank you for asking, but I think I would like to keep suffering”? No way. Like anyone else would who had suffered this long, this man wanted to be made well. And Jesus did make him well. Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” (John 5:8), and the next verse says, “immediately the man was made well, took up his bed and walked” (John 5:9).

But suppose you had some infirmity far worse than what this man had, far worse than any physical ailment—worse than cancer, worse than blindness, worse than the most crippling disease you could imagine. Suppose you were sick with sin (Mark 2:17). Here’s what Jesus told the man whom He had healed of his infirmity: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:l4). Say what? What could possibly be worse than being sick for thirty-eight years? Well, if this man had continued in sin, he would have been lost in hell forever (Mark 9:43-48). Can you think of anything worse than that? Look at it this way. You can lose your sight and still go to heaven. You can lose a limb and still go to heaven. You can be eaten up with cancer and still go to heaven. You can be sick from the first day of your life to the last and still go to heaven. But you cannot go to heaven in your sins (John 8:21-24). Indeed, the consequences of sin sickness are far worse than the consequences of physical sickness. There is simply no comparison.

Jesus didn’t come to the earth to heal physical sickness. He did heal many people (Matthew 4:23)—to prove that He was the Son of God (John 20:30-31), but His real purpose in coming was to heal sin (Luke 19:10). On one occasion a paralyzed man was let down through the roof so that Jesus could heal him (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12). Jesus surprised them all when he said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Jesus saw in this man a much deeper need than his physical affliction. Jesus did go on to heal this man, but notice the explanation: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and walk.” Jesus used power that they could see in action to prove that He had the power to do what they could not see in action—forgive sins.

What about you? Are you sick with sin? If so, Jesus is asking you the same question he asked the man in John 5: “Do you want to be made well?” Wouldn’t you be foolish to say no, especially when you consider the consequences of remaining in sin? Jesus has the power to heal you of your sin, and He will, if you follow some simple instructions. What instructions does Jesus give you? Believe in Him (Mark 16:16; John 8:24); repent of your sins (Acts 2:38); confess your faith in Him (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37), and be baptized in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). Obey these commandments today, and Jesus will heal you. He will make you well. “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you.”

Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

by Bryan Gibson

October 8, 2009

One thing is for sure—when we do forget, Jesus notices. Jesus once healed ten lepers, and when only one returned to say “thank you,” Jesus asked him, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). Could it be that Jesus is asking the same question about us? Perhaps we’ve forgotten to come back and say “thank you.” Here are some ways we can say “thank you” to Jesus, and to our heavenly Father.

By proper observance of the Lord’s supper. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We eat the Lord’s supper every week in remembrance of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24-25), and so by properly “discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29), we can let Him know how much we appreciate what He did. And if we don’t...we “will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

In prayer. Thanksgiving should always accompany the requests we make of God (Colossians 4:2; Philippians 4:6). Let’s be sure to give thanks for Jesus—for His life, His death and resurrection, and His present work as our intercessor (Hebrews 7:25). And while we’re thanking Him, let’s also give thanks for the many spiritual blessings that we have through Him (Ephesians 1:3).

In song. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20; see also Colossians 3:15-17). Many of the songs we sing in worship are designed to give praise to Jesus, to thank Him for His wonderful love. Let’s make sure we honor Him with more than just our lips. Unless we sing from the heart, our worship is vain (Matthew 15:8).

By living for Him. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). This is the big test, the one that really reveals the depth of our gratitude. It’s easy to say that Jesus means a lot to us, but the best way to prove it is by living for Him—not just occasionally, but every day.

By telling others about Him. If we like our doctor, we tell others about him. If we like our mechanic, we tell others about him. If we truly appreciate Christ and the life we have in Him, it’s going to be awful hard to keep it to ourselves. The early disciples sure couldn’t, because they “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The ideal attitude was expressed by Paul when he appeared as a prisoner before King Agrippa: “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29). Paul sure was thankful for what he had in Christ, and he wanted everyone else to have it, too.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Profitable Bible Study (Part 1)

by Bryan Gibson

September 24, 2009

The Bible is a very profitable book—“profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). But it won't profit you very much if you don't approach it with the right attitude, and if you don't study it like you should—“the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” (Hebrews 4:2). Here are some things that can make Bible study profitable for you.

Study the Bible with a single aim—to find the truth and obey it. Don’t look for what pleases you; look for what pleases God (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Desire the truth, even if it hurts to hear it. Heed the following admonition: “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23). In other words, don’t take anything in exchange for the truth, no matter how attractive it may seem. Please don’t be counted among the many who “did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

Use the Bible as a mirror—let it show you what you need to correct or improve (James 1:21-25). Brace yourself, though, because the image it reveals may not be a pretty one. You may have a lot of work to do, but you won't find a better “self improvement course” than Bible study.

Learn all you can about Jesus, which will enable you to walk in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21-23). It's awful hard to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) when you know so little about Him. Learn His attitudes—toward sin, toward people, toward the word of God, toward His heavenly Father, toward authority in general. Learn how He prayed, how He taught, how He rebuked, how He handled temptation, how He comforted people, and yes, even how He died.

Pay close attention to other examples, too—both good and bad (Philippians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11). What both pleases and displeases the Lord will become increasingly clearer to you when you see it in action.

Read slowly and carefully every promise—to the faithful and to the unfaithful (2 Peter 1:2-4). When you see the rewards for serving the Lord and the punishment for not doing so, you will have all the incentive you need to faithfully serve the Lord.

Look for principles in the Bible that will help you deal with various situations in life—peer pressure, the challenge of rearing children, sickness, discouragement, marriage problems, difficulties with other relationships, etc. God has answers, if you’ll just look.

Your goal is to become a complete, mature Christian (Colossians 1:28), so use the Bible to that end. The Bible was not written merely to inform; it was written to transform. Let it do its work in you (1 Thessalonians 2:13), so that you’ll be ready when you stand before the Lord in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Profitable Bible Study (Part 2)

by Bryan Gibson

October 1, 2009

The Bible is a very profitable book (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but only with proper study. We just scratched the surface last week, so let’s look at some more things that will make Bible study more profitable for you.

Distinguish between the two testaments or covenants—the old and the new. The new is a “better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22), “established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). It came into effect when Christ died (Hebrews 9:15-17). Clearly, it is this testament (will, law) that we are subject to today (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). Don’t make the same mistake that so many others have made—don’t look for authority for religious practices in the old covenant, one that has now become “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13).

Don’t neglect the Old Testament, though, because it still has great practical value. Here’s a quick look at just some of its benefits. 1. It will greatly enhance your understanding of the New Testament. 2. You will better appreciate God’s eternal plan, because you’ll see it unfold right before your eyes. 3. It will strengthen your faith when you read its many prophecies, and then see their fulfillment in the New Testament. 4. The examples—both individuals and nations—will teach you lessons you’ll never forget, and hopefully save you from the mistakes of previous generations. 5. You will benefit greatly from the timeless wisdom found in such books as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Study the Old Testament—pretty soon you’ll have some other points to add to this list.

Be careful how you handle all the figurative language in the Bible. Does it make sense to you that exactly 144,000 will be saved, and that this number will only include male virgins? That’s what you’ve got—if you take Revelation 14:1-4 literally. It’s amazing how some can easily pick out figurative language in just about every other source, except the Bible. Consider the context in which it is said—that’s rule number one. If a literal interpretation sounds ridiculous, it probably is. If a literal interpretation contradicts other plain passages, you know you’re on the wrong track. Learn to appreciate figurative language, because it makes the point in a very vivid, memorable way. Just make sure you get the right point.

When looking for good examples to follow, don’t forget about the local churches described in the New Testament. They were taught the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42), or the doctrine of Christ, so whatever they did in terms of organization, work, and worship, that’s our pattern to follow today.

When studying the above subject, make sure you distinguish between responsibilities assigned to the local church, and those assigned to individuals within the church. The New Testament makes a distinction (1 Timothy 5:16), and so should you. Similarly, make sure you see the difference between what should be done “in church,” or in the assembly, and what should be done “at home” (1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 14:34-35). Failure to do these two things is why so many local churches no longer resemble New Testament churches.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).

A Religion for Losers?

by Bryan Gibson

September 17, 2009

Ted Turner is perhaps best known for founding the cable news network CNN. Baseball fans remember that he once owned the Atlanta Braves. He is also a very rich man, with a net worth of 2.3 billion dollars. That makes him, according to Forbes magazine, the 190th richest man in America. To his credit, he has donated a pretty big chunk of his money to charitable causes. Unfortunately, he has also done a lot of harm—with his mouth. Back in 1990, at the American Humanist Association convention, he said that Christianity was a “religion for losers.” He went on to say that religious beliefs have done more harm than good to mankind. He seems to have softened a little bit in the years since, but since there are many others who still have this view, let’s examine it a little more closely.

Those who choose to follow the One who died for them are not losers. The real losers are those who don’t. To prove how ridiculous Mr. Turner’s statement really was, let’s look at what a man can be if he faithfully follows the teachings of Christ (of course, the same could be said of women, with a few minor changes).

He will be humble (Titus 3:2); hardworking (Colossians 3:23); honest (Ephesians 4:25, 28), dependable (Titus 2:10); respectful (Titus 2:9; Hebrews 12:9); compassionate (1 Peter 3:8), kind (Colossians 3:12), tenderhearted (Ephesians 4:32); forgiving (Ephesians 4:32), patient (1 Thessalonians 5:14); good to all men (Galatians 6:10); hospitable (1 Peter 4:9); a loving, caring, faithful husband (Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7; Colossians 3:19; Matthew 5:27-32); law-abiding (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-7); courteous (1 Peter 3:8); peaceable (Titus 3:2); gentle (Titus 3:2); thankful (Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 5:20); considerate (Hebrews 10:24; Philippians 2:4); courageous (Acts 4:19-20; 20:22-24; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Philippians 1:14, 28; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 13:6; Revelation 20:4); self-controlled (Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6).

Does that sound like a loser to you—a man with all these qualities? A man like that can obviously do a lot of good for a lot of people. We may be losers before we come to Christ, but He can make winners of us all—if we completely submit to His will. Ted Turner considers himself a winner, and he has won a lot of awards, but Christ offers a much better prize than anything Mr. Turner has ever won—a crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).

Don’t Ever Be Ashamed of the Gospel

by Bryan Gibson

September 4, 2009

Either before or after you read the rest of this article, read 2 Timothy, chapter 1. Paul’s inspired message to Timothy (and to us) is very simple: don’t ever be ashamed of the gospel. This message is delivered in two ways: through a series of very pointed exhortations, and then through a number of different examples, both good and bad. Let’s identify the exhortations first.

1.         “Therefore do not be ASHAMED of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (v. 8).

2.         “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (v. 6).

3.         “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (v. 13).

4.         “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (v. 14).

Let’s see if we can sum up these words to Timothy (and to us): I know it’s not easy; I know you’re being persecuted, but don’t ever become the least bit timid or ashamed of the gospel. Hold on to the truth you’ve been taught. Practice it, preach it, and defend it—no matter what the consequences may be.

As we indicated earlier, this chapter is more than just a series of exhortations. Exhortations are good, but if you can back them up with some examples, they become even more powerful. Here are the ones Paul uses in this chapter:

1.         Timothy’s own mother and grandmother, who both possessed an “unfeigned faith” (v. 5), and who taught him the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

2.         Paul himself, who said, “...I am not ASHAMED, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (v. 12).

3.         Onesiphorus, who “was not ASHAMED of my chain,” who ministered to Paul, both while he was in Ephesus, and while he was in prison in Rome (vv. 16-18).

4.         And then in contrast to these good examples: “...all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.”

Combine the exhortations with the examples and you’ve got one powerful message. Let’s see if we can sum it up again: Timothy, don’t be a coward like Phygellus and Hermegones. They turned away from me, because they were ashamed of the gospel. Stand up for the Lord and His gospel—like me, like Onesiphorus, like your own mother and grandmother. If we can do it, so can you.

Bryan Gibson's e-mail address is mailto:prattmont@knology.net
 
Dave Brown's e-mail address is dbrown@cs.ua.edu