The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 2, 2012


1) Appreciating the Invisible (Tom Edwards)
2) A Strong Church (R.J. Evans)
3) News & Notes


Appreciating the Invisible
by Tom Edwards

In the last few months, I've been getting into a new thing at home -- fresh air!  I used to wrongly assume that my central AC/ heating unit was bringing fresh air in from outside, but it doesn't.  So now I like to often have the windows opened; and even when it is cold out, to at least have the bedroom window partially opened through the night.  (I'll probably have to minimize that in our Louisiana summer; but for right now, it's okay.)  All those little synapses in my brain seem to be firing better when I wake up in the morning -- which leads to another contributing factor toward feeling great!

Doing relaxed, deep breathing while slow-paced jogging in a healthy environment is probably also a good thing -- and quite a  bombardment of air's two biggest elements: nitrogen (78.08%) and oxygen (20.94%)!

Air -- We can't see it, but we can't live without it.   That's something to think about:  How something invisible can be so vitally important to us.  

In like manner, but far greater, God Himself is referred to as "invisible" (1 Tim. 1:17); and like the wind (which can't be seen, but manifests itself in what it has blown), God's "invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" (Rom. 1:20).  And we learn even more of the nature of God in His Son Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, "the Word [who] became flesh" (Jn. 1:1-3,14), "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), and the One who came to reveal His Father's character to the world.  For to know Jesus is to know Deity.  As Jesus told Thomas, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him" (Jn. 14:7).  To the Father in heaven, Jesus is "...the radiance of His glory, and the exact representation of His nature" (Heb. 1:3).  It was also through Jesus that "all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and INVISIBLE..." (Col. 1:15, emphasis mine).    

Looking to the invisible, when that invisible is pertaining to God, is what we must all learn to do.  Paul  states, "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).  Certainly, Paul wasn't blind to physical things around him; but, in this passage, he is putting the emphasis on the spiritual things of God, of which we need to be even more concerned.  And in order to look to God, we must look to not merely our own feelings and assumptions, nor to the feelings, assumptions, and human creeds of others; but, instead, we must look to the Scriptures.  For even more important than what man is saying about God is what God is saying to man; and it is through the word of the Lord that we can "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33), "keep seeking the things above," "set [our]...mind[s] on things above" (Col. 3:1,2), and obey the instruction to fix "our eyes on Jesus" (Heb. 12:2).

Being able to "see" the unseen is the reason given for how Moses was able to reject certain earthly advantages and sinful pleasures, in order to suffer instead with God's people.  Notice, for instance, Hebrews 11:24-27: "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, AS SEEING HIM WHO IS UNSEEN" (emphasis mine).  

With the eyes of faith, Moses "saw" God.  I've known some physically blind people who could "see" the Lord much better than many who had physical eyesight.  For this is what faith enables: As the Hebrew writer declares, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of THINGS NOT SEEN" (Heb. 11:1, emphasis mine).   And that faith comes from God's word (Rom. 10:17).  The gospel itself is also referred to as "the faith" (Jude 1:3; Acts 6:7); and by it, "...we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).  This truth of acquiring spiritual vision (to see by faith) through God's word might also remind you of Job's acknowledgment to the Lord, as recorded in Job 42:5: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You."  Note the order: First, Job heard; then he saw.  That is how spiritual vision comes.  God's word leads to that faith, and that is the most important vision of all.  For some people saw Christ and His miracles, but still rejected Him.  But "...'Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed," Jesus told Thomas (Jn. 20:29).  For example, how blessed those Christians (who had been scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia) must have been, to whom Paul says: "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8,9).   

Though we today cannot see the image of God with our physical eyes, we still can observe all around us -- and even in ourselves -- of the many wonders He has made possible, which also testify toward His wisdom, His power, and His eternal reality.  The psalmist, for instance, states that "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psa. 19:1).  Also, in Psalm 139:14, David gratefully proclaims to the Lord, "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well."  And for one to come to see the Lord, through His word, with the eyes of faith, is truly something to be thankful for and rejoice in -- even more so than the joy and gratitude of a blind man who has been enabled to see for the first time!  For spiritual vision is, by far, much more important than even physical eyesight.  

Though our physical eyes cannot see God (and our entire bodies will have to be changed to a glorified state to dwell in heaven -- 1 Cor. 15:49-54), the Lord has no trouble in seeing us, in our physical realm, as these following passages make clear:

"For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves" (Job 34:21,22).  

"From His dwelling place He looks out On all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works" (Psa. 33:14,15).

"O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.  You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.  If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,' Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.  For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You" (Psa. 139:1-18).  

Yes, God sees us very well -- outwardly and inwardly to even the secret places of the heart.  And not only does He see us, but He also sees us with great compassion and a desire that none be lost; but, rather, that all come to repentance, meet His conditions for salvation, and be saved from sin (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3,4).  

So just as the invisible air is essential for our temporary, physical existence, even more so is the invisible God needful for our eternal souls.  Let us, therefore, submit to Him through His word that we may one day arrive in that wonderful place called heaven, where faith and hope will be replaced by actual sight; and we will truly behold the glory of the Lord, and the splendor of heaven, with new eyes for all eternity!


A Strong Church
by R.J. Evans

Growth: "...but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).  

Over the years, much has been written on how to build a strong church.  And, no doubt, much of what has been written is good, scriptural, and should be applied.  The Apostle Paul has given an inspired formula for a strong church in Romans 15:14:  "Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, able also to admonish one another."  We would do well to constantly keep before us this passage.  

A strong church is one that is "full of goodness."  To be full of goodness is to be characterized by the excellence of the inner person which manifests itself in a quality of life that is attractive to others.  A striving for moral excellence should characterize every member of a congregation in order for the church to be strong.  Churches composed of members  who  are of questionable moral character are weak churches.  Preachers who shy away from strong teaching on moral issues for fear such would diminish their numbers in attendance are making their contribution to the weakness of the church.  The strength of a congregation is not to be equated necessarily to the number in attendance at its services.  A congregation with thirty-five members who are full of goodness is more honorable in God's sight than one of several hundred members who are not.  

A strong church is one that is "filled with all knowledge."  This means that strong churches are not made up of people who are ignorant of the Bible.  This is true because "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).  One simply cannot have a strong faith based upon a weak understanding of the word of God.  Our age is an age of shortcuts and convenience,  but there is no shortcut to acquiring a genuine knowledge of the Bible.  Nothing will take the place of honest, diligent study and meditation of the scriptures. We must study to be approved of God and to save our souls (2 Tim. 2:15).  Paul knew that he could not expect to help build a strong church at Rome out of people who were too lazy to study and meditate on the word.  Let us not make the mistake of thinking that we can allow emotional excitement, entertainment, or anything else, to substitute for the truth of the gospel.  

A strong church is one made up of members who are "able also to admonish  one another."  That this might be true, two things are necessary: (1)  sufficient knowledge of God's word in order to communicate it to another, and (2)  the disposition or desire to do so.  One cannot teach what he does not know, and one cannot know the Bible if he has not studied it with great interest.  But all the knowledge in the world will not make a strong church unless those possessing that knowledge are of the disposition to communicate it to others.  How sad it is that many members of the church do not have enough zeal to admonish their brethren or to encourage sinners to obey the gospel of Christ.  Zeal without knowledge is just as bad as knowledge without zeal (Rom. 10:1-3; Lk. 12:47-48).

Let us all do our share (Eph. 4:16) so that the congregation will be a strong church.


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following:

Scott Moon (Jackson Moon's grandfather) who has lung cancer, which also metastasized to a couple places in the brain. 

James Smith (an elder for the McRaven church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi) who has been battling re-occurring cancer for the last several years, and now also has pneumonia.  (His son Alan had died of cancer about a year and a half ago.)

Joe Koczrowski IV, who is only about three and a half years old.  He will be having another major surgery later this month to correct a rare intestinal problem.  Much of this had also been taken care of in last month's surgery; but after this next one, he will no longer have need of the two colostomy bags that he began using soon after he was born.  And since then, had you ever met him, you would never have realized he had such a serious problem.  He's very bright for a boy his age -- especially in figuring out electronic devices.  He's also active, happy, and cheerful; and when he found out that he wouldn't be needing those colostomy bags after his next surgery, he actually regretted the thought of not having them any more!  They have been a part of his life, and which he has been very well adjusted to.

Another young one to be praying for is Thad, a 3-year old who was accidentally run over by a truck in the driveway.  A cracked rib punctured his lung, and his liver was also damaged (but which they hope to heal on its own).  Due to swollenness, he has been in too much pain to sleep.  

Let us also be remembering in prayer...

Ken Robertson who is not yet completely over his recent sickness.  

Cheryl Crews who has chronic health issues.  

Shirley Young who has continual fibromyalgia.  

Pam MacDonald who has serious back trouble.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)