Sunday, October 30, 2022
"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:9–21).
Monday, October 24, 2022
By Gerald Cowan
Texts: Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:8-10
Because the text seems to equate “blasphemy” with “speak against the Holy Spirit” some fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin.” Of course, if they can never be pardoned for it there is no need to become a Christian or try to live a righteous and godly life. Actually, the sin against the Holy Spirit is more than just words – irreverent, ignorant, or deliberate words. In context, the particular error of those to whom Jesus spoke here was attributing to Satan that which was accomplished by the Spirit of God. That same error, in reverse, can be made by attributing to the Spirit of God what is actually done by Satan (2 Thess. 2:9-12) – as in thanking God for some supposed spiritual gift, such as speaking in tongues, or for sanctioning a corrupt and unholy lifestyle (such as homosexual activity. but you can put any one of several current examples there). Attributing to God or His Spirit anything which is not actually from Him is blasphemy, and the same penalty applies. It is essential that we understand this and several other factors that are related to the problem. Some honestly fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin” but have probably not done so. No matter what they have said or done, it is probably still forgivable if forgiveness is sought according to God’s instructions and requirements, including true repentance.
There are six factors to be considered in assessing the blasphemy against God’s Holy Spirit which Jesus said will never be forgiven.
1. It is a sin against knowledge. It often takes the form of deliberate rejection of available knowledge (Hos. 4:6, 2 Peter 3:5a and 16-17). Notice, the blasphemy which is from ignorance can be forgiven (1 Tim. 1:12-13).
2. It is a sin of attitude, a matter of the heart and disposition, often seen as prejudice or hostility and hardness of heart. Note the context: the mouth speaks what is in the heart or mind, whether it is good or bad (Mt. 12:34, compare also Heb. 3:4-7 “harden not your heart”). The attitude is wrong and blasphemous, whether or not any words are spoken (Mt. 12:25).
3. It is a sin of the will, resisting and rejecting the Holy Spirit and His teaching or leading (Acts 7:51-52, Rom. 8:1ff).
4. It is a sin of action. It is willful disobedience, whether or not anything is said, any words spoken (Eph. 2:1-2, compare Rom. 8:14-17).
5. It is a continuing sin – unrepented and uncorrected (Heb. 6:1-8).
6. It is a sin of speech when it is knowingly and deliberately done, when it comes from an evil heart, a heart of disbelief – which is not the same as ignorance, unless it is willful ignorance.
Why is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit said to be unforgivable, when similar sins or blasphemies against man and the Son of man (Christ) are said to be forgivable? Doesn’t a sin against God or Christ amount to a sin against the Holy Spirit? Of course, it does, in a way of speaking. But Jesus makes it very clear that there is a distinction, and we must be careful to notice and maintain the distinction (Mt. 12:31, Mark.3 :28-29, and Luke 12:10).
Men against whom one might blaspheme would include prophets sent by God and apostles sent by Christ. This would also be a rejection of God. “The Son of man” (Jesus the Christ) was sent by God, and a sin against him would also be a sin or blasphemy against God and the Holy Spirit, as seen in a special dispensation (following the sending of Christ who himself followed the prophets). This dispensation of the Spirit is the final effort and offer of God for man’s salvation. There is no other offer to be made, no future addition or alternative to what has now been given through the Holy Spirit. To refuse the Spirit – and in doing so to refuse the prophets, the Christ, and the God who sent them all – would be to cut oneself off from all hope and help from God, and to be unforgivable. To accept and have the Holy Spirit is to have Christ and God the Father as well, and so to be built upon the foundation laid by the prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20-22). To fail to have the Spirit is to have neither Christ nor God the Father (Rom. 8:8-11; read also in John 13:20, 14:16-17, and 15:7-16:3).
Every sin is in some way a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (in attitude, will, speech, or action). If it is repented and corrected it can be forgiven. Any sin and every sin which is unrepented – uncorrected and persisted in – is unforgivable. There will be no further offer of grace, and no other remedy – not in the present world of time and space, or under any covenant made by God. One’s own lifetime is the only opportunity one has for salvation – there will be no chance to remedy one’s situation or obey the gospel after one’s death. There will be no forgiveness in the spirit world of eternity to which all are going. Unrepented and unforgiven sins have eternal consequences (Mt. 12:30, Mark 3:29b).
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com
By Jeff Arnette
Paul’s letter to Philemon has often been overlooked. Some people even wonder why it is even included in the Bible. Truthfully, it’s a short letter comprised of only 25 verses but it’s a letter filled with heart and message of Jesus. From beginning to end, it’s concerned with showing love, second chances, and mercy to those who need it most.
Apparently, Onesimus had run away from his Philemon, ended up in prison for it, and probably stolen things from him (Philemon 18). Yet, God in his wonderful providence and grace, had brought him to the precipice of a new and better life. While in prison he met a man named Paul who preached Jesus to him and then spent time mentoring and teaching the runaway. As it turns out, Paul knew Philemon and strongly felt that reconciliation was in order.
Throughout this short letter four themes stand out for us to learn.
First, is the message of reconciliation. As I mentioned earlier, reconciliation is a main part of the gospel message. By faith and obedience Onesimus has been reconciled to God and now another reconciliation had to take place. To live his new faith in Jesus, it was necessary for him to return to Philemon.
Second, true Christian love stands out for us. Instead of demanding he accept Onesimus back or even release him to work with Paul, he appeals to Philemon reminding him of his love for Jesus and Paul. Then he recommends that he extend that same level of love to his new brother.
Third, the importance of repentance is seen clearly. Repentance plays an important role in Philemon. True repentance always rights wrongs, seeks to correct the sins of the past, and to generally improve our lives by living by Jesus’ standards. Onesimus had wronged Philemon and as much as Paul valued and wanted to keep him close, he knew that this was necessary for true repentance.
Fourth, we see the power of the gospel to change eternities and lives. Before his obedience to the gospel, Onesimus was useless but now in Christ he is useful. Before he was a runaway slave but now, he is a beloved brother. Like Onesimus this was all of us at some point. Desperately needing acceptance and change and the gospel gives that to us. This is a truth that we must accept for ourselves and for others. Change is possible.
Let me encourage you to read this letter again and as you do, take note of the way the fruit of the Spirit stands out so beautifully.
Sunday, October 16, 2022
By Jeff Arnette
Most people have favorites when it comes to the Bible. For me personally, Hebrew’s has always been near the top. Perhaps it is because the book helped me conceptualize the end of the old Covenant and the start of the New.
A key word or idea that stands out through the book is the word “better”. The author is presenting the case that Christianity is better than Judaism. These believers are facing hardships some of which have to do with turning away from the faith of their families and community. As such they are outcasts, the outcasts who have turned to a new way of life. A part of me can totally relate to this and that is another reason the book resonates so deeply for me.
One thing to note is the book is anonymous meaning it does not tell us who wrote the letter. A lot of potential people are proposed but for me, personally, it feels and sounds very Pauline.
The early church was also convinced it was Paul. Several testimonies as early as 180 AD attribute it to Paul, with Luke writing it in Greek. While that is not absolute it does help us decide authorship. The most convincing for me is the argument’s used in Hebrew’s is typical of Paul. Take for example, Heb. 1:2 and compare that to Colossians 1:16. It is the same basic point. I could give you more but let me challenge you to read it and get a feel for the book yourself.
Hebrew’s is also a riddle when it comes to deciding the form or genre of the letter. It ends (Heb. 13:22-25) like a letter, but it does not have the typical Introduction and greetings of a letter.
Another part of this riddle is that the letter feels like a sermon especially considering some of the quotes he uses. At Hebrew’s 2:6 he even says, “it has been testified somewhere…” which sounds just like a preacher who cannot remember exactly where the quote came from. In fact, in Hebrew’s 11:32 he uses two phases that sound even more compelling, “what more can I say?” and “time would fail me.”
In every page of the letter, Pauls’ point is clearly, Jesus is better. He is our prophet, better than the angels, better than Moses, and his covenant is better.
Do not give up your faith and do not let go of Jesus. He is always worth it!
By Edd Sterchi
Countless people undergo cosmetic surgery every year. Mostly it is designed to make them look better. But rather than focus on outward appearance, the true Christian should be concerned about the inward person (cf. 1 Pet. 3:3-4). That having been said, there is some spiritual cosmetic surgery that some Christians need to undergo:
Some Christians need a face lift. They go around with a constant gloom and doom look. They look like it is painful to be a Christian. What they need is to remember and express the joy that we have in Christ (Phil. 4:4).
Some Christians need a nose job. They have bent it out of shape from unnecessarily sticking it in other people’s business. Their noses can be made straight again by working hard and improving their own lives first (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
Some Christians need an overbite corrected. Their jaws has become out of line through gossip, filthy language, lying, and/or harmful words. The cure is easily obtained by having better habits (Col. 3:8-10).
Some Christians need wrinkles removed. They worry over every little thing, are anxious about everything. For smooth, supple spiritual skin, they need to seek the salve of the Great Physician. Trusting in Him will reduce those worry wrinkles (Matt. 6:31-34).
Some Christians need a jowl reduction. They have the excess fat of unrepented sin in their lives. This can be corrected, but it will take radical treatment -- the removal of it from their lives (Heb. 12:1-2).
Take a good look in the mirror of God’s Word (Jas. 1:21-27). Are there any of these areas that need attention in your life? By the way, a proper heart transplant and blood transfusion will cure any or all of these (Heb. 10:19-22).
By Joe Slater
Why would Paul write those words in 1 Corinthians 13:6? Rejoicing in unrighteousness -- what a horrible thought! Does anyone actually do that? I wish I could answer, “No, of course not!” But that wouldn’t be true.
The Sanhedrin rejoiced when Judas agreed to betray Jesus (Mark 14:11). What could be more unrighteous?
Jesus told His disciples that when He was killed, they would weep and lament, but the world would rejoice (John 16:20). Is anything more unrighteous than murdering God’s Son?
Paul warned the Philippians about enemies of the cross “whose god is their belly and whose glory (same word as rejoicing) is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19). Yes, they were rejoicing in unrighteousness!
Current American culture calls us all sorts of names if we refuse to rejoice in unrighteousness. Rather than being ashamed for murdering innocent, helpless babies, the pro-abortionists say, “Shout Your Abortion!” That is, be proud of it. When we speak the truth about abortion, we are vilified as “the Christian Taliban”!
Secular progressives insist we must congratulate and commend those in same sex “marriages” (so called). If you dare to affirm Biblical marriage, you are written off as unloving and intolerant.
The same crowd demands not just tolerance but approval of the “transgenderism” myth. When you decline to refer to William as “Wilma,” you are maligned as a mean-spirited extremist and a bigot.
God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is righteous (Daniel 9:14). Since God is righteous, He cannot rejoice in unrighteousness, but that does not make Him unloving! Neither is it unloving when His people decline to rejoice in unrighteousness.
By Bill Brandstatter
There are times in our lives when we must trust other people. As a small child, I trusted my parents to provide for my needs. When I started working, I trusted my employer to give me a paycheck. When I have medical needs, I trust a health care professional. Sometimes, I may question a decision that is made. I might decide not to take a recommended procedure. I might decide to refuse treatment; but,
ultimately, I have to put my trust in someone else.
What about our spirituality? I must trust what God says. I might not like what He says. l may decide not to do what He says; but, ultimately, we will all stand before Him (2 Cor. 5:10). We will be judged by what we knew and what we obeyed (John 12:48). Many people trust themselves for spirituality. They make up their own rules and ideas about what it means to be spiritual. Often those ideas are far from God’s. The apostle Paul described some who “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). He also mentioned that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28).
I must trust God for any information about heaven. God is the source of all information about Himself, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Christianity, Heaven, and Hell. God says not everyone is going to heaven (Matt. 7:21-24). God says just professing Him won’t get a person to heaven (Matt. 7:21). God indicates that just prayer won’t save (John 9:21; Isa. 59:1,2). God tells us that baptism is a must to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). God tells us that baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:3). In whom do you place your trust regarding these matters?
By Clifton Angel
False. This false teaching can be traced at least back to Augustine, who lived from 354–430. It likely precedes Augustine as well, as it appears the Gnostics of the apostle John's day may have held to similar concepts (cf. 1 John 1:5–2:5). John Calvin adopted the same as Augustine and "once saved, always saved" was perhaps most popularized by John Calvin's teachings being handed down through denominations over the last several hundred years. Unfortunately, the teachings of the Gnostics, Augustine, and John Calvin stand in direct contrast with the Scriptures. Robert R. Taylor, Jr. indicates there are over 2,500 places in Scripture where the possibility of losing our salvation (apostasy) is taught.
In an article contending for "once saved, always saved," Johnathan Newman (www.koinos.church) says: "the Bible is very clear on this." He then proceeds to quote Augustine over and over. The only time he quotes the Bible is in the closing line of his article. Interestingly, the Scripture he cites actually contradicts his teaching of "once saved, always saved.”
It reads: ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one." (John 10:28–30). There are at least 2 conditions Jesus places upon those who are followers of Him: (1) They hear His voice, and (2) They follow Him. No one ELSE can pluck you out of the hand of Jesus.
No other person can make the decision for you to be saved or lost; you have to make that decision.
Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia who wanted to go back to following the law of Moses: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The Hebrews writer, also writing to Christians, urged his readers: "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:11). The Scriptures teach that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation, to fall from grace, and to become unbelieving, although he once believed.
At 2 Peter 1, we find Peter teaching what we call the "Christian graces:” Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Temperance, Patience, Godliness, Brotherly kindness, Love. And he goes on to say, "Wherefore ... brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). Finally, notice the verse before this one: "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
Monday, October 10, 2022
By Kevin Rutherford
During the time of Noah the population of the earth reached a degree of wickedness from which they would not return. This level of evil resulted in a world full of violence. The Bible records, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously (Genesis 6:5.)” Clearly God must have been able to see directly into the hearts and minds of the people to know that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was evil.
When Samuel went to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the replacement for King Saul, Samuel focused on the outward appearance, but God was looking into the hearts. The Bible says, “So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him!’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6-7).’”
As King David was giving instructions to his son and successor he said, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intents of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).”
David wrote in the Psalms, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).” David also wrote, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me. Try mind and my heart (Psalm 26:2).” Both of these passages show us God can see into the hearts of people.
The book of Proverbs contains many warnings that prove God is able to look into the hearts of men and women and judge their hearts. We are told, “Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord and “everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 11:20; 16:5).” Proverbs 20:7 specifically tells us God can search all the inner depths of the heart of man.
Jeremiah said, the LORD judges the mind and the hear righteously (Jeremiah 11:20). He also wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10).” Jeremiah also told Israel God is able to “see the mind and the heart (Jeremiah 20:12).” We cannot hide anything from God. He can see directly into our heart and He will judge by what he sees in our hearts.
John wrote about the importance of love our brothers and sisters with a love that is seen in our actions toward one another (1 John 3:16-22). When we have this kind of love for one another we know we are of the truth and we know our hearts are assure before God. That is, God will know what is in our hearts and can tell whether brotherly love exists within our hearts. If not, then our hearts condemn us. God sees into the heart and mind of every one lost in the world, but He also sees into the heart and mind of every Christian.
How should we apply this knowledge of the fact that God can see directly into or hearts? We should work to purify our hearts, Only those who are pure in heart will see God and be with Him in eternity (Psalm 24:3-4; Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:1-3). Paul told Timothy “The end of the commandment is love from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5).” We purify our hearts so that we can love and serve God with the full dedication of heart and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:13; 1 Samuel 12:24; Mark 12:30). God knows if our hearts and minds are pure. God knows if our hearts and minds are focused on loving and serving Him. God judges our hearts and minds.
When both commanders saw what was happening they ordered their troops to cease fire. There was an eerie silence as the American solder freed the German, picked him up and carried him to the waiting arms of his comrades. Both sides held fire until he returned to the American lines.
In a real sense our Savior came into enemy territory to rescue us from the ravages of war. We were prisoners to the greatest enemy on earth. We were entrapped and could not free ourselves. We faced certain death. At the right time, He left the safety of heaven and came to us. He knew we were doomed without help. He picked us up and carried us to the waiting arms of our Heavenly Father.
When the forces of darkness seemed to cut him down there was no silence. The earth shook, the earth was dark for three hours, and tombs were opened. For three days the commander of enemy forces seemed to have won, but God lifted him up. His mission was complete. And we are set free. Therefore, we celebrate in praise to our Deliver.
Sunday, October 2, 2022
By Joe Slater
Crime victims want justice. We should understand. They don’t always get it. That’s a sad reality. People in this sinful world seldom behave fairly, especially in matters that don’t rise to the level of criminality. Even God’s own people sometimes fail to treat each other equitably.
How should you handle unfair treatment? Some play up their status as a victim, wallowing in self-pity and feeding on the sympathy of any who will listen to their tale of woe. Others seek revenge despite the fact that vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19).
Joseph chose a different approach, that of a victor. Victimized by his envious brothers, then by Potiphar’s designing wife, and once more by the Pharaoh’s forgetful chief butler, Joseph maintained confidence in God and made the best of his less-than-ideal situation. We find not the first hint of self-pity or personal vengeance in him. Long before Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:6, Joseph embodied what the apostle said: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”
Who has been victimized more than Jesus? The Sanhedrin, the Roman authorities, and even one of His chosen disciples made Jesus the victim of all victims! Yet He gained the ultimate victory in spite of everything. Far from seeking vengeance, Jesus prayed for the very ones murdering Him and “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (Luke 23:34; 1 Peter 2:23).
Choose to be a victor, not a victim!
By Brian Mitchell
The story is told of three preachers who got together for coffee one day and found out that all of them faced the same problem with bat-infestations in their church buildings. One of them sad, “I got mad and took a shotgun and fired at them. I missed the bats and it put a hole in the roof. I don’t suggest that approach.” The second said, “I caught the bats in traps and drove them 50 miles away and released them. Unfortunately, they beat me back to the church building.” The third one said, “I solved my bat problem. I simply baptized them and made them deacons. I haven’t seen them since.”
On another Sunday morning, two men were fishing and feeling pretty guilty for skipping church, especially since the fish weren’t biting. One said to the other, “I guess I should have stayed home and gone to church.” The other man replied, “Maybe so, but I couldn’t have gone to church anyway...my wife is sick in bed.” During a very long church service, in the middle of a long-winded sermon, a small child was overheard whispering to his mother, “Mommy, are you sure this is the only way we can get to heaven?”
Today, I want us to talk about our need for being more faithful in attendance. I really should begin by commending you for being here today. In some respects, I’m preaching to the choir, so to speak. But as you will see, this lesson is really for all of us. I really want to be frank today, but I don’t want to be negative. I do believe the church has a problem, but I think we can see it as an opportunity for positive action.
So, before we discuss positive solutions, let’s take a look at the numbers. First of all, let me state that I’m thankful that we have an average attendance of about 140-150. The downside, however, is that on average there are about 60-70 of our people missing ALTOGETHER. Some miss because: they are sick, they are working or they went somewhere else. Others miss because they just did not want to come that day and these are the ones I will primarily be referring to in this lesson.
So in summary, we have a mix of at least one third of our members here that miss every week for some reason or another. I don’t want to spend much time trying to analyze all of the reasons that people may be missing so much. Certainly, there are some good and legitimate reasons why people might be missing from the gathering of the church (things like illness, travel, family complications or work might fall into this category). And certainly, there are some wrong or inappropriate reasons why people might be missing from the gathering of the church.
What I would like to remind us of today is the Scriptural and spiritual mandate for gathering with the church. Our passage from Acts 2 gives us a beautiful snapshot of the experience of the early church and stands as a wonderful example for Christians for all times—Acts 2:40-47. Exciting and wonderful things were happening in the church at the time. No one needed to be coerced into attending the gathering of the church. They all were concerned about each other and were serving each other.
It was indeed an exciting time. There was a lot of enthusiasm and momentum. I wish we could bottle some of that, or put it in a pill and take it when we needed it. Amen! Because then everyone would want to be here every time they could and for the same reasons they gathered together and grew daily.