Not Distracted by Distractions

This past Friday, June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across the Niagara Falls on a high wire.  Others have crossed the Niagara River, but none have walked directly over the falls.  The awestruck crowd, numbering in the tens of thousands, watched as Nik made the 25 minute, 1,800 foot journey along the swaying cable suspended 200 feet above the raging Horseshoe Falls (the largest of the three falls that make up Niagara Falls).

 It would be a huge understatement to say the crossing wasn’t easy.  As Nik described it, “That mist was thick.  It was hard to see at times…..the wind was wild.  It would come at me one way and hit me in the front, and then hit me from the back.”  As for the distractions, including wind gusts and helicopters, Nik said, “I’ve trained all my life not to be distracted by distractions.”

 As I read Nik’s thoughts concerning the distractions it reminded me of our lives as Christians.  Along our journey to heaven we encounter countless distractions that vie for our attention.  Countless distractions that would cause us to lose our focus in life.  For some it may job responsibilities or financial issues.  For others, it may be the pleasures of this world.  I suspect that for many these distractions may be innocent enough, not sinful in themselves, but become so when we allow them to draw our attention away from God.

 How should we respond?  By training all our lives not to be distracted by distractions.  The apostle Paul wrote, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

 Like Paul, we must continually press for the mark, never taking our eyes off the prize.  “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:12-15).

 For Wallenda, giving in to distractions would undoubtedly result in physical death.  For Christians, giving in to distractions will undoubtedly result in something far worse – an eternal separation from God.

Four Deadly Lies

Featured Image -- 342This past Sunday I preached a sermon at the Maul Road Church of Christ entitled “Four Deadly Lies.”  I am glad to be able to share it with those of you who subscribe to this blog.  Unless noted elsewhere in the post, scripture references are from the King James Version.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:1-6).

Sin entered into this world when Satan told a lie and man believed it.  This should come as a surprise to no one, for in John 8:44 Jesus referred to Satan as a liar and the father of all lies.  Today, approximately 6,000 years after Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, Satan is still telling lies.  That rascal still hasn’t learned to tell the truth!  It is important to remind ourselves of these lies.  If not, we may foolishly fall victim to Satan’s deceit.

Lie #1 – “No one is really going to hell.”  “After all,” some would say, “it is unimaginable that a loving God would allow anyone to spend an eternity in eternal torment.  Even some within the Lord’s church have given in to the idea that, if anyone will be in hell, it certainly will not be for an eternity.”

Is this really what the Bible teaches?  Most definitely not!  Consider Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  Did you notice Jesus’ words?  The path that leads to destruction is broad and heavily traveled.  Yet the way that leads to eternal life is narrow with few travelers.

But what about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?  What about those who have never heard of the one true and living God?  Consider Paul’s words from II Thessalonians 1:7-9: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;”

This should serve as a warning, not only to those persons outside the Lord’s church, but to all those within.  Horrible is the fate of many Christians who will be sadly disappointed when judgment comes.  Revelation 3:14-16: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Lie #2 – “The Bible is an outdated book, it has no relevance for us today.”  “Sure,” some would say, “No doubt the Bible was useful at one time, but no longer.  What has worked in the past simply will not work today.  Take, for example, the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriages.  Some would say our culture has changed since the Bible was written and homosexuality (including same sex marriages) should be readily accepted by all – we need to catch up with the times.”

If some men had their way, the Bible would be relegated to a cold, lifeless graveyard.  How foolish!  Is the Bible really an outdated book?  No way!  Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).  Has the gospel lost its power?  If so, when?  Is the gospel no longer able to save man from his sin?  Of course the gospel has not lost its power.  The gospel still has the power to save man from his sin, something nothing else can ever do.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  The word translated “quick” means alive.  The Bible is not a dead, irrelevant book!  It has not lost its life!

Lie #3 – “Once saved, always saved.”  This doctrine simply states that, once a person has been saved from his sin, it is completely impossible for him to ever be lost again.  After all, many would say, “God guards those who are his.”  Proponents of this doctrine often attempt to defend their error with arguments such as “Once a person is born, he can never be unborn.  Once a person becomes a child of God he can never cease being a child of God.”  But the reality is that a child can lose his inheritance.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for us to fully realize all the good Paul had accomplished throughout his life.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully grasp all that Paul had endured because of his faith.  Of the Jews he had received forty stripes save one, thrice he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked, he had been in perils among false brethren, perils in the sea, perils in the wilderness, perils by the heathen and by his own countrymen (II Corinthians 11:23-28).  Yet, in spite of all he had accomplished and endured, Paul understood that, while he was preaching to others, it was possible for him to be lost.  “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Notice Paul’s words from Galatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”  In his writing to the church at Galatia, Paul declared that they had done what many today say is impossible – fall from grace.

Peter wrote that if a person obeyed the gospel, only to later leave the faith, his latter condition would be worse than the first.  “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Lie #4 – “One church is as good as another.”  Satan would love for you to believe that it really doesn’t matter what church you are a part of, just as long as you are a part of a church.  Satan wants you to believe that salvation can be found in any church.  Friend, nothing could be further from the truth!  The Bible teaches the Lord adds those who are saved to the church (Acts 2:47).  Which church were they added to?  Certainly not any of the denominations in existence today, for none of these existed on the day of Pentecost.  And they certainly were not built by Christ (Matthew 16:18).

If it were true that one church is as good as another, it would be true that salvation could be found in any church.  Not so!  Consider the following from Ephesians 1:22-23: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”  Notice that Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same.  Ephesians 4:4 tells us there is only one body.  Since there is only one body, and Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same, there must be only one church.

Is it really so important that a person be a member of Christ’s one church (not a denomination, but the one church that Jesus built)?  Yes, for Ephesians 5:23 teaches that Christ is the savior of the body.  There are none who are saved outside of Christ’s body, the church of Christ.

But some would say that all of the denominations in existence today cumulatively comprise the Lord’s church.  Really?  Does this idea agree with what the Bible teaches?  Not at all!  Are we really supposed to believe that the denominations today, going by different names, having different times and places of origin, worshiping in different ways, teaching contradictory doctrines, and adhering to a type of organization different from one another and from the Bible, are all a part of the one church we read about in the Bible?  God would never cause such confusion as this.

Jesus said that the truth would set a person free from his sin (John 8:31-32).  Error cannot do this.  Only the truth can set men free!  Satan is still telling his lies.  But when we are familiar with the truth, we can readily recognize these as lies.