And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, NKJV)
This statement helps us understand the kind of faith that pleases God. We must remember the inspired scribe had earlier stated, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). We cannot please God without the kind of faith by which the walls of Jericho fell. (And, when we do, we have earned nothing; we have put our faith in God to save us in His Son.)
The historical account of Jericho’s demise is in Joshua 6, where the Lord said to Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand” (Josh. 6:2, 16). God’s grace was on full display as He gave the city as a gift to Israel. Still, Israel did not receive this gift from God until they had encircled Jericho for seven days as the Lord the way God commanded. They obeyed God by faith, and the walls fell (Joshua 6:12-20). This is how God saves sinners today “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
God is the Giver of salvation to all who believe the Son. And, we learn in Hebrews 11:30 that our belief pleases God when we obey His word (Lk. 6:46; Matt. 7:21). To be saved, one must obey Jesus, who commands sinners to believe, to confession faith, to repent and to be baptized (Jno. 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30; 2:37-38; 22:16).
The walls of sin tumble down when sinners obey God in faith (Gal. 3:26-27). The lost are saved by grace when their faith pleases God (Jas. 2:14-26).
-Sword Tips #1557
As children, we were enthralled at the beginning of every story, fable or fairytale our parents read to us, and nearly they all began with the phrase “Once upon a time.” This opening created a mental picture of times, places, and characters of times long past. Usually, those images that phrase conjured up into our very vivid, youthful imagination were those of kings, queens, knights in shining armor, prince or princesses and even some non-human beings like frogs, cows jumping over the moon and a dish running away with the spoon, and many others. In each story there usually was a benevolent, loving character as well as an evil one that sought to do harm, even kill the kindly characters of the stories.
Then, we grew up, we tucked those stories deep within our memories, recalling them and fondly looking back on the moments our parents read or told them to us, or perhaps reading them to our grandchildren. Now as adults, often times what we are confronted with, parallels to those stories, or at least we realize that this life, this world, is fraught with examples of good and evil, God, Jesus Christ, Christians, versus Satan who walks about as a roaring lion, seeking to devour our souls. Now, to me, the term “Once upon a time,” has been replaced by the biblical phrase, “In the beginning.” (See Genesis 1:1-31, Genesis 2:1-2 and John 1:1-5)
God, though His divine power, “In the beginning,” created the heavens and earth. He created man and then woman to be man’s helpmate. Just as in the stories we were told as children, where magnificent kingdom’s existed, something good and beautiful was created by Him. But Satan, in the form of a serpent entered into the picture and caused the earth’s first human inhabitants, Adam and Eve to sin against, or disobey God, and they were punished for their sin. From that time on until the world comes to an end, mankind has been forced to live under the consequences of that very first sin.
However, God, through His son Jesus Christ has given us a road, a pathway to escape the consequences of sin. He came into the world as prophesied in the Old Testament, and manifested in the New Testament, and made possible by the shedding of Christ’s blood, and his death upon the cross, that established a new covenant. All that is required of us is to believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, repent of our sins and be buried in baptism. (Acts 2:37-38) If we don’t do this, our souls will be held captive and lost to the “evil one.”
Now, as in the stories that were read or told to us by our parents when we were children, “we will live happily ever after,” if we obey the gospel and live according to God’s word and Jesus Christ’s instructions.” Only the “happily ever after,” will be a heavenly home that Jesus has gone before us to prepare, (John 14:1-3) and this “happily ever after will truly never end.
I am a very goal-oriented person. When I achieve a goal of mine, it feels like I am on cloud nine; it feels amazing. On the other hand, when I don’t achieve a goal, I feel so ashamed. I tell myself that I am lazy, and I beat myself up for days on how I should have done better. Almost all of us set various goals throughout the year. New Year’s resolutions, for example, are a very big tradition, carried out by an overwhelmingly large number of people, especially in American culture. However, when you look at the statistics of resolutions, an alarmingly small number survive the beginning of February. So what is the problem with goals or goal-setting? Why is it that so many goals are done away with in such a short span of time? Is setting goals something that should even be practiced?
The simple answer is yes. It is important to set goals, especially relating to spiritual matters. Goals are great, because if done correctly, they help us to grow in ways that we may have not thought possible. Whatever the goal may be, however, we need to be sure that it agrees with God’s will. John 6:27 says, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
Furthermore, with setting a goal, it’s important to understand what it will take to reach that goal, and if you are willing to do what it takes. We see Jesus teaching this lesson in Luke 14:28-29 when talking about those who make it a goal to come to Him. He tells them, that when we made a commitment, we set a goal to do what it takes to reach heaven. But how many of us actually counted the cost of what we may leave behind to reach heaven? For some that is a heavy price, but one that we have to be willing to pay.
Despite all that we do, or the work we put in, there may be goals that we don’t reach. What’s important to remember is that it’s okay. Just because you didn’t reach your goal this time does not mean that you should give up. Letting your failures get the best of you and bring you down will only make life more difficult. What’s best is to get back up and try again, and more importantly, put your trust in God to help you. King Solomon writes about this in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Goals are very important. They can help you build character, and if applied carefully, become a far stronger steward of God. With every goal we set, though, we have to make sure to count the cost of what it takes to achieve the goals, and make sure they are realistic goals. Also, we won’t always reach the goals we set. When that happens, we shouldn’t just wallow in our mistakes, but get back up and try again. Finally, whether we reach our goals or not, we should have confidence that as long as we put our trust in God and in His word, He will take care of us, and direct our steps.
-The Gospel Teacher (Nov. 10, 2019)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Religious Freedoms Under Attack
We are inclined to take religious freedom for granted in the United States. We shouldn’t. Although enshrined in Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), that freedom is being chipped away by laws and judicial rulings.
The world is full of religious suppression, oppression, and persecution. China is but one prominent example. World Religion News reports, “the government of China treats religion not as recognition of mankind’s spiritual nature, but as a threat to society, to law and order and to state control” ("China Escalates Religious Suppression")
China’s pressure tactics and persecutions against faith and religious minorities are shameful and dramatically underreported. Let me highlight one recent action noted in the previously cited article: “According to the Global Times, the new regulations will require religions to obtain licenses from provincial government religious affairs departments and will ban online preaching or live streaming of religious services. Religions cannot promote businesses online, distribute religious supplies or publications, establish religious organizations or venues, develop believers, pray, burn incense, or show worship or baptism in the form of text, photo, audio or video. The new rules, according to the Chinese government, will ‘ensure citizens’ freedom of religious belief and maintain religious and social harmony’” (Ibid). The new law prohibits “donations from foreign groups or individuals,” and donations by Chinese over $15,420 must be reported to authorities (“China tightens regulation of religion to ‘block extremism,’” reuters.com)
Why should we be concerned? Because New Testament Christians around the world are also suffering for their faith (2 Cor. 1:5-7). Because we must remain faithful if such trials come (1 Pet. 4:12-16). Because we are tempted to fear men more than God (Matt. 10:28). Because we must thank God for our religious freedom and not take it for granted (1 Thess. 5:18). Because the gospel can flourish in the midst of persecution (Phil. 1:12-14).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 11/07/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA