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Archive for the ‘Dedication’ Category

Disinherited Children

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Joan Crawford, the famous movie star of several decades back, left some of her children out of her will. She was not the first to do so, nor is she likely to be the last. It is the right of parents to disinherit a child or children if they choose to do so. Let it be observed, however, that such disinherited children do not cease to be the children or offspring of the withholding parents; they simply are left out of the will, cut off from receiving any of the estate.

Can—and will—God ever disinherit His children? One of the major tenets of Calvinism is “Perseverance of the saints,” which avers that if one chances to be among the elect of God he can never do anything sinful or evil enough to fall from God’s grace and lose his eternal inheritance. However, those who will read the New Testament with glasses that are clear, rather than with those colored by Calvinistic dogma, will discover a plethora of passages that teach otherwise, for example.:

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Do You Love Jesus?

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The apostle Paul lent significance to the question above as he wrote: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema…” (1 Cor. 16:22). Anathema means “accursed,” thus under the condemnation of God. He earlier explained that love for others is defined by action, rather than merely by words (13:4–7; cf. 1 John 3:18). This principle is no less true regarding one’s love for the Christ. The New Testament provides some benchmarks by which we may gauge our love (or lack thereof) for God and His Son.

  • We must not love the world: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The World here is not the earth or its inhabitants, but the behavior of a world separated from God by sin. Most people live for themselves rather than to honor Jesus. There is no love of Him in such lives.
  • We must love one another: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…” (1 John 4:20a; 2:9). While brother here refers to fellow-Christians, every other human being is a “brother” in the human family. As God loved all mankind (John 3:16), so should we. Love for others is not necessarily affection or close association, but seeking their best interests—even of our enemies (Mat. 5:44).
  • We must love the things He loved. Those who claim to love Jesus and to abide in Him “ought…to walk even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). If one does not love Truth, righteousness, or the souls of men he is a hypocrite to claim to love the Lord Who loved all of these. One who says, “Jesus yes, but the church, no,” confesses his lack of love for Jesus; He “loved the church, and gave himself up for it” (Eph. 5:25).
  • We must keep His commandments: “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15; cf. 21). This simple test is the all-embracing one, separating the sincere/serious disciple from the pretending hypocrite. Although theologians have sought to strip almost every vestige of law or authority from the Gospel, these words of Jesus remain unchanged. He further emphasized the necessity of obedience in the same context: “He that loveth me not keepeth not my words…” (v. 24a). As Jesus drew His Sermon on the Mount to a close, He said: It is not those who merely call Him “Lord,” but those who obey the Divine will, who will be saved (Mat. 7:23). Jesus offers eternal salvation “unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).

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My Aims as a Gospel Preacher

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            It is always helpful to have a roadmap when traveling, whether on literal roadways or on the journey of life. With this in mind, I present the following as the “map” I aim to follow in my life and work as a Gospel preacher:

  1. I aim to be true to God’s Word, regardless of the consequences: “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you” (Mat. 5:11–12).
  2. I aim to seek the approval of God and His Son above that of all others: “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
  3. I aim to gain as much knowledge and understanding of God’s Word as my abilities will allow: “…Give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching…  Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be manifest unto all” (1 Tim. 4:13–15).
  4. I aim to impart to as many as I can, by every honorable means, my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word: “And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
  5. I aim to say something worth listening to when I stand up to preach: “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).
  6. I aim to remember that I have a family and that I have responsibilities as a husband and a father as well as a Gospel preacher: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it;… And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 5:25; 6:4).
  7. I aim to provide a worthy example for all ages, especially the young, to follow: “…Be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
  8. I aim to deal fairly and equally with every person: “I charge thee in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21).
  9. I aim to refrain from being vengeful toward those who disagree with me or treat me wrongfully: “Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
  10. I aim to learn the difference between the more important and the less important and do the most important things first: “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33).

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The Danger of Discouragement

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Given the wickedness of the world and the mounting attempts to drive underground those who dare publicly profess faith in the Bible, it is difficult to avoid becoming discouraged. Further, when we observe the chaotic state of the church of the Lord we could easily become depressed. Of all of Satan’s weapons, his favorite may be discouragement. It is certainly one of his most effective ones. He has used it relentlessly on the Lord’s finest servants to try to neutralize their effectiveness.

I have heard some brethren imply, if not explicitly state, that it is sinful for a Christian ever to become discouraged. Perhaps they have not thought that through. Discouragement comes to all, small and great.

Elijah, the fiery Old Testament prophet was so despondent about the spiritual condition of Israel he asked God to take his life (1 Kin. 19:4). God did not upbraid him for his lack of faith, but encouraged him and sent him on his way (vv. 14–15). Paul, although a tower of spiritual strength, apparently became discouraged and depressed about his initial prospects in wicked Corinth. The Lord did not excoriate him, but reminded him He had “much people” in that city (Acts 18:9–10). After Paul wrote the first stringent letter to Corinth and had received no response, he became both anxious and discouraged. He was greatly encouraged by the report Titus brought him in Macedonia (2 Cor. 7:5–7). Following his extended and unjust imprisonment in Caesarea, Paul was finally sent to Rome for trial. The lengthy and perilous voyage must have left him both physically and emotionally exhausted. What a welcome sight it was when the brethren from Rome came out to meet him some forty miles from the city, upon which “he thanked God, and took courage” (Acts 28:15). Even the sinless Son of God must have been greatly discouraged on numerous occasions. He certainly was when he wept over Jerusalem (Mat. 23:23; Luke 19:41).

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            The title above doesn’t refer to a “hand” in a card game. Rather, it relates to Jesus’ parable about a farmer who sowed seed in his field (Luke 8:5–15). Of the thirty or so parables He told, this is one of the very few that He explained in detail. He tells us plainly: “The seed is the word of God” (v. 11), thereby implying that the “sower” is one who teaches God’s Word. The four kinds of “soils” represent the various kinds of human hearts into which the Gospel may fall. Let us examine them briefly:

  • “The Wayside” describes paths that ran through the unfenced Galilean fields and were packed by the feet of travelers. Seeds that fell thereon remained on the surface, and birds soon devoured them. Jesus said that this soil represents hearts that do not “understand” the Word (Mat. 13:19). That is, their hearts were as hard concerning the Gospel as the wayside soil was concerning the seed. Some have such closed minds toward God, His Son, and the Bible that they refuse all the evidence testifying to their existence and/or genuineness. The devil will waste little time taking the Word from them.
  • “The Rock” (“rocky places”—Mat. 13:5, 20) describes thin topsoil on top of bedrock. Thus the seed enters the soil, germinates, and sprouts, but promptly withers and dies because its roots cannot penetrate the rock and find necessary moisture. The Lord said this soil represents the receptive, impulsive, albeit shallow heart that joyously embraces the Gospel and “believes for awhile.” Not having counted the cost of discipleship, when temptations or persecutions arise, these “fall away” for lack of root.
  • “The Thorns” describes soil that is not cleared in preparation for the seed. The seed germinates and sprouts, but thorns overpower and starve it. This is the heart that has not repented of various “thorns” of behavior (i.e., “cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life”). Such competing influences for our time, energy, and money leave us spiritually starved and will prevent our bearing any spiritual fruit.
  • “The Good Ground” describes soil that is open for the seed, has depth, and has been cleared of competing influences. This, said Jesus, is the “honest and good heart” that belongs to one who will hear (i.e., obey) the Word, “hold it fast,” and produce manifold fruit. The key word here is “honest,” for no heart can be good that is not honest.

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