Weekly Bulletin Articles
Change, any change, all change from the divine pattern is error. Error causes both its teacher and doer to be lost, no matter how sincere they may be. Jesus wants us to know the truth which makes us free from error (John 8:32). We must love the truth or suffer the consequences of believing a lie. Those who believe a lie will be damned (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
The Bible always answers error because it is the all-inspired and all-sufficient Word of God. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Notice how verse 16 says that all Scripture is profitable for "doctrine" (teaching, showing what is wrong), for "reproof" (exposing, rebuking and convicting one for doing wrong), for "correction" (showing how to correct the wrong and reform one's ways) and "instruction" (showing how to continue in that which is right and training in the right way). The apostle Paul did not just write his own words. He said to the church at Corinth, "...the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37). We read in 2 Peter 1:3, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Everything we need to know how to live in this life and please God can be found in the New Testament. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
The Bible tells us to test those who are supposed to be teachers of the Gospel. The apostle John writes, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). A "Gospel preacher" is not offended when questioned about his belief, teaching and practice. He welcomes it. On the other hand, those who teach error are usually insulted and angered when questioned. This serves as a warning sign of those who are not sound in the faith. When you find one like this, beware!
The Bible tells us what to do with those who teach error. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 1:9-11). Faithful Christians cannot help or assist those who teach error. We must not do anything that could be interpreted as supporting them in their error. When we do so, God counts us as guilty as if we were teaching that error ourselves. This is "guilt by association" i.e., we are counted guilty because we fellowship them. Too many refuse to see that their fellowship of those in error makes them guilty of error. The old addage that says "birds of a feather flock together" is certainly true.
Paul writes, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17-18). To "mark" means to observe -- turn attention toward. Brethren everywhere need to be made aware of those who are teaching error so they will not be "taken in" by their false doctrine. This, of necessity, involves "calling names." Those who teach contrary to the doctrine of Christ must be identified. It is impossible to do that without knowing who they are, that demands knowing their name. There are even occasions when we are to "mark" those who faithfully follow the Lord so we may imitate them (Phil. 3:17). However, that cannot be done without knowing who they are. Therefore, they must be identified by name. To not do so is a violation of Romans 16:17 and Philippians 3:17.
The Bible tells us the end result of those who teach error. They "...shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess 1:9). In Old Testament days, "...there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). All false teachers, along with "...the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). Those who follow them will suffer the same destiny.
No one can change God's way and escape the consequences.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:18-19; Emp.JS)
There is much that could be discussed from the text above, such as the sinfulness of drinking alcoholic beverages, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, singing without the mechanical instrument, and unity among the brethren. However, the subject that encompasses the entirety of the text is thanksgiving. For we cannot keep ourselves from worldly desires in allowing the word of God dwell in our hearts and give praise to the Lord in song (Colossians 3:16) while dwelling together in unity without being thankful to God. We could not do anything that the Lord commands us to do without giving thanks to God (Colossians 3:17). “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). We will now notice three things for which we should be giving thanks always to God.
Giving Thanks Always For What God Has Done For Us
We should give thanks always to God for giving us life (Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:9), and for giving us the things that sustain our lives (Matthew 5:45; 6:25-26; Acts 17:25-26). Most of all we should give thanks always to God for giving us what we must have to have the hope of eternal life (John 3:16;Titus 3:7; 2 Peter 1:3). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Giving Thanks Always For What God Is Doing For Us
We should give thanks always to God for His plan of Salvation and His providential care for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Acts 8:28). “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Peter 3:12).
We should give thanks always to God for His promises. We should be thankful to God for His being longsuffering toward us (2 Peter 3:9). We should be thankful to God for allowing us to enjoy our fellowship with Him and for all spiritual blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7). We should be thankful to God for never forsaking us (Hebrews 13:5-6). We should be thankful to God for allowing us to enjoy our fellowship with Him and for all spiritual blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7). We should be thankful to God for never forsaking us (Hebrews 13:5-6). We should be thankful to God for the blessed assurance we have of His Promise of eternal life. “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
Giving Thanks Always For What God Will Do For Us
We should give thanks always to God for allowing us to live one day in heaven for eternity. What a joyous day that will be for us when we will be able to show forth our gratitude to God forever when we heart: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Let us be giving thanks always.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).
Each of us has a soul or inward man which is to grow and develop into maturity—into manhood and womanhood. The fact of the reality of the soul is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In speaking to his disciples, Jesus taught to “...fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The Son of God also stressed the value of the soul and compared its worth to the physical things of this world. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt. 16:26)? Furthermore, by inspiration the apostle Peter, concerning the importance of man’s soul growing into maturity, exclaimed that we should “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” and exalted Christians to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).
As we consider God’s teaching in regard to the soul, we might find it good to ask, “What size is our inward man?” Are we growing spiritually as we ought, or are we still mere babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1; 14:20)? It would be well for each of us to consider and discern the progress of our inner growth. It is something that can be measured...not as a box might be measured with a ruler or tape. We cannot see the soul, except in the mirror of God’s word. But we can determine the size of the inner man by the measure of its manifestation.
The size of the soul may be measured by determining the height of its ambitions. Big souls are always ambitious souls of high ideals and worthy goals. We must never be found guilty of becoming the “one talent man” of Matthew 25. Because he felt he could not do big things in the sight of the Lord, he did nothing.
Christians should continually strive onward with their eyes focused upward. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16). Christ came to do big things and gave us a big job.
The size of the soul may be measured by the depth of its convictions. Hebrews 11:1 speaks of a “conviction of things not seen” (ASV). This has always been a characteristic of God’s great people, with his honor roll of faithful followers forever recorded for our learning. Daniel was another example of our Father’s expectations, proving himself to be a man of deep convictions and faithful to the will of Jehovah. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). Big souls have convictions concerning right and wrong, truth and error, and matters of duty.
The soul may be measured by the length of its love. Consider the measurement of God recorded in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” God so loved the world. “So” is an adverb of degree. It tells how much God loved the world. He went so far as to give his only begotten Son. And when we read this, it should bring to our minds a much-needed question: How does our love measure up in regards to God, the church, and the lost? 1 John 4:19 should be emblazoned within our hearts and thoughts. “We love him, because he first loved us.”
The size of the soul may be determined by the weight of its influences. Matthew 5:14-16 relays a command to be carried out by every Christian. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” How much light do we radiate? One of the Lord’s parables brings forth a closely related reminder. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33). Are we leavening for others through our actions and our words? What is the weight of our influence for those around us?
May we each ask ourselves the soul-searching question: “How big is my inward man?”
In the beginning of time, everything God created was perfect. After each division of His creation, God “...saw that it was good” (cf. Gen. 1). Adam and Eve formed the first home, the oldest of God’s divine institutions (Gen. 2:21-25). It wasn’t long before there was trouble in paradise; sin entered into this world (Gen. 3:1-6). Mankind has suffered the consequences of sin ever since that tragic day in Eden. Solomon wrote, “There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20).
In the New Testament, Christ created another divine institution, His church (Acts 2:1-47). The book of Acts is a history of the establishment and growth (about 30 years) of the church of Christ. The church, as Christ planned it, is like “heaven on earth.” She truly was a spiritual paradise until sin raised its ugly head, and the church became corrupted; consequently, again, there was trouble in paradise.
Many years ago, I was privileged to be a student in one of the late brother G. K. Wallace’s Bible classes. In one class session, a student asked brother Wallace, “What does the church of Christ teach...,” and before he could complete his question, brother Wallace replied, “Just about anything!” We all laughed! But, now, it’s no laughing matter. The church, God’s spiritual paradise is in deep trouble.
In the late 40s and throughout the 50s, the church faced the problem of brethren denying the right of the church to financially support, from her treasury, a home for orphans operated by brethren; along with congregations cooperating with each other in the field of evangelism. Our great brotherhood was torn asunder. Indeed, there was trouble in paradise.
In the 60s and 70s the church faced the problem of Pentecostalism. During the early 80s until now, there has been a steady drift into liberalism. The ultra-conservative brethren sought to bind upon the brotherhood what God had not bound. Now, our liberal brethren are seeking to loose what God has bound. To do this, they have come up with a cry for a new hermeneutic in Biblical interpretation and a denial of any New Testament pattern for the church to follow. Who among us would have ever dreamed the beautiful bride of Christ would experience so many departures from the faith? The apostle Paul wrote of those who would give “...heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils”
(I Tim. 4:1). These “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” are running rampant in the church, and it’s later than most seem to think. What, then, has destroyed this paradise?
We have allowed at least two generations to “come up in the church” who have little, if any, concept of what is meant when we speak of scriptural authority. We have far too many preachers who either: 1) do not believe in the necessity of having scriptural authority for our beliefs and practices, or 2) they are afraid to preach sermons that teach the necessity of having scriptural authority for all we do (cf. Col. 3:17). Our pulpits, in many cases, have become weak and inefficient in preaching the Gospel of Christ. When the sermons we hear Sunday after Sunday could be preached in most any denominational church, without any disapproval, it’s no wonder the church is in such serious trouble.
The old pioneer preachers often referred to the church as the “ship of Zion.” Brethren, we can turn this “ship” around. How? By getting back to the basics by teaching God’s word in its completeness. Let’s return to demanding a “thus saith the Lord” for what we preach and practice. Let’s let the denominational world know there is a vast difference between them and us. The true church of Christ is militant and distinctive in doctrine and practice. If we will “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11), the true church will be restored in all its pristine glory. Then, like Joshua of old, we will have good success (Josh. 1:8). Think about it.
The Lord’s church is the one that was established in A.D. 33 in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The Lord’s church is the one that Jesus built (Matt. 16:18) and purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The Lord’s church is the one body the apostle Paul recognized as being valid (Eph. 4:4). There is only one body that the Savior has promised to save (Eph. 5:23). It is imperative to understand that we are not discussing what denominations were established to do. Denominations may do whatever their founder desires them to do and please men, but they will never please God. If the church of our Lord is to be faithful, it must only do the bidding of its founder, Jesus Christ, and such will never please most men.
The Lord’s church was not established to exist incognito! It makes one want to gag to hear those who profess to be members of the Lord’s church avoid telling people they are a member of the church of Christ. These modern day dreamers will tip-toe for miles on eggshells before they will admit they are a member of the church of Christ. Upon being forced to make the admission, they then apologize by saying, “But we don’t believe we are the only one’s going to heaven.”
What is wrong with the name church of Christ? Am I ashamed that Christ built His church? Am I embarrassed that the church wears His glorious name? Do I not want the church to be connected with the Savior? Brethren, these questions deserve an honest answer. Many members need to begin thinking for themselves and cease following the liberal change-agents who would place the church under a bushel (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). Faithful soldiers of the cross will boldly proclaim the essentiality and eternal destiny of the Lord’s church. We cannot keep the church a secret and save the souls of men!
The Lord’s church was not established to provide entertainment for its members! One can search the Bible from beginning to end and never find one incident where God has sought to entertain His people. It can be proved, however, that God “would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). It is also true that “the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We read that it was the Lord’s desire “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). When the early church was persecuted and scattered, they did not offer all types of entertainment to attract people. They did, however, go “about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5). The early church realized that the Gospel was the only “power of God unto salvation,” and they were not ashamed to proclaim it (Rom. 1:16).
The early church did not seek to attract people with eloquent dramatized skits laced with finger-nail biting excitement! Neither did the early church have “youth ministers” to entertain and baby-sit the young or a 㦓’ers minister” to transport the older saints to every play and flower garden within driving distance. Didn’t they know that because of severe persecution they would have to cater to the wants of both young and old in order to grow? The wisdom of man says that the early church is destined to fail. The result — the early Christians who feared God and unashamedly proclaimed the Gospel grew by leaps and bounds (cf. Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31).
The Lord’s church was not established to provide a soothing answer to man’s sins! The majority of men want to live in sin, enjoy the pleasures of the moment, and be told that all is well with their souls. Thus, alcoholics have a disease, homosexuals have a defective gene, fornication is simply an affair, lying is misinformation, and sin is tolerated as a mistake. Brethren, we can ill afford to pat members on the back, accept their contribution, and overlook sin! All sin is deadly (Rom. 6:23), and all must repent (give up) of their sins or lose their souls. Even though not “politically correct,” Christians will teach sinners that they must “repent or perish” (Luke 13:3).
May we keep in mind that the Lord’s church was established to do what no man-made institution can do. Let us therefore not lose sight of the glorious purpose and mission of the Lord’s church.
Many people’s concept of Christianity includes some mysterious work of the Holy Spirit to change one’s life. The Bible teaches the Spirit operates upon man to create faith, convict of sin and convert the soul. But the question is, does the Holy Spirit operate directly on man or does He work through the word of God?
The Bible states that the “sword of the Spirit” is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). This word is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). These two verses show that the Spirit does not operate directly upon man, but through a means — the agency of the word of God. It is much like a man who went to cut down a tree. Did the man himself cut down the tree or did the saw he used cut down the tree? Obviously, the man did cut down the tree, but he used a tool to do so, a saw.
Suppose the Holy Spirit did operate directly upon mankind apart from the word of God. What would be the results? God does not want anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:9). He is also no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Therefore, the Spirit would act uniformly on everyone. Since the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead, He is all powerful. So it should be the case that everyone would be saved. There can be no other outcome when an irresistible force operates directly upon a very moveable object such as man! But Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). This accounts for the fact that not everyone will be saved though God is no respecter of persons. Not everyone chooses to do the will of God.
If the Spirit operated directly on mankind apart from the word of God, the New Testament would not be needed to convert people from their sinful lives. Conversion would depend entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit. If someone was not converted, the blame would lie at the feet of God. Who would dare charge God with a failure to accomplish His will? The truth was stated long ago: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Preaching God’s word will harden some and soften others. The sun will melt wax but harden clay. Different effects are the result of the differing natures of the materials. So it is with mankind. Some will choose to believe and obey while others choose not to believe and thus disobey leading to their damnation.
If the Spirit operated directly, why even bother preaching? Here is a curious thing. Those who advocate a direct operation of the Holy Spirit preach it! Shouldn’t the Spirit have revealed his message directly to each person? Jesus told his apostles, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Without a knowledge of God’s word, one cannot have faith in Jesus Christ since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The Bible nowhere states that faith comes by some mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit.
Be Wise —As Moses spoke about God’s statutes, he went on to tell the Israelites, “Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations...” (4:6). God’s word has the potential to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). And, how do people show true wisdom? By doing what the Lord says! The fear/reverence of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Did not Jesus say that a person who hears His words and then goes and does them is like a wise man that built his house on the rock? He sure did (Matt. 7:24,25). When it comes to wisdom, never forget this truth: 1) Wise people get their main education from God’s word, and 2) Wise people carry out in their lives what they learned from that word. It is now fair to ask this personal question: Are you (and I) acting wisely or foolishly?
Diligently Keep Yourself —“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life...” (4:9). At least twice more in this chapter we read that God exhorted His people to take heed unto themselves. “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves. ... Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God...” (4:15,23). When God tells His people to “take heed,” you know what that means, don’t you? It means to take heed!
The Israelites had seen and heard great things from Jehovah. God did not want them to forgot them or their significance. In fact, He said that He wanted the memory of those deeds and laws to be in their heart “all the days of thy life” (4:9). Brethren, with so much going on in our lives, it can be a real challenge to keep the great teachings and blessings of God stored up in our hearts. There is only one way for us to keep our focus on God and His Cause, and that is to be diligent as we take heed to ourselves.
Teach —This, too, is “a big one,” and it is just as important as the previous five principles we have observed. When it came to the ways of God, what else did He want the Israelites to do with them? Not just remember them, but teach them: “...teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (4:9). Parents instructing their children from God’s word and grandparents teaching their grandchildren God’s truth. What a precious thought! Supreme love for one’s offspring is not shown by material gifts, but by showing them the way of the Lord. That “showing” or “teaching” takes two forms: 1) Informing them what the Bible says and 2) Being a godly example for them. Parents and grandparents, are we really putting in a serious effort to get these matters right, or are we letting our offspring down by neglecting our duty to them?
You may not share my sentiments, but I love the message of Deuteronomy 4:1-9. I really am convinced that it gives us the formula for success in God’s sight in any generation. Again, what were those words of the Bible text on which we concentrated in this study? Hearken, leave, cleave, be wise, diligently keep yourself, and teach. These half-dozen principles provide a wonderful potential for a whole lot of learning for those who meditate upon and apply this truth. How about it?
Deuteronomy 4:1-9 —It was the 40th year and 11th month of the journeys of the Israelites since their departure from Egypt (Deut. 1:3). On the eastern side of the Jordan River, not long before the Israelites crossed over into the land of promise, Moses spoke to them. He reminded them of: 1) what God had done for His people in the past, 2) how the Israelites had treated God in the wilderness, and 3) what their duties to Him would be once they were living in Canaan.
We recognize that Christians are not the fleshly nation of Israel. We did not live in the days of Moses, and furthermore, we do not live under the Law of Moses. Yet, from Moses’ message to the Israelites of His era, there are a number of helpful lessons that we can glean.
For our purposes, we are focusing our attention on a few concepts that are recorded in Deuteronomy 4:1-9. These principles are a formula for success in any generation. Do you want to enjoy success in the spiritual realm? Do you want your family to experience the same? If so, then the instructions that are recorded in the early verses of Deuteronomy 4 have the potential to help you and your loved ones have such success. Let’s take a look.
Hearken — In this section, Moses’ message for Israel began with these words, “Now therefore hearken [listen, NKJV], O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live...” (4:1). It does not matter who it is or what a person’s circumstances are in life, here is the fundamental key to genuine success: hearken/listen to what the God of heaven has to say! A failure to do so is a 100% guarantee of spiritual disaster.
Leave — Leave God’s Word Alone. Moses further charged God’s people, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you” (4:2). That is clear enough, is it not? Leave God’s word alone —do not tamper with it or alter it in any fashion. The God of all wisdom knows just what man needs and He gives us perfect instructions. For humans to take it upon themselves to “improve” on what God has said by reducing or increasing His message is the height of foolish arrogance!
Cleave —After reminding Israel of the disobedience of some that had led to their destruction from God, Moses told them, “But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day” (4:4). What is the key to life? Cleaving unto the Lord! When Barnabas arrived in Antioch of Syria to work with the brethren there, he “exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23). I know that many of us are striving to learn God’s word better, and I know that we are trying to remain active in His work, but have we developed our heart to the point that we are really cleaving to Him? All the study and activity in the world goes for naught unless we are really cleaving to the One who makes it all possible! Note also that the one who truly cleaves to God is the one that cleaves to and follows the Bible. There is no such thing as cleaving to the Creator while not obeying what He says to do. (Part two coming next week)
Webster defines “superficial” as “(1) being on the surface; not penetrating the substance of a thing; as a superficial color; a superficial covering; (2) hallow; contrived to cover something; and (3) not deep or profound; reaching or comprehending only what is obvious or apparent; as a superficial scholar; superficial knowledge.”
Superficial Christianity looks good on the surface, but it is of no “value against the indulgences of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Our Lord calls for sacrificial, not superficial faith. There is a marked difference between the two.
First, a superficial faith produces a comfortable Christianity; one that does not interfere with one’s predisposed life-style. It is a Christianity that places no restrictions upon an individual, requires no repentance, exacts no restrictions, and asks for no sacrifice. Unaccustomed to feeding upon the word, superficial Christians are incapable of taking more than short doses of the spiritual medicine that is needed to cure their sin-sick soul. The meat of the word makes them gag. Moral principles are rejected for mere platitudes that make them feel at ease, and any sermon that runs more than fifteen minutes is viewed as a waste of time and an imposition upon their busy schedule. Once a week, or in some cases only once or twice a year, these nominal believers make their appearance, pay their dues, and punch their spiritual clock, and that, at the “church of their choice” that meets their personal taste in style of worship and brand of theology. Easter Sunday and Christmas are the apex of their spiritual activity. Daily cross-bearing means nothing to them.
Second, superficial Christianity will produce a church that is foreign to the blood-bought institution we read about in the pages of the New Testament. The leaders are quick to provide those things that will help increase the numbers, but fall short of improving spiritual maturity. The denominations have long sought to entertain rather than enlighten. The church is viewed as some sort of organization designed to administer spiritual anesthesia; something akin to a haven of rest where the indolent and idle may congregate to escape their moral and spiritual responsibilities in a world of darkness and doubt. Those who have only superficial faith view the church as some sort of safety zone in the midst of the highways of life into which people can go to avoid the dangers they encounter every day. But once the danger is past, the weak in faith abandon the church like the proverbial rat that abandons a sinking ship. The church is nothing more than an old folk’s home where the spiritually defective might find shelter. Someone noted more than a century ago, the church “is not a sort of spiritual Florida to which people can migrate in order to escape the chilling blasts of a cold, unfriendly world.” I wish that such misconceptions were limited to those in the denominational world, but so much of this “give me” mentality has infiltrated the Lord’s church today. Oh, how I wish it were not so! Having had the opportunity to travel about our country seeking funds for my mission work, I have come to learn that we have spent so much on creature comforts and neglected the Creator’s commission to go into all the world. I have visited congregations willing to borrow millions to build an elaborate building, and make long term commitments to mortgage payments, but are willing to commit themselves to more than a year at a time to mission endeavors. One wonders if we have not been the victims of superficial Christianity.
Third, superficial Christianity will not save. I am writing to an audience who knows (or at least should know) the demands from our Father and His Son. “...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matt. 16:24-26)? “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
Superficial Christianity is the antonym of genuine saving faith. It is confined to the realm of convenience and comfort. Seldom is there a call for real sacrifice. Suppers, sales and entertainment are the means by which people are brought into the church, and through more exciting and more numerous entertainment and programs they are tricked into believing that they are making sacrifices and living the kind of life God wants them to live. No wonder the church has lost its influence in a world that seems to be overrun with evil and ungodliness. The Gospel is no longer considered the power unto salvation, but the power unto sensationalism. There are churches out there that are indeed sensational with their Broadway style productions and glitter and glamour that thrill men, but they do not offer what it takes to save the souls of men. In this, they have long ago compromised.
God help us to return to His great wisdom, and build churches that seek and save the lost rather than seeking to serve and satisfy the masses. Anything else is only superficial Christianity.