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THE SPIRIT’S SWORD

published by

Mt. Baker church of Christ

1860 Mt. Baker Hwy Bellingham, WA 98226

Volume VI, Number 23 - September 22, 2002

"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)

Editor..................Joe R. Price


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 In this issue:


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"THE TIMES OF IGNORANCE GOD OVERLOOKED"

Joe R. Price

 

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

Some may conclude from this statement there was a time when God chose to ignore sin. That would be an inaccurate conclusion. The ignorance addressed herein is man's, not God's. God did not ignore man in his sin, but, even while man was in sin, God took the initiative to redeem his: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8; cf. 1 Jno. 3:9-10).

God did indeed deal with sin in previous ages. In Genesis 6-8 He destroyed the world with a flood. God judged the sins of the Canaanites when He drove them out of their land and gave it to Israel: "Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 'For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants" (Lev. 18:24-25). Many such judgments against sin are found in the Old Testament.

What then does it mean that God "overlooked" the former times of ignorance? A good commentary on this verse is found earlier in Acts when a similar audience of idolaters was told the Lord "allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good." (Acts 14:16-17). As man plunged into the ignorance of sin God brought judgments upon them, but He did not punish man with a full measure of His wrath. God showed forbearance toward sinners as He executed His plan for human redemption (Rom. 3:25). In the redemptive work of Christ the righteousness of God's forbearance toward sinners is vindicated: "whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:25-26). Thus, God "overlooked" the times of ignorance, not by ignoring sin, but by bearing with sinners as He arranged the means of their salvation (cf. Gal. 4:4-5). Now, He commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:31).

Salvation from sin is now provided in Christ (Eph. 1:3-12; Rom. 3:21-26). God's call to believe and obey has gone out to the whole world (Acts 1:8; 2:39-41). Now, God calls on you to repent and be saved.


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TITHE OR NOT?

J. S. Smith

To tithe or not to tithe? That is often the question.

The law of Moses regulated the giving aspect of Hebrew worship with the tithe. A strict ten percent offering of certain animals and produce was mandated, leaving little personal consideration to the worshiper himself. He could obey or disobey, but the amount he was supposed to give was etched in stone.

To many modern preachers and worshipers, this sounds like the perfect system and yet even Old Testament experience shows that humanity can mar it. Malachi wrote, "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably" (Mal. 1:8)?

The Jews imagined a loophole in their worship, by which they could offer to God their refuse and expect his approval. Their hearts were disconnected from their worship and they were simply going through the motions in the least expensive way imaginable (cf. Isa. 1:10-20). God was not pleased.

Jesus could have reformed the tithe and instituted it for his new covenant after the cross. Things that were lawful and approved prior to the cross were not necessarily added to the new testament of Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifice was left behind, as was incense burning, the Sabbath and instrumental music in worship. The apostle Paul described this transition as the abolition of "the law of commandments, contained in ordinances" which formerly separated Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-22). A parallel passage says the old law was taken out of the way and figuratively nailed to Christ's cross with him (Col. 2:11-15). If we make an attempt to justify our actions or our worship choices with the law of Moses, we fall from God's grace (Gal. 5:4).

So, while numerous passages regulate the tithe for Israel under the Old Testament, a different and incompatible form of giving is prescribed in the New Testament. The tithe does not fit in the church because God did not put it there.

The practice of the first century church was that each member laid something aside on the first day of the week, forming the treasury of the local congregation, from which it funded its evangelism, edification and benevolence work (1 Cor. 16:1-4, cf. Phil. 4:15-16, Acts 4:32-37).

In regulating this offering, no apostle ever demanded anyone earmark 10 percent of his funds as the mandatory gift. Instead, the saint was commanded to "give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). The purpose in one's heart must also reflect the degree to which God has prospered him (1 Cor. 16:2).

Is that more, less or the same as ten percent? Some still would prefer a number mandated for them, instead of this act of worship being left up to their discretion. Sorry, the new covenant is a law written on the heart and it requires the involvement and development of your own selflessness and participation. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6).

Because it is the first day of the week on which the saints made their offering, it is reasonable to conclude that this was part of their weekly assembly for worship, fellowship and communion (Acts 20:7). For this reason, the collection plate is passed every Sunday and only on Sunday in churches of Christ, so that each church's members can fund the work of God in that place.

The worshiper is set free from the restrictions of the tithe and liberated to purpose in his own heart what he will give. Give liberally and lovingly and remember that everything you contribute is simply returning to God a portion of what he entrusted to you (James 1:17).

Woodmont Beacon, Edition 98, 22 September 2002 http://www.woodmontchurch.org


You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS

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YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION

Scripture Reading:  James 1:9-16

Intro.
1. Our struggle with temptation & sin is real, universal and constant (1 Cor. 10:12-13).
2. Temptation defined: Jas. 1:13-16.
3. Endurance rewarded: Jas. 1:12 (cf. Heb. 4:15-16).

I. REMEMBER WORD OF GOD - Psa. 119:11.
   A. As Armor - Eph. 6:10-17.
   B. Knowledge & Truth against Temptation - Matt. 4:4-11; Psa. 119:11 (Jas. 1:14-15).

II. STAY AWAY FROM THE TEMPTATION.
   A. Flee It - 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; Gen. 39:12; Matt. 26:41; Prov. 5:8 (7:25).
   B. Avoid Situations - Matt. 6:13; 1 Cor. 7:5.

III. PRAY - Matt. 6:13.
   A. For Strength to Overcome - Matt. 26:41.
   B. Persevere in Prayer - Eph. 6:18.

IV. HONEST SELF-EXAM - 2 Cor. 13:5.
   A. Consider Yourself - Gal. 6:1, 4.
   B. Remain Humble & Know Your Own Vulnerability - Gal. 6:3.

V. UNDERSTAND IT - 2 Cor. 2:11.
   A. How Satan Appeals to Us - 1 Jno. 2:15-17.
   B. Strikes At Weak Points - Matt. 4:3-10.

VI. CHOOSE COMPANIONS WISELY.
   A. Associations Affect Us - 1 Cor. 15:33-34; Eccl. 4:9-12; Prov. 17:17.

VII. REMEMBER CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
   A. Sin Is Against God - Psa. 51:4 (Gen. 39:9).
   B. Eternal Result - Jas. 1:15-16 (Ro 6:23); Rev. 21:8.
   C. Hardens Heart to More Sin - He 3:13; Eccl 12:1

VIII. LOOK FOR WAY OUT - 1 Cor. 10:13; 9:24-27.

IX. RESISTING MAKES US BETTER.
   A. Better Prepared for Next One - 1 Pet. 5:9.
   B. Process of Spiritual Maturity - Jas. 1:2-4.


NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Current events in the light of Scripture)

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Pacific Northwest Has Fewest Church-goers, Report Says

Joe R. Price

Tell us something we don't know! A report released by the Glenmary Research Center in Nashville, TN (a Catholic research and social service organization) says Washington ranks 49th among the states with church-going citizens (synagogues and mosques, included in the study); Oregon ranked 50th. ("Report: Washington, Oregon have fewer church-goers than other states", Bellingham Herald, 9/19/02, A3)

We certainly do not promote a "choose the church of your choice" approach to Christianity (cf. Jno. 17:20-21). But, it is apparent that many Americans are choosing to not choose any church! Sociologists and religious historians will no doubt offer their explanations of this finding by scrutinizing society's trends, etc.

The reasons for religious neglect are not new to the 21st century. Man easily succumbs to the temptation to please himself rather than sacrifice for the sake of the Almighty. So, many put personal pleasures, wants and plans before worshiping God. Some worship nature - "mother Earth" - rather than the Creator of all (Rom. 1:23, 25). The effect of the humanistic philosophy that man is the center of the universe is being played out before our eyes. People prefer pleasing themselves rather than pleasing God (2 Tim. 3:4). Rest assured, God is not pleased when man refused to acknowledge and obey Him (Rom. 1:18-32).

The Spirit's Sword is a free, weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA

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