Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Message in a Bottle

I was mowing my yard yesterday, and as I came to one corner the sun's reflection hit my face from a piece of glass below my feet. In this particular corner of our property two streets come together at a stop sign. I reached down from the riding mower to find a glass bottle. This was not a familiar bottle to me. It was smaller, and only by reputation did I know what it must have once held. As I turned the bottle to read the label I learned that my initial notions were correct. It was hard liquor, a foreign label, and the smell from the alcohol was still strong.

Recently one of our members asked me to preach a lesson on the consumption of alcohol. I have not yet preached that lesson, but I believe that the message from this bottle could be more meaningful than any message that would come from me. People often use the Bible to attempt to justify their own behavior. Over the years, I have learned that people are going to do what they want to do, if they have not submitted to the will of God, regardless of what the Bible teaches. The recreational consumption alcohol is the perfect example of this reality.

What makes a person who is a Christian cast a positive vote for the sale of alcohol in their community? What makes a person attempt to use the Scriptures to argue a case for their own liberty to drink? What makes a person drink hard liquor and discard the container in a random person's yard? All of these people have at least one thing in common - they are allowing themselves to be mastered by something that is temporal and carnal.

When I see people on Sunday in services who post facebook pictures of themselves holding beer bottles on Saturday night...When I see people in the restaurant on Friday night who cannot have their meal without having some alcohol to go with it...When I get a negative response from members of the church on a sermon on the importance of abstaining from alcohol...When I get a phone call to come to the jail to see a person who has been arrested because of a DUI...When I watch families being ripped apart by one of the parent's alcoholism...When I come upon a bottle of hard liquor discarded in the corner of my yard...

I am simply reminded of the fact that people are in war with Satan that they are losing. And the biggest issue is not the practice of drinking itself. It is the lie they are believing, that anything good could ever come from something that holds nothing but sin, sorrow and shame.

I looked down in my yard and there was a message in a bottle, and the message was very clear.

"Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise." ~ Proverbs 20:1

"as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." ~ 1 Peter 2:16

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Into what then were you baptized?"

If I were walking along the beach and found a lamp and rubbed it and a genie popped out and gave me three wishes, I know for certain what one of them would be. Oh, how I wish that there were no denominations, varying doctrines, and differing baptisms within our current day religious world!

I am always very excited when a person wants to discuss the plan of salvation. I would rather talk about this topic than anything else. As these opportunities arrive I often find that an individual's exposure to innacurate teachings has become a hinderance to their proper, Biblical view of baptism.

But I should not feel discouraged, because even the apostle Paul encountered such challenges. In Acts 19, while in the city of Ephesus, he had a discussion with several men who had been not baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. They had been baptized, just not with the proper teaching and understanding - therefore, the question Paul asked them in Acts 19:3 was very timely - "Into what then were you baptized?"

Perhaps we need to ask people this very same question as we discuss with others what the Bible actually does teach about baptism. There are so many people who have submitted to some form of baptism, who have NOT been Biblically baptized. The Bible simply teaches:
  • Baptism makes one a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20).
  • Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
  • Baptism brings a person into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
  • Baptism entitles a person to wear the name, "Christian" (Gal. 3:27).
  • Baptism is something we do in order to be saved (Mark 16:16).
  • Baptism is something that no believing person should delay (Acts 22:16).
The Bible does NOT teach that we are to be baptized into a denomination. It does NOT teach that baptism is non-essential, or simply just a good idea. The Bible does NOT teach that it is an outward sign of an inward grace. The Bible does NOT teach that baptism is something you do in order to show others what you already have received.

Friend, I want you to go to heaven. And just like the men in Acts 19, you may have submitted to some form of baptism in the past. I recognize that to this point, you have probably done all that you have known to do in order to be right with God. May God bless you, for your willingness to do all that you have ever known to do may be the very thing that will save you now. So please, let me ask, "Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, to be added by God to the church that Jesus built, in order to be a "Christian" and to receive the blessing of salvation?"

If not, into what then were you baptized?

"When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." ~ Acts 19:5

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Happens When People Stop Repenting?

When Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel to the world, he explained the Old Testament theme of his coming death burial and resurrection (Luke 24:44-46). He then continued with this intended purpose - "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). Later, Paul explained, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

Repentance is a God-given command which is necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). It is not a one time act, as some suppose and display, but rather an on-going change of mind and heart that results in being shaped and transformed by the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2). If Christians desire to receive remission of sins on a regular basis, the Bible teaches they must daily live for God - a relationship that involves a constant state of repentance and confession of sins (Luke 9:23; 1 John 1:9).

What happens, then, when people stop repenting?
  • People stop having a sense of sorrow for their sins.
  • People start feeling a false sense of eternal safety.
  • People justify sinful actions.
  • People crucify Jesus all over again.
  • People let their faith grow weak, their dedication diminish, and their relationships fail.
  • People harden their heart and become nearly untouchable when it comes to spiritual and eternal truths.
Nobody is immune to the reality of this problem. When Jonah preached to Nineveh, the whole country repented. But God allowed them to be destroyed a few years later - why? They stopped repenting! Strong Christian marriages fall apart after years of success - why? Because spouses stop being sorry for poor behavior and they stop forgiving each other. Aging, mature Christians leave the church - why? Because they cease to call upon their indebtedness to Christ. And YOU - well, YOU struggle in some areas of your faith - why? Because there are some things, even in this moment, for which you need to repent, but you have allowed satan to talk you out of it.

It is important to consider what Paul says in 2 Cor. 7:10 (KJV) - "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of..." - In other words, don't repent of your repenting! Don't be sorry you were sorry! Don't change your changing! Allow God's love through Christ to continually shape your mind and heart and empower your life - and you will be saved!

Only bad things will happen when people stop repenting. The opportunity to repent is a great blessing from God! It is cleansing! It is transforming! It is eternal life!

Acts 11:18 - "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.'"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Self Evident Truths

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." ~ Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence.

When the founders of the United States drafted documents to explain their purpose, they admitted that there were certain "self-evident" truths that all people should recognize. In other words, the human mind coupled with the moral conscience gives every person the ability to clearly understand that some things are absolutes. Here stated by Jefferson, the fact that 1) all men are created equal 2) all people have God-given rights and 3) that all people are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - are clearly evident to any person of sound mind who is dedicated to the objective of moral goodness.

The Bible as God's holy and divine word also claims certain truths to be self-evident. That is to say that some things should not need to be explained, for nature itself teaches that certain things are pure or morally right and good. For example:

1. The fact that man was made with a moral conscience (Rom. 2:14)
2. That God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
3. That the sexual relationship is meant for marriage only (Heb. 13:4).
4. That marriage is between a man and a woman (1 Cor. 11:7-9).
5. That it is a sin to engage in homosexual practices (Rom. 1:26).
6. That it is shameful for men to look like women and for women to look like men (1 Cor. 11:14).

This is a very short list...as there are literally hundreds of things that we should be able to observe as self-evident: Absolute truth. The reality of death. Actions have consequences...we could go on and on. But let us simply stop for a moment in a world of confusion and ambiguity and realize that the most important truths are still understandable and attainable if we have the heart and mind to seek them and let them speak for themselves.

Satan, the media, and even religiously based false-teachers are trying to muddy the water when it comes to those things which any rational human being should be able to see as clear and evident. God has given us a mind to think logically and a heart to consider morally what is naturally acceptable within the created world. Do not be deceived by the schemes of modern day imposters...

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." ~ 2 Tim. 1:7