The Real Problem of Sin

In his book The Agony & Glory of the Cross, Charles B. Hodge, Jr. addresses the problem of sin.  He asks, “How can someone want to be saved if he does not know he is lost?  How can anyone say that sin does not exist?”  He lays out a foundational study of the topic of sin in this manner:

  • Sin is the refusal by man to let God be God.  Sin is man’s way of claiming to know more, or know better, than God.
  • Sin alienates mankind eternally from God.  A person sins within himself before he sins without.  Sin is the supreme choice of self over God.
  • Sin cannot be covered up; it can only be forgiven by God.  And God has chosen that only through the cross of Jesus Christ will He pardon and forgive sin. (Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21)
  • Away from God, sinful people are dead in their own sins (Ephesians 2).  And the wages (just reward) of sin is death – eternal death (Romans 6:23).
  • God hates sin.  People who do not fear God do not fear sin.  Until sinners see the horror of their sin, repentance will not come.
  • Sinful mankind cannot save himself.  Sinners must repent and obey God.  There is but one way to deal with our sins – each must let Jesus forgive.  We must repent of our sins, die to them, and have them be washed away by the blood of Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38, 22:16, Romans 6:1-7; I Peter 2:24).

You and I can never earn, buy, or deserve to be forgiven of our sins.  When each person realizes the enormity of selfish sin we must repent, confess those sins to God and ask for His forgiveness.  If we have never obeyed the call to be baptized, to put on Christ in baptism for forgiveness of our sins, we must not hesitate to do so.  And then, we must put sin away from our lives and put on the identity of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord (Colossians 3).  He will deal with our sin.

(from The Agony & Glory of the Cross, Charles B. Hodge, Jr., Truth for Today World Mission School, Copyright 2007)

Bet You Didn’t Know This About Lotteries

Most hard-working Americans don’t have as much money as they’d like.  They don’t throw money to the wind because it has to last to the next paycheck.  They don’t spend frivolously because they’re trying to put a little back for a summer vacation and hope to have enough for the children to “have a good Christmas.”  Most are also trying to pay down credit card and education debt to save some of that unending interest.

Until it comes to lottery tickets.  Then the rules no longer apply.  Did you know that Americans gamble more money each year than they spend on groceries?  When it comes to chances of winning the lottery, a person is either in the group that believes it is absolutely impossible (to win) or in the group that believes one has a very good chance (to win), so why not play?  Which one is right?

Keep in mind that the Bible forbids us to be unwise – which is another way of saying ‘don’t be foolish’ or ‘do not act stupidly.’  “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 NASB).  We are to inform ourselves with the facts and then make correct and good decisions.

In the U.S., you have 1 in 120,526,770 chances of winning the Powerball, and 1 in 135,145, 920 chances of winning the MegaMillions.  These numbers are fixed every time the lottery is running.  Buying more tickets does little to increase your chances of winning.   Many who gamble have no idea what the odds are that they will ever win more than they put in.  They have no idea that they are participating in the biggest hoax in America.  James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and a member of the National Council on Gambling, calls the lottery “the most pernicious form of gambling.”

“O naive ones, understand prudence; And, O fools, understand wisdom.”  (Proverbs 8:5 NASB)

(From Allen Webster, Jacksonville, AL church of Christ, House to House/Heart to Heart Tract/Booklet Series

Pick Your Friends Wisely

“Do not be deceived; bad company corrupts good morals!” (I Corinthians 15:33 NASB). Making a close friendship with a person who is morally low is a spiritually dangerous thing to do.

Allen Webster (Jacksonville, AL church of Christ) says “When we were children, it seemed our parents had an unusual interest in the cleanliness of our ears. God, our Heavenly Father, seems to share that concern. Jesus often said ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15), and he once criticized some for having stopped-up ears (Matthew 13:15).

Consider the case of Amnon, Webster continues: “Amnon was a very disturbed son of David. The beginning of (his) end started with these words: ‘But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab’ (II Samuel 13:3). Jonadab’s method of persuading Amnon is still popular today. When Amnon confided his sinful desires, but also his hesitation, Jonadab said, ‘Art thou not a king’s son?’

The person who has not firmly made up his/her mind about what is right and wrong will be easily influenced by his/her companions. Instead of letting others influence you, have such purpose in your heart and mind that you influence them for good.

If you must choose between having no friends or having one like Jonadab, choose none. A true friend leads you closer to Christ, not away from Him (Acts 18:26)

Lessons From Obadiah the Prophet of God

The writings of Obadiah, long considered a ‘minor’ prophet, may be somewhat obscure – but this short treatise contains several important lessons for Christians.

First, we are reminded that pride is sinful, and that if not eliminated from our hearts will lead to greater sin.  The Edomites were known for pride in their physical strength and might.  God’s message to this prideful nation was not one of praise, but rather that destruction was coming upon them (v. 1-9), and this destruction was from and of God.

Second, we can know for certainty that God will do what He says He will do (v. 5-6).  God is faithful and just; His will is carried out in all things; He fulfills all His promises.  His judgment on Edom was thorough and complete.

Third, our sin will lead to greater sinfulness if we do not stop our sinful practice.  It is a path that leads to destruction.  Edom’s pride led to haughtiness, crafty deception, and greater evil.  Edom’s lack of love and compassion for others was the original source of its sin (v. 11-14)

Fourth, we are taught from Obadiah’s writing that God will punish all sin.  Sin is diametrically opposed to God, and He will deal with all sin as He has promised (v. 15-16).  That punishment will be great, but God provides an escape for His own people.

Finally, God has promised to protect and save His people (v. 17).  God’s goodness and mercy is overwhelmingly greater than we could ever imagine.  His people are those who belong to Him – those who have committed themselves to His care by responding in faith to the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, repenting of our sin, being obedient in confessing the Name of Jesus publicly and being immersed in baptism so that our sins may be forgiven.  God’s Holy Spirit is given as a deposit for eternity in heaven with God.

Praise God for His righteousness!

Jesus Prayed for You, and Me, and All Who Have Believed

What do you think when someone tells you that they have prayed for you?  Are you embarrassed, or confused, or filled with joy?  Are you concerned that they have prayed that God would grant something you don’t want?  In most cases, I would be extremely grateful that a friend or acquaintance would pray for me, trusting that they would have considered me worthy of their time with God.

I am filled with gratitude when I’m reminded in John 17 that Jesus himself lifted his voice to our Heavenly Father for me – and for every one who has believed in the name of Jesus Christ through the gospel message entrusted to faithful men.

Read John 17:13-21: (NASB)

13 “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Amazing isn’t it, that the only begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world cares about me?  I want to trust a friend like that, and pray that you do, too.

Are We Rushing Through Our Worships?

(Note: The following article appeared in the Sept. 21, 1961, issue of the Gospel Advocate. The thoughts therein deserve sincere consideration by many today.)

Are we rushing through our periods of worship so that we may hasten to feed the poor, to preach to our neighbors, to lift up the heathen? No, we rush so that we can get to a tasty, sumptuous meal or so that we can watch our favorite TV program, or take a nap or read the secular paper, or play golf or go on an outing. If none of these attract us we may rush because we are nervous and have the habit of doing everything in a hurry.

We sing, “Take Time to Be Holy,” but we are too busy to take time to meditate, to praise, to listen to the word of God in a relaxed atmosphere. There is pressure by the more worldly members to “pay our respects” to God in the smallest capsule of time possible. Movies and TV programs are getting longer, but periods of worship are being compressed. Why? Is it because we are so spiritual that we don’t need more time to become holy? Or is it a lack of appetite for spiritual food? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness or do we fret when the Lord’s supper takes more time than a newscast?

Time is precious and we should “redeem the time.” Our periods of worship should be planned so that our worship will be most effective. Time should not be wasted, but “efficiency” and “cutting” do not really save time if they reduce our exposure to God and multiply our exposure to the secular world.

Let us take time to be holy–time for more spiritual songs, for sermons that are long enough to move the sinner and edify the Christian. Let us take the time to promote activities of the church which will build us up in the most holy faith–time for Christians to exhort one another about giving and living. Time for meditation on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Time for silence to be still and know that God is with us!

M. Norvel Young
Los Angeles, California

Truth Magazine VI: 2, p. 1a                                                                                                           November 1961

Hybrid Seed

When I was growing up on a dry-land farm in eastern Colorado, hybrid seed was one of the best things going. Drought tolerance, disease resistance, and other desirable traits were enhanced in hybrid varieties, generally resulting in higher yields and (we hoped) larger profits. Hybrids had their drawbacks, but the advantages out-weighed them. Today, researchers have gone a giant step further. With genetic engineering, desirable traits can be added, or undesirable ones removed, by manipulating the genetic code of the plant!

As desirable as hybrids and genetic engineering might be in agriculture, they are unmitigated disasters in spiritual matters.  Jesus likened God’s word to seed (Luke 8:11).  We are to desire the “sincere” (unmixed, pure) word of God (1 Peter 2:2). We are specifically forbidden to add to, take from, or alter God’s word in any way (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19). The spiritual seed, as God has given it, is already perfect. No mere human can ever improve upon its “genetic code.”

A hybrid or altered “gospel” may produce impressive “results” from a human perspective, causing some to suggest “they must be doing something right.” Fickle, fleshly-minded folks may flock to have their ears tickled with fables and half-truths, but will find the plain truth much less tantalizing (see 2 Timothy 4:3, 4).

Let us determine that we will not yield to the temptation to sacrifice the purity of God’s word for the sake of pleasing the multitudes.  God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else, will do.

-Joe Slater, Mid-Valley Bulletin-(edited)

What Is It About This Church?

You may have heard that question asked by someone unfamiliar with the Lord’s church.  What is distinctive about the church for which Jesus died, and of which He is the head?  Some years ago, M. Norvel Young, former president and chancellor emeritus of Pepperdine University, wrote an essay describing the church that belongs to Christ in this way:  “The church of Christ is not an exclusive or proud church.  You will find it very simple.  Its aim is not to amuse or entertain those who attend its services.  It exists in our community as a simple body of Christians, pointing all who look its way to Jesus Christ as God’s only Son, the hope of the world. Its doors are open to those who from the quiet depths of their hearts reach out to God in simple worship and obedient living.  You may be surprised to find that there is not much ready-made for you in this church.  There is no ready-made creed.  You take the Word of God as you read it and come to a true understanding of it.  There are no ready-made prayers.  Every believer voices his own earnest longing for the presence of God and for His sustenance and guidance.  There is no ready-made order of worship.  Each church of our Lord arranges its own order in harmony with the items described in the New Testament.  There is no ready-made music.  Everyone makes his own music by the fruit of his lips as the early Christians did, and it is sweet in the ears of God in proportion to the worshipers’ sincerity and humble obedience to God.

Isn’t that a marvelous way to describe the church?  Those looking for architectural magnificence of a particular physical structure, or emotional manifestations in spine-tingling presentations, may be disappointed.  But if you’re seeking salvation from the One who can give it, this is the real thing.

More will come from brother Young’s descriptions of the body of Christ in future posts.

“What is Right with It?”

Many times when Biblical authority is challenged, it is asked, “What’s wrong with it?” This position assumes that anything not intrinsically wrong is acceptable. Is this a scripturally sound approach? In writing to the church at Thessalonica, Paul said, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This statement implies a process of “culling out” that which is not good. We know from other Biblical references that this process is not based on man’s resources (Isa. 55:8-9; Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12).

Using this pattern of thought, “defenses” would be dissolved. For many years, those in many religious circles have used the “What is wrong with it?” method of ascertaining authority for something or other. Use of instrumental music in worship, the organization of the body of believers and leadership, observance of the Lord’s Supper, and a number of other practices have been included under this process. As people seeking the New Testament pattern, Christians should ask and be able to answer questions concerning that doctrine and practice found in the pages of the New Testament (1 Pet. 3:15).

We must likewise insist that the Lord’s church have authority for things taught and practiced. In ever-increasing circles today, there is an abandoning of authoritative doctrine for purely subjective ideas. New approaches to hermeneutics (methods of interpretation) have “thrown open the doors” for any number of “improved” practices. Female elders, deacons and preachers are no longer something on the horizon to be anticipated, but (in principle, if not practice) are with us today. Some have boldly stated their intentions along these lines. Our question today must not be “What is wrong with it?”.  Instead, we must insist on New Testament authority.  We must not be afraid/ashamed to ask, “What is right with it?”.  Popularity with man has never been a gauge of God’s authority.  We must insist that God’s word be that gauge (John 12:48).  May we all study more diligently in our process of ascertaining authority and seeking compliance with God’s will – His good, perfect and acceptable will.

(from Pat McIntosh, with edits)

Old-time Religion

Many people in the world today claim a religion, or say that they are religious, or that they practice or participate in a certain religion.  It’s very confusing, because there may be as many as 3,000 different religions in the world.  Some worship one god, many worship things, and even a few say that their god is the true God of the universe.  The plain truth of the matter is laid out by the only True and Living God that ever existed, the Almighty God:

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.  Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:26-27, NASB)

The fact is, Christians are called to be caring people and pure from the world’s influence.  If we really are religious, we will care for and attend to widows and orphans, seeing to their needs.  And we will control our tongue, so we will be known as being ‘different’ from the world.  This lifestyle – pure and undefiled religion – will glorify our Heavenly Father for all that He has done.