Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Our Changing Moral Climate

If you’re not alarmed by the current state of immorality in this country, you have reason to be alarmed about your own spiritual state.  In many larger cities there is a murder almost every day.  Some parents are using their own children to film pornography.  There are couples living together and having children without being married.  What on earth is going on?  A Denver-area teacher was recently arrested for having sexual contact with a student.  A Fox News anchor said, “When will these teachers ever learn their own lesson?”

Fact is, we’ve always had sexual sin, corruption in government, child abuse and out-of-wedlock births.  The difference seems to be that no one is embarrassed by it anymore.  Is there no shame?  Very little, it seems.  We’ve been desensitized.  It is much like the experience of Samson in Judges 16:20 where the Bible says, “…but he did not know the Lord had left him.”  It is sad when the Lord can no longer keep company with a person, sadder still when we aren’t even aware that he left!  Like Samson, there was a time when the United States was incredibly strong – militarily, morally, and in most every way.  The entire world respected our strength.  Today, however, we find that our moral fiber has weakened significantly and the respect that other countries have of us has deteriorated.  How long will it be before our military and economic strength will likewise weaken?  It would be tragic to wake up one of these days and say as did Samson, “I will go out as before and shake myself free…” only to find that we have no strength left.

You see, we have created a moral climate where nothing is wrong any more.  And anyone who has the nerve to say that something is morally wrong is dubbed a “bigoted, narrow-minded, red-neck,wild-eyed Christian fundamentalist.”  Call it what you will, there is no denying that when this nation shoved God and the Bible into the background – when we decided that everyone could do that which is right in his own eyes – we got way more than we bargained for.  We lit a virtual firestorm that is now being driven by the winds of evil across these amber waves of grain. The fire is raging completely out of control.  And if somebody, somewhere, sometime, somehow doesn’t do something to save us from ourselves, our children and grandchildren will see this country fall completely apart at the seams.  I can hear some threads already beginning to rip.

Do you recall the story in the first chapter of Exodus that details the hardships of God’s people in Egypt?  At first, the God-fearing Joseph had been so trusted and respected that Pharaoh appointed him to the position of Prime Minister.  Several generations passed and Exodus 1:6 says, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt…”  From that point on, the people of God suffered mercilessly.

In a similar fashion, unless there is a change in direction, future historians may likely record American history something like this: “Then a new President, Congress, and Supreme Court justices, who did not know God, came to power in America…”  We have just now raised the first generation of Americans who no longer hold the Bible to be God’s Sacred Word.  Young corporate leaders, politicians, congressmen and even some presidents thumb their nose at anyone who dares call anything a sin.  These words of concern do not come from one who is disloyal to his country, but from a patriot who dearly loves his country.  May God bless America and may America never forget God!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Give Thanks

I’m glad we have a Thanksgiving Day in the United States for it reminds me of the thanks I should be offering every day.  I’m persuaded that many of us take our blessings for granted.  We have been the recipients of so many of them, for so long, that we have grown accustomed to them, and scarcely think of the source from which we have received them.

I can identify with Asaph in the Old Testament book of Psalms who confessed to God, “When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant, I was like a beast before thee.” That’s strong language, isn’t it?  But Asaph knew that he was like a beast, utterly irrational, behaving in a stupid, absurd manner.  At least he was being honest and truthful with himself.  He had failed to stop and think.  He had refused to ponder and reason.

Asaph held some ideas about the godly and ungodly life that were quite false.  At first glance it seemed that the ungodly prospered, and the godly suffered.  Therefore, Asaph was given to complaining.

Perhaps if we are honest we will discover that we, too, have walked in Asaph’s shoes.  We tend to take all the gifts and the pleasures and the happiness and the joy without saying much to God about it, but the moment anything goes wrong we begin to grumble and complain and say, “Why should God do this to me, why should this happen to me?”

We need to pause and reflect on the truthfulness of Solomon’s observation in Ecclesiastes 7:14: “In the day of prosperity be happy, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other…”

Inasmuch as every day has its good moments as well as its bad, it requires a grateful heart to be able to say, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).

A little boy defined salt this way: “Salt is what always spoils the potatoes when it is left out.”  Using the same negative approach we can say, “Gratitude is what always spoils life when it is left out.”  A thankful spirit enables one to praise God even when circumstances are difficult.

Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began his prayers with an expression of gratitude.  One cold, miserable day his people wondered what he would say.  He prayed, “We thank Thee, O Lord, that it is not always like this.”

Depending upon one’s viewpoint there is something for which we can be grateful even in the worst of circumstances.  We might be surprised at those things we experience in life that squelch the development of gratitude.  A wealthy woman told her doctor she was frustrated by a restless desire for more and more things.  He replied, “These are the usual symptoms of too much ease in the home and too little gratitude in the heart.” 

The man was wise who prayed over a heavy Thanksgiving table: “God please grant us one more blessing…a thankful heart.”  In our prosperous land we need to heed the words spoken to Israel when they were about to enter the land promised to them by God, “When thou…art full…beware that thou forget not the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).

Count your blessings
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you
What the Lord hath done.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What Is A "Salvation Issue"?

A “salvation issue” is generally regarded as those matters that affect one’s eternal destiny.  Indeed, there are matters in which a person may engage that would not adversely affect his eternal destiny.  For instance, the apostle Paul addressed the matter of eating meats sacrificed to idols in his Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor. 8).  To eat or not eat such meat is a matter of indifference (1 Cor. 8:8).  In either case, it would not affect that person’s eternal destiny.
There are numerous things that we may do as Christians that will not affect our eternal destiny.  For instance, it is a matter of indifference whether or not we worship in a rented facility or one that is paid for by the church.  For that matter, we could worship under a tree or in a straw hut so long as we worshipped God according to his instructions (Jn. 4:24).  We can sing using a songbook or a power point portrayal on a screen so long as we teach and admonish one another and make melody in our heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  We can evangelize through the printed page, the Internet, the mass media of radio or television without violating any command of God.  We can travel to our mission points by car, boat, airplane, bicycle, donkey, or walking.  It makes no difference so long as we go.  None of these matters are “salvation issues.”
However, there are practices that, if observed, would condemn a person to eternal punishment because they are a violation of God’s word.  A problem arises when man decides what is or is not a matter of indifference.  For instance, some people view baptism as a matter of indifference.  They do not consider it a “salvation issue” and, thus, do not teach its essentiality.  Jesus did not so regard it, for He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16).  Neither did the inspired apostle Peter regard it as unessential, for he wrote, “The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21).  There are many passages in the New Testament that affirm baptism as an absolute requirement for salvation in spite of the fact that many religious people do not regard it as such.
Some do not regard being a member of the church as a “salvation issue.”  They advocate that having a “relationship with Jesus” is the important thing and it doesn’t matter to which church a person belongs or, for that matter, if he belongs to any church.  Yet, the Bible says God added the saved to the church (Acts 2:47).  Since the Bible affirms that there is only one church (Eph. 4:4), it appears to me that it does matter to which church one belongs.  A multiplicity of churches with their various and contradictory teachings about redemption, worship, divorce and remarriage, etc. is simply not acceptable to God.  Thus, whether or not a person is a member of the Lord’s church is a “salvation issue.”  It does make a difference to which church a person belongs.  Jesus only died for one (Acts 20:28) and built only one (Matt. 16:18).
Some even advocate that one’s sexual preference is not a “salvation issue.”  They reason that God made them with a sexual orientation toward a member of the same sex, therefore, to practice homosexuality will not affect their eternal destiny.  Yet, God condemns such behavior in no uncertain terms and declares that those who practice such will not inherit eternal life (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
We are living in a period of time when “tolerance” seems to be the operative word.  As a result, the floodgates of fellowship are flung wide open to accept varying and conflicting views on biblical subjects in the name of “openness” and “freedom.”  To do otherwise is considered by some to be unkind, judgmental, narrow-minded and legalistic.  I beg to differ.  It is not being unkind or legalistic to teach and practice what God has authorized in His word and encourage others to do the same.  After all, it is by God’s word that we shall be judged (Jn. 12:48).
There is a safe and biblical principle upon which our doctrine and practice should be founded.  It is that we should teach and practice only that which is authorized in God’s word.  Peter declared, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).  Paul told us not to go beyond that which is written (1 Cor. 4:6).  John declared that if we go beyond that which is taught in God’s word we do not have God (2 Jn. 9).  When God speaks on a matter, that settles it whether I believe it or not.  Man does not have the authority to put it in the category of being a matter of indifference that he can choose to obey or not without affecting his eternal destiny.

Compliance with this principle would settle many issues that now face us.  God has given us everything we need to know in order to be saved (2 Pet. 1:3).  That being the case, when the Bible addresses a doctrinal or moral subject it is a matter of salvation.  A person cannot view it as a matter of indifference simply because he does not want to comply with the Bible, or because he feels the need to extend love and kindness to another person who may believe or practice something that does not harmonize with it.  The greatest love and kindness he can extend is to point out the area of transgression and appeal for compliance to God’s word and to do so in a “spirit of gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24).  A minister of the gospel, for that matter any Christian, would be derelict in his responsibility if he did not “put the brethren in mind” (2 Tim. 4:6) of those things God has enjoined upon us.  Genuine unity is obtained upon the observance of divine instruction and not upon the husks of human opinion.