The Truth will set you Free

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

A life of lies brings nothing but regrets.
Consider the way of the deceiver. He or she has to compound lies together to make everything work. One lie cannot stand alone, because it can easily be found out. Liars become weighed down by their own lies.

Growing up, it became “necessary” in my mind to tell lies to be able to do what I wanted to do (drink, smoke, etc.). In my twisted understanding, I believed this was best for everyone involved. Before long, I was confronted with what all these lies had added up to: regrets.

The truth makes us FREE, especially in the sense of salvation, but also in the sense that it simplifies life. We become FREE from a life of sin, a life where we live in fear and have to constantly try to make up for our inadequacies.

1 Peter 3:10-12 For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”

I am so thankful to serve the only true Creator who frees me from a life where I thought I “needed” to lie to get what I wanted from life. I have regrets about what I have done, but I don’t have to boast about what I have done; I live in Christ. Those things were done by a dead man, not me, and I try to keep him dead each day. Rejoice in the truth of the LORD.

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Million Dollar Building

Jesus sent His disciples out, two by two, with great plainness and simplicity in what is called the Limited Commission. According to Mark’s gospel, they were only to take the clothes on their back, the sandals on their feet, and a staff. Considering this, one must wonder how Christianity came to be known by the world (at least in some circles) as taking place in a giant stadium with a charismatic, well-dressed speaker commanding the attention of thousands.

The “health and wealth” false gospel has taken its toll on the minds of true believers over the years, and while we might strive to keep the message simple, we can allow for egregious expenses to make sure we have a meeting place that the world will look at with admiring eyes.

From the start, this is an incorrect aim. Our Savior lived a simple and humble life. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58). Materialism manifested in our individual lives will certainly manifest in our collective voice as a congregation.

I have known personally of two congregations within the past ten years who estimated a price tag of around eight-hundred thousand dollars for a new place of worship. Even in an economy where the currency is greatly devalued, that still seems an incredible sum.

Some may say, “materials just cost more these days. Besides, some churches are spending millions on their buildings!” Many church buildings for denominations rival the Vatican in their opulence. However, we can always find someone who is not faithful. The question is, are we faithful with what God has given to us?

Some reasons for these expensive buildings range the gamut from the building currently used being filled up to the neighborhood surrounding the building becoming run-down or dangerous. Overpopulation can certainly be a good problem to have, but does it necessarily require that a flashy building is constructed? Safety is a good concern, but does it mean that we must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a brick-and-mortar building?

Another reason is purported to be evangelism. It is somehow thought that if a congregation builds a nice-looking building by the highway, people will be attracted and come in and worship with us. There is truth to this, but the potential problem is that we are using the building as our hook instead of the Gospel! If we were not evangelizing in our old building, we will not evangelize in a new building, no matter how much money we throw at it.

To be clear, I am not assigning sin. I am only raising a question that many do not seem to want to raise. If we are to be the “city set on a hill”, is it merely in a physical, showy nature, or must more spiritual substance be present? What meets the needs for one congregation might not meet the needs of another. Autonomy is a Biblical concept. We need to be aware of that, and not “police” other congregations about how their money is spent in regards to details. That being said, we must examine ourselves constantly.

A congregation that worships close to where I am located recently built an aluminum building. I do not know how much they spent on it, but I certainly applaud their efforts to build something within their means and appropriate for their purposes. With our state of technology, we can appreciate that innovations can be used in order to keep costs down and use the money we have given to God in a responsible manner.

Am I writing this to say that more money should go toward supporting Gospel preachers? Yes, but not only to them. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). There is always a use for the funds we give to God, and we need to keep our eyes open for these opportunities. Money does not solve all of our problems (and certainly can create some), but it can be a great tool to facilitate our outreach toward the community and provide a benefit to whomever is teaching and preaching the Gospel.

We must incline our ears to listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote: “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) I urge all brethren to be faithful with the treasury of their local congregation. In the past, brethren have broken fellowship over how the money is used in the work of God. It is deplorable that such things have happened, but these events show that being a steward of God’s blessings is serious business. We will be judged for how we use the tools that God has given us (2 Corinthians 5:10). How dare we think otherwise?

Skipping the Mourning, Straight to the Comfort

mourningMatthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

This beatitude is a balm in the minds of many. It sets forward the concrete truth that God wants His people to have comfort. It promotes the idea of a God who will help us in times of need and want, and facilitate a solution to the hurt and grief we experience. Though this does communicate a true aspect of who God is, we also understand that this is a decidedly shallow way to completely understand this beatitude.

When we have problems in our lives, we will usually seek a solution. There are many sources who claim to have the answer. Authors, Speakers, “retreats”, vacations, psychologists, etc., are all billed as valid solutions to our problems. The Christian knows that there is a better solution than any of those sources.

To properly understand Christ’s words, we must consider what we are supposed to “mourn” over. Remember the framework of the beatitudes! These are elements of what the Christian is supposed to be. They are not unreachable ideals, but understandable concepts, and they are meant to show us an accurate picture of a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. These are not what the Christian seeks to be, but what the Christian simply IS. The beatitudes work counter to the established order of men – regardless of the time period or cultural makeup. What Jesus says here runs counter to our most base tendencies.

Thus, we understand that a Kingdom citizen will mourn over their sins. This is “Godly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sinners do not mourn over sins, and in fact will often gloat and boast about them. Many Christians who have fallen away rejoice in their new-found freedom to ignore the restrictions of a life with God, and embrace the sin that snared them in the first place. Paul wrote of these: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

With the Kingdom citizen, sins are a source of anguish. Their presence means that something must be done to stop them, and the solution of cleansing by the blood of Christ must be sought. If we do not truly mourn the sin, we will skip right past that and seek comfort concerning that sin.

Before I became a Christian, I would justify my life by essentially saying, “I’m not that bad. I’m not murdering anyone or stealing anything. I’m not hurting others with my life.” My parents sought to help me understand my need to change, but I also had friends who would pat me on the back and tell me that I was a good person. I wanted the comfort without the mourning. The reality is, whatever “comfort” I got was not true comfort.

Only God can truly comfort us! If we try to give or receive comfort outside of forgiveness, we fight a losing battle. There is a great need in our souls to be cleansed by God, free of every sin. God can do this. Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14).

This is our great spiritual sufficiency. If we ignore this, we sweep aside the real solution, and settle for a fake one. We ignore our needed mourning and embrace a false comfort when we say, “I know this is wrong, but God knows my heart. It will be okay”, or “I know the Bible tells us this is sin, but God knows I need to be happy”, or “I can’t imagine that God would hold me accountable for this.” We can live in this delusion only as long as it takes for the judgment day to arrive, when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Bearing the yoke of Jesus means rest for our souls. No longer are we burdened with sin that destroys us, but we are freed to serve a God who comforts us. It is amazing to consider our God’s salvation, and the comfort found in it!

Is The Bible Divinely Inspired?

Many today regard the Bible as if it is simply a book written by men – wise men, perhaps, but men all the same. In their minds, there is nothing authoritative about the Bible; we can get some good ideas from it, and some comfort, and concepts that might even make us happy, but it is not from God. This should cause us to pause and ask: is the Bible really only from the ideas of men, or is it from the Creator?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 gives us an interesting look into what the Scripture really is. The Apostle Paul writes that it is “given by inspiration of God”. The word “inspired” means, literally, “God-breathed”. This is why we call the Bible God’s Word – it is the Word given and breathed by God. In this, we can understand from the start that the Bible is not simply the ideas of the men that wrote it, but the Word of God put forth, just as if God had spoken it Himself.

Simply knowing that God has spoken will not be our full understanding, however. We can accept that God has given us His Word without really trusting in it. The Scriptures tell us that God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). It is impossible for God to lie to us, because it is simply not part of His character. He will guide us and lead us with the Bible, and we can know Him and trust Him. This means that we implicitly understand that the Bible is absolute Truth, and that God will not lead us astray with it.

God wants us to know and understand His plans for us. The only way for that to happen is if God tells us Himself. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 tells us that God has made the truth available to us by men guided by His Holy Spirit, who wrote in their own styles, but with a unified message – the message that God has for humanity. He has given us His mind (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Understanding that God has made His Will known means that we must then understand our responsibility to that message. God has spoken to us today through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). God warns us about disobedience to His Word (Hebrews 2:1-3). The destiny of our souls depends upon knowing and understanding the Will of God through the Bible (1 Timothy 2:4).

Is the Church of Christ a Cult?

There are many dangerous cults within the world. Is Christ’s Church a cult? Let’s consider this question.

Peer Pressure

Our influence is precious. It can help someone immensely, or drastically hurt them. We need the kind of influence that God wants us to have – building each other up, supporting each other. At the same time, we must resist the constant decaying influence of this sinful world. This is for the young AND old! “power corrupts…”, well, EVIL corrupts! And ANY evil can corrupt ABSOLUTELY! (Luke 12:1b …he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.)

We can see Biblical examples of how evil influence has destroyed in the past, and learn how the wrong influence can destroy us today!

Before The Throne

Isaiah has an amazing vision of the throne of God. What is his reaction to this? There’s much that we can learn from this moment, because WE are, in reality, in the same position; we will be before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). What should OUR reaction be? Will we have the right reaction before it’s too late?

Let’s learn that we MUST be humble, confess sin in a genuine way, and be cleansed by God, ready to go forward and tell others of His love, mercy, and grace.

Serving God In A Broken World

We have a wicked world out there. What is our focus in the face of that? Do we work, and do our best to be lights in this world, or do we allow the evils present in this world to pull us down in misery? The Bible gives us examples of people who, despite being in terrible, sinful surroundings, excelled in their service to God. Since they did it, we can do that too.

Trusting in God’s Power

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Luke 18:27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

So many today make the claim that when we are saved, we continue to be sinners, because it’s not OUR righteousness that saves us, but Christ’s righteousness imputed upon us. I would counter this with a question: why is it so hard for us to trust God?

Do we consider it impossible for God to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? If He cleanses us in this way, the obvious result is that WE become righteous; this is certainly not because of OUR actions, but His grace. It makes no sense to claim that we continue in UN-righteousness while God attributes righteousness to us.

Some will say that it is impossible for Man to stop sinning. That’s just not so. Informed by the Word, guided by the Spirit, we will correct our lives so that they glorify God. That is not making ourselves righteous; it is God working within us. Nevertheless, it is OUR righteousness that God creates within us.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What a shame it is when we stop trusting God, and claim that what He can accomplish within us is “impossible”.

Am I saying that once we are cleansed that we no longer have to worry about whether we sin or not? By no means! God wants us to have “patient continuance in well doing” (Romans 2:7). If we fail in our service to him, and “sin willfully,” “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26,27). Thankfully, we can come back to Him and “confess our sins”, and “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). So, while we appreciate that God cleanses us of all unrighteousness, we can just as easily return to our sin (2 Peter 2:18-22).

Can we trust in God? Can we put our faith in Him? We have plenty of evidence to tell us the answers to these questions. Do we have enough trust to leave it in His hands?

What’s So Important About Jesus Christ?

I was asked once by someone who claimed to have a “different reading” of the Bible this question – “What’s so important about Jesus?” Essentially, the question was, “What’s the big deal?” I was not as studied then as I am now, and stumbled through trying to answer that question, but in many ways, I am still unsure exactly what the best answer would be.

Who is Jesus Christ? This is the primary question for anyone who endeavors to study the Bible. Yes, we can study it as a historical reference, or consider it in a completely symbolic or metaphoric way. We can even study it so that we can try to use it against Christians. The only way that it all makes sense, however – the only way we will ever really get any true benefit from the Bible – is to center our entire focus upon the person and divine being of the Messiah.

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus first asks His own disciples who others consider Him to be. Multiple answers are brought up, proving that the people have really little or no idea of who Jesus really is. It’s interesting to contrast and compare this conversation with the one between John the Baptist and the priests in John 1, in which John repeatedly and emphatically denies that He is the Messiah (John 1:20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”).

While the priests’ question is open-ended (“Who are you?” John 1:19b), Jesus’ question for His disciples is straightforward and specific. John could have offered any answer he would like, and it’s important to understand that he could have indeed claimed Messiah-ship; though he knew his place and his purpose. However, the disciples are asked to identify this extraordinary man that they have left everything to follow.

While John’s burden is to point these people to the Messiah, Jesus’ disciples are tasked with answering a monumental question – this man who can heal the lame, the blind, the sick (Matthew 4:24, 12:15, 15:30) – this man who can calm the storms with a rebuke (Mark 4:39) – this man who speaks and teaches with authority and wisdom beyond any of the religious authority of the day (Matthew 7:28-29) – they must ask even themselves, “Who is this man?”

I have a great personal preference for Matthew’s account of this moment. While Peter says “You are the Christ” in Mark’s account, and “the Christ of God” in Luke’s account, it would seem that Matthew’s account has Peter describing Jesus in a more complete way. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What an incredible statement! The implications in that statement alone are more game-changing than really anything we could say about Jesus. Can we ignore this statement? Does it make sense to write this off as a title that Jesus’ disciples forced upon Him? Dare we call this Savior only a “good moral teacher”?

Jesus doesn’t deny Peter’s statement, but blesses him for it, and for reasons of time and place, commands his disciples not to share this with anyone else. The time would come that the world would be told. And now, the world has been told. However, the world still doesn’t understand. Even though His Kingdom was established by His death and resurrection, the world doesn’t understand, simply because it doesn’t want to understand.

The best answer, of course, is to let the Scriptures speak for themselves. The entire Bible proves who Jesus is, and if we believe who He is, that solves any kind of problems we might have with the Scripture. Let truth and faith handle our questions. Give our doubts and cares to the LORD. Don’t let this sorry world pull us down into rebellion.