Month: February 2017

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) The Cost of Influence and Reputation (Bill Hall)
2) The Greater Love (via Brief Exhortation)
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The Cost of Influence and Reputation

Bill Hall

There are people in this world who are possessed with natural ability to lead and command respect of others. Call it charm, charisma, magnetism, or whatever; such people wield a powerful influence on those who look up to them as the embodiment of all they would like to become themselves. Peter apparently possessed such qualities among the apostles. There were David, Deborah, Nehemiah, and others. We have known such people in our day and have been influenced by them. Each reader can probably think of some “hero” of faith that he or she has looked up to through the years.

The opportunities for good that such people possess are tremendous, but so are the responsibilities. It is true that sin is sin, whoever commits it — that sin will separate one person from God just as quickly as it will another. But the adverse consequences of one’s sins increase dramatically with the increase of the influence and reputation he enjoys among others. The confidence of others is a trust that must be carefully protected. Once that trust is in place, the person to whom it is committed has responsibilities that others of more normal influence and reputation do not have. And the more people involved in the trust, the greater the responsibility.

Those of reputation must be prepared for greater public scandal when they sin. Nathan told David that because of his adultery he had “given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14). Others had committed adultery in Israel, and their adultery had gone unnoticed by the enemies of God. But this was David! It was inevitable that the sin of this one man of influence and reputation would result in greater scandal than the sins of a multitude of people of lesser influence and reputation.

Those of reputation must be prepared for sterner rebuke when they sin than those of lesser reputation. Paul speaks of withstanding Peter “to his face” when Peter withdrew from eating with the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul’s rebuke of Peter was “before them all.” Peter was hardly the first Jewish Christian to refuse to eat with Gentile Christians, but Paul obviously recognized the seriousness of Peter’s actions because of his greater reputation and influence. Others were following his lead on this occasion, including Barnabas. Peter could not enjoy the luxury of a private meeting with Paul; Peter had to face the sting of immediate and open rebuke. Peter had betrayed a trust. Nothing less than open rebuke could counteract the harm that was resulting. Sterner rebuke is simply a cost — an inevitable cost — of influence and reputation.

Those of reputation must live more cautiously than others if they would maintain their influence and good name. Every Christian is warned not to place a stumbling block in his brother’s way (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9), but one who is known and admired by thousands of brethren in many places obviously will have to be more cautious than one who is known and admired by only a few brethren locally. Paul would have to give up far more to be “all things to all men” than would some Christian who had never been outside his home community. That’s just the cost of influence and reputation. If one is not willing to pay that cost, if he is determined to be unbending in his conduct “no matter what others might think,” he needs to come to a greater appreciation of the value of a good name (Proverbs 22:1).

Those of reputation must be especially careful to build upon Jesus Christ, the true foundation, rather than upon themselves. The words, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord,” must become their motto (2 Corinthians 4:5). Those who place their loyalty in men of name and reputation are in error. Their faith is not what it ought to be. But those who deliberately use charisma and flattery to attract a following are also in error (1 Thessalonians 2:1-13). The more natural charisma one is blessed with, the more cautious he must be.

When “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a star Chicago White Sox outfielder, was involved in the “Black Sox” scandal of the 1920’s and was on his way to trial, a small boy, hurt, disappointed, with tears in his eyes, was heard to cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe; say it ain’t so.”

Each reader is likely somebody’s hero. Other readers are men and women of widespread influence. Let each one, when he is tempted, and before he yields, look ahead to the tears and hurt and disillusionment that he is about to bring to those who look up to him. Let him hear their potential cries of “Say it ain’t so, Joe” and, motivated by their confidence and his own love for the Lord, let him “resist the devil.” If he betrays the trust that has been committed to him, he can be saved eternally through repentance and forgiveness, but he likely will never recover the confidence he has lost. Right or wrong, that’s reality. It is the cost — the inevitable cost — of influence and reputation.

— Via The Auburn Beacon, April 17, 2016, Volume 7, Issue 31
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The Greater Love

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

In his book, “Written in Blood,” Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor had explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.

“Would you give your blood to your sister Mary?” the doctor asked. Little Johnny hesitated, his lower lip started to tremble, and then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”

Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room–Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when they met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube.

With the ordeal almost over, his voice slightly shaky, broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?” Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he’d agreed to donate his blood. He’d thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. Though, in reality, it was not necessary, he was willing to give his life for his sister. In that brief moment, his love for his sister, caused him to make his great decision.

Let us remember that there was one who laid down His life for us.

— via Brief Exhortations
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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, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) Readiness of Mind (L.A. Stauffer)
2) The Best is Yet to Be! (Tommy Thornhill)
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Readiness of Mind

L.A. Stauffer

After the apostle Paul departed from the city of Thessalonica, he left behind a few believers, but the Jews in general had closed their minds to the message that “Jesus is the Christ.” These Jews had access in their synagogue to scrolls of Old Testament scriptures. Paul preached from these scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth died for their sins and arose from the dead to prove He is the Messiah the prophets of their nation had anticipated for centuries. Although a few men of that city believed, a host of rabble rousers closed their minds, refused to countenance such an idea, stirred up persecution against the saints, and forced the apostle to “get out of town” late one night (see Acts 17:1-9).

Paul made his way some 50 miles down the road to the city of Berea. Again, as was his custom, Paul entered a synagogue of the Jews and began the same process over — alleging and demonstrating from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The apostle found among these Jews open and receptive hearts — men who honestly and eagerly examined the scriptures Paul read in their midst. Luke tells us that these men of Berea not only received Paul’s teaching, but they daily examined the scriptures to determine “whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

When Luke commends the nobility of these Bereans, he made specific note not only of their study habits but also their “readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). This attitude was prerequisite and fundamental to their willingness to examine and study the scriptures daily. The word “readiness” combines a preposition “before” and the word “mind” to describe the mindset of the Bereans before their study of the scriptures even began. The “mind” is essential to man’s examination or study of the scriptures, but its “before” condition determines whether that study ever takes place. The mind, as the Greek word suggests, must be “ready.”

The minds of the Jews at Berea, as Jews everywhere, were conditioned by scripture to anticipate at some point in their history the arrival of a Messiah — an anointed savior. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since the first prophecies of the coming Messiah and many Jews had become lethargic and indifferent about its prospects. Others were so misinformed that Jesus didn’t fit the pattern of their thinking and was dismissed as perverse and false.

The Bereans, however, were different. They were both excited about the claim and the scriptures that proved it. When Paul unrolled the scrolls of the Old Testament writings and announced Jesus as the Messiah, their minds were “ready,” “eager,” and “prepared” to examine the prophecies and Paul’s application of them to Jesus.

Would it not be wonderful today if every one of us who claim to be Christians was this eager to grow in Bible knowledge and Christ-like character? If we were, we would daily open our Bibles, examine verses and chapters, and answer a few simple questions that are designed to prepare our hearts for Sunday and Wednesday Bible studies and our lives for eager service in God’s kingdom.

Think, brethren, how much each of us would grow in wisdom and stature with God; think of the knowledge and strength we would gain in preparation for living in an ungodly world of sin; think of the deepened faith we would have in God and in His word; think of the love and care we would begin to show one another; and think of the zeal and enthusiasm we would have to teach sinners.

When Bereans had this kind of mind, God called them “noble” — a word that means of “high rank.” That’s who we’d be in God’s kingdom. Not only an “elect race,” a “holy nation,” a “royal priesthood,” but also “noble citizens” ranking high in the mind of God. How special would that be, brethren?

— Via The Auburn Beacon,  May 22, 2016
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The Best is Yet to Be!

Tommy Thornhill

I don’t know of how you, the readers, look at life, but I always try to look at things with the attitude that THE BEST IS YET TO BE. Being optimistic about the future is certainly better than looking back at the way things were. This view gives me a reason for being happy in a sin-sick world, but not in the way this world thinks of being happy.

Our nation’s founding fathers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness is an “unalienable right” of mankind.  Since then it seems that people have taken it for granted that being happy is their God-given right, regardless of how it is gained. They want to be happy but most never attain true happiness for they don’t know where to find it. They think it is found in the things of this world. But John tells us we are not to “love the world or the things in the world …the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it” (1 John 2:15-17). The word “lust” means desire, and is generally condemned as “inordinate affections.” Even if the things some desire in this world are not sinful, they are at best still temporary. So, in the end those who seek happiness in the things of this world will have to say, like Solomon, “all is vanity, and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:14). Those who seek happiness in serving God and doing His will are the truly happy ones. They know there will be a better world to come.

A man, lying on his death bed, was surrounded by his family. They were grieving over his impending departure from this life. While waiting for the inevitable, he says to them, “Don’t worry about me, the best is yet to be.” Why could he say this? Because he was a Christian with “a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3-5; Phil 3:20-21). He understood how and why he had lived his life. Like Paul, he had committed his soul to God for safe keeping  (2 Tim. 1:12). He knew his experiences in life, good and bad, were only temporary, so he had used his time to prepare for the better life to come (2 Cor. 4:16-18). He knew the best was yet to come and was looking forward to it with optimism.

One with this view is truly a “blessed man” (Jas. 1:12). Many simply translate the word “blessed” (Gk.   makarious)  as  happy.  They view the word with human understanding.  They think to be blessed means power, wealth, sensual pleasure, etc.  Others see the word “blessed” with a sanctimonious flavor, as a technical word of theology, i.e. such as being blessed by some religious ritual performed by a reverend, rabbi, priest, or maybe the Pope.  Such thinking obscures its deeper meaning.  As used in the NT, one that is blessed has gained the highest happiness a human being can enjoy in this world. It is the state of spiritual and moral prosperity that people share only in Christ.

Jesus used the word nine times in what is referred to as the beatitudes of Matt. 5:3-12, where He describes the truly “blessed” (happy) man. John, in his Revelation letter also records seven beatitudes of the blessed ones, Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14.  The ones who possess spiritual happiness do not depend on the ever-changing conditions in the world. The blessings can only be lost if one chooses to change his mind toward God. The blessed man, knowing the best is yet to be, is an eternal optimist.

So, how does the optimist know the best is yet to be? Because he places his trust in God, who  is  always faithful: 1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 6:18; 10:23; 1 Pet. 4:19. This faithful God will sustain those who trust Him: Ps. 37:23-40; Phil. 4:11-12.  This belief allows one to be content and satisfied, not in life’s circumstances but in his attitude — that regardless of life’s outcome it will be better later. To such people, peace of mind and joy in life is not dependent on material things. They trust God to make things right in His time. They know the best is yet to be because God said so.

Such optimism will make your life richer. Why? Because the Christian knows things the world do not.

1. The optimistic Christian knows that when this physical body returns to the dust after death, we will be clothed with a better one (Read 2 Cor. 5:1-ff). “For we KNOW that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…” So, the best is yet to be.

2. The optimistic Christian knows that by trusting God things will work out for good, even though it seems impossible at the time — Rom. 8:28: “And we KNOW that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” So, the best is yet to be.

3. The optimistic Christian has no doubt about the security of his soul (2 Tim. 1:12).  “…I am not ashamed, for I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.”

Yes, the best is yet to be because the one who has been saved in faithful obedience has this promised salvation, promised by God: “…kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

Without an optimistic attitude you will be content with mediocrity, just drifting along with no goal in life. Your life will be one of fear, insecurity and hopelessness. But by being optimistic, thinking the best is yet to be, you will have much better outlook on life. You will have something to believe in. You will have a sense of direction in life providing you with a goal (reason) to live. You will have a spirit of expectancy that it will be better later. This is your anchor for life (Rom 8:24-25; Heb. 6:19).

— Via The Old Hickory Bulletin, February 5, 2017, Volume 37, Number 6
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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, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) Biblical Depth and Beauty (Doy Moyer)
2) Find a Storm Shelter! (anonymous)
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Biblical Depth and Beauty

Doy Moyer

I have been a Bible student for the greater part of my life. I have been preaching the gospel for nearly 30 years now. I have been teaching courses at a collegiate level for over a dozen of those years. I don’t say any of this to brag, as none of that proves a thing. I say it to make a confession. There are days when, during my Bible study, I think to myself, “Where have I been? Why didn’t I see that before? How could I have been so blind here?” In other words, I feel like I’m just now finally waking up sometimes to the depth and beauty of Scripture. The truth is, I’ve been feeling this way for … well a long time. The more I study, the more I feel it.

There is a depth and beauty to Scripture that can easily be missed, depending on how we are reading it and what our goals are when we read. I’ll be reading along and a line from a well-known movie hits me:

“You’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally!” Yeah, I have a real problem with that.

We might have a tendency to read the Bible in some strict linear fashion. We read from Genesis to Revelation and tell the story, and this is necessary. Yet how often do we read while failing to make connections between passages and concepts? We may see a flat-line story without seeing the layers of connections of ideas that are interwoven throughout. The Bible is not just a linear story. It is an interwoven tapestry filled with layers and webs of beautiful patterns. If a written text can be said to be 3-D, Scripture is that! We need to put our glasses on so we can see its depth leaping off the pages. It’s there if we’ll see it.

Scripture is filled with relationships of concepts. Types and antitypes, shadows and substance, are staples of understanding the importance of connections. For example, “For Christ our passover has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7) is a beautiful statement of pattern and connection. The book of Hebrews is filled with it and cannot be understood without seeing this. The book of Revelation’s connections back to the Old Testament are grand and exploding with meaning. The way that the New Testament quotes the Old Testament adds a depth that we might easily miss (e.g., “Out of Egypt I have called My Son,” Matt 2:15); it is certainly a challenging study. Over and over, we find fulfillment of both prophecy and concept. The biblical story is told many ways and through many images, from the Garden, to the Exodus, the Temple, the holy city of Jerusalem and more, finding masterful fulfillment in Christ. There is a great joy of discovery when we see these connections and begin understanding the depth at which these connections are made. This is one reason why Bible study should never become cold, lifeless, or boring. If we are bored with Bible study, we haven’t turned our minds on yet.

I believe that the beauty and depth of Scripture is part of God’s inspiration. Failing to see some of this depth is part of the reason, I am convinced, that people end up rejecting Scripture. People might take passages, read them flatly, and conclude some kind of contradiction or problem, when, in reality, they are missing the depth of what the passages are teaching because they draw hasty conclusions without putting much thought into it.

For example, many times I see a critic of Scripture, in somewhat of a mocking tone, try to discount the Bible by making some flippant remark how ridiculous it is to follow the Bible when it contains commands about not mixing fabrics together. If they know where the reference is, they seldom know anything about the context of the passage, the covenants, or the greater issues involved. They see a flat-line order that sounds silly on the surface, and they run with that impression.

“You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together” (Lev 19:19).

Reading it flatly, and without further consideration, one can think how senseless this sounds. If we even read Leviticus, how often would we skim over a passage like this and just think, “That’s weird, but, oh well, that’s part of the Law”? We must think deeper. One of the points that is easily missed is that God was teaching an overall culture of holiness and pure-minded devotion. One of the ways that He got people to think about that was through physical and visible reminders, even in their daily, mundane activities. Through engaging in actions that forced their minds toward the ideas of cleanness, holiness, not mixing with the unholy, pagan people of the land, they would be more inclined to remember how important it was to remain faithful always. Not mixing materials was a daily reminder, even in the way they constructed and wore their clothes, to stay pure, unmixed with sin, and faithful to God. It would be like our putting Bible sticky notes on mirrors and refrigerators as reminders that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we are to be holy and pure. Being a child of God encompasses all areas of life, including how business is conducted, how work is done, and how we do our mundane activities. There may even be more, but the point is that a passage like this, flatly read, is boring and silly. Seen in its greater context and message, it is brilliantly reminding God’s people how overarching holiness was to be in their lives. It wasn’t so much about the fabric as much as it was about the lesson derived from the process and the action. I even find it intriguing that this comes on the heels of the second-greatest commandment.

Of course, there are cautions. We don’t want to overdo it. I’m not saying that one has to be some super intellect to study and understand. Nor am I arguing that we should try to see phantom connections or start allegorizing everything. Not at all. Scripture makes the connections, shows the contexts, and leads us to draw the conclusions. Our task is to see them, not to invent things for the sake of novelty.

Bible study is to be a careful undertaking, not a hasty effort that requires little thought or sound exegesis. Such hasty efforts lead not only to poor understanding and bad interpretation, they can lead to rejection of Scripture altogether. Flat-line Bible reading contributes to flat-line spirituality. If people are bored with Scripture, they’ll be bored with their “religion.”

Let’s open our eyes and see the beauty and the depth of God’s word, and prepare to be amazed!

— Via Mind Your Faith, December 23, 2014
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Find a Storm Shelter!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “Into each life some rain must fall.”

Rain may fall gently at times; however, it also falls furiously in times of storm. In our lives, there are many types of storms — physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc. — and they all vary in size and intensity. Storms are the common lot of all. Where can we turn when the storms of life rage?

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Into every life, sooner or later, the rains descend, the floods come, and the winds blow and beat. For one man the “house” of his life falls in ruins, while for another it stands secure. The difference lies, not in the intensity of the storm, but in the power to withstand its fury. The power to withstand the storms of life depends upon the foundation of one’s life.

In Jesus’ teaching, the house of the wise man withstood the storm because his house was built upon the rock. And who is the wise man? The wise man is one who hears the words of Jesus and does them (v. 24). Jesus assures us that no matter what storms may arise, obedience to Him is the only sure foundation on which to build our lives – lives that will withstand the test of time AND the Judgment to follow.

One begins building upon the Rock through faith (Hebrews 11:6), repentance (Acts 17:30-31), and immersion into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Then, one must continue to build his “house” — his life — on the Rock by continuing to hear and to obey the words of Jesus and His inspired apostles.

In the words of the beloved hymn, “There Stands a Rock”:

“Some build their hopes on the ever-drifting sand,
Some on their fame or their treasure or their land;
Mine’s on the Rock that forever shall stand,
Jesus, the Rock of Ages.”

— Via Bulletin Fodder
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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, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) The Christian is a Spiritual Optimist (W. Frank Walton)
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hebrews6_19

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The Christian is a Spiritual Optimist

W. Frank Walton

Do you consider your basic outlook in life as an optimist or a pessimist?

Optimism is defined as: “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome” or “the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary). Pessimism is defined: “the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcome, results, conditions, problems, etc.” and also “the belief that the evil and pain in the world are not compensated for by goodness and happiness” (ibid).

A pessimist will try to justify their pessimism by saying, “I’m just a realist.” I counter this by an optimist is a “constructive realist,” who doesn’t ignore problems but always sees good potential or possibilities. A pessimist sees more limiting problems than opportunities. I believe the Bible teaches that you cannot be a strong believer in God and be a spiritual pessimist.

The 10 spies that discouraged the Israelites from entering Canaan were spiritual pessimists! They saw obstacles (strong and giant Canaanites with heavily fortified cities) instead of opportunities of faith to trust God’s power to take the land (Num 13:28-33). They said, “We are not able…they are too strong for us!” Their pessimistic outlook caused them to negatively exaggerate reality and see themselves as tiny, weak grasshoppers. Such negativity bred pessimistic grumbling and a defeatist attitude among the people (Num 14:2-4). They wanted to “play it safe” and regress, instead of make progress.

Yet, Caleb and Joshua were spiritual optimists! They lifted their outlook to take Almighty God into account! “We shall surely overcome it….If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us….Do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us” (Num 13:30; 14:8,9). Spiritual optimism thinks, “The odds don’t count if God is on our side! God is greater than any obstacle we face.”

Although we may have different personality types and innate dispositions, our personality traits are molded and uplifted by Biblical faith, hope and love.

1. Optimistic Faith in God. In 1 Samuel 17, young David had optimistic faith in God. He confidently believed he could defeat Goliath, the Philistines’ giant champion who dared one Israelite to fight him. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God” (1 Sam 17:36). Yet, King Saul’s army was filled with spiritual pessimists in facing Goliath’s challenge. They were “dismayed” and “afraid” to take him on (1 Sam 17:10-11,24). This pall of negativity had Saul telling David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him” (1 Sam 17:33). Their pessimism thought Goliath was too big to hit, while David’s optimistic faith believed he was too big to miss. Remember, “can’t” never accomplished anything.

Yet, we’re thrilled to hear of David’s optimistic faith in the face of a threatening giant: “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands” (1 Sam 17:46-47). The faith of David, who “became mighty in battle” (Heb 11:32,34), is enshrined in faith’s hall of fame to help motivate us to grow in optimistic faith. David believed the odds don’t count if God is on your side.

A spiritual optimist will believe and rely on the Scriptures that encourage us to have unlimited confidence in the power and promises of God. “With God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). The believer can do great things through God: “All things are possible to him who believes…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Mk 9:23; Phil 4:13). We serve the true and living God who has infinite power: “Nothing shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:3). Although there are a multitude of many more such scriptures that would choke the most stubborn pessimist, we can raise our belief level by looking away from our limitations and looking up to Almighty God in optimistic faith!

We all have menacing giants to face, like worldly temptation, religious false doctrine, stubborn problems and discouraging obstacles. Yet, optimistic faith in God confidently believes they can be defeated! We believe God’s message of saving souls by preaching the everlasting gospel can work today just as it did in the first century. We believe if Jesus can change our lives for the better, that He can do the same for others. We believe God’s plan of reaching the world through autonomous churches of Christ can work. God’s plan will work if we will work God’s plan.

2. Optimistic Love for Others. We learn the power of love from our amazing, loving God (1 Jn 4:7-8). Love for others is sacrificial goodwill, to always act in another’s best interest. A spiritual optimist will believe that love is the most powerful force in the world. It can change bitter relations into better ones. “Love…believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:7-8). Love for others will believe the best, not the worst. Love will not grow cynical or bitter, but will endure others’ faults to achieve, in love, a higher good for them.

When Jesus died on the cross, his costly sacrifice seemed to be mostly unappreciated. Yet, His loving sacrifice has drawn sinful men to God through the years, just as He predicted (Jn 12:32). His example will motivate us to act with such optimistic love (1 Jn 3:16-18). Christ-like love can heal relationships. Love can encourage others to do better. Love can turn conflict into a constructive learning experience.

3. Optimistic Hope for the Future. People often commit suicide because they feel, based on current circumstances, that life isn’t worth living. In despair, they want to escape overwhelming burdens and the discouraging futility of “hopeless” situations. The optimistic Christian, despite the current outlook in the valley of depression, will hang on to God’s vision of hope.

Hope is confident expectation in the future promises of God. Through the gospel of Christ, we are assured that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6:18). The hope of forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice tells us God has invested a fortune to bring us safely to His eternal home. Hence, “we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Heb 6:19). Hope lifts our outlook past the storms of life with our current problems. Whatever pain or perplexity we face, they will one day pass away in the clear, unclouded day of eternity. Hope anchors us to an eternal perspective. As C. S. Lewis observed, “All that is not connected to eternity is eternally out of date.”

— Via The Auburn Beacon, August 15, 2010, Volume 1, Issue 42
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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
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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, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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