And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XI, Number 23 May 04, 2008
In this issue:
The Distinctive Christ
We tend to recognize things that have distinctive features or are distinct in their nature. Most religious people are aware of how remarkably different Jesus was when compared to the religious people of his day. His life, teaching and ministry were distinct from the current religious trends. “The people were astonished at his teaching,” (Matthew 7:28-29) and recognized that it was clearly different than that of the contemporary religious teachers. His life was distinct from most religious teachers in that he did not obtain a degree from the famed seminaries of his day, but rather made his advent from the humble obscurity of the despised city of Nazareth, which caused many to stumble (John 1:45-46; 6:42). Yet, for the most part, “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). The mission of Christ was distinct in that he came primarily for a spiritual purpose (Luke 12:13-14; Mark 1:38) “to seek and to save” those who were lost (Luke 19:9-10) regardless of their past, while his contemporaries were more concerned about the “social” aspects of their religion (Matthew 23:5-7).
The Distinctive church “of Christ”
Recognizing that the life “of Christ”, the doctrine “of Christ”, and mission “of Christ” were distinct from all other religious leaders, we should not be surprised to find that the church “of Christ” would also be distinct from other churches that are not “of Christ”. Even the casual observer will notice that the church “of Christ” in the first century had a very distinct worship based on sincerity and truth (John 4:24; Ephesians 5:19; 1Corinthians 14:15), a distinct message of salvation in Jesus Christ (1John 5:11; Acts 4:12) and a distinct mission to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Timothy 3:15) which “is the power of God unto salvation” (Ro.1:16).
Hide it under a bushel?
It seems today, that, in an effort toward greater “tolerance” and “unity in diversity”, many are trying to do away with the distinctive features of Christ’s church in order to create a sort of ecumenical “generic” church. Many “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) are forfeiting their divinely designed distinctive features in order to blend in with denominationalism. The distinct worship, doctrine and mission of the church “of Christ” are being compromised in order to become the “Mega-Churches” of denominationalism.
Compromise or Magnify?
Jesus never compromised his distinctive features in order to be less offensive to the religious people of His day (Matthew 15:12-14) or to gain more followers… should we? As a matter of fact, Jesus recognized that his distinct doctrine caused him to lose great numbers of people (John 6:53-66), yet he realized that His Father would “draw” whomever he willed through the very same distinctive features that repelled others (John 6:44-45; Matthew 11:25-26). May we never be ashamed of the distinctive nature of our Lord Jesus (Mark 8:38), nor of His body the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). If we ever hope to truly be the Lord’s “own special or peculiar people” (Titus 2:14), we will have to maintain the distinctive features that he has given us that “set us apart” from all other religious efforts that are not “of Christ” (2Corinthians 6:14-18).
The 20th chapter of 1Kings records an interesting story in Ahab’s infamous life that was “written for our learning” (Ro.15:4). The context reveals that God had given Ahab the complete and convincing victory over the Syrians and the capture of their tyrannical king – Ben-Hadad (vv.28-33). Furthermore, Ahab was given the opportunity to execute Ben-Hadad as God had ordained. Ahab chose to spare Ben-Hadad’s life and form a treaty with him instead (v.34). A prophet disguised himself as having been wounded in battle and approached Ahab’s chariot. The prophet stated that he had been given charge of a prisoner with the liability that he would loose his own life if he allowed the prisoner to escape. The disguised prophet confessed to the King, “while your servant was busy here and there, he was gone” (v.40). Ahab easily recognized and stated that the consequence of this soldier’s negligence would be the loss of his own life. The prophet then revealed himself to Ahab and told him “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people’” (v.42). By way of clever illustration, God made known to Ahab that the opportunity he wasted was a clear dereliction of duty and it would carry a serious consequence. The very king that Ahab allowed to escape would later rise up against Israel with his Syrian army and take Ahab’s life (Chapter 22). Let’s observe the following few things from this lesson.
Neglecting God’s opportunities carries serious consequences
This fact is clear, both, in revelation and also in the things that we observe in life. God gives the farmer a window of opportunity to plant his crop every year. The farmer who misses the planting season will never again have the opportunity to plant that year’s crop, thus missing the harvest and suffering the poverty of his negligence. The wise man said “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted” (Ecc.3:1-2). Young people have a window of opportunity in youth to educate themselves when their minds are more “pliable”. Parents have the strategic window of opportunity to “train up a child in the way he should go” when he is young (Pr.22:6). The pliable mind and character of youth can never be regained once it has passed. God gives us the opportunity to hear the gospel (Ac.11:13-14; 10:33) and “be saved” (Ac.2:40) from the condemnation of our sins. The Holy Spirit sternly warns us of the consequences of “neglecting so great a salvation” as God has afforded (He.2:3). The dereliction of our duty or stewardship in regard to God’s opportunities carries eternal consequences (Lk.12:42-48) (Mt.25:31-46). Especially serious, is the failure to warn the lost of their doom (Ez.3:18) (Ac.20:26-27).
You had an opportunity last week
The Lord blessed us with an opportunity last week to work together in a gospel meeting to save men’s souls and edify ourselves (He.3:13-14; 10:24-25) in the assembly of the saints through worship, singing (Col.3:16), and gospel preaching (Ac.20:32) (1Pe.2:2). Did you seize the opportunity to invite your friends, family and co-workers to hear the gospel as Cornelius did (Ac.10:24,33)? Did you “redeem the time” that you had to save their souls (Co.4:5)? Did you seize the opportunity to be in attendance yourself, to be edified and to be considerate to your brethren, stirring them up to love and good works (He.10:24-25)? Were your children there regardless of their conflicting activity so that they would learn priorities and be built up in the Faith (Pr.22:6)? Or will you tell God that you were “busy here and there” with your kid’s school, sports or various activities? Were you “busy here and there” with your job, family or personal interests? Did you make plans to be away during the meeting? Did you let this God-given opportunity slip through your hands? The Lord may grant that you live to see other gospel meetings, but was this particular opportunity lost? What did you do with your opportunity?
(Adapted with permission)
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Do not be a Stumbling Block
Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1-4
PART I Power Point Show
In Luke 17:1-4 Jesus gives warning to help us not become stumbling blocks and lose our souls along with the souls of those who stumble.
I. TO AVOID BEING A STUMBLING BLOCK, 1 Cor. 10:32-33.
A. Remember that
God wants Every Sinner to be Saved, Lk. 17:2 (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
PART II Power Point Show
II. A SPECIFIC AND DIFFICULT STUMBLING BLOCK TO AVOID AND/OR REMOVE: AN UNWILLINGNESS TO ALWAYS FORGIVE OTHERS, Lk. 17:3-4.
A. Take Heed:
Jesus Warns of the Difficulty of Forgiveness, 17:3; Matt. 18:15; 2 Cor.
7:10; Acts 26:20. 18; Eph. 4:31-5:2; Lk. 23:43; Heb. 12:3; 2 Cor. 2:6-7.
1. Being careful
not to be a stumbling block not only shows you love your own soul, it also
shows you love the souls of those who sin against you (your desire and goal
is their salvation, Rom. 10:1).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8-13
1. Bible records
many of God’s pleas to man to be restored to His way of doing things, 2 Pet.
2:5; Isa. 8:20; Zech. 1:3; Mal. 3:7; 4:4; Matt. 17:11-12.
I. WE MUST RETURN TO AN ABSOLUTE RESPECT FOR THE SCRIPTURES AS GOD’S INSPIRED REVELATION TO US, 1 Cor. 2:6-13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3
A. Such Respect
Continues to be Eroded.
II. WE MUST RETURN TO USING THE BIBLE AS OUR ONLY SOURCE OF AUTHORITY FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE AND PRACTICE, Col. 3:17.
A. Return to
Book-Chapter-Verse Preaching, Acts 17:2-3; 18:28 (Rom. 3:9-19).
III. WHAT RETURNING TO THE OLD PATHS OF THE GOSPEL WILL DO:
A. Will Return
Hearts to God, Mal. 4:5-6; Eph. 4:20-24; Lk. 8:15.
Another Step into the Moral Abyss
The sexually permissive ‘60’s and ‘70’s produced many immoral “standards” that continue to permeate our society. For example, in the 1970’s co-ed dorms replaced the previously gender-segregated college dormitories. Now, some colleges have taken another step into the abyss of moral indifference and depravity: co-ed rooms. And, the number is growing. (foxnews.com/story/0,2933,354058,00.html).
"It ultimately comes down to finding someone that you feel is compatible with you," said Jeffrey Chang, a junior at Clark in Worcester, Mass., who co-founded the National Student Genderblind Campaign, a group that is pushing for gender-neutral housing.” (Ibid.)
Finding someone you’re compatible with?! Young people, that’s called M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E, not college co-ed roommates! (Gen. 2:18-25; Heb. 13:4)
The claim that having a college co-ed roommate is “no bid deal” rings hollow. Lust and sexual temptations, immodesty and insensitivity toward moral propriety are present in such living arrangements. This is exactly why the word of God says to “flee youthful lusts” and to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22; Rom. 13:14).
One mother was shocked that her daughter chose to share a room with a boy. But, she said her daughter went to college “to learn life lessons, and it's her decision.” Her daughter assured her mom she thinks of the boy as her brother. (Ibid.) Sure!
A generation that grew up without the moral restraint of respect for marriage is now tolerant of their children’s sinful disrespect for moral decency.
Living together before and without marriage is sin. Do not be deceived young people. Parents must not be deceived, either. Our job is to protect our children, not give them our permission to sin.
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 05/12/2008
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA