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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Gambling (Part 2)

by J. Clyde Strickland

There are many ways in which one may gamble. The casino offers several ways, from the various card games, the roulette wheel, to the slot machine, or one may invent ways of his own. Remember, gambling involves a bet or wager on a chance, an effort on the part of a person to obtain from another something of value without it costing him anything. Whenever these elements are present (this simply may be the price charged for playing the game, the bet or wager, and the chance or risk of winning or losing the price paid for playing the game by the players, the bets, etc.,) those engaged in that practice are gambling.
RACETRACK GAMBLING: Everyone admits that this type of betting is gambling.
SPORTS EVENTS: All should know that betting on these events is gambling, yet, there are some who will argue the question with you. Baseball and basketball players have been bribed and games have been thrown in order that certain ones who gambled on the games might be certain of winning. Betting on the outcome of any game is gambling.
LOTTERIES: Whether state-operated, authorized, or legalized, it is still gambling. The price paid for the lottery ticket constitutes the wager and is risked on the very small chance of winning. Again, this is but an effort to obtain something for very little or nothing.
Many states have legalized lotteries in order to raise revenues only to find that the lotteries are not the great revenue makers they were once thought to be. From an article published in the TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH, written by John Herbers, I lift the following: “Lotteries are now sending us a message that was not widely heard before. More significant, it is being spread not by the opponents of lotteries, but by their sponsors and advocates. The message is that lotteries remain lucrative only when bolstered by constant innovations and ceaseless advertising aimed at enticing participants to gamble.”
SWEEPSTAKES: Invitations to take part in these come quite frequently in the mails. They cost little and offer big rewards, but they involve their participants in gambling. The price of the postage stamp and your effort in sending back the entry form is the wager or bet you make against all others who enter the same sweepstakes that you will be the winner. The reward offered (whether money or something else), the cost to enter, and the chance to win or risk of loss equals gambling. The size of the wager (a postage stamp) does not determine whether a practice is gambling. If the cost of the postage stamp were a thousand dollars, would it then be gambling?
BINGO: Bingo is very popular and is legal in many states. Even some denominational churches use bingo as a fluid raiser to finance their programs of work, all of which makes it more difficult to convince people of the sinfulness of gambling. “Why my church sponsors bingo!” is often heard when someone suggests that gambling is wrong. Now, one may play bingo and not gamble, as is true of any game. Leave off the betting and the prize for winning and simply play the game for the enjoyment of the game. One does not have to gamble to have a good time!
Many of the things people do and the games they play involve gambling, and we as parents need to be alert and instruct our children regarding these practices. Many schools approve raffles as class projects to raise money for an event planned, and they engage the students to sell tickets, never thinking that they are involving them in a gambling venture. And calling the price of the ticket a “contribution” does not change the matter. It is still gambling
Young boys pitching pennies toward a given line or against the wall in which the one who gets the closest to the line or wall wins the pennies, or playing “marbles for keeps,” are forms of gambling whether those playing know it or not. We need to teach them why such is wrong.
I have been asked whether it would be gambling if in bowling or in golf, one paid a price in order to play and a prize or trophy was given to the winner? Such is a common practice. My advice has been, “Avoid such, or at least refuse to accept the prize or trophy, and by all means, let it be known WHY you refuse the prize.” Many people look upon this practice as a form of gambling, and it would be well to avoid the practice. If a practice may be a hindrance to one’s good influence, it should not be engaged in. See Rom. Ch 14 and I Cor. ch. 8.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH GAMBLING?
First, there are three legitimate means of transferring property: (1) By the law of LABOR where money is earned and paid for effort and labor expended, whether the effort or labor be mental or physical. Since Adam and Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit, it has been God’s law that man work for his food (Gen. 3:19), and the Apostle Paul charged that “If any man would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). (2) The law of exchange, where something is exchanged for its value in money or goods. In John 4:8, while Jesus rested at Jacob’s well, His disciples went into the city TO BUY food, not to gamble for it. Joseph’s brothers went down into Egypt to buy corn (Gen. chs. 42 and 43). And when Araunah offered to give David his threshing floor, the oxen and the wood, with which to offer sacrifice, David replied, “Nay, but I will buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God which cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24: 23, 24). And (3) The law of love, where money and or goods are given with no expectation or desire of any return. The Samaritan of Luke 10:30-37 is a good example to follow here. Also, see Acts 20:35 where Paul states that: “So labouring we ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Gambling does not qualify when measured by any of these laws or rules.
Second: Gambling does not contribute anything laudable or good to society. Rather, gambling supports and is supported by a corrupt segment of society and is contrary to the very principles, which should undergird true human relationships. It has been said that “gambling is stealing by mutual consent just as dueling is murder by mutual consent.”
Third: By gambling many a poor man has robbed his wife and children of the food and clothing they so desperately needed; many suicides have occurred as a consequence of gambling, and wrecked homes, financially and by divorce are among its fruits.
Fourth: Gambling is “of the world” (I John 2:15-17), and it is a tool of the Devil. Gambling is ugly, degrading, and sinful. Truly, “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Finally, gambling has an evil influence. And the Christian must maintain an influence “void of offense.” There is nothing wrong with eating meat, and the Christian has the right (privilege) to eat it (1 Tim. 4:3-5), but the Apostle Paul wrote: “Wherefore, if meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor.8:13). Gambling is wrong and the practice of it is sinful, but if it were not, since its practice robs one of his good influence, the Christian cannot afford to engage in its practice.

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Our Attitude Has Consequences

Webster defines attitude as, “A feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior.” How do you evaluate the daily happenings in your life? Realize that how you do depends upon attitude. You can be positive and enjoy the fruits of optimism, or you can be negative and suffer the consequences of pessimism.

For some people every day is “Blue Monday.” Their favorite hymn contains the words, “Troublesome times are here . . . .” The only thing they are sure about is that things will get worse.

Our attitude is at the foundation of all that we do or aspire to be. Our attitude determines how we handle the setbacks of life, and we all have them, and the successes in life, and we all have them. Christians need to be positive and not negative as we live the Christian life. Negativism dulls our edge.

Consequence of a wrong attitude.
Israel sent 12 men to view and evaluate the conditions in Canaan. Fresh out of Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land, they selected and sent 12 spies to Canaan to spy out the land (Numbers 13:1-24). These were leaders and after 40 days they returned with fruits and evaluation of Canaan (Numbers 13:25-29).

Their evaluation became a point of controversy. Ten of the spies said, “Yet the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and besides we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:28-29).

However, two spies, Joshua and Caleb believed otherwise. Caleb “quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it”’ (Numbers 13:30). From this point on matters degenerated. The people murmured and desired to return to Egyptian slavery (Numbers 14:1-3) and God’s anger of destroying the nation of Israel was stopped only by the intercession of Moses (Numbers 14:4-19). The consequence, Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:20-38).

The ten spies could only see obstacles instead of possibilities with God’s help. If God brought them out of bondage in Egypt, then surely God was able to handle their taking Canaan. Israel experienced what each and every one of us experience—the choice of attitude. We may not be able to control all the external happenings in our life, but we are in total control of how we respond to them. We cannot keep another from hating or abusing us if they so choose, but we can treat them right and no one can stop us from doing s

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What’s Wrong With Tradition?

The story is told of young lady who married and in her zeal to please her new husband wanted to prepare a wonderful feast for him to eat. While preparing the ham her husband noticed she cut off the end and threw it in the garbage can. Disturbed by his new wife’s apparent wastefulness he insisted on knowing why she had done such a thing. His wife didn’t know, so she called her mother who in turn called her mother, who then gave the answer. It turns out the great, great grandmother of this girl had a pan that was too short, so every time she prepared a ham she had to cut off the end! This tradition had prevailed for many years. We all can see the foolishness of this.
Today it is not uncommon to hear brethren, who have been Christians for many years, make the claim in business meetings and in classes “Oh, it’s just our tradition”! This bothers me and it ought to bother you as well. Why does it bother me?
1. It Bothers Me Because: When this statement is made it is implying that the only reason we do the things we do in our worship to Almighty God is because our parents and their parents before them did these things. What message are we sending out to those who hear us make this cry? Someone visiting our service that day (a non-Christian) might hear that statement and think “well my parents are just as smart as these folks’ parents.” So what if we worship differently than them? After all, “It’s only tradition”!
2. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the way we are doing things now needs to change! You see if we are just following our parents and their parents’ example in our worship to God then there would be no harm in changing things to better suit the times we are living in! Let’s add some things next Sunday to our worship service say like a band and liven up things a little! After all, “It’s only tradition”!
3. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the Lord’s church is no longer sufficient to accomplish the work for which God gave the church to do! If this be the case then there would be nothing wrong with the social gospel! There would be nothing wrong with other organizations receiving money from churches to do their work! After all, “It’s only tradition”! I ask the question now “What’s wrong with tradition”? The answer lies in understanding the word itself.
Tradition: (paradosis) Thayer & Smith: “a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc. . . . a. objectively, that which is delivered, the substance of a teaching. b. of the body of precepts, esp. ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations . . . which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did were to be obeyed with equal reverence.”
Tradition, we see, is simply the passing down or handing down of a teaching from someone to someone else. The truth of the matter is tradition can be good and tradition can be bad! “Can one be handed down a wrong tradition”? Yes, the ham example is living proof of that as well as the countless denominations scattered throughout the country. Many people are what they are religiously simply because their parents were and their parents before them were! So we see that tradition can be good and bad! Just listen to what the Scriptures declare: The word “tradition” is used eleven times in the New American Standard version (Matt. 15:2; ; Matt. 15:6; mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:8; Mark 7:9, Mark 7:13; Col 2:8; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Peter 1:18).
The word tradition is used twice in the plural (Gal 1:14; 2 Thess 2:15).
The apostle Paul answers our question for us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 when he told the brethren to stand fast and hold the traditions that they had been taught! Traditions are good when they come from sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is Christ’s doctrine! Christ is the source of all authority. He is God’s spokesman today (Heb. 1:1). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18) and his message is from God (John 17:7-8). We are under law to Christ today, not Moses or the prophets (1Cor. 9:21). Christ gave authority to the Apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Gal. 1:12; 2 Pet.1:20-21) when they gave the world the Bible! We have therefore today the inspired will of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)! In 2 John 9 we are told through the Holy Spirit through John that if we want to have both the Father and the Son we must “abide” (continue) in the doctrine of Christ!
This means if you are following a tradition (paradosis) “a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e., tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc. . . . which is not the doctrine of Christ, in other words that which has been handed down to you is not the pure doctrine, truth, or gospel of Jesus Christ, then your worship and practice to Almighty God is going to be in vain. Jesus stated this fact very clearly in Matthew 15:9, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” The apostle Paul in his letter to the churches of Galatia told them: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).
I ask the question: What’s wrong with tradition?
Nothing if that tradition handed down to you is indeed the doctrine of Jesus Christ! One doesn’t need a college degree or any special ability to learn this because the Bible was written so all could understand it (Eph. 3:4). If therefore, you have a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a sincere love for God’s word and a burning desire to study and mediate and grow in the grace of God and to speak only the oracles of God, then simply follow Paul’s advice in 2 Timothy 2:15 and “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” When you have done this and you find no fault in the traditions that have been handed down to you by faithful parents and grandparents and brethren who have long since departed to be with Jesus, then count your blessings and “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Truth Magazine Vol. XLV: 2 p18 January 18, 2001 (Adapted)

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Gambling (Part 1)

This article was written by a good friend and faithful gospel preacher (J. Clyde Strickland) several years ago. It is as apropos today as it was when first written.
That GAMBLING is very widespread must be admitted by all. Will Rogers is reported to have said, “There is a wide streak in nearly every American man and woman, a fat streak, fat as a prize hog’s bacon’ (WIN OR LOSE, by Stephen Longstreet, Introduction, p. IX). But why do people gamble? And is there anything wrong with gambling? Is it a sin to gamble? These are questions, along with others; I shall endeavor to answer in this article.
The Practice of gambling in its many forms dates back to ancient times. Artifacts of gambling paraphernalia have been discovered in ancient China, India, and in Egypt. For example, ivory dice which date back to 1500 years before Christ were found in the city of Thebes, an ancient city of Boeotia, a region located in central Greece, and gambling is mentioned in still older tablets found in the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt (AMERICANA ENCYCLOPEDIA, vol. 12. p. 264, 1988 ed). Gambling is found in countries and societies from the most civilized to the most primitive; and it is engaged in by the rich and best educated, the middle class, and by the very poor. America, our beloved country, has been called “The gamblingest nation that ever existed,” a dubious honor which no right-thinking people would ever covet.
Definition
Gambling is defined as: “vt. 1. To play a game of chance for money or other stakes on an uncertain outcome (as of horse race or an athletic game); 2. To stake something of value on an uncertain event or contingency. Vt. 1. To risk or lose by gambling; wager, bet (“They’ve all been gambled and lost by her husband this morning”); 2. To expose (something of value) to risk or hazard in hope of advantage or gain” (WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY). Other sources give approximately the same definition. For example, the ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA gives the following: “Gambling generally is defined as the voluntary risking of a sum of money called the stake, wager, or bet, on the outcome of a game or other event” (1988 ed., vol. 12, p. 264). Then too, gambling involves each participant in an effort to take from the other that which he has, or has wagered, without his giving anything in return–an effort to obtain something for nothing.
Chance, Risk, Gambling
Many have argued than many of the things we do, and maybe most things, involve gambling. It is contended that the farmer gambles against the elements, rain, hail, drought, insects, etc., every time he plants seed in his effort to make a crop; that we gamble against other drivers whenever we drive our cars on the highway, and that when we go to bed at night, there is a chance, a risk, and therefore, we gamble that we shall see tomorrow’s sun. But look again at the definition given above for gambling. Gambling is not just a chance; gambling is a wager, a stake, or a bet on a chance! It is an effort to get something of value (money, property, or service) without giving the equivalent in return.
The farmer plants and cultivates his crops; he labors for that which he receives. True, his wages received for his labors sometimes may be small, but he didn’t gamble. Also, a risk is taken when we drive our cars out on the highways, a necessary risk, but in the light of the definition above, it is not gambling. And there is a chance that something could happen (heart attack, etc.) which could prevent our seeing another day. These are but chances we have to take, necessary risk, but do not involve gambling. If we should make a bet or wager against these risks, then we would be gambling. Further, in these risks one does not take to himself; money or property (possessions) which belong to the other. Thus, gambling is not involved.
Why People Gamble
It may seem strange for one who has never gambled to undertake to tell why people gamble, yet, gamblers have given their reasons as to why they gambled. I can report their reasons for gambling.

  1.  Some gamble in the hope of obtaining money without having to work for it–the love of gain without labor! And what started out on this basis for many resulted in their losing great amounts of money and their property.
  2. These losses then gave reason for their continued gambling: Efforts to recoup their losses, thinking: “I just had a streak of bad luck, but I can win it all back!” Many never do.
  3. Some gamble for the thrill it gives them. The thrill of pulling the lever and hitting the jackpot; of making the bet and winning the hand at cards; guessing the number on which your put will land on the roulette wheel, or at some other game. “The thrill of the game brings many back to the table!”
  4. Addiction: Just as experimenting with drugs leads to addition, so the thrill of gambling leads to addiction. One becomes a “compulsive gambler.” And regardless of the number of losses and debts incurred, he returns to the table again and again. In order to learn gambling is addictive, one need only read the testimony of doctors who have treated gamblers for their addiction to gambling. Also, there is an organization called GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS which was established just to treat those addicted to gambling in much the same way that ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS endeavors to treat the alcoholic.

In light of all this, would one still argue there is nothing wrong with gambling?
The gambler is a perpetual optimist. He is just certain that with the next roll of the dice, the next pull of the lever, the next spin of the wheel, or the next hand of cards will win for him the jackpot. The sad thing is, it rarely ever happens that way. It is reported that for the professional gambler, when his year’s losses are totaled he ends up in the minus column with a deficit of from ten to twenty thousand dollars, and if he is not otherwise wealthy, banks will not lend him money. The gambler is a bad risk.
(To be continued)

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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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Common Sense

God gave us our minds, and He expects us to use them to honor Him (1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Cor. 10:4-5). We are commanded to, “test all things, hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). God wants us to use our ability to reason in order to come to right conclusions about His will (Isa. 1:18; 1 John 4:1). Truly, Christians are to be people of “common sense” principles. Consider some that operate in all of our lives:
Don’t follow somebody who has never been to heaven – Jesus is the only One who made the round trip from heaven to earth (Phil. 2:6-11). Many are led astray by the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9) and the philosophies of the world (Col. 2:8). Only Jesus can show us the way to heaven – follow Him (John 14:6; 12:48).
We reap what we sow – There is no escaping this principle, for God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). Everybody is sowing seeds of one kind or another all the time. Some seeds will produce an unpleasant and painful harvest (Hosea 8:7). Others will produce peace, righteousness and other blessings (James 3:18; Luke 8:11). What are you sowing?
If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results. In the struggle with sin, many people need to change what they are doing (James 4:7). Some need to change their company (1 Cor. 15:33). If a person does not like his present circumstances, he needs to do some things differently.
Things don’t just happen, somebody’s got to make them happen – Many wring their hands about a lack of concern for morality in our nation, but is anyone teaching otherwise (Titus 2:3-4; Judges 17:6)? Some congregations are concerned about
declining numbers, but is anyone truly planting seed (Luke 8:11; Matt. 28:18-20)? The wise man quipped: “I used to wonder why somebody didn’t do something, and then I realized I WAS somebody!”
We cannot give others what we ourselves do not possess – Common sense would indicate that a parent cannot pass spiritual values to his children when he himself does not possess those values (Eph. 6:4). A teacher cannot motivate his or her students to be interested in hearing God’s word if the teacher himself is not too interested (1 Tim. 4:15). An elder cannot expect people to be committed to the promotion and defense of the Gospel when he himself has other priorities (Titus 1:9).
A determined man with a rusty wrench can do more than a loafer with new tools – Determination is the key to accomplishment. All the talent in the world is useless if a person is lazy and indifferent (Prov. 6:6-9). Whatever our hands find to do, we ought to
do with all our might (Eccl. 9:10).
Lift where you stand; bloom where God plants you – Common sense teaches that it is impossible for a man to do much to lift burdens when he is some distance away. However, if we will open our eyes we will find that God has given all of us opportunities to lift where we are standing (Gal. 6:1-4). God’s grace is sufficient for us, especially when we acknowledge our own weaknesses before Him (2 Cor. 12:9). Too many Christians obsess about problems beyond their control, when instead they should be lifting where they stand (Matt. 5:13-16; Phil. 2:12-15).

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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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The Door Is Closed To The Unforgiving Spirit

A cornerstone to seeking God with honesty and integrity is that we must remove anger and resentment from our hearts. There is nothing that will keep us away from God more certainly than a failure to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus said simply in Matthew 6:15, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” It is only the merciful who will receive mercy. Matthew 5:7 is proof of that when Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” James also writes about this in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
There is so much more to a truly merciful spirit. A merciful spirit is not one who that will grudgingly forgive others when they come to us for mercy; in other words, there should be no resentment towards the other when we forgive. Jesus called upon us to be people of character, that we will not rest until broken relationships are mended, even if we have to be the ones who take the initiative. The circumstances do not matter, whether the relationship has been broken by our own sin, or by that of the other party, or (as is usually the case) a certain amount of wrongdoing on both sides. In all cases we are to seek the other person out and do all we can to repair what has been broken. Remember Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus preaches, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Or look at Matthew 18:15 where Jesus says, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother..”
Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The beginning of the verse tells that being merciful requires doing so much more than we think is necessary. If God had thought of nothing more than what He “had” to do, He certainly would not have given His Son’s life to repair our relationship with Him. It was, after all, we who had broken the relationship, yet His love did not complain about having to do more than was “necessary” to fix it. He willingly offered Jesus without any form of resentment.

But think about this also: quite often we are wrong in our judgment that the other person has done anything to us that needs to be forgiven. When looking at granting forgiveness on those who wrong us, we need to guard our hearts against condescension. Perhaps it is actually we who need to be forgiven. Or perhaps we have simply misjudged the other person’s actions and everything that has occurred has been a misunderstanding. Having a forgiving spirit means not only being eager to forgive, but eager to believe the best in others and being humble enough to admit it when we’ve overestimated the wrongs that others have done.

by Oren Caskey
-The Gospel Teacher (June 10, 2018)

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Some Things Never Change

Nostalgia is based upon memories that bring to mind things of the past that are dear to us. We may not recall with accuracy all of the details, but we find joy in moments of yesterday that take us back to home and hearth. We might even change a few scenarios to fit our idealism and secret wishes for a better ending than the one that really transpired. However, there are some things that never change, things unchanging and unchangeable, and we need to be grateful for that. Such things include, God’s gracious love; the high cost of sin; the hope of heaven; and the integrity of the Bible. These points show the balance, challenge and heart of Christianity in the battles of life as we strive to maintain purity and contentment while in a carnal world of shameful licentiousness.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” (Titus 2:11). Sadly, though, many fail to respond properly to such majestic mercy and infinite live. Some just will not come to the fount of blessing and redemption for cleansing and peace. Nevertheless, Rom. 10:21 informs us that God still extends outstretched arms to grant shelter to those wise enough to seek His provision.

“There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.”

Sin cannot molest and constant rest from worldly cares does await those who lean upon the everlasting arms of our Creator. We need to change our ways in order to be blessed by God who never changes. The wages of sin has never changed either. Sin and death – separation from the Lord – have always sorrowfully gone hand in hand (Rom. 6:23). Only the power of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary could triumph over Satan’s hold on the human race (Mk. 3:27). What happened that day at Golgotha can never be changed. Hope for humanity echoes down through time in a message of unchanging beauty and glory. Sin is very persistent, powerful, popular, pitiful and personal. But Christ paid an enormous price to make it possible for us to persevere in righteousness. Paul expressed our gratitude best, I believe, in 2 Cor.9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Our tears of gladness for such monumental grace should flow freely as we partake of the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week in memory of our Savior’s death.
Scripture does not change. We shall be judged by the word of God (Jn. 12:48). The Bible cannot be broken by the changeable whims of men (Jn. 10:35). God said long ago, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:11). We do not need a new or updated message for modern times. The old Gospel, preached first on Pentecost in Jerusalem long ago, is to last until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20; Jude 3). We need to leave the ancient landmarks alone (Hos. 5:10). The integrity of the Bible and the hope of heaven belong together: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away…on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” (Matt. 24:35; Rom. 2:16). Let us never forget that Christ is our refuge (Heb. 6:18). Therefore, let us seek to please Him in unchanging loyalty, at all times and in every way.

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