Waive the Hearing?

A southern fellow was brought before a judge on the charge of beating his wife.

“Sam,” the judge started, “you are accused of beating your wife; do you have anything to say?”

Sam replied, “Well, I guess I plead guilty, and I wanna waive th’ hearin’.”

“What do you mean, you waive the hearing?” the judge asked puzzled.

“Well, judge, I mean I done it and I jus’ don’t wanna hear any more about it, that’s all!”

Acts 24:25 tells the story of Paul speaking to the Roman governor Felix…“But as [Paul] was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’” The subjects Paul spoke on hit a little to close to pained conscience of even this pagan Roman governor, and he, too, just didn’t want to hear any more about it.

Too many times we’re like poor old Sam and governor Felix, when it comes to our sin; we did it and we don’t want to hear any more about it. A bad conscience will do that to us. Men’s guilty hearts feel the weight and seek to escape it by shoving it to the back of their minds, telling themselves its all OK, and “You just need to stop judging me”.

The truth is this: silencing the sources of correction doesn’t solve our sin problem any more than plugging our ears, when a doctor comes in to the examination room and says, “We found something.”

What does solve our sin problem? Confronting our guilt, confessing our sin, and coming humbly and obediently to Jesus for forgiveness.

Are you trying “waive the hearing” of Biblical teaching about sexual morality? Honesty? Marital obligations? Attitudes? God’s way of salvation? Or even in the category of religion, baptism, attendance, Biblical worship, or church leadership?

We may waive the hearing here and now in this world, but there’s coming a day when we will stand before the great Judge, Jesus, and we will not be able to waive the hearing anymore—nor the consequences. Listen now and correct now; you’ll be glad you did.

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“Watch Over Your Heart”

As Christians we often find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7—wanting to do right and finding it sometimes difficult to do. We struggle and struggle, but it often feels like “3 steps forward, 2 steps back”. Despite our earnest desire to do right, we don’t; and as we go to the Lord in repentance for forgiveness, we can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with us.

The Scriptures teach us that it is a matter of what’s going on inside: our thoughts, our ideas, our fears, our urges, our pride, our anger—all the stuff going on inside of us that we often don’t pay close enough attention to.

And it is the very reason why Jesus spends so much time in the Sermon on the Mount talking about the internal issues of anger, lust, intentions, love, greed, revenge, pride, materialism, and worry. They are all internal, heart issues that are at the root of our sin.

And it’s why the book of Proverbs tell us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23, NAS95. Watch over your heart with all diligence—pay steady, unwavering attention; because these thoughts—good or bad—will become actions.

A deacon called on frequently to pray at prayer meeting always concluded his prayer, “And now, Lord, clean all the cobwebs out of our lives.”

Everyone knew what he was talking about, a request for the Lord to forgive all the little sinful words, attitudes, and deeds, that we all let accumulate in our lives.

But finally, it got to be too much for one of the brethren, who had heard him say that prayer so often. And one Wednesday night, just after hearing those words again, he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Don’t do it, Lord. Kill the spider!”

The brother had a point. If we kill the spider, the cobwebs go away. If we kill the sinful thoughts, the sinful words, attitudes, and deeds won’t come back, either.

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Giving Glory to God

Glorifying God is  not something that ends at the conclusion of a worship assembly. Giving glory to God for a Christians is a 7 day a week, 24 hour a day endeavor.  But how do we do this? Some believe that it is done by peppering our speech with a lot “hallelujah” and “praise the Lord”. I’d like to suggest that there are other even more effective ways of doing this.

Evangelism—This is the most obvious way in which we may glorify God, by talking to others about how much He has done for us and all of mankind through the cross. How He has saved us and how He can save others, too. Glorify God through the telling of the Gospel.

Speech—But there are also other kinds of words that can give glory to God: kind words, gentle speech, clean expressions, and wholesome exclamations. The kind of words that are devoid of using the Lord’s name in vain, or of vulgarity, or of gossip, or lying, or dirty jokes (Eph. 5:4). People can tell a Texan by his speech (I know), and so also one’s Christian speech will give away one’s belief in God. When people notice, tell them it is because of the Lord.

Attitudes—God will not be glorified by grumpiness, vengefulness, snootiness, impatience, curtness, or judgmental attitudes. Such attitudes have given Christianity and the Lord a bad name. Especially when worldly people are jovial, friendly, understanding, patient, loving, and pleasant to be around. When people wonder how you could be so upbeat on a cold, rainy day, tell them that it’s the Lord in your heart—glorify God. (Php. 2:5ff)

How We Dress—I’ve seen a lot of dress that glorifies a lot of bad stuff: sensuality, anarchy, obscenity, liquor, pride, and worse. But the Lord can also be glorified by what we wear and how we wear it. Modesty, appropriateness, and righteousness (if you’re wearing a t-shirt with a message on it) all give glory to God (1 Tim. 2:9,10). When people ask why you dress this way, let them know that the Lord is your fashion consultant.

Possessions—Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 9:13) that their use of their monies for support of the poor in Judea would glorify God, and the way that we use our money and other possessions today still can glorify God or embarrass Him.

Entertainment—What would you deduct about a person who often views “adult” movies, listens to “gangsta rap” without conscience, and wouldn’t think twice about skipping church for something fun? Worldly? Fitting in? What would you deduct about a person avoids “adult” movie ratings, prefers wholesome entertainment, and refuses to skip church for a sports event or special concert? Different? A prude? Get the point? Even your entertainment can give glory to or dishonor God. If your entertainment choices are wholesome, people are likely to ask you, “Why?” Because of the Lord, of course.

Secular Job—The New Testament commands a good work performance of disciples, because it reflects well on the Lord. “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” (Titus 2:9, 10).

Neighborhood Relations— What image do unbelieving neighbors have of the Lord and His church? They get one from you, you know. What have they seen? Neighborliness, friendliness, faithful attendance, sound morals, Bible respect and knowledge? Is God glorified in your neighborhood?

Home—Here we sometimes let our light go dim, we become “ourselves” and God fails to be glorified in front of our children, parents, and spouses. Even here we should glorify God with a civil tongue, right behavior, integrity, and love (Eph. 5:22ff).

Are you glorifying God in your everyday living?

Park LInscomb

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It Works Both Ways

The newly appointed manager of a chain of hotels was on his first inspection trip. In the kitchen of one of the  hotels observed a particularly unhappy looking dishwasher.

“Cheer up, my good man,” the new manager said, giving the gloomy fellow a friendly pat on the shoulder, “I started as a dishwasher, and now I am the general manager.”

“I know,” came the startling reply,  “but I started as general manager and now I’m the dishwasher.”

In Romans 11:19-23 Paul teaches this important spiritual point for all to hear and heed: it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Jews mistakenly thought that being born (starting off) Jewish was enough to save, but God’s salvation was through faith in Jesus; they needed to believe in Him. Gentiles had lived abominable, shameful lives as pagans, but their sinful start didn’t have to determine their spiritual destination; faith and obedience to Jesus had the power to change everything. And some Gentiles who had just been saved seemed to have mistakenly thought that once that they had believed in Jesus that they could live as they pleased; but God expected newness of life, led by the Spirit.

Starting poorly doesn’t mean that we have to finish poorly. Hell is not a foregone conclusion for even the worst of sinners; faith and obedience to Jesus still has the power to change everything. And just as true, starting well doesn’t mean that we will finish well. It’s not enough to have simply been baptized, we must live as and remain a faithful disciple.

Our eternity is not based on how we start, but on how we finish.

Jesus’ promise to the church in Smyrna was “‘…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10, NAS95. Are you growing toward a strong finish, or are you slouching toward a weak one?

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Rethinking This Thing About Being Your Authentic Self

There is a lot of buzz today about being our “authentic selves”. It is often used as rationalization for sinful behaviors, and can be heard in the memes of popular culture: ”I gotta be me”, “this is just who I am”, and sometimes even a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Shakespearean quote, “To thine own self be true…”. As one blogger I read recently put it…

The phrase [“To thine own self be true”] echoes something which I have heard subscribers to a particular brand of therapy repeat as a sort of mantra: “I just really need to focus on me right now.” In fact, the phrase appeals to our complacency, not to our resilience. Its function is to swell our laziness, not to stoke our resolve. It’s use is to excuse our disagreements with society, not to force us to reconcile them with fact. We are all victims, suffering in vain, alone in our wisdom, against an unfair society that condemns iconoclasts. (http://bigthink.com/the-proverbial-skeptic/to-thine-own-self-be-true-really)

I’m not only in agreement, I’d go a step further and say that from a Christian standpoint—I hope you’re not too shocked—God isn’t really interested in us being our “authentic selves”. Interestingly enough, He’d prefer we not be our authentic selves. Isn’t that the whole point of baptism: dying to our “authentic selves” and letting Christ live in us?

Our “authentic selves” are inclined to sin, have sinned, and (given the opportunity) will continue to be willful, rebellious, and self-seeking. It is the “natural man”. Our “authentic selves” have given us this fallen world, the wars, the atrocities, the broken homes, the broken hearts, the abuses, the hatreds, the violence, death, and all the evil this world has to offer. Yes, that was us, our “authentic selves”—not God, not chance, not randomness—starting with Adam and running down to the present moment. God made the world “very good”, and we made a mess of things.

What the Lord wants of us, what discipleship to Jesus is, what He sacrificed Himself for is a “new creation” (Gal. 6:15), to be “born again” of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), to put on the “new self” in the likeness of God (Eph. 4:22-24), and to be a “new creature” with old things passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus describes as denying self (Matt. 16:24), taking up one’s cross daily (Luke 9:23), and following Jesus (Matt. 4:19). There’s not a hint of the “old me” or the “authentic self” present in discipleship to Jesus.

What the authentic self wants is to be saved by Jesus without having to change anything, what is sometimes called “cheap discipleship”. It wants forgiveness without repentance, salvation without dying to self, and Heaven without obedience. It believes that its “authentic self” is more important than Jesus’ holiness. “Authentic self” seeks to be the center of the universe around which all others (including God) revolve; discipleship to Jesus recognizes the real center of the universe.

Now, don’t misunderstand. The old personality still exists; but now it’s been redeemed, transformed, and put under the authority of Christ. And likewise, growth and maturity are a part of this “equation” and will take some time and effort; the old habits and attitudes will continue to crop up and will sometimes take time to “crucify”. We will continue to sin; but now we repent, accept correction, and seek to change—quite unlike the “authentic self”.

Follow Jesus wholeheartedly and unreservedly all the way to Heaven. Being your “authentic self” is terribly overrated and will lead you unswervingly to Hell.

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Does It Matter What Church I Go To?

Our world is very confused about religion these days. It’s easy to understand why: it’s become “all about me” and what I want. Ask someone about why they go here or there for church and you’ll get different answers. It’s what fits my “lifestyle”. It’s about what speaker appeals to me. About what worship services are like. About whether there are people your age or not. But little if any reference to the truth or what God commands. This leaves most thinking that where you go to church has everything to do with what I like or don’t like, because it really doesn’t matter. But it does matter.

It matters, because not every “church” is the Lord’s church. Claiming things doesn’t make them so. The Lord has described His church and when one reads Acts 2 a few fundamental things become pretty clear. Forgiveness of sins happens at baptism, forgiveness of sins is the essence of being saved, being saved is the requirement to being added to the Lord’s church. Thus, not every group that claims to be the Lord’s church are the Lord’s church. So, it matters, because you may not really be going to church at all.

It matters, also, because not every “church” worships God as God has commanded. Let me use an Old Testament example (an appropriate approach for learning—1 Cor. 10:11), King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12) was Jewish (therefore, part of God’s people) and he worshipped the God of Israel (good), but he did so through idols, through a different priesthood, with different holy days, and in different places than required. These differences were know in the rest of the Old Testament history as the “sins of Jeroboam”. Some groups that have actually been saved (are God’s people), are worshipping the Lord (as they should), but are nevertheless not worshipping the Lord as He has commanded (like Jeroboam). Some churches use musical instruments (see Eph. 5:19), let women lead in mixed worship (see 1 Cor. 14:34), or fail to partake of communion weekly (see Acts 20:7). Pleasing worship makes a difference to God, and it should also make a difference to us. Should a Christian worship like a modern Jeroboam? It matters to God.

It matters, lastly, because God intends to take only His church to Heaven. Jesus said, (Matthew 7:13, 14) ““Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” It matters if you want to get to Heaven.

Rather than attending the church of your choice, why not worship with the church of Christ’s choice?

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What’s the Best Thing for Me?

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 ““See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? “Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

In the Garden of Eden, part of the serpent’s deception to Eve was placing doubt in her mind about God’s will being the best thing for her and Adam. Satan accused God of an evil motive of simply not wanting Adam and Eve to be wise like God Himself.  And things haven’t really changed all that much, have they? Even today we can read through Scriptures that correct us or threaten to change us and Satan still whispers in our ears very familiar charges, “Aw, really? That’s not living! God is nothing but a cosmic killjoy!”

Is it true? A lot of people in the world think so, and maybe you’ve been tempted, too. Let’s think about it.

First, this is God we’re talking about here! The God who has provided for us life and everything that sustains it and lots of nice things that make life pleasant and pleasurable. His nature is and always has been kind and generous and helpful (for example, Gen. 2:18 and Deut. 6:24). His nature is the essence of goodness, and not only does He seek not to do us harm, but He actually seeks to bless us and do us good. He has our very best interests at heart. The ultimate proof is that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place for things that we have done. Would a God who has done us so much good really be trying to squelch our good times? The nature and character of God teaches us that we may be certain that His commands are the best thing for us to do.

But we should also hasten to add that God’s words are tested—look at the results of the lives of those who obey. 2 Samuel 22:31 tells us, “As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” It is true; tested by millions over thousands of years in cultures all over the world, God’s words have been found good, right, and beneficial. God, you see, is actually far, far wiser than any man (when’s the last time you created a working universe?); we shouldn’t be surprised by this, but somehow we are. It is sad and ironic how men foul up their own lives and the lives of others and then try to blame God (see Prov. 19:3). God’s words are truth (Psa. 19:7 / Psa. 119:160 / John 17:17). And even the world recognizes it in its soberer moments.

There’s a deliberate tease found in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” If you really try it, it will be obvious to you. An old invitation hymn has a verse that runs this way, “But we never can prove the delights of His love, until all on the altar we lay. For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for those who will trust and obey.” And it is so true.

Psalm 8 is a meditation and a parable all wrapped up in one, comparing the incredible perfection, fit, and beauty of the visible universe to the perfection and beauty our lives would be, if we were to simply be as obedient as the universe. Satan’s lie about God’s evil motives to limit us and keep us down is just as false as it always was. But let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind—in every situation, in every season of life, in every decision you need to make—God’s way will be best for you. Not necessarily easier, but always best

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