In this issue:
As 2003 draws to a close people around the globe will look back on the year that was and forward to the year yet to be.
Looking back on our life is a good thing when it moves us to improve ourselves. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5). God’s blessing of memory helps us to recall and reform. Memory helps us be better than we were: more cautious and careful, more caring and compassionate, more charitable and concerned for the things of God and the things of others (Eph. 5:15; Col. 3:12-15; Matt. 22:37-39; 1 Cor. 13:1-7). As you look back over your life in 2003, where was your spiritual life a year ago, and where are you now? Are you farther from or closer to the Lord? If you have fallen, repent and do the first works.
Looking back can be harmful if we do so longing for the sinful deeds of the past. Jesus tells us to “remember Lot’s wife” who, rather than escape for her life from God’s impending judgment against Sodom, looked back, and in her disobedience became a pillar of salt (Lk. 17:32; Gen. 19:17, 26). Each of us has spent enough time in the past in the sinful ways of the world (1 Pet. 4:3). Now, we must live for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2). As you look back at 2003 are you yearning for the things you used to do before you were a Christian? If so, repent of such thinking and “cease from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1).
Looking forward is a bad thing if we forget God. Those who plan for tomorrow without trusting in the will of God are bound to fail; no matter how successful they are in the eyes of men (Jas. 4:13-15). Life is uncertain and brief, so we must keep God in all of our plans. You never know when you will leave this world and meet your God!
Looking forward is good when it propels us onward and upward in our service to Christ. “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). A crown of righteousness is reserved for all who faithfully serve Jesus (2 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
As we look back at 2003 and ahead to 2004, may we all live by faith, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).
ith his thumb, a hitchhiker says, “You furnish the car, gas, attend to the repairs and upkeep, supply the insurance, and I’ll ride with you. But you must be going my way, and if you have an accident, I’ll sue for the damages.” Sounds pretty one-sided, doesn’t it?
There are hitchhikers in other places than just along the road ways. Unfortunately, there are sometimes hitchhikers in local churches. These members seem to say “You go to the Bible classes, attend all of the various assemblies, do the visitation and personal work, shoulder the responsibilities, take care of the meeting house and grounds and all of the things that need doing, and I’ll go along for the ride. But if things aren’t done to suit me, I will complain, criticize, and probably get out and hitchhike to another group.”
You’ve seen them too, haven’t you? You’ve seen professing Christians that seem to just be along for the ride. They frustrate the growth and progress of the local church. Because of indifference or lack of total commitment, they add nothing to the furtherance of the Lord’s cause. The only thing they add is more work for the faithful. Preachers and elders are usually at a loss to know how to awaken them to a sense of their personal responsibility. Many times they become so accustomed to riding the coat tails of others that they seem to know of no other way to travel.
What do we say to hitchhiking church members?” Shall we let them keep on depending on others without learning to pull their own weight? Shall we stand quietly by while they slip closer to eternity, unprepared to meet the Lord’s judgment? No, someone needs to remind these ‘thumbing’ members that they will never be able to hitch a ride to Heaven. And going along just for the ride hinders and holds back the congregation’s work. If you know of a church member hitchhiker like these we have described, why not lovingly talk to him or her about their soul and the need for their help and cooperation. Hitchhikers are not permitted on the interstate expressways today.
Let’s remember that they are not allowed on the Lord’s highway either. Hitchhikers, please read Matthew 25:1-46!
f military might made a nation great, the Assyrian and Roman empires would never have fallen. If scientific education made a nation great, Nazi Germany would have ruled the world. If vast natural resources made a nation great, the former Soviet Union would be flourishing. If money made a nation great, the oil rich nation of Saudi Arabia would be strong.
The United States has all of the above measures of strength in abundance. Do those items make us a great nation? No. They only make us a country rich in the symbols and accoutrements of material wealth, worldly wisdom, and physical power. They are not standards of real worth, or of true value.
You are already ahead of me, for you know what makes a nation great; you know what gives it genuine force and stability—“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Now, apply the same rule to the church. What makes a church great in the sight of the Lord? Is it money? No, Laodicea evidently had that, but they were “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). An urbane, sophisticated, educated membership may comprise an ignorant congregation (1 Cor. 3:18-21). Thus, we may safely say, “Righteousness exalteth God’s ‘holy nation,’ the church, but sin is a reproach to any congregation” (Cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). (If you doubt that conclusion, see Paul’s judgment of the Corinthians—1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Next, attach these principles to yourself, an individual. What makes a person great in the sight of God Almighty? Is it power, prestige, position, or prominence? Absolutely not! See Luke 12:15-21; 16:19-31; 18:1-14. Remember, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). Thus, we may certainly say, “Righteousness exalteth an individual, but sin is a reproach to any person.”
If either a nation or a church is going to be exalted, if they are going to be great, their individual members must be pure, holy, and righteous. Neither the nation nor the church can be exalted if you and I are not righteous before God. That is a sobering thought. One thing is for sure—if we want a great nation, and if we want to be part of a good church, we know where to start.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Bible Question Box (Dec. 2003)
Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:21-28
Exo. 12:26-27 – Israelite children would ask & were taught about Passover; cf. Lk. 22:14-20; Matt. 26:26-29.
#1: Where in the Bible does it teach against the use of wine in Communion?
elements of the Lord’s supper – Matt. 26:26-29, 17-19 (Exo. 12:8; Num.
#2: Suppose there are brethren who are unable to attend Sunday services & partake of the Lord’s supper (sick, elderly, etc.). Does God’s Word allow for us to take the emblems to each Christian at home individually & serve them there?
1. Where is
Bible authority for this practice?
#3: Is the Christian obligated to eat the Lord’s supper every time the saints assemble on the 1st day of the week?
suggests practice in the NT (silence).
This Week in the News
Mad cow disease in Washington; a mudslide in California; an avalanche in Utah; earthquakes in California and Iran; an airplane crash in Africa; war in Iraq; terror threats in Paris, France; and so it goes. These were some of the major headlines this past week from America and around the world. Truly, as Solomon observed, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).
How do such events affect us? Do we become oblivious to the events around us? Are we among those who “couldn’t care less?” Or, do current events in this world impact our lives in some fashion? Does bad news (and good news) influence us to change the way we live: Our attitudes, our values, our plans, our behavior and our faith?
Current events help us keep our priorities straight. Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:13-15). Since life here on earth will continue to be filled with uncertainty, accidents and catastrophes beyond our control, we should choose to put our faith in the Lord and His will (Matt. 6:33).
Current events teach us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Times of tragedy bring out the best and the worst in people. This past week brought death, destruction and doubt to thousands upon thousands of people. It is so every week here on earth. To be sure, such tragedies brought out the worst in evil men (who take advantage of the weak and pillage the vulnerable). But, look again, and see the rescue workers who saved lives, or the volunteers who risked their own safety and sacrificed their own comfort to help those in distress. See the common folks showing uncommon acts of courage, unselfishness and compassion. They are also a part of the story. Every Christian should show compassion and mercy toward those in sorrow and suffering, thus following the example of our Father and His Son (Matt. 14:14; 15:32; Lk. 15:20; Col. 3:12).
Do not become cynical when you hear about or witness the death and danger of this life. Instead, lay up your treasures in heaven by fearing God and obey Him (Matt. 6:19-21; 11:9-12:1, 13).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 12/28/2003
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA