The Good Seed

Planting good seed

Many years ago, an interesting article appeared in a magazine. In the picture that accompanied the article a man was standing beside some pea vines. According to the article, some peas were found in a tomb in Egypt. These peas were purported to be over 2000 years old. The article went on to say the man had planted the peas to see if they would grow, which they did, and the peas produced were exactly like the peas found in the tomb. If true, it is a remarkable story and illus­trates some truths about spiri­tual seed.

Jesus spoke a parable about seed. He told of a man sowing seed in different kinds of ground. Some of it bore fruit and some did not bear fruit. It bore fruit when the ground was good. He explained what the seed represented, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). He also explained what the different kinds of ground represented. Of the good ground He said, “these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

Today there are many kinds of religious beliefs, all going by the name of “Christian.” When we see different kinds of plants, we know they grew from different kinds of seed. When there are different beliefs people should know that they are the result of different teachings. The right seed is the Word of God, the Bible. Any teach­ing that is not found in the Bible is the wrong seed and will produce the wrong fruit.

Seed produces after it’s kind

What fruit will the true seed produce when people take it into their hearts? It will produce Christians. It will make people believers in God and His Son Jesus Christ. It will cause them to love God and follow His teaching in His Word. If people follow God’s Word only, they will be Christians only, just like the first Christians.

Christians are people who have been born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). By what seed is he born? We find the answer in 1 Peter 1:23, “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable…”

The fruit of the true seed is also the church. When one person receives the Word in faith and obe­dience, he becomes a Christian. When others do the same thing, they also are Christians, and the group of Christians is a church. A church is just a group of Christians who worship and serve God together. God gives instructions to the church in His Word. He describes how a church is to be organized, how Christians are to worship, to live, and to tell others about Christ. The way the apostles organized the churches they established is the way God wanted them to be organized. This is true because the apostles were God’s messengers and were inspired by His Spirit in them.

Paul’s warning

Paul warned that other seed would be planted and would pro­duce the wrong fruit. He said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). The words Jesus spoke when He was here on earth were His words. When He went back to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles and others in teaching. What the Holy Spirit gave them to teach was Christ’s Word also. When He promised to send the Spirit He said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14-15).

Let us take into our hearts the pure Word of God. Let us con­tinue in that Word, learning it and following it. Never accept teach­ings that are not found there. In that way we will be faithful disciples, and the final fruit will be eternal life in the glory of God with all the redeemed.

Will Your Anchor Hold?

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?”

This is the opening stanza of the hymn “We Have an Anchor.” It is found in most songbooks that religious organizations use.

This question, “Will your anchor hold” is asked metaphorically to describe one’s life.  We have all used various metaphors on occasion to describe some aspect of ours or someone else’s life. So, when asked if your anchor will hold, we understand it is not a tangible (or actual) device. An anchor is defined as: “a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)When this question is asked, we should look to see what it is that fulfills the deeper meaning of the anchor.

Security and stability

What is it that provides the needed “security”, “stability”, and grounding one needs spiritually? The answer to this question should be easy, but too many seem to fail to be properly “anchored”. Hope in God’s Word of course is the answer. The apostle Paul makes that very clear when he said, “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

However, many seek their hope from other sources. Obviously the things of the world cannot provide the stability needed, nor the promise of life beyond this one because, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Thus, the physical things of the world will be destroyed when the trumpet sounds. And in 1 Corinthians 3:19, Paul writes that even the intangible things of this world are ineffective as an anchor for the soul. The world’s wisdom will also be destroyed with the world.

What is this anchor?

The Word of God is that in which we are to be anchored. “‘BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.’ And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25).  So, having having established in what we are to be anchored, let’s make certain we understand each of us have responsibility in this. 

Considering the Word is sure, steadfast and unfailing, if our anchor does not hold, who’s fault is it? It would stand to reason it has to be ours. If we are in a boat, and toss the anchor out on smooth solid rock, it won’t catch, let alone hold. That’s why it is so important to be anchored in the gospel, the Word of God. Once we place our anchor in the Word of God, the only one that can release it is us!  

How an anchor works

Having spent some time fishing on Lake Cachuma and having to hold the boat in place, I know the anchor rope must become slack in order to release the anchor. If the boat maintains the tautness on the anchor (and it is properly seated), the anchor will not release. Now, apply this spiritually and we should see that we must maintain the proper tightness on the anchor, that which keeps us properly moored or connected to God. When we become slack or fail to do as we should, we allow our anchor to slip. Then we begin to drift just as a vessel on the water does. This could be devastating. And from a spiritual standpoint, it is eternally disastrous. Perhaps this is the reason we have so many passages warning Christians to hold fast, or to stand fast. Is this not what a properly engaged anchor does, hold fast?  

In Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so…I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The same applies to us. We see this same idea directed toward the brethren in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16:13. The point of what Paul is saying is that if they stand fast in the faith, they can remain strong. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 3:8 tells us we are “alive” (spiritually) if we stand fast in Christ.

Leaders must have stability

The elders (bishops) are also to have the characteristic of “stability” as they “hold fast” the Word of God. Titus 1:9 tells us this and tells us how the elders (and all others) can defend the Word of God if they hold it fast. And then we see those Christians of Jewish descent being exhorted to remain anchored in their profession in Hebrews 10:23 . We could site many more places, but these should be enough to show that we have full control of our stability.

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?” Don’t become slack and let your anchor drift. Seek the strength and stability in His Word.

God’s Plan For The Family

How can we build better families? How can we strengthen the foundation of a society?

Plan for the family

As politicians campaign for office, it seems as if every one of them is trying to help the American family. Some want to give tax breaks. Others believe the offer financial help is the best way to attract votes. Still others look to instill better values.

The one common thread that connects all these efforts is; the family needs help. Whether the politician is Democrat or Republican, the one thing they will agree on is the need to bolster the American family.

Politicians may not agree as to exactly where the family is hurting or how to do this, but they do agree that families are hurting. They know that many families are disintegrating. They know that our society (or any society) is only as strong as its families.

Yet, very few turn to the real source of family values. To rebuild or strengthen the family, it is absolutely necessary that people turn to the One who created the family in the first place. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together (Gen. 2:22-25) making them “one flesh”. It was God who commanded them to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God established the family. God ordained that families would be the backbone of any and all societies. So, what is God’s plan for your family and mine?

Values Are Learned At Home

We hear a great deal today about the need for values. Many turn to schools or government institutions to try to teach children and adults about right and wrong. But these values are taught best and most powerfully in the home. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4). Paul tells us that values are learned at home.

Parents are to admonish and nurture their children. They are to instill a sense of honor and respect for parents. Children are to be obedient to parents and are to learn to respect them. These are the very values that seem to be missing in society: honor, respect, obedience, nurturing. If families respond to God’s plan by living this way, our society would undergo a profound change from selfish violence, to selfless respect for others.

Old Testament Suggestions

These values are passed to children in subtle ways. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:4-7). As Moses restated the law, he explained the process that instills values. It begins with the realization that God is, that He is our God and that He commands our lives. These facts should not be wrapped up in sermons, but in a lifestyle that speaks of God, thinks about God, and talks about God.

Moses even gives ideas about how to do this. He suggests talking about God in informal settings such as walking, eating, getting out of bed or going to bed. Those parents who include God at meals by praying are accomplishing much in the way of instilling values. Those parents who pray with their children before bedtime are setting the example children need in order to learn good values.

Actions Outweigh Words

Finally, realize that these values are more modeled than taught. Children learn much more by example than by lectures or sermons. Taking your children to church is important. But if the home life is a poor example of faith, then all the lessons in the world, taught by all the best teachers, will fall on deaf ears. What takes place in your home will set in concrete the values your children adopt.

Throughout Paul’s discussion of marriage and child-rearing (Eph. 5:21-6:4), he constantly refers to an atmosphere in which family members and protected. So a husband will not be threatened by a wife who submits (Eph. 5:22). So a wife will not be afraid of a husband who dies to self for his wife (Eph. 5:25) or who treats his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28-29). So parents will not be pressured by kids who honor them (Eph 6:1) and children will not be angered by parents who nurture (Eph. 6:4). A family is to be a group of people who make it safe to live, to work, to worship, to succeed and to fail, without threat or intimidation or fear.

Homes Should Be Physically Safe

A home should be a place where everyone is safe from abuse. Our society takes spanking and too often turns it into pain, fear or worse. Society deals with that by making laws and taking steps to protect children. What child should need protection from a parent? Every child should feel safe to come home, even when that child is in trouble and deserves punishment. I never enjoyed facing my folks when I was in trouble. But I was never physically afraid of either of them. They would discipline, they love and they would forgive.

A wife should have that same sense of safety. When Adam met his bride they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). This first couple had no barriers between them. No matter how pretty or ugly she was, no matter how thin or obese, no matter how tall or short, she was accepted and loved by Adam. Eve returned this love to Adam, so that both could be completely transparent, physically and emotionally, and not be at risk. In too many homes today, spouses are afraid to be honest with each other. They are afraid of criticism, or of an explosion that would be even more pain than holding in the truth. Every marriage is to be built on a foundation of transparency in which both partners can be honest even when wrong, and not be afraid harmed emotionally or physically.

Homes Should Be Emotionally Safe

But homes also need to be a safe place to risk. Paul tells husbands that Jesus died for the church, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Jesus died to encourage the church to become all that God wanted us to be, pure and holy. In the same way, husbands should die to self that their wives can shine in all their glory and become all God wants them to be. Wives should do the same for husbands. Parents must do this for their kids.

A family should be a safe place to risk being more, knowing more, trying more, learning more. Some families are so critical, so harsh, so discouraging that no one ever succeeds. A family built on God’s plan encourages its members to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I want my wife to be happy, to be satisfied and to accomplish all she can in life for herself, for us and for God. My children should have the opportunity to go farther, to do more, to know more, to love more than I have. I want my children to know God better and to serve Him better than I have. To do this they must risk new things, take chances that might not work just right. But a family is to be a place in which that sort of risk can be taken.

God’s Plan For The Family

Repeatedly in Ephesians 5:21-6:4 Paul gives the key to having a family based on God’s plan. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Fathers…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The key to all family functioning is having God and Jesus at the center.

So wives submit, not because their particular prince charming deserves it, but because that is what Jesus wants. Husbands die to self, not because their particular bride is wonderful and perfect, but because Jesus wants it. And children obey parents, not because parents are always right or smarter, but because, in the Lord, that is what we are asked to do. Finally, parents are gentle and disciplining, not because their kids are perfect and deserve good parents, but because that is the will of God.

Christians are formed in the family

This means that the family is the ground for being Christians. Thus, it is at home that we learn about mercy, about grace, about righteousness, about faithfulness. Also, it is at home that we learn about turning the other cheek, going the second mile and giving up our rights. And we do all this because it is God’s will, not because the people in our homes deserve it. Too many families are built on the idea of “you go first.” In God’s plan it is always the believer who “goes first” by dying to self and submitting to the others.

In answer to the questions at the beginning of part one, we can change homes by being aggressive in ministering to families as they learn the skills of modeling, transparency, and denial. Churches and believers can teach and practice these skills so that the world comes to us, not because we have good ideas, but because God’s plan, put in action in our lives actually works!

WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?

by Jerry Henderson

Who is a Christian

The word “Christian” is used 3 times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). It is both noble and honorable to wear the name of Christ (James 2:5-7). The “name” the rich were blaspheming in James 2:5-7 was without a doubt the name of Christ. The name by which they were called was “Christian” which is a combination of “Christ” and the suffix “ian” and when put together means a follower of Christ. A Christian is more than just a baptized person; church member; weekly worshiper or just a good person. There are many counterfeits, but few that are real or genuine (John 8:31).

Some considerations about the name Christian

First, we want to consider the origin of the name “Christian”. God promised to give a “new name” (Isaiah 62:1-2). It would not be an old name with new significance, it would be a new name. It would be given when the “Gentiles would see the righteousness of Zion. It would be given by the mouth of Lord not by the enemies of the Christians. Isaiah 56:5 says it was to be “within my house.” God’s house is the church according to 1 Timothy 3:15. Therefore it is unscriptural to call one a Christian who is not in the Lord’s church. This name was to be an “everlasting name” (Isaiah 56:5). That means it is to last forever.

Now consider the meaning and use of the name “Christian”. As noted above, the name means: a “Follower of Christ” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon); or an “Adherent of Christ” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). It is not used in Scripture in a hyphenated way as it is used today: such as, “Baptist-Christian; Methodist-Christian or some other man-made name attached to the name “Christian”. There are no “conservative Christians” or “liberal Christians.” The Lord never prefixed or suffixed the name Christian. “Christian” is a noun, not an adjective! Yet the word “Christian” is tacked on too many things – homes, schools, colleges, Sabbath, etc. The term “Christian Atheist.” is even used. It is thought if a person was a good moral Atheist, he or she was a Christian Atheist. People even talk about Jewish Christians, but a person can’t be both a Jew and a Christian. One can be of Jewish descent but not a Jew from the religious standpoint.

Let’s answer the question, who are not Christians

Just who are not Christians? Certainly, those not in God’s family, the church, can call themselves a Christian. Obviously, someone can appropriate a name and wear it even though they are not entitled to. One could call themselves “Jones” when not in the “Jones” family. They have “assumed” a name rather than it being “assigned” to them because they are a part of the family. Identity theft or the stealing of a name and or the identity of another is a major problem in our society today. Abraham Lincoln is said to have asked: “If you call a cow’s tail a leg, how many legs does she have?” Most answered five, but he replied: “No, four, calling a tail a leg does not make it one!” So, neither does calling someone a Christian make them one! Not all “good” people are Christians. Yes, one must be good, but that in and of itself does not make one a Christian. Nicodemus was a good man but had to be born again to be a part of the Kingdom (the church or family) of God and thereby be called a Christian (John 3:1-5). Cornelius was a very devout man, but he had to hear words to be saved (which made him a part of God’s family and a Christian) (Acts 11:14). Not all “religious” people are Christians. Even those who are heathens are religious (Acts 17:22). The apostle Paul, before his conversion, was very religious, but he was holding on to what was false (Acts 26:5, 9). He even persecuted Christians. So, even though he was very religious he was not a Christian before his conversion. There are, in fact, two kinds of religion, “pure” and “defiled” (James 1:26-27). Not even all church members are Christians. Just joining or attending a church does not make one a Christian. There are even some who call themselves members of the “church of Christ” who are not Christians (John 8:31).

Then who are Christians?

Then just who are Christians? Wearing the name “American” involves duty: such as upholding the constitution, obeying laws, good citizenship, etc. Those who do not obey laws, burn flag, and try to destroy this country we call “un-American” because they are not demonstrating the characteristics of an “American”. Wearing the name “Christian” involves a life of duty to Christ. A Christian is something a person IS, not just something they are called. A Christian is a person who has obeyed the gospel – been baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and is therefore “in Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27)

Questions to ask yourself

The following are some questions a person can ask themselves in their effort to determine if they are, in fact, a Christian. Have I obeyed the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17)? One is not a Christian if they have not put on Christ by obeying the commands He has set forth in His Will, the Gospel. Did I obey the gospel out of conviction or convenience (Romans 6:17)? If a person did what they did just for family, prestige, or for any reason other than their desire to submit to the Lord and His will, they are not a Christian. Am I willing to suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16; Hebrews 10:32-34)? A person willing to suffer for something has conviction. A person unwilling to suffer for Christ is not a Christian. Am I separated from the world in recreation, language, conduct, apparel, etc. (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17)? A person cannot serve God and mammon (material things) (Matthew 6:24). Am I truly devoted to Christ? Do I love the brethren, or do I have no time for my brethren or others (John 13:34-35)? Do I attend services as much as I can or as little as I think I can get by with (Hebrews 10:25)? Do I give liberally or miserly or do I give the leftovers to God (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7)? Am I truly interested in leading others to Christ? Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and if we are Christians, we are followers of Him (1 Peter 2:21). Do I appreciate strong preaching or am I offended when the Bible condemns my sins? What is my reaction when error is exposed (Galatians 4:16; John 6:66)? Am I growing in the faith (2 Peter 1:5-8)? Am I concerned about my spiritual development and that of my family? We are taught that we must “glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:10-11). Therefore, everything we do must be such as would bring glory to God or I am not a Christian even though I might call myself such.

What’s Important

When our spirit leaves our body, the important question will not be “was he or she rich, a great athlete or a scholar, etc. etc…” But rather the important question will be “was he or she a faithful Christian?” So, are we really Christians, or are we just wearing the name? If you are not a Christian, you can become one by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means you must hear the Word (Romans 10:17); believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24); repent of your sins (Luke 13:3); confess your faith publicly (Matthew 10:32, 33); and be baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). You will then be added by the Lord to the church, the family of God (Acts 2:47) and you will be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. There is an old spiritual song that says “ev’rybody talkin’ bout heav’n ain’t goin’ there.” There are also a lot of people calling themselves Christians who are not. ARE YOU A “CHRISTIAN”?