Be Not Conformed!

Good morning everyone!  I hope each of you reading this has a good day today!  Just as it does eachIMG_20150720_063313549 day, today the world will try to influence you into being what it thinks you ought to be.  Don’t let it!  Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

Come to Jesus for the Wrong Reason?

After Jesus fed about five thousand men with only two small fish and five barley loaves, the people sought to take him by force and make him king.  When Jesus understood what was taking plathce he departed and went to be alone.  The next day, the people sought Jesus and found him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1-25).  When the people asked Jesus when he came to the other side of the sea, Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:26-27).

Why did Jesus see fit to rebuke those who sought him?  What lessons can we learn from this?  First, the people sought Jesus with the wrong motive.  They failed to understand the real significance of Jesus miraculously feeding the five thousand.  “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book.  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through His name” (John 20:30-31).  Jesus’ signs, or miracles, served to affirm his deity.  They served to prove to others that he was the Son of God.  Unfortunately, those who sought him out were interested in the miracle only to the extent that it satisfied their own selfish desires.

Sadly, many today go to Jesus for the wrong reason.  A building is crowded with people on Father’s Day when a denomination gives a fishing boat to the lucky winner.  That same building has a much larger attendance on Mother’s Day when flowers are given to the mother who has the most family members in attendance.  Seem a bit outlandish?  How about the teenager who becomes a Christian simply to get his parents “off his back”?  Or the man who attends worship services to keep his wife from badgering him?

Why should someone come to Jesus?  Later in John chapter six, Peter gives us the answer.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).  We should come to Jesus because, believing He is the son of God, we might have eternal life.

These people went to Jesus with the wrong motive because they had the wrong priorities.  Notice Jesus’ words, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27).

Certainly Jesus was not teaching that we do not need to work for our physical food.  The apostle Paul wrote, “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).

Jesus is obviously pointing out that our focus ought to be on the spiritual, rather than the physical.  It is a tragedy that most people go through this life with their focus on the here and now.  What can they accomplish in this life?  What can they accumulate while here on earth?  They give great attention to their careers, their finances and even their recreation, but ignore their greatest asset of all – their soul.  Their thoughts are directed toward the temporary things of this life, while the eternal things of the life to come are tragically neglected.

It is also noteworthy that Jesus said we are to labour for that which endures to eternal life.  That’s right, labour!  It is true we can never earn, or deserve, our salvation.  Friends, we are saved by God’s amazing grace!  But it is also true that God’s grace does not eliminate any effort on our part.  “We are confident, I say, and willing rather, to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  Wherefore, we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (II Corinthians 5:9).  “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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” (Philippians 2:12).

How hard are you working for the bread that endures unto eternal life?  How much effort are you putting forth?  Could you compare your spiritual health to a “part time job”?  Or have you fully given yourself to Christ?  There will be no lazy people in heaven The slothful, or lazy, servant was cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:14-30).

How much time do you spend in Bible study?  In prayer?  In telling others about the salvation you have in Jesus?  Is heaven a place you merely hope you go to when you die (because it is better than the alternative)?  Or are you wholeheartedly striving for it now?

I invite you to come to Jesus, not for selfish gain, but that you might have life through his name.  Believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16).  Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38).  Confess your faith in Jesus Christ to others (Romans 10:10).  And be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).

Remember, any day is a great day to be a child of God!

Our Eternal Home

I’ve been thinking lately about where I would like to live when I retire.  (Yeah, I know…..no use thinking about it too much just yet…..it’s still several years in the future…..still fun to think about it just the same).  A cabin somewhere in the mountains would be nice.  Or nestled on the shore of a sparkling lake.  Ah, I know the perfect place!  A small bungalow on the beach!  Going to sleep at night with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  Waking up with the sound of the birds feeding along the coast.  Enjoying a walk along the beach every morning and experiencing the pleasure of bare feet in the sand. That’s it; the perfect retirement home!

I suppose it’s ok to think about these things.  But don’t get too carried away.  There’s a danger of getting tobeach houseo “attached” to this world. It doesn’t make sense to think of anywhere in this world as the perfect retirement home.  What DOES make sense is focusing on the Christian’s eternal home.  How long will your retirement years last?  Ten years?  Twenty?  Thirty?  For some people, maybe more. But of what significance is any length of time on this earth when compared to an eternity in heaven?  Very short indeed.

We are merely pilgrims on this earth.  No wonder Peter wrote, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” (I Peter 2:11).  Paul’s words remind us that our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  The things of this world are fleeting (II Corinthians 4:16-5:10).  The things of this world will one day come to an end.  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).  It’s impossible to describe just how insignificant your retirement home on this earth will be when time (as we know it) is no more.

There is a perfect place to live.  But it’s not to be found anywhere on earth.  It’s out of this world.  Friends, I’m speaking of heaven.  Hope to see you there!

Behold, the Lamb of God

In John Chapter One, we are introduced to Jesus as the Word.  Later in that same chapter, we are introduced to John the Baptist, the one who was to prepare the way for Christ.  lamb-of-God-535x360Then, in John 1:29, we are again introduced to Jesus, this time as the Lamb of God – “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Look, see, the Lamb of God!  We need to do more than merely look; we need to focus our attention on Jesus Christ.  We need to concentrate on Christ.  To closely examine His life so that we may learn from Him.

“Behold, the Lamb of God” reminds us of Jesus’ purpose for being made in the flesh and dwelling among us – to offer His life as a sacrifice for our sin.  Isaiah 53:6-7 portrays Jesus as a submissive sacrifice.  Also see I Peter 2:21-23.  Jesus was a substitute sacrifice in that He bore the consequences of our sin.

“Behold, the Lamb of God” reminds us that Jesus is the only sacrifice that could ever provide us with the forgiveness of our sin.  Nothing else and no one else would ever do!  Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God” reminds us that Jesus was sent by God.  John 3:16-17 – “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”  God sending His Son to save man was a sign of God’s great love for all mankind.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” reminds us of the power of the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus is not a Lamb that makes it possible for us to ignore our sin, hide our sin or gloss over our sin.  Jesus, as the Lamb of God, offered his life for us in order that our sin could be taken away.  Because of the power of the blood of the Lamb our sin is taken from our lives, never to be brought up again.  1 Peter 1:18-19 – “18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:”

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.  Why do we often try so hard to cling to that which Jesus wants to take away?

I’m Thankful For a Mulligan

I’m not much of a golfer and it’s been quite awhile since I played a game, but I was always thankful for a mulligan.  A golf clubmulligan is “a shot not counted against the score, permitted in unofficial play to a player whose previous shot was poor.”  In simple terms, if you hit the ball poorly you can try again and you don’t have to count the first shot!

I’m thankful for a second chance to hit the ball when playing golf; but I’m even more thankful that God has given me a second chance when it comes to my sins. God has promised me that, when I do poorly and fall short of what He desires for me, He will give me a mulligan.  He will forgive me and give me an opportunity to start over.  John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Today, I am thankful for God’s willingness to forgive!

“Once Saved, Always Saved” Not in the Bible

cropped-open-your-bible1.jpgThe doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible. It is an erroneous doctrine that provides a false comfort and a deceitful feeling of security.

First, let’s examine some of the passages often used to support this doctrine. Concerning the Christians in Asia Minor, Peter wrote “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5). How is it that Christians are kept, or guarded, unto salvation? Through their faith! It is possible for a Christian to lose his faith and quit believing in God. The author of the book of Hebrews warned his readers against the sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Is a Christian who loses his faith still saved? Of course, the obvious, and only logical, answer is a resounding no!

Others point to John 10:27-28 in an effort to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Jesus said “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28). Does this passage really teach “once saved, always saved”? No! Notice Jesus’ words “they follow me.” This passage contains wonderful promises for Christians. However, these promises are conditional upon our continually following Christ. Those Christians who quit following Christ will not receive these promises.

Still others point to I John 3:9 in order to defend their doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God” (I John 3:9). John wrote that a person does not continue to sin because the seed (the Word of God) continues to abide in him. However, Satan can steal the Word of God out of a person’s heart if that person allows Satan to do so (Matthew 13:19). When a Christian allows the Word of God to be taken away from him, that Christian has fallen from grace and is lost.

Many other passages are used in an attempt to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” The necessary limitations that are placed upon the length of this column prohibit me from addressing all of these passages. However, numerous passages teach it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he will be eternally lost. First, there are things a Christian must do in order to keep from falling. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (II Peter 1:10). This passage provides a clear implication that if a Christian does not do those things Peter detailed in II Peter 1:5-9 he will fall from grace and be lost.

Second, the writings of the apostle Paul teach it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace and be lost. To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote “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” (I Corinthians 9:27).

Third, Paul taught the Christians in Galatia that it was possible for them to fall from grace. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Many of the Christians in Galatia strayed from the truth and tried to be justified by the law of Moses. The Bible not only teaches it is possible for Christians to fall from grace, it gives us an example of Christians who actually did fall from grace.

Fourth, Bible teaches a Christian can sin in such a way that he will be in a worse condition than that which he was in before he became a Christian. Peter wrote “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” (II Peter 2:20-22). Those Christians who fall from grace will be subject to a much sorer punishment Hebrews (Hebrews 10:29).

The parable of the vine and the branches proves it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace. Jesus said “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…..” (John 15:2). Jesus went on to say “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). Notice that the branches in this passage represent individual Christians, not individual denominations. There were no denominations in existence at the time Jesus spoke these words. If everyone today would follow the pattern for the New Testament church given to us in the Bible, there would be no denominations in existence today.

God’s word plainly teaches it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he can fall from grace and be eternally lost.

Which Comes First, Salvation or Baptism?

I once saw the following question on an outdoor sign, “Which came first, salvation or baptism?” Because the future of your soul depends upon the answer, it is a very good question. It is abaptismlso a question that deserves an answer from the Bible. When we set aside all preconceived ideas and prejudices, all human creeds and all doctrines of men, we learn that the Bible teaches that for all those who live according to the New Testament, baptism comes first.

If salvation comes first, Jesus was mistaken when he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The word “and” is a conjunction that joins belief with baptism. Either belief or baptism, without the other, does not result in salvation.

If salvation comes first, then Peter was wrong when he preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost. When those present heard Peter’s preaching concerning Christ, they were pricked in their hearts and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Listen to Peter’s answer. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). The word “for” is the translated from the same word Jesus used in Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Jesus did not shed his blood on the cross because man’s sins had already been forgiven, but in order that man’s sins could be forgiven. Likewise, Peter did not command those present on the day of Pentecost to be baptized because their sins had already been forgiven, but in order that their sins could be forgiven.

If salvation comes first, then we are saved outside of Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). But we know that no man can be saved outside of Christ.“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).  We are baptized into Christ. Every time the phrase “into Christ” appears in your Bible, it is always preceded by the word “baptized”.

If salvation comes first, then a person is saved without being a member of Christ’s church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Because Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same (Ephesians 1:22-23), we know we are baptized into Christ’s church. The only way a person can become a member of Christ’s church is through baptism. Because Christ is the savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23), only those persons who are in Christ’s church are saved.

If salvation comes first, then Saul (Paul) was saved before his sins were washed away. When the Lord appeared unto Saul on the road to Damascus, the Lord told him to go to Damascus where Ananias would tell him what he must do. Do you remember what Ananias told Saul? “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). No friends, Paul was not saved before his sins were washed away in baptism, and you and are not saved before our sins are washed away in baptism.

If salvation comes first, then Peter was wrong when he taught that we are saved by baptism. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). Just as the waters of the flood served as a dividing line between death and salvation in Noah’s day, water baptism serves as a dividing line between spiritual death and salvation today.

What must we do to be saved from our sins? We must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16). We must repent of our sins (Acts 2:38). We must confess our faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32-33). We must be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Yes friends, baptism comes before salvation.  A person who has not been baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins is a person who is still lost in his sin.