Not This, But This

Balanced living

Successful living involves knowing both what to do and what not to do—then acting accordingly. The whole Bible takes this balanced approach of do’s and don’ts.

The book of Hebrews was addressed to Christians who had not matured as they should and were in danger of falling away. To address this peril the writer offers both warnings and promises, rebuke and encouragement.

Do’s and Don’ts

“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).

“. . . and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

“‘For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:37-39).

Motivation!

Note in each case that what the future holds should spur us to act in the present. Faithful Christians, who will “inherit the promises,” are to live in view of “the day drawing near,” because “He who is coming will come.”

Note these opposites: sluggishness vs. diligence, forsaking the assemblies vs. encouraging one another, and shrinking back to destruction vs. having faith to the preserving of the soul.

Away with half-heartedness! A glorious future demands earnest, faithful service.

Too much is at stake for anything less.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Wouldn’t It Make Sense?

Either baptism is essential to salvation, or it is not. Either we are forgiven the moment we are baptized or at some other point.

Why then?

If baptism is not essential, why then were the people at Pentecost told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?

If baptism is not essential, why was Saul of Tarsus told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)—although he had already believed in Christ for three days and had been fasting and praying (Acts 9:4-11)?

If baptism is not essential, why would Paul say, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27)? Are we saved when we believe, and later we put on Christ?

If baptism is not essential, why did Paul say, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness [or as he said elsewhere, “not of works, lest any man should boast”—Ephesians 2:8], but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Titus 3:5—emphasis added)?

 Who would want us to think differently?

But if baptism really is the actual moment we receive forgiveness, wouldn’t it make sense for Satan to do all he could to persuade us otherwise?

lies truth-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Finish or Quit?

Two scenarios contrasted

What can we learn from two of Paul’s associates, Mark and Demas? Paul writes, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 23-24; see Colossians 4:10, 14).

Later Paul mentions both of them again, but note the change: “. . . Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica . . . . Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:10-11).

Years before, Mark had deeply disappointed Paul because he returned home instead of continuing on their missionary journey. On the next trip Paul refused to take him along because he “had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38; see 12:25; 13:5, 13). But now Paul recognizes the positive change in Mark. He who had been a disappointment has become “useful to me for service.”

Both Mark and Demas left Paul in the lurch. Whatever his reasons for leaving, Mark overcame his instability. But the last we hear of Demas is his tragic apostasy. He left because he “loved this present world.”

Learning from their experience

The same sort of scenario continues to play itself out in our day. Sitting perhaps on the same pew are two Christians. At one time Brother A could not be depended on to do his part, but that’s behind him now. Nearby, Brother B participates in the singing and bows his head for the prayers, but his heart is leaning increasingly toward the world. It won’t be long until he leaves the Lord and His church—another of Satan’s statistics.

Demas’ defection should give us pause to examine our own hearts for any indications of misplaced affections drawing us away from the living God (2 Corinthians 13:5; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). On the other hand, if we have fallen short in our Christian walk, we can take a cue from Mark and become once again “useful . . . for service.”

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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A Comment Worth Remembering

Something Jeff Hogan said years ago has stuck with me. The sermon that day was on some specific sin. Jeff commented that if we don’t preach on things like that, the members will think it’s OK to do them. He was right!

Reminded

From time to time we need to be reminded of what we already know (Philippians 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12). Perhaps since the last time we heard a sermon on the sin of greed, for example, we have become enmeshed in material pursuits (Matthew 13:22; 1 John 2:15-17). A pointed sermon can serve as a needed wake-up call.

Informed

Or perhaps we might not have even realized that a certain activity is sinful. If so, what we need is not a reminder—since we never knew it was wrong in the first place. Instead we need to be informed.

Convicted

Even more, we need to be deeply convicted so we can repent and do better. For example, if we have never been taught it is wrong to use pornography or have sex before marriage or have an abortion or use illicit drugs or cheat on tests or use profanity, etc., then a timely lesson on the subject can educate us in a hurry! That is, if we want the truth.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Just two verses later Paul says, “. . . preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction . . .” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Jeff’s comment was right on target. If we are to learn how God’s wants us to live, and if we are to receive the periodic reminders we need, then true-to-the-Bible preaching must always be a vital part of our lives.

That’s how God designed it.

right or wrong-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Two Ways to Die

Our options

So often in the Bible we see a stark contrast between two and only two mutually-exclusive alternatives: the wise and foolish builders, the broad and narrow ways, God’s wrath and God’s mercy, etc.

Note this contrast:

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

What a contrast!

What is the deciding factor that determines which way we die? Our relationship to Jesus. Without Him, we have no forgiveness and we will die in our sins.

But if we have put on Christ, then that’s how we’ll die: in Him. Those who live and die in Christ have had their sin problem effectively removed by His blood (Romans 5:9; 1 John 1:7). No sin stands as a barrier between them and their holy God.

Lessons for us today: 1) The only way to be ready for death is to be in Christ. 2) The only way to be in Christ is through faith in Him and obedience to Him (Mark 16:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Hebrews 5:8-9). There is no other way.

If we have put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27), then let’s give top priority to: 1) maintaining our connection with Christ, never losing our grip on Him, our only hope (John 15:6; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 2:20-22); and 2) helping others find their hope in Him (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

Then both we and they can fall asleep in Jesus.

2 arrows-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Important!

On the same day we received two pieces of mail from companies wanting our business. On the outside of one envelope it said: “IMPORTANT OFFER FOR PAST CUSTOMERS.”

On the other: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION ENCLOSED.”

Important?

Even though each offer was marked “IMPORTANT,” I discarded both of them.

We are so bombarded daily with sales appeals that it really takes a creative marketer to come up with a pitch that truly grabs our attention.

Yet we know some things are highly important—some far more so than others.

Jesus’ perspective

What do you suppose Jesus would consider of supreme importance? We don’t have to wonder.

By studying His life and teachings we can see clearly what stood out for Him above all other claims.

“My food,” He said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [daily necessities] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . . But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Are His priorities our priorities? Are His values ours?

priority-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Going Out of Our Way

Admirable actions

The Good Samaritan did something the priest and Levite were unwilling to do. He went way out of his way, expending time, effort, and money to aid the wounded traveler. He was willing to be seriously inconvenienced (Luke 10:25-37).

The father of the Prodigal didn’t wait for his son to come to him—he ran to meet him! He threw a big party in his joy over his son’s return. The elder brother was anything but happy about his father’s giving his younger brother such a lavish homecoming (Luke 15:11-32).

The master of the servant who owed him millions of dollars cancelled the entire debt. He didn’t have to do this—he chose to. The forgiven servant, however, was not willing to pass on the grace he had received. He insisted that a fellow servant pay him what he owed, turning a deaf ear to his pleas for mercy, which echoed his own pitiful pleading when he himself had begged his master to be patient with him (Matthew 18:21-35).

Marked contrasts

The priest and Levite, the elder brother, and the unforgiving servant are cold and cruelly uncaring. In contrast, the Good Samaritan, the welcoming father, and the merciful master show warmth, love, and grace.

Admirable attitude

One word all three parables have in common is compassion (Matthew 18:27; Luke 10:33; 15:20). Compassion is what moved the master to forgive his servant, the Samaritan to stop and help, and the father to run out to meet his returning son.

Is it any wonder that this same word compassion is used numerous times of our Lord (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13)?

Can others see by our actions a reflection of His compassionate heart?

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