1/15/17 ~ When Love Is Gone

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingIn the very first chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul reminds us that, with God, ignorance is not a defense (verses 18-32). The reason for that is the fact that ignorance of God is a willful choice. The evidence of our Creator and much of what is right or wrong is written for all to see and learn from in the world around us. Those simple facts bring God’s condemnation to those who do not search out and obey His will.

No, there’s nothing new in all that, it is simply the lesson that God has been teaching through His word since man and woman first chose sin over obedience. As hard a lesson as this is for us to accept there is one that’s, if possible, worse. Consider for a moment the horror of those that have once been faithful children of God who chose to turn their backs on Him:

When Love is Gone

Have you ever heard a song and realized that, in spite of the secular intent, there is a spiritual lesson that just demands attention? One such song was pointed out to me by a very dear brother in Christ many years ago. The lyrics to Have I Told You Lately That I Love You serve as a great lesson to God’s people about the relationship that God calls us to and Paul describes so often to congregations.

Another song with a great spiritual lesson is titled When Love is Gone. The song is sung by a young woman who has come to realize that the young man she’s become so close to and planned to marry has changed. He’s now far more interested in wealth and worldly things than he is in her. Even as she pours out her heartbreak, he is seemingly unaffected and will only realize what he has lost many years later.

There was a time when I was sure / That you and I were truly one,

That our future was forever / And would never come undone,

And we came so close to being close / And though you cared for me

There’s distance in your eyes tonight / So we’re not meant to be.

The love is gone, / The love is gone, / The sweetest dream

That you have ever known. / The love is gone, /The love is gone,

I wish you well / But I must leave you now alone.

There comes a moment in your life / Like a window, and you see

The future there before you / And how perfect life can be,

But adventure calls with unknown voices / Pulling you away

Be careful or you may regret / The choice you made someday

The song ends with…

It was almost love, / It was almost always,

It was like a fairytale we’d live out / You and I.

And yes some dreams come true, / And yes some dreams fall through

And yes the time has come / For us to say goodbye.

While it is sad to see those lost ones who do not listen to and obey God, it is in many ways even more poignant when those who once belonged to God turn away. Peter makes this very point in 2 Peter 2:17-22.

The spiritual version of this song plays out repeatedly in the Old Testament and leads to some heartbreaking passages in the New Testament. The early Christians in Acts, for the most part, struggled with threats from outsiders. But as the church continued to grow and spread, just when all seemed to be going so well, the false teachers and inside threats begin to flourish.

The Lord took longer for His final return than some expected. Continuing to live as a Christian became more hard work and less excitement than many wanted. And, what began with loving optimism and joy would deteriorate. Jesus warned about this very thing in Matthew 24:9-12: Then they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

Note carefully Jesus’ last comment there. Because people disobey God their love will grow cold. While we might take that as either their love for God or their love for others, the context actually suggests that Jesus is talking about their love for others will grow cold.

Consider what Jesus is talking about. When problems arise and Christians fall away from the family the ultimate problem, the ultimate cause of their sin is losing their real love.

Have you noted the anguish as Paul, at the close of his life writes of Demas that, because he loved this present world, he has deserted me? Love is gone. And, near the end of the first century, God writes to the Ephesian church and warns them that, even though they were still “going to church” and even doing many things right, their love is growing cold (Revelation 2:2-4).

What a heartbreaking diagnosis! Much like a person bleeding to death even as their heart frantically beats to try and continue circulating blood to keep them alive, death, when it comes, comes to the whole body.

For us, as Christians, we begin to appreciate the urgency as three New Testament writers all urge that we keep our love for one another strong and fervent (1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1 and 1 Peter 1:22).

James would bring the lesson to a pointed reminder as he tells us: My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

Do we get the point? God, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ, never want to see us pulled away by another love. Be careful or you may regret, the choice you made someday.

Will your dreams of an eternal home come true? Or will they fall through? The choice is yours to make. Choose wisely. Choose well. Choose life and love with God and His family!

— Lester P. Bagley

#Love, #Falling, #Changing, #LostLove, #Sin, #ComingBack, #Church, #JesusChrist

9/18/16 ~ Why Be Baptized

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingWhenever we see something in God’s creation it ought to cause us to stop and remember our God and praise Him for the wonders we see. Whenever I see a baby it causes me to recall David and the wonders he saw in being fashioned by the hand of God. Whenever I see a new Christian it causes me to recall the wonder of that new birth and how it brings us into God’s family.

Many in the world claim to be children of God and yet have never been born into the family of God. Feeling that you are right with God counts for nothing if you are failing to actually obey what God tells you to do. (Remember last Sunday night’s lesson?) The Apostle Paul questioned some nice, seemingly godly people about just what the purpose was of their baptism (Acts 19:3).

When it was discovered that they had not been baptized for the right reason, they sought to correct that and thus fulfill God’s purpose. So it is an important – even vital – thing for us to remind ourselves of the real purpose of baptism…

Why Be Baptized?

Some years ago a sister in Christ brought me an article she’d found in the newspaper. The article discussed many things about baptism and why the author thought it important. What is so sad is that the author never once appealed to God’s word for help in understanding what it means to God. And, in so doing, he managed to delude himself – and undoubtedly many others – into missing the whole point of something God says is vital to our salvation.

Contrast that author and another gentleman some years later. This man spent a considerable amount of time studying the Bible. Why so much time and effort? Because he sincerely wanted to know and obey God’s will! As a result of actually looking at God’s word instead of what people thought, this man came to the same conclusion as countless honest hearts before him. His conclusion was that the things he had done in the past were NOT really what God calls immersion INTO Christ. He had not yet actually obeyed God in coming into the God designed contact with the blood of Jesus and having his sins WASHED away. And that man wanted to obey God and be a part of Christ’s body!

So what does the world often miss about being born into God’s family? According to the claims of the newspaper version of baptism, it is a way of “looking to Jesus for help” and an announcement to the public that we are now living for Jesus. Further, baptism is a confession (of faith in God), a proclamation (of faith in Jesus for salvation) and the dedication to a new life in Christ.

While all this sounds good (and indeed in many ways reflects some aspects of what God actually says), the problem is in not saying what God says on the subject. Stop and think for a moment: Anyone writing a thesis to prove some point always quotes acknowledged authoritative sources as proof that the conclusion is not merely one person’s opinion. A judge writes his “opinion” or decision in a case by quoting the relevant law that shows that judgement to be correct. In religious terms we sometimes talk about this as “speaking where the Bible speaks.” God’s word describes this as being sure we neither add to nor take from God’s word (Revelation 22:18-19); that we neither fall short (Hebrews 4:1) of or go beyond (2 John 9) what God says.

So, let’s ask God (through His word) just what He sees as the purpose of being baptized! Acts 2:38 says that we are baptized for (“in order to receive” in the Greek as well as the English meaning of the word) the forgiveness of our sins. Since salvation is being saved from our sins, baptism is also the time when God adds us to the church (Acts 2:47). Baptism, that is the active response or obedience to God’s command, washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). Thus we cannot be forgiven of or lose our sins in any other way! Furthermore, baptism brings us into contact with the death, blood, burial and resurrection.

John says of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5), “Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” While Paul tells us (Romans 6:3-4), “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” It is in baptism that we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) so that “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). And, just so we don’t misunderstand, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

So, is baptism just a nice way of telling the world that we are already saved? Or is it really that spiritual surrender that, through the incredible power of Christ Jesus, actually saves us? God answers through the apostle Peter, “baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Let’s strive to be those who believe (and base their beliefs, thoughts and ideas) solely upon the word of God. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Jesus Himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Lester P. Bagley

4/3/16 ~ 6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

From the Preacher’s Pen…

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I recently read a discussion between two preachers regarding how wrong Christians and the church today are for not accepting anyone who professes to be a Christian but doesn’t actually follow the teachings of the New Testament. Apparently many preachers, like their congregations, never bother to actually read God’s word or let it affect their beliefs! Unfortunately, this same attitude towards God and His commands has been popular for a long time… and it is still wrong!

As I was reading the discussion, another brother was writing an excellent article dealing with many of the same issues that are actually in line with God’s word:

6 Popular False Beliefs About Christianity

One of the most popular names that we think of regarding Protestantism and Christianity in the 16th century is Martin Luther. One thing for which Luther was known is the concept of adiaphora, from the Greek meaning “things indifferent.” It is the concept that there are things in the Bible and in Christianity that do not matter. Is this an accurate concept? Are there things in the Bible that don’t matter? Is anything really adiaphora?

Sure, some things are, like the eating of meats that Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 8. But that doesn’t mean everything is. However, the denominational world seems to think that very little truly matters. Here are six popular statements made in support of this claim:

  1. “It doesn’t matter if I’m baptized; as long as I confess my faith in Christ I’ll be saved.” There are very few things that God leaves up to us, and our salvation is definitely not one of them. Christ regulated our salvation when He said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved ….” Peter did the same thing in 1 Peter 3:21 when he said, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you ….” Our salvation is regulated. Baptism is regulated. It is not left up to us to decide how we are saved as God has regulated that no man is saved apart from Christ, or apart from belief, repentance, confession, and baptism.
  2. “It doesn’t matter how I worship; as long as I’m worshipping, God will accept that.” In Hebrews 9:1, the writer says, “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship ….” This means that the second covenant, the covenant under which we live, also has regulations for worship. All too often we want to say that worship is left up to us, and we can worship in any way that we please. God, however, regulates our worship. We are to meet together regularly (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24), to sing with our hearts being the instrument (Ephesians 5:19), to give (1 Corinthians 16:2), to teach (Acts 20:7), and to pray (Acts 2:42). Christ said that when we come together, we are to worship in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). We are not left to worship any way we want because it is regulated by God.
  3. “It doesn’t matter how I live; as long as the Bible does not specifically forbid my actions, I will be acceptable in the eyes of God.” One of the most prevalent mindsets in regard to the topic of indifference is, “As long as the Bible doesn’t condemn it, I am free to participate in it.” In regard to this point, here are three questions to consider. First, was Noah permitted to use any kind of wood because they were not specifically forbidden? No one would say that he could use any wood he chose, because he was commanded to use gopher wood. Was a priest allowed to come from a tribe other than Levi? Hebrews 7:11-16 says that a priest was not allowed to come from the tribe of Judah because Moses had said nothing about priests coming from that tribe. Were Nadab and Abihu allowed to bring any kind of fire before the Lord? They were killed because they brought unauthorized fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3). In all these cases, God did not have to forbid everything that was wrong. All He had to do was state what was right. It is the same way with us today; when God commands something, everything else is forbidden.
  4. “It doesn’t matter what I believe; as long as I’m a good person, God will not send me to hell.” Another idea that is prevalent in our society is that if I live a good life, then God would not send me to Hell. However, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” First, we are not saved by works or anything that we can do, but by faith. How good a life we live does not earn us our salvation, and that’s a theme that is found throughout Scripture. Secondly, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We can live as good a life as possible but that will never get us to Heaven. The only way for man to be saved is through Jesus Christ and obedience to His will.
  5. “It doesn’t matter if I go to church; as long as I’m a Christian, I will be saved.” An interesting aspect of this statement is that if we are saved, then we are Christians and a part of the church. So why do we not attend the worship service? In Acts 2:47, Luke tells us that God “added to their number (the church) day by day those that were being saved (Christians).” There is no such thing as a Christian that is not part of the church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the Bible says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Hebrew writer tells us to meet together because it helps stir up love, good works, and encouragement. This is not just for others, but we too gain those benefits when we come together with our brethren.
  6. “It doesn’t matter if I’m active in my local church; as long as I’m attending service, I’m alright [sic] with God.” There is an important question to consider in regard to this statement. In the previous statement, Hebrews 10:24-25 was mentioned, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

How can we be encouraged, loved, and have good works stirred up within us if we do not talk and interact with our brethren? The Bible speaks often of prayer, love, encouragement, stirring up good works, and growing in Christ through association with fellow Christians. How can we obtain these things from people with whom we do not interact? The answer to that question is this: we can’t! We cannot be who we are supposed to be as Christians, or reap the full benefits of being a Christian, if we are not interacting with Christians.

So, back to our initial question, is adiaphora real? Well, there are things that do not matter, like talking sports to our friend or the place and time we worship. However, those things are still regulated. Our salvation is regulated, worship is regulated, our lives are regulated, and church is regulated. So if God regulates everything in some form, how can there be room for adiaphora?

It is important that we guard against viewing things that God has regulated as though they are not regulated. Additionally, we must never allow ourselves to be indifferent toward our worship of and service for the Lord. This kind of indifference will keep us from pleasing God (Revelation 3:15-16). Indifference, in regard to the things of God, is one of the great issues that the church faces today.

Spencer Shaw, reprinted with permission, focuspressblog.com/2016/03/21/6-popular-false-beliefs-about-christianity/

Opinions, personal thoughts and ideas have no place in our lives if we are using them to replace what God tells us to do. Above all else we need to listen to God and heed His will!

May we have the courage to be obedient as we live our lives for the Savior this week.

— Lester P. Bagley