And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 16, Number
In this issue:
There is no worse place to be in life than the point when we are beyond help and beyond saving. I know we like to talk about the fact of no one sinning too much for God’s grace, or sinning too much to be forgiven, but we need to be honest, too, and note that some are beyond God’s help. The reality of this lies not in some shortcoming of God’s grace or ability to forgive, but in the willingness of the individual to repent and cease sinning. You see, we are beyond help when we don’t want it.
Yes, it is true “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and it is true that the only expectation we have is punishment and God’s wrath, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23); but we also know God’s grace and mercy was extended to all men (cf. Titus 2:11). The abundance of man’s sin was not too much for God, though, for “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20); simply put, we cannot out-sin God’s grace.
But we can refuse it.
Imagine a scene where a man has gone wandering off into the wilderness in the dark. He has been told of the dangers of wandering off into the darkness, with known and unknown dangers lurking, but the man goes, anyway. As he wanders off and in the darkness, the man cannot see where he is going and he stumbles about for awhile, but he continues his wandering. He ignores the fact he continues to stumble and the fact he cannot see where he is going, and his wandering eventually leads him to fall off the edge of a cliff, where he lands by chance upon a small ledge. It is here he stays, trying to decide whether to stay put, try to climb back up, or - not knowing where he is or what lies around him because of the persistent darkness - just continue walking.
As he sits there thinking about what to do next, he hears the voices of others who have come searching for him. In just a few minutes he sees a light come over the edge of the cliff and the voices shout to him from above. The ones who have come for him shine a light down his direction and reveal his situation; he sees the cliff face and the distance he has fallen to get where he now is; but he also sees that, beyond that small ledge where he now is, there only darkness in every other direction. It seems that one step off that ledge would be disastrous and certain death.
And then, a rope comes over the edge and drops down to well within reach; it seems like he is now saved! Despite his stubbornness that led him to this precarious position, others came looking for him and, without judging him as to how he got there, they were willing to save him from certain destruction. It seems that, in spite of himself, he will be saved.
Or will he?
The man is not yet saved, though, because he must grab onto the rope! What will he do? It is inarguable that the man needs to grab the rope in order to be saved, but what if he refused? What if he told the rescuers to go away because he wanted to keep wandering through the darkness? What if he simply refused to grab the rope? What if he told the rescuers to go away and never return? If any of these things happened, despite the efforts of the would-be rescuers, the man would not be saved. You see, we cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved!
As unlikely as this scene seems to be, I know it happens almost every day. I know, because men leave the safety and security of the path of righteousness every day and wander off into darkness. I know that there are many men who are “in darkness and in the shadow of death…because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High” (Psa. 107:10, 11). I know there are many men “who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov. 2:13), and end up falling off the cliff. I also know “The way of the wicked is like darkness [because] they do not know what makes them stumble” (Prov. 4:19).
I also know “everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19). I know that many, when the light shines on them as they stand on the small ledge, shout and demand the light be taken away because their sin has been exposed and their true state is revealed and, as foolish as it sounds, they would rather not see reality. Some would rather go on in darkness, acting as if they are doing just fine, than to be rescued and return to safety. As incomprehensible as that may sound, there are many who cannot be saved simply because they do not want to be saved. Now, why would anyone refuse to be saved?
They Think They Are Already Saved. Dwight Moody once said, regarding the attitudes of many who are lost in sin, “You’ve got to get people lost before you can get them saved.” Many falsely believe they are saved already, so when the light shines over the edge of that cliff, they stubbornly say to those who have come to their rescue with the truth of God’s word, “Go away! I’m not lost; I’m already safe!”
Many of those who falsely believe they are safe were led into darkness by those who claimed to have a light; they were led down a false path of safety that Jesus never established, and they follow a ‘plan of salvation’ that is not of God and, thus, not able to save them. Anytime men believe anything less than all of what God’s word teaches about how we are saved, the only end will be darkness and destruction. Listen to the words of Jesus; as obvious as it may seem to be, we must acknowledge that following the light is the only way out of darkness.
Sadly, many in darkness are there because they left the light and have gone back into darkness; some once walked in the light, but have allowed their selfish desires to lead them astray; some have wandered off into the darkness simply because they were not paying close attention and carelessness leads them to no longer be able to distinguish between darkness and light.
Some Love The Ways of Darkness. To one who loves God and who knows the certain end of those who do not, such a stance is incomprehensible. Why would anyone remain in darkness when the end is destruction and eternal punishment? Yet it happens every day.
Let us not forget that those in darkness are deceived; that is, our spiritual enemy the devil has convinced them they are ‘free’ to do whatever they want when, in reality, they are caught in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2nd Tim. 2:26). Though many may believe they “have never been in bondage to anyone,” the fact is, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:33, 34). As Jesus said, “everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). If we wonder why those who practice certain sins such as homosexuality and drunkenness try so hard to silence the preaching of God’s word, just remember what Jesus said!
Now, who will love the light and who will want to remain in darkness? We don’t know who will hear God’s word or who will refuse it, so we must continue to bring the light to those in darkness and let them decide whether or not they want to be saved. If they do, God will gladly welcome them!
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:11-17
I. THE TEMPLE OF GOD.
A. The Church of Christ (universal),
Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22.
B. The Local Church, 1 Cor. 3:11-17.
1. God’s building, 1 Cor. 3:9.
C. Each Individual Christian, 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
1. Christian’s fellowship with God
includes fellowship with His Spirit, 1 Jno. 3:24; 4:13.
Scripture Reading:1 Peter 4:12-19
1. Zion’s glory and new name, Isa. 62:2, 4,
I. A CHOICE IS MADE TO BE IDENTIFIED AS A CHRISTIAN, Acts 26:28.
It is an Informed Choice, Eph. 4:17-21; Acts 19:8; 26:25; Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor.
II. A CHANGE HAPPENS WHEN ONE DECIDES TO BE IDENTIFIED AS A CHRISTIAN, Acts 11:20-26.
A. A Conversion, Acts 11:21, 23; 1 Pet.
III. A CHALLENGE IS ACCEPTED WHEN ONE DECIDES TO BE IDENTIFIED AS A CHRISTIAN, 1 Pet. 4:12-19.
A. The Challenge to be Identified with
the Sufferings of Christ, 4:12-16 (Matt. 5:10-12); 2 Tim. 1:8; Phil. 3:10.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Trust, but Verify
By now we have all heard President Obama and the White House try to explain why “if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period” is not true. Today’s news raises more concern over honesty: “After saying there was no evidence the two had ever met, the White House acknowledged Thursday that President Obama once lived for a few weeks with his uncle, Onyango Obama, a Kenyan who was in the United States illegally and faced possible deportation.” (LATimes.com) Trust has been severely eroded by this administration, and the responsibility for that goes all the way to the Oval Office.
The ability to trust is crucial in every arena of life. Whether government, business, education, the family or the church, the relationships that shape our lives are enhanced by trust and honesty, and eroded by deception and dishonesty.
President Reagan famously said when negotiating with the Soviet Union on arms agreements that we would “trust, but verify”. That may work in the geopolitical world as nations vie for power, protection and position. Still, the paradox of such a philosophy is not lost: If you trust someone, then why do you need to verify?
Jesus teaches that one’s honesty should be so ironclad that his word is sufficient to settle any matter. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Swearing an oath becomes superfluous to the one whose constant code is the integrity of truth (Matt. 5:33-36). When someone must try to convince you they are telling you “the honest truth”, something is “rotten in Denmark”!
“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with is neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). A good dose of honesty will help improve every relationship in your life. Be trustworthy, and remember, others know you by the words you speak and the life you then live.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 12/09/2013
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA