THE SPIRITS SWORD
Mt. Baker church of Christ
1860 Mt. Baker Hwy · Bellingham, WA 98226
Volume V, Number 37 - December 9, 2001
Editor..................Joe R. Price
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In this issue:
Joe R. Price
The capture of Jericho by ancient Israel continues to thrill the hearts of those who trust the power of God to save. The Biblical narrative of Jericho's fall gives us a good look at principles and powers still pertinent today in order for us to receive God's blessing of salvation.
We should first acknowledge that it was God who caused the walls of Jericho to fall. God said to Joshua, "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor" (Josh. 6:2). Clearly, God's power and grace were at work in Israel's victory over Jericho. Even so, our victory over sin occurs because God is gracious toward us. We are made to marvel at His love and mercy which forgives us of every sin (Eph. 2:1-7). We, like Israel, have every reason to trust the grace of God.
We must also acknowledge that God expected Israel to do certain things to obtain victory by His grace. God told Israel to march around Jericho once a day for six days (Josh. 6:3). The ark of the covenant was to lead the way, with seven priests bearing seven trumpets. On the seventh day, after going around the city seven times, the trumpets were to sound, the people were to shout, and the wall would fall flat (Josh. 6:4-5). Israel obeyed God, and it happened as God said it would (Josh. 6:12-20). This called for great faith on Israel's part. From all outward appearances what God commanded them to do would not cause the walls to collapse. It is rightly stated that "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down" (Heb. 11:30).
Israel received God's grace when she obeyed God's word in faith. That same principle holds true today. God's word teaches us of God's grace and how we may receive it in our lives. The plan of salvation is plainly revealed: Hear the gospel, believe it, repent of sins, confess faith in Jesus Christ and be baptized for the remission of sins - Rom. 10:17; Jno. 8:24; Lk. 13:5; Rom. 10:9-10; Mk. 16:16. To be saved by grace we must obey Christ in faith (Eph. 2:8; Heb. 5:9; Jas. 2:24). The same is true after one becomes a Christian (Tit. 2:11-12).
Do not resist God's grace. By faith obey His word and the wall of sin which separates you from God will fall down, too!
Jeff S. Smith
"They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no bud; It shall never produce meal. If it should produce, Aliens would swallow it up" (Hosea 8:7).
The minor prophet was excoriating the false religions which Israel dallied with in their temptation of God so many centuries ago now. Such false religions plant something without substance and produce something destructive. Their adherents are without moral compass, for false religion offers either none or one inferior to God's and thus the challenges of the world and the worldly overcome them in time.
The prophecy bears some resemblance to Christ's parable of the sower in Matthew 13. There also, three of four souls touched by the gospel did not endure in the faith because of persecution, trial or apathy. Today, so many churches of Christ are sowing the wind in their instruction of the young that we are nearly reduced to standing back and waiting for the whirlwind when the next, untaught generation assumes pulpits, pens and presbyteries.
Last year, a survey summary was produced by Robert Oglesby, Jr. and Carley Dodd of Abilene Christian University, a school operated by our institutional brethren. The project queried 530 teens (ages 11-19) who attend churches of Christ from the South, West/Midwest and East to find out what young people think. The evidence of sown wind and budless stalk follows:
* 16% think there is little difference between the church of Christ and denominations.
* 90% think instrumental music is acceptable in worship.
* 69% believe Christians can dress like, talk like, etc. the world.
* 65% believe church membership doesn't matter as long as you love God.
Anecdotal evidence has long shown a decline in the distinctiveness of our people, but this study astounds. It is ironic, for instance, that only 16 percent think there is little difference between the church of Christ and denominations. Having talked with institutional members and preachers, I would probably see little difference myself if that were my only impression of the church.
We see churches of Christ building up banquet and recreation halls while tearing down the New Testament demands of fellowship. Some do not require water baptism of mature believers before membership. Others accept into their number those living in open immorality or unscriptural remarriages.
These modern, mainstream churches of Christ indeed exhibit little distinction from the denominations of this world, but they should. Fellowship is limited by such passages as 1 Corinthians 5, where sinful members are recommended for withdrawal and Romans 16:17-18 where the factious and false teacher are marked as errant, not embraced as progressively enlightened.
Nine in ten of their young people believe that instrumental music in worship is acceptable. Could it be that their Christmas cantatas have led to this conclusion? Could it be that there has not been enough teaching or insistence on submitting to approved New Testament examples like Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16? Could it be that they have listened too long to influential digressives like Max Lucado? The elders where he preaches have announced that, while they will not introduce instruments of music to their worship, they see nothing wrong with them anymore and may consider it in the future. Do you hear the whirlwind revving up?
Almost three in four of their young people surveyed believe that Christians can behave just like the world. A decade of "positive" sermons and feel-good Bible classes have dumbed down their children so far that they now actually believe that worldliness is a virtue, or at least, no vice. When the preacher refuses to sermonize against immodest attire and foul speech, it signals to impressionable minds that such things are not so serious after all. Enough of that indifference will eventually lead more and more to embrace the immorality. When the elders look the other way so often that their heads are practically put on hinges, the flock learns that certain sins will always be winked at.
God, however, demands a peculiar people (Titus 2:4), transformed from the world and not conformed to it (Rom. 12:-12). The way of the world is sin and doom (1 John 2:15-17). Worldly attire tends to incite lust (Prov. 7:10). Worldly speech tends to be crude and irreverent. Did Jesus die so that our young people could sin with immunity from guilt or correction? Or have their leaders simply sold them a bill of goods, tending to their self-esteem and neglecting their souls' salvation?
Perhaps the plan was to appease the masses to keep them in the church. It failed, for 65 percent think church membership is optional, too. A generation reared on spiritual junk food is growing up, facing decisions of morality without moral foundation and preparing to take the lead in churches which they will surely continue to transform into just another worthless, destructive denomination. Once you have sown the wind, it is hard to stop the whirlwind. The time has come to get back to the Bible, or better, catch up to it. Before it is too late.
-Watchman Magazine, December, 2001
Steven J. Wallace
Endurance (Heb. 12:3)
Value (Matt. 16:26)
Able (2 Tim. 2:2)
Now (2 Cor. 6:2; Jno. 4:35)
Gospel (Rom. 1:16)
Enthusiasm (Titus 2:14)
Love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
Individual (Phil. 2:11-14)
Salvation (Jas. 5:19-20)
Minister (Gal. 5:13)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Six Shaven Afghans Have Noses, Ears Cut Off
December 05, 2001 08:22 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Gunmen waylaid six men in eastern Afghanistan and cut off their noses and ears, apparently for having shaved off their beards, an Afghan news service said on Tuesday.
The bandits stopped and searched a bus on Monday at Tangi Abresham on the highway from the capital Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad and ordered out all men who had shaved their beards, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.
It said the noses and ears of six men -- all Afghans -- were cut off to punish them for shaving their beards in defiance of formerly ruling Taliban movement's order to all Afghan Muslims to grow long beards.
The six were taken to hospital in Jalalabad, AIP said. There was no immediate comment from hospital authorities.
On November 19, four journalists, two of them from Reuters, were killed when unknown gunmen ambushed their convoy at Tangi Abresham, some 90 km (55 miles) east of Kabul.
AIP said several vehicles were looted in Tangi Abresham on Sunday and Monday and quoted drivers as saying they had seen seven bodies lying in the area.
The radical Taliban movement has lost control of most of Afghanistan in the past month after being battered by U.S.-led military strikes to punish it for sheltering Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden and his al Qaeda militant groups are Washington's prime suspects behind the September 11 hijack plane attacks in New York and Washington.
Joe R. Price
It is no crime to be clean-shaven, the Taliban notwithstanding. Neither is there any justification for the horrific treatment these men received at the hands of these barbaric bandits.
In our country and around the world, the opponents of swift and potent punishment of criminals will no doubt attempt to parallel such savage actions with authorized government's use of the death penalty. No such parallel exists.
God ordained civil government, giving it the noble task of protecting the innocent and punishing criminals (Rom. 13:1-4). When God's law to ancient Israel said "your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" it was not authorizing vigilantism but the due exercise of civil authority's punishment of the evil doer (Deut. 19:21). Why? "And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you" (Deut. 19:20).
Criminals should be brought to justice, which includes punishment (Rom. 13:4). Does that mean we do not love our enemies? No. It is a matter of peaceably living with others as we also give place to the wrath of God (Rom. 12:17-19).
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