Are You Praying to a False God?

Elijah and the 400

One of the most dramatic and exciting stories in the Scriptures is the account of the great contest between the 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah, the lone prophet of Jehovah on Mt. Carmel. The story is found in 1 Kings 18. For many hours the 400 prophets of Baal called to their god, danced about, cut themselves and generally, made a spectacle of themselves trying to evoke a response from their god. How they have been humiliated by Elijah. Their god, Baal, is the “storm” or weather god. Many representations of him depict him with a thunderbolt in his hand. Certainly, he can spare just one little flash of lightening to ignite their sacrifice and prove that he truly is a god. There is just one problem. He is NOT a god. He is the device and figment of human imagination embellished with graven images. He is a false god and would give no answer by fire or any other means.

Of course, we know this and chuckle to ourselves at the foolishness of these and any who would believe in Baal and behave so foolishly. I wonder, however, if we do not need to learn the lesson in this story. The lesson of the futility of praying to a false god. Certainly not! You reply. I attend worship regularly. I attend Bible class regularly. I certainly am no idolater. Perhaps all you say is true, but are you still praying to a false god by praying to a god of your own invention or imagination? I fear many are. Perhaps if one is wondering why God is not answering his prayers, he may need to ask the question, “Am I praying to the God of the Bible or a god of my own invention and imagination?”

If I asked you to close your Bible and tell me all that you know about God without your Bible, what could you tell me? Certainly, we know some about God from nature and His creation (Psa. 1:1-3, Rom. 1:20). Do we, however, learn enough from creation to pray to our God as our Father and our Savior? We do not. Do we know anything of His will so that we may pray accordingly? Again, the answer is no. Most of what we know of our gracious and loving Father in heaven, we know from Scripture.

False Ideas

Many hold false ideas of God in their hearts, ideas and imaginations that are not based upon scripture and contrary to Scripture. Consequently, when they pray, they are doing very close to what an idolater does, praying to a false god. Certainly, God is just and can mete out wrath and vengeance, but if I see God as always angry and never loving and gracious, I am not seeing Him rightly. Conversely, If I see God only as loving and gracious and never willing to exact punishment, once again, I am not seeing Him rightly. Do I perceive God as a glorified “Santa Clause” whose sole purpose in existence is to grant my every whim, wish or desire? If that is the case, I do not perceive God rightly. Some understand God to be aloof and disinterested in human affairs? This also is a wrong understanding of God.

To pray to the one true and living God, I must know Him accurately. I only know Him accurately from learning about Him through His Word. He is a loving God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet He is a just God who will condemn those who reject Christ. He desires to bless us and provide our needs, but we must not see him only as a benevolent gift giver. He is supremely interested in the affairs of men to the extent that he became man in the form of Christ.

Know the true God. Pray to the true God.

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Why The Church Of Christ Does Not Observe Christmas

It is the time of year when every place we look, we see Christmas trees and lights. Tis a sign of the season and a celebration of the birth of Christ (or so we are told). There are several questions which are prompted when a member of the Church of Christ says they do not believe this should be celebrated as Christ’s birthday. “Do you not believe in the Bible account of the birth of Jesus?” “Do you not believe that the birth of Jesus is an event worth remembering?” The fact is, that we do indeed believe every word of that divine record. But there are several reasons why the church of Christ does not observe Christmas, and so I wish to mention some of them.

There Is No Divine Command Or Precept

We are told we are to do all things by the authority of Jesus (Col. 3:17). Therefore, we must have a divine command or precept for all that we do in religion. With this thought in mind, we do not believe we are authorized to observe religious holidays that are not mentioned in the Bible for Christians to observe. There is no record in the Bible that any Christian ever observed a holiday in the memory of the birth of Christ. Although the Bible does tell us of the activities of the early church, it gives no hint that anyone in apostolic times thought of declaring a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, or that God wanted it to be celebrated. In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals that it was a good many years after the death of Jesus before a certain Pope conceived the idea of having a Mass to celebrate the birth of the Savior. To learn of the beginning of Christmas, we must go to the encyclopedia rather than the Bible, for the Bible is silent about the subject. Reading further in the encyclopedia we learn that the Pope who first inaugurated Christmas said, “We have a Mass for every saint, but there is no Mass for Christ.” He decreed that henceforth the 25th day of December each year would be observed as Christ Mass Day. For many years, in fact for many centuries, Christmas was strictly a Catholic holiday, but when various Protestant churches came into being, one by one they borrowed that holiday.

We Must Speak As The Utterances (Oracles, KJV) Of God

The church of Christ does not observe Christmas because of the apostle Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4:11. We cannot speak as the utterances of God and speak of Christmas. Why? Because the utterances of God are silent about such a holiday. If the New Testament spoke of Christmas and we had the teaching that Christians in New Testament times observed that holiday, the church of Christ would do so now.

Is December 25th Christ’s Birth Day?

Most will readily agree it is not. But they continue to celebrate it as such. I submit to you that a fourth reason the church of Christ does not observe and celebrate Christmas is for the very reason that no one knows when Jesus was born. That particular day and month (December 25th) was selected by the Pope (there appear to be certain pagan reasons for his choice) who inaugurated that holiday. Most Bible scholars believe that Christ was really born in the summer time, but the very fact that God was not pleased to reveal (Deut. 29:29) through His word the day or the month in which His Son was born is evidence that he did not expect us to reverence that day.

It Is A Catholic Holiday

I have already mentioned that originally Christmas was called Christ Mass Day, having been inaugurated by the Pope. Protestant churches borrowed this day from the Catholic church. The church of Christ has never borrowed it. Let me say in this connection that nearly everything that it practiced in many Protestant churches has been borrowed from the Catholic church. Instrumental music, infant baptism, sprinkling, Christmas and Easter Day observance are just a few of the inventions of Catholicism which have been borrowed by Protestants. A number of years ago a Catholic priest remarked that it was amusing to see Protestants borrow such things as Christmas and infant baptism from the Catholics and then try to prove that the Bible mentions and commands such things. He added, “We practice them because our church councils decided that we should do so. We do not believe that the Bible mentions or suggests these things.” He explained that the Catholic church differs from many other churches in that it does not believe that it is necessary to prove by the Bible all things that they do. I think this priest had a greater respect for the church of Christ after learning that we do not take this inconsistent position of being opposed to Catholicism, but at the same time imitating and borrowing from these things invented by Catholicism, of which Christmas is one.

Should Christians observe Christmas? Religiously no! As a family, if they so desire (although I think there may be valid reasons to forgo even that). I am, however, of the firm opinion that it should have no place in the church for which Jesus died.

—Selected

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What Is Truth?

“That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9 NAS95). When, in about 977BC, Solomon penned these now famous words, I doubt he understood how true would these words ring almost 3000 years later.
It has been said that we must continue to evolve and that we are faced with things in this generation that no one before has ever had to face. There may be a certain amount of truth in this statement, in regard to the specifics of the situation, but there is no truth in it as to the general relationship it bears with those of the past.
One such example can be found in what is believed today. When Jesus was taken before Pilate He made this statement in response to one of Pilate’s questions, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37 NAS95). Pilate’s reply reflects the attitude of so many in their study of God’s word. He said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38 NAS95), as if it was not possible to know for certain where truth lies. We have been told for so many years that because of upbringing, cultural differences and economic diversity, no one can really know for certain what is truth. Many in the Lord’s church have now come to accept the idea as being a fact.
Many now see the Bible as a good guide, but do not recognize that it is absolute in its truth. They teach that we must allow each to interpret the Bible in light of their own experiences and come to an understanding that is in line with their background. Yet these same people will readily accept that when teaching mathematics, for example, truth is not reliant on one’s background, but is instead absolute, and must be understood by all alike.
The Bible is no different. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in Your truth. Your word is truth.” What God says is not dependent on how I was brought up or what I was taught to believe. It is dependent on what God intended for us to understand. Jesus also said in John 8:24, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If truth is relevant, how can it ever set us free from our sins? If God expects His people to, “all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10), we must be able to discern truth alike.
The apostle Paul said, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,” (Eph. 3:1-4 NAS95). You see how Paul says that the Ephesian brethren would be able to know the mystery that he himself knew by reading what he had written. If each one put a different meaning on the truth that Paul had written, they would not understand what was written, but would be following their own desires. If truth is relevant, why did Paul say it could be understood alike?
Peter conveyed much the same thought in his second letter. Knowing that he did not have much longer to live he said this, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” (2 Peter 1:12-15 NAS95). The reminder of these things was, of course, the letters he had written.
We could continue this journey through the word of God to show that the inspired writers believed we could and would understand what truth is, but Jude 3 may be the most telling of all the passages we could look at. Jude wrote, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude says the faith was delivered once. That does not leave room for my interpretation or that of anyone else either. If it was once delivered, then it can not be delivered again, which means it is not going to change over time.
Pilate’s question still lingers over the centuries, with some wanting to give the answer, “Who knows?” But God has left us the truth in the words penned by the inspired writers and we can know if we have the truth or not, by honestly comparing what we believe with what God says in His word. Can two disagree as to what the word of God says? Certainly, but only to the point of studying until they come to agreement with the word of God. Remember “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore the confusion over what God’s word says, must come from man. Let us always strive to conform to the will of God rather than our own will.

Jack Critchfield

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Unbelievable

Just suppose you were walking through a grape arbor, and suddenly, you come upon a most amazing thing. You look, and you are astonished, because what you see is this: a perfectly formed grape vine — only one branch is producing apples, another is producing oranges, another – pears, another – figs, another – bananas, and yet another – pomegranates. You are flabbergasted; left utterly speechless. You’ve never seen anything like this before — never in your entire life! You exclaim — UNBELIEVABLE!!! And you would be correct! Such a plant would be unbelievable. In fact, it is an impossibility. Such a plant WILL NOT be seen in the physical world, or in the spiritual world.
Quite often, we hear someone say:  “Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, and that means that all the different churches are alright with God.  So, just attend the church of your choice. After all, you can serve God acceptably in ANY church!” In effect, what these people are saying is that this sort of plant DOES, in fact, exist in the world today. Yes, Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, but He does NOT say that the branches are churches. Let us look at the passage of Scripture which mentions the vine and the branches. In John 15:5-8, Jesus states: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.”
Now, let me ask a question. Does this passage really teach that all churches are the branches?  I submit to you that it does not teach this idea!  When Jesus says: “He that abideth in Me, and I in him,” He is not talking about any church, but a person. The same is true with the phrases: “YE are the branches” (verse 5); and “If a MAN abide not in Me, HE is cast forth as a branch” (verse 6). These two verses go along with verse 7, which states: “If YE abide in Me, and MY words abide in YOU.” In no way can this simple passage of Scripture be construed in such a way as to get churches into it.  Churches just are not there. The Lord is talking about people! He is saying that If we (as individuals) will learn His will, which is revealed through the gospel, the Word of God, and then do it, He will abide with us. In fact, He goes on to say that IF people will do this (learn the will of God and OBEY it) then the Father is glorified in that, and other people will know that we are disciples (followers) of Christ  (verse 8). And in truth, this is what we should WANT to do, IF we truly love the Lord. Remember, Jesus plainly states: “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will Manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).  We show our love for the Lord when we keep His commandments, ALL of His commandments, which is stated very clearly in John 14:9-10.
Religious division (which is what we are talking about) is wrong according to the Scriptures. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth, and said: “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the SAME THING, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you; but that ye BE PERFECTLY JOINED TOGETHER in the SAME MIND and in the SAME JUDGMENT” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The Lord doesn’t want religious division! He wants everyone to believe the same thing — teach the same thing — and practice the same things! Paul asks this question in 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided?” By the looks of the religious world, the answer to this question would have to be YES! And that is contrary to the Lord’s expressed will. Abiding by what God’s Word says would mean that we all could be acceptable to the Lord.
James Strickland

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Infant Baptism, Is It Right?

Many in the religious world today say that infants are born sinners and must be baptized so that they may be saved.  Those same people will tell us we inherit sin from our ancestors all the way back to Adam.  Yet, God says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity…” God tells us that children do not inherit sin from their parents, grandparents, or any of their forefathers, all the way back to Adam.  God says, “The son will not bear the punishment for the Father.”  Each person is responsible for his own sins.
So, what is sin?  I John 3:4 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” We do not inherit sin. It is something we do. And we commit sin when we commit lawlessness.  An infant has not broken any law of God and thus has not committed any sin.  How is sin committed?  In James 1:14-15 we read, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” A baby cannot be drawn away and enticed into lustful sin.
One error leads to another.  Men say since infants have inherited the sin of Adam, they must be baptized or they will be lost.  Not only are infants not lost but they are not suitable candidates for baptism, since they cannot believe.  Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…” Here He shows one of the prerequisites of being saved is to believe, which is impossible for an infant to do.  Also, one of the prerequisites of being baptized is one must repent.  The apostle Peter told a group of people to “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38).  Can an infant repent?  It would be absurd to think an infant could believe or repent, but it is just as absurd to think an innocent infant, who is without sin, must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, which he does not have.
Parents who have their infants “christened” are being deceived by the false doctrines of men.  Satan has many ways through his lies in fooling people into being lost.  When a person who was baptized as an infant becomes accountable, he doesn’t think he needs to be baptized again so he can be saved.  Satan knows infant baptism accomplishes nothing.  Satan knows when people who were baptized as an infant become accountable, at that time they begin to sin and will be eternally lost in the burning fires of Hell if they don’t obey the Lord.  When a person becomes accountable he must “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), not before.  If a person misses Heaven by believing the lies of Satan, he will only have himself to blame.

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Where Can I Find The Sinner's Prayer?

I need some help, please. I have been preaching and teaching the bible for most of my adult life, yet I am having trouble finding the “sinner’s prayer” in the bible. I know it must be there some place, as most of the denominations say that is the path to forgiveness and salvation.
I have found where Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ [God, KJV]” (Romans 10:17). I also have found where Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). But I have not found the “sinner’s prayer.” I have looked and still it eludes me along with the accompaning, “Let Jesus come into your heart.” Am I missing something?
I look in the bible and I find where Jesus told those around Him, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32) and the Apostle Paul said, “with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10). But I still haven’t found the “sinner’s prayer.”
Once again, I look into my bible and find, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” Revelation 2:10). But I haven’t found, “Let Jesus come into you heart and/or the “sinner’s prayer.” Am I just not looking in the right place? Is my bible not complete? If the way to heaven is through, “Let Jesus come into your heart and say the sinner’s prayer,” shouldn’t I be able to find it said in the bible?
Friends, I do not mean to sound harsh or unkind, but if we cannot find it in the bible, it must not be true (John 17:17). Please, I urge you, repent and be baptized so that your sins might be forgiven by God. That is the only way I find in the bible to salvation (1 Peter 3:21).

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Once Saved Always Saved?

When John Calvin organized the many beliefs that are now referred to the TULIP doctrine, he included as the last point, “Perseverance of the saints.” This says that once man is saved, he cannot be lost. It is commonly referred to as “once saved, always saved.”  They say that it is impossible to fall from God’s grace regardless of what you do.  This may sound good and comforting, but what does the Bible say?  In 1 Corinthians 9:27 the apostle Paul says, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”  Paul understood it was possible for him to become disqualified.  Webster’s dictionary defines disqualified as, “to stop or prevent (someone) from doing, having, or being a part of something.” If Paul became disqualified he would be lost.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12 Paul gives a warning to the Christians at Corinth by saying, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”  Why would this warning be necessary if it is impossible to fall?  So, the very people, who think they cannot fall, are given a warning to take heed lest they fall.
In Galatians 5:4 we read, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Doesn’t it seem strange, that people who say they believe the Bible also say that we cannot fall from grace, when the Bible so plainly says that we can fall from grace.  Who are we to believe, God or man?  Even though many religious bodies say that you cannot fall from grace, the Bible clearly says that people can fall from grace.  And without God’s grace we cannot be saved.
The doctrine of “once saved always saved” and that you cannot fall from God’s grace and be lost is a doctrine that did not come from God but rather originated with Satan.  Satan wants people to believe that they cannot fall from grace and be lost to entice them into doing wrong.  In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam and Eve, “…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”  But in Genesis 3:4 Satan told Eve, “You surely will not die.”  Satan only added the word “not” to what God had said.  Just as Satan told a lie to Eve, Satan is still deceiving people today by telling them they cannot fall from grace and once they are saved, they are always saved.  He is trying to lull people into complacency.  This is one of the many ways that Satan deceives people so they will be eternally lost.  But 2 Peter 1:10 says, “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.”
God’s promises are conditional upon our doing His will.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  Also, Hebrews 5:9 says concerning Jesus that “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
Note: All scriptures are quoted from the New American Standard Version Updated 1995

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Reconciling Works And Faith

We hear a lot today about faith and works. Most common is the idea that man is saved simply on the basis of faith. I heard one Baptist preacher in McAlester, Oklahoma, make the statement, in his radio program, that we should not listen to what James said, because James was legalistic in his justification for salvation by faith alone.
Yet when we look at all the evidence, there is no conflict between faith and works. One does not rule out the other, when both are properly understood. Look first at Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (NAS95). This passage does not say that we are saved by faith only, nor does any other passage teach that. Neither does this passage rule out our salvation resulting from our doing the works of God – works that He commands. It simply says that we cannot save ourselves, that our works cannot save us. In other words, we cannot earn salvation by how good we are or by how much we do.
The teaching of Romans 4:4-5 also shows that we cannot work our way to heaven, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (NAS95). This “work” deals with that of merit, or work that earns something. We cannot earn salvation (Luke 17:10); it is “the gift of God” (Romans 6:23). Another kind of work is that found in Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (NAS95). One reason the works of the law of Moses cannot save us is that the law of Moses was, “taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). But aside from works of merit and works of the law, there is another kind of work.
There is quite a list of hero’s of faith in Hebrews 11. “By faith Abel offered to God…By faith Enoch was taken away…By faith Noah…prepared an ark…By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called….” (Hebrews 11:4-8). Through the end of the chapter the pattern repeats itself; people heard the will of god, they believed God and they did what He told them. Did they work? Yes! Did God reward them for their work? Certainly! But they were doing God’s work, by faith. And without exception, God rewarded their “work of faith.” James writes of this principle when he says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17 NAS95). Only faith which works can obtain the favor and blessings of God.
A great example is found in the life of Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS…Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God” (NAS95). Were “works” involved in Abraham’s being right with God? The Bible plainly says so! But it was the work of God and His work was the means by which his (Abraham) faith was made perfect. That same principle must be true with us. We cannot be saved by our works, for we cannot earn salvation. We cannot be saved by works of the law, for that law is nailed to the cross. But we can be justified by works of faith, just as Abraham was.
The basis of the judgment, distasteful as it is to some, is going to be “works.” “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS” (Matthew 16:27 NAS95). Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NAS95). That is the reason God makes it abundantly clear, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24 NAS95).

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