Martin Luther famously described God’s way of salvation as central to the integrity of the church. “If this article stands, the church stands,” he wrote, “if it collapses, the church collapses.” Indeed, what good does it do to be right about everything else if the church misses the mark about salvation? The church cannot be right about salvation if it is not right about Jesus Christ, and the church cannot be right about Jesus Christ if it is not right about his work as Priest. Christ acts as our Priest in two ways, first through his completed work of atonement, … Continue reading Unity in Regards to Salvation
Most differences among professing Christians boil down to a difference in their view of authority in religion. We can find unity, however, if we submit to Christ as Lord. The Old Testament predicted the Christ would be a King from the line of David. Jesus is that King. While he was on earth, he called people to acknowledge his Lordship and proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God, which one enters through a new birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-5). Following the resurrection of Christ, he ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. From … Continue reading Unity as Regards Authority
One of the clich?s plaguing the church is “spiritual giftedness,” the idea that God has uniquely equipped each Christian to excel in performing certain tasks in the kingdom. “Spiritual giftedness,” as popularly put forward, has spiritual snob appeal. We spend time considering how we can distinguish ourselves. We long for an opportunity to offer those exceptional things to God. This mindset enshrines spiritual arrogance in the self-absorbed pursuit of the extraordinary. As with most heresies, the preoccupation with spiritual gifts contains a grain of truth. God does work in the church to accomplish great things, but not always in a … Continue reading Doing the Important Things
Dale was a conscientious scoutmaster. Beyond conscientious, some would describe Dale as obsessive. “Be Prepared,” after all, is the Boy Scout motto.
At summer camp, Dale was a stickler for the rules — no room in his troop for delinquents. Every rule, of course, has a reason. Everything works better if we all follow the rules. Dale enforced the rules to the letter.
In particular, Dale insisted that his scouts bring no food or candy into their tents. Food, after all, is an open invitation for wild animals to forage in the night. The rule has a reason. Everything works better if we all follow the rules.
One evening, having gotten the boys to their tents, Dale enjoyed a moment’s reflection while washing up and brushing his teeth: everything on schedule and according to plan. He had thoroughly inspected the tents, taking away all contraband food. It was going to be a good night. Settling into his tent, Dale quickly fell into the deep slumber of a well-ordered life. Nothing to worry about that evening. Everything works better if we all follow the rules.
His sleep, while sound, would not be long. The scoutmaster had complacently overlooked one small detail. Satisfied in getting the boys to bed in good order, he had neglected to wipe all of the toothpaste from his lips. Dale awoke to find a skunk perched on his chest licking the sweet residue from his mouth.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye,” Jesus asked, “but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) Indeed, why take candy out of the tent while leaving toothpaste on your face?
As a young man, Abraham Lincoln tried his hand in many professions, once working as a store clerk. One day, as he closed the store, Lincoln discovered he had overcharged a customer by six cents. Now, in the mid-nineteenth century six cents was worth much more than it is today, but it was still not a great deal of money. The six cents, however, belonged to the customer. To do the right thing, after work Abe Lincoln walked the three miles to return the money. It was a small thing, but it was the right thing to do. Jesus tells … Continue reading Doing the Right Thing
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3). Faith, a confident commitment to the truth of God, is central to authentic Christianity. As Paul reminds us: “… we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the … Continue reading The Way of Faith
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, ESV) Those who deny the clear teaching of Scripture regarding baptism play endless shell games to avoid the truth presented repeatedly throughout the New Testament. (Note, for example, Acts 22:16, Hebrews 10:22, Galatians 3:27, and 1 Peter 3:21.) The normal dodge to get around the Apostle Peter?s command on the day of Pentecost, is to claim that the word ?for? in this instance means ?because of? rather than … Continue reading Baptism for Forgiveness
“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” my more progressive friends would say. They assured me a decade ago that no one among churches of Christ intended to use instrumental music as worship. Over the ensuing years, however, these same friends have begun using instrumental music in their worship services. “No one among churches of Christ doubts inerrancy,” my more progressive friends assured me. “Certainly,” they scoffed, “anyone denying inerrancy would leave the church.” These same friends now publicly deny the total accuracy of the text of Scripture. My more progressive friends have likewise shifted their position concerning the … Continue reading Moving the Goalpost
When I hear the phrase “hell-fire preaching,” an image comes to mind of a man preaching in a tent sometime in the 1920s. Frenetically waving his arms in the air, the preacher shouts and exhorts his listeners to “turn or burn.” This sort of image gives the impression that preaching on hell was a cultural fad of that time. However, in Matthew 10:28 we read: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This warning comes from the first century, not the … Continue reading God-Fearing Faith
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15 In this encouragement from the Apostle Paul to the young evangelist three points can help us as we consider our work in the church. First, notice the importance of childhood training. Timothy?s spiritual instruction began with childhood. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of training children in the faith from the … Continue reading Priorities for the Church