And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 15, Number
In this issue:
Bitterness is an ugly sin that destroys lives and souls. Bitterness announces its malice to all who will listen as it spews its self-important rationalizations. Bitterness is worldly; bitterness is sin (Eph. 4:31).
It is easy to see bitterness in others, but not so easy to see it (and overcome it) in ourselves. It is doubtful Cain saw his own bitterness when in hatred he murdered Abel. Instead, he self-righteously asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Naaman probably thought his embittered rage was entirely justified when he refused the prophet’s instruction to wash in the Jordan for healing (2 Kgs. 5:10-12). “Behold, I thought” is all it takes for some to feel justified in holding on to their bitter hearts of malice (Eph. 4:31-32).
Several things may cause bitterness. For one, a feeling of entitlement produces bitterness. No one gets everything they want; no one always gets their own way. But the selfish and self-righteous think otherwise. When things do not go their way those who consider themselves entitled start blaming others, becoming bitter with envy. James 3:14-16 intertwines bitterness with envy and the self-seeking heart, warning us that where these exist, so do “confusion and every evil thing”.
Bitterness may occur when we suffer loss or have been wronged by another (whether real or imagined). Perhaps it is a death of a loved one, an injury or illness, or a thoughtless word that wounded us. How we choose to deal with such experiences determines whether we become bitter toward God and others. Life and death happens to us all, with all its uncertainties, ups and downs. People of faith rely on God at such times, trusting that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
How do we overcome bitterness? Some answers are given in Hebrews 12:14-15: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;...” First, pursue peace. Be a peacemaker, not a grudge-holder. Second, pursue holiness. Do not give an opportunity to the devil, but sanctify the Lord God in your heart (Eph. 4:27; 1 Pet. 3:15). Third, look carefully at yourself and live by faith to successfully stand in God’s grace (Rom. 5:1-2). Fourth, choose not to let bitterness take root in your heart. You decide whether or not you will be bitter. Bitterness is a choice; a sinful way of viewing and treating God and others. (Example: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them”, Col. 3:19.)
Christians must not let any external circumstance lead to bitterness (Rom. 8:35-37). “Purer in heart, O God; help me to be.” (Matt. 5:8)
Dancing: Keeping it Real?
Joe R. Price
The Christian Chronicle reports that Abilene Christian University has “revised its long-held policy of prohibiting dancing at events hosted by official student organizations” (“ACU revises long-held policy prohibiting dancing at events”, The Christian Chronicle, April 2012). [For those unfamiliar with ACU, it is supported by individuals and by many churches of Christ. We are not associated with ACU and oppose churches building and funding colleges and other human organization; there is no Bible pattern for such, Col. 3:17.]
Here is the old ACU policy:
Dancing is prohibited at ACU-sponsored events or events hosted by official student organizations; however, organizations that exhibit cultural expression through dance as a part of their organizational purpose may have performances by organization members as approved by advisors and the Director of Student Activities and Productions.
Here is the new ACU policy:
ACU is committed to creating a strong Christian environment, where students have opportunities for appropriate social interaction as young adults and develop lifelong relationships. Many forms of dance and cultural expression are embraced by our society, some of which are consistent with our Christian mission and values, while others are more likely to distract us from a Christ-centered life. Therefore, in keeping with the Christian mission of the university, only certain dance forms and venues will be considered for approval. Requests for events involving dance may be submitted by officially recognized ACU student organizations and must be approved by Student Life. (“Q & A: ACU’s dean of students discusses new policy allowing dancing”, The Christian Chronicle, Feb. 23, 2012)
A friend told me there was once a joke at ACU about when a student asked his date, “Do you want to go get a Coke?”, the answer was, “Might as well -- can’t dance!” In other words, once there was a strict no dancing policy at ACU. Did God’s word change? No, it still condemns the lusts of the flesh and the eye (1 Jno. 2:15-16). It still condemns lewdness (lasciviousness) as a work of the flesh that condemns the soul (Gal. 5:19; Rom. 13:13; 1 Pet. 4:3). No, God’s word did not change, ACU has.
Reasons for the change
Jean-Noel Thompson, the University’s Vice-President for student life and Dean of students, says the ACU policy change is “part of an effort on our part to be more real with our students who are young adults” (The Christian Chronicle). Did you get that? They are just keeping it real! Thompson gave two reasons for the change: “We’ve found compelling reasons to provide appropriate venues for dancing on our campus for two reasons: It helps us influence or encourage students to show appropriate conduct in social settings where dancing is taking place,” he said. “We also believe the change will enhance the experience our students have while on our campus” (Ibid).
According to Blane Singletary, writer for The Optimist (a product of the JMC Network student media at Abilene Christian University), the new policy effectively acknowledges what has been well-known on campus: dancing is commonplace among ACU students. “Since dancing is a real part of the average student’s life, from having fun to a form of courtship, the campus’ policies should change to reflect this; in other words, to be more real. Though since it has already invaded most of campus life, this change is almost ineffective” (“Dancing: Only the policy changed”, The Optimist, 28Feb12). There’s that word “real” again.
The new policy says “Many forms of dance and cultural expression are embraced by our society...” So? Dean Thompson gives an illustration: “In reality, many students come to college – even to our Christian universities – expecting to dance as a recreational and social activity; they dance socially in their high school years, attend proms, dance at family weddings, etc. For example, in Texas, western dance is a culturally accepted activity, and there are opportunities for the young and old to participate in family-friendly events where alcohol is not allowed” (Q&A). Does this mean the Texas Two Step and some “boot scootin’ boogie” will now be approved on the ACU campus? (After all, it’s just keeping it real down there in Texas!)
Lest you think dancing is only a problem among the liberals, we hear of more and more “conservative” brethren offering and participating in culturally-defined dances (the wedding dance, for example). Just as the event and the location do not define modest apparel, the event and location do not define lascivious conduct. A wedding does not make immodest clothing modest and indecent conduct decent! Sin is not culturally defined. Sin is defined as the violation of God’s word in any culture (1 Jno. 3:4; Jas. 4:17).
Many already dance, change reflects life
If it is correct that “many students” go to ACU expecting to dance”, it is a sad commentary on the moral compromise that has already occurred. We cannot lower the moral standard and expect holiness and purity to prevail (2 Tim. 3:13). We must teach young people to flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). We must also teach aged saints to guard against compromise (Tit. 2:1-3).
“A gray area”
ACU says that “dirty dancing” in all its forms will be prohibited. At every ACU sponsored event they intend to proactively assess whether they believe the dancing and music selection is appropriate.
Dean Thompson explained, “It’s somewhat of a gray area, but I believe conceptually it will be clear what is proper and what isn’t, and we expect our students to understand” (Q&A). He believes what is “conceptually…clear” produces a “gray area” that students are expected to understand. What?! Really?! (“Gray area” has become code for an unwillingness to consistently apply the clear concept of truth. Jesus expects us to “judge what is right” on moral issues by proper use of truth (Lk. 12:57; 1 Ths. 5:21; 2 Tim. 2:15).
So now a panel of ACU educators will decide the “gray areas” (that is, which dances are “appropriate” and which are not). What is gray and unclear about the sinful, worldly influences of modern, social dancing?
1) The Bible associates such dancing with lust and sinful excesses (Exo. 32:6, 19, 25; Mk. 6:21-22).
2) Social dancing is an occasion for lust and lasciviousness, which youth (and all) should flee (2 Tim. 2:22; Rom. 13:13-14).
3) Approving and engaging in social dancing leads to greater loosening of moral restraints, increased tolerance for man-defined morality (immorality), and a corresponding intolerance for God-revealed morality (cf. Jgs. 21:25; Matt. 5:28-30; 1 Cor. 15:33-34).
Changing to keep it real
Dean Thompson observed that “views about dancing have changed in our churches in recent years; many Christian parents allow their teen to participate in dance activities, both cultural and social ones… At ACU, we like to say we are ‘exception,’ ‘innovative’ and ‘real.’ Part of being real means meeting our students where they are so we can help them demonstrate wisdom as they make their way in social settings” (Q&A). Truly, views on dancing have changed, but God’s word has not. This sort of human wisdom does not justify what God condemns. Those at ACU ought to warn students to flee youthful lusts, not compromise with it (2 Tim. 2:22).
A Christ-centered life and God-approved conduct is not learned and encouraged on the dance floor. It is learned from God’s word and by faithfully obeying it, abstaining from evil in all its forms (1 Ths. 5:21-22).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Are You Up for the Fight?
Scripture Reading:Luke 13:22-27
1. Strive (agōnizomai):
I. THE FIGHT TO BE SAVED, Lk. 13:22-30 (1 Pet. 4:18).
Struggle to Enter the Kingdom of God, cf. Lk. 16:16.
II. THE FIGHT TO HELP SAVE OTHERS, Gal. 6:1-2.
Contest is a Struggle for the Purity of Truth, Jude 3-4; Acts 15:5-7; Gal.
III. THE FIGHT TO REMAIN SAVED.
Compete to be Victorious, 1 Co. 9:25-27
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 03/25/2012
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA