“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).
1) The God Who Forgives (Trevor Bowen)
2) Don’t Jump to Conclusions (Allen Dvorak)
3) Judging, Pre-judging, and Prejudice (Andy Diestelkamp)
4) Standing Firm in the Lord (a video-sermon, Tom Edwards)
5) News & Notes
The God Who Forgives
“Why should I be a Christian?” The very posing of this question implies that some people believe reasons exists why one should not be a Christian. Let us think about why someone would not want to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person hesitates in becoming a Christian because he believes that he is too wicked for God to forgive him. Often this person might feel like if he has not already, then some day he will inevitably go so far that God will not forgive him. The hesitant student is not the only person that fears this fate. Sometime even Christians wonder about God’s continuing capacity to forgive, so let us consider what the Bible has to say about the God who forgives.
God Does Not Want Anyone to be Lost
Often people feel like God is a ferocious and cruel god, who longingly waits to instantly punish any man caught in sin. However, the Bible paints a different picture of God.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
God does not want anybody to be lost. In fact, he is patient with us so that we might not be lost. Being longsuffering, God mercifully provides frequent opportunities to repent. Although it is clear that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), we still may wonder why God does not want people to be lost.
“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” Ezekiel 18:21-23
From these verses we learn that God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. He does not enjoy their death because He loves them. This love was the reason why Jesus died on the cross for the whole world (John 3:16-17). How can a God who loves us and desires us to be saved not forgive the repentant who humbles himself before God?
Extreme Examples of God’s Forgiveness
The extent of God’s forgiveness can be seen in extreme examples from the Bible. One of the single-most extreme examples is that of the Judean king, Manasseh. Late in the history of the divided kingdom, King Manasseh proved himself to be one of the most wicked kings that Israel had seen.
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. … Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. … So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.” II Chronicles 33:1-10
Although we see this stubborn king being more wicked than any before him, notice how he responds when he is punished by the Lord.
“Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” II Chronicles 33:11-13
The text continues, mentioning how the penitent Manasseh destroyed all of the idols upon his return, repaired the Lord’s altar, sacrificed peace and thanksgiving offerings, and commanded the people to worship God. This man was able to turn back to God, and God was willing to receive him back. How can we do more wickedly than this king, who among other evils sacrificed his own children to idols?
Among other examples, the apostle Paul could be mentioned who persecuted and killed Christians, but eventually repented and became one of the most well-known and influential servants of the Lord (Acts 9:1-22).
The Corinthian church was filled with once worldly people, who committed grievous sins:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 6:9-11
Friend, there is not much that God has not forgiven. From murder (II Samuel 12:7-14) to the sacrificing of children (II Chronicles 33:1-13), we have record of God forgiving the most horrific sins. Even though we have examined these compelling examples, one more extreme example of God’s forgiveness exists that we need to study.
We are all extreme examples of God’s forgiveness. No man can boast that he is deserving of heaven because he earned it, or even because he sinned less than others. Sin is a terrible thing that separates all of us from God (Romans 3:23), condemning all of us to hell (Romans 6:23), even if someone committed only a single sin (James 2:10-13). Sin is just that bad.
Even though each of us would have stood without hope before God, the gospel reveals that God loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:9-19). Jesus came and died for us, not as though we were deserving, but while we were ungodly (Romans 5:6-8). Though God requires that we respond to his gospel plea (Matthew 7:21-23; James 2:14-26), the Bible teaches that we have been saved by grace, not by meritorious works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Consequently, no man can boast of his salvation as if it was accomplished by his own merit. Therefore, each one of us is an extreme example of God’s forgiveness to one who was undeserving.
Although sin and the temptations of the world may lure us into believing that we are too wicked for God to forgive, the Bible teaches that God does not want anyone to be lost. He desires that all men should be saved. The examples of King Manasseh, King David, the apostle Paul, the Corinthians, and many more illustrate God’s capacity to forgive even the most wicked sinners. Finally, God extends his mercy to each one of us. We are equally in need of God’s mercy. No one can boast in himself. Therefore, just as God has forgiven every previous convert, He will also graciously accept your repentance, if you are willing to humble yourself before the God who forgives.
May we assist you in accomplishing your desire to be saved? You may read more material on what the Bible says about the requirements for salvation, e-mail any of our local contacts, or complete one of our on-line Bible studies to learn more about your role in God’s salvation for you.
— Via In Search of Truth (http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles/forgives.html)
Don’t Jump To Conclusions
Elkanah, father of the Old Testament prophet Samuel, had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1). Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren. In a mean-spirited way, Peninnah “provoked” Hannah because of her infertility. When Elkanah and his wives went up to the house of the Lord to worship, Hannah prayed silently to God, vowing that if He would give her a son, she would give the child to the Lord all the days of his life.
The priest Eli observed Hannah praying, seeing her mouth move, but not hearing her words. Eli concluded that Hannah was drunk and rebuked her, saying, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” When Hannah explained that she was praying with great grief, Eli recognized his error and blessed her.
We all fall prey to Eli’s mistake from time to time. In order to make sense of the world around us, it is necessary for us to assign meaning to the actions of others. We observe someone’s behavior and we frequently draw conclusions about that person based on their action. Actually we respond to the meaning that we assign to the action rather than the action itself. And sometimes, like Eli, we make assumptions which are invalid. Even if we succeed in being objective in our judgment, frequently there is more than one possible explanation for one’s behavior. Eli’s inappropriate rebuke was the result of his error in assigning meaning to her action.
It is not difficult to see how all this applies to us. A friend or neighbor does something and we begin assigning reason to their action. “He said that for the purpose of hurting me.” “She did that just to spite me.” “I know that she said that about me, even though she didn’t mention me by name.” Often the truth is that the speaker had no such motives. Unfortunately, friendships are sometimes destroyed because someone made unwarranted assumptions about another’s actions or speech.
This danger of making unwarranted assumptions also exists in our study of the Scriptures. It is easy to insert our own thoughts as we decide what the Bible is teaching us. If we are not careful, we will accept the opinions of other men without realizing that the Bible does not actually say such things. For an excellent illustration of this, ask your friends what kind of forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. “Why, an apple, of course!” Where does the Bible identify the kind of forbidden fruit? We must differentiate between God’s speech and our assumptions.
How can we avoid this pitfall of accepting incorrect conclusions? With respect to the Word of God, the careful Bible student will read and re-read the Word. He will test his religious convictions by that which he has read. Avoiding unwarranted assumptions could possibly save some friendships and perhaps our soul also.
– Via The Beacon, November 29, 2020
Judging, Pre-judging, and Prejudice
Perhaps one of the best known statements of Jesus is “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Ironically, it is often cited by people to critique those by whom they feel criticized. However, Jesus is not condemning all critiques of others. This is made evident by: 1) the inconsistency created if His words are taken as an absolute prohibition, 2) the immediate context (vs. 5), and 3) the larger context of Scripture which actually requires making judgments (e.g. Jn. 7:24; 1 Cor. 5).
Contextually, what Jesus is condemning is inconsistent and hypocritical judgment. He is addressing the proclivity we have to judge others more critically than we judge ourselves. Of course, this tendency easily produces numerous misjudgments and prejudices against individuals and their “ilk” which, if unchecked by self-control and sound thinking, leads to a host of generational and cultural prejudices which cause strife and division.
Jesus is prioritizing self-critique as being necessarily first in order to then be able to adequately help others with their problems. This does not require perfection from us before forming an opinion, offering a critique, or rendering a judgment. This is again evident by the fact that we are called to do so, yet none of us can rightly claim perfection. For example, parents are not perfect in their own lives or in their parenting, but this reality does not forbid them to train their children (Eph. 6:4) which will, of necessity, require critiques and judgments. Still, humility and love must temper all discipline.
God created us to learn, discern, critique, and make judgments. As thinking people, we are constantly doing this; and such judgments are naturally made through the lens of our own limited experiences. This is one of the ways in which we both prosper and attempt to protect ourselves from harm. For example, a woman who was sexually molested by a man will naturally have a tendency to be wary of males. Thus, when she is approached by a male, she may become nervous. Based on her experience, she is making a judgment that she is in potential danger. This is a pre-judgment. Any circumstance which departs from the norm of perceived safety is immediately judged as suspect. This is a natural process and is not inherently wrong.
However, we are not mere animals who must react with “fight or flight” when confronted by these conditioned responses. As beings created in the image of God, we can and are expected to exercise self-control. We can reason that our initial reaction based on limited information is not logically or justly applicable to all persons despite our experiences and, therefore, does not require “fight or flight.” Thus we check our initial judgments with sober-mindedness, patience, mercy, and love and temper prejudicial responses and behaviors. This is how the mind of the spirit controls the reactions of the flesh and thus bears good fruit (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).
Judgments happen in a host of circumstances daily for all of us about everything from the mundane to sublime, from the harmless to the serious. When I experience anything with any of my five senses, my brain immediately begins to process it and make judgments despite the fact that I do not yet have all information necessary to make an accurate or fair judgment; but this fact alone does not stop my brain from thinking or making such judgments. Thus, one intuitively evaluates and makes judgments about everyone’s motives and attitudes and potential based on their appearances, words, and actions. By experience we know that many pre-judgments are inaccurate. Still, while acknowledging that “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” we will look at the cover and make an initial judgment.
This is why it is imperative that God’s Word be the foundation of our learning. Indeed, the ability to discern good from evil is a sign of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:14). Without doubt, the culture in which we are raised and the values imparted by our parents and society at large are formative to the kinds of judgments we make. This is why we need to create a culture of Christ in our hearts and our homes so as to be better people and render better judgments in all cases.
— Via Think on These Things, Volume 51, No. 1, January-February-March 2020 (http://thinkonthesethings.com)
Here is a video-sermon I preached last week, entitled, “Standing Firm in the Lord.” If you would like to hear it, just click on that title.
News & Notes
Folks to be praying for:
We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Pat Bridgman (Tina Allen’s aunt) who recently passed away. Let us be keeping all of her loved ones in prayer.
Rick Cuthbertson is continuing with his new cancer treatment that he began a few weeks ago. He takes it every day for 2 weeks, and then takes a break for 2 weeks before resuming the treatments.
Instead of a minor heart attack, it actually turned out to be angina that had given Chris Williams (Cheryl Corbitt’s son-in-law) some trouble recently. He is still having to take it easy for a while, but wants to get back to work.
Doyle Rittenhouse’s back surgery is now just 4 days away. It is scheduled for December 17.
Elizabeth Harden’s due date is just 22 days from now (January 4). Both her and her unborn are doing fine.
Deborah Medlock will be seeing her cancer doctor this week to find out the results of her recent lab work.
We are glad to say that Tammy Abbott is now healed from the covid-19.
Others to also be praying for: Joanne Ray, Vivian Foster, Larry & Janice Hood, Jim Lively, James Medlock, Judy Daugherty, Rex & Frankie Hadley, Jamie Cates, A.J. & Pat Joyner, Ronnie & Melotine Davis, Joyce Rittenhouse’s brother, Allen & Darlene Tanner, Shirley Davis, Tim Kirkland, and Cameron Haney.
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 Jesus Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins. For every accountable person has sinned (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10), which causes one to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). Therefore, repentance of sin is necessary (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30). For whether the sin seems great or small, there will still be the same penalty for either (Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Cor. 5:10) — and even for a lie (Rev. 21:8).
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; 1 Pet. 3:21). This is the final step that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). For from that baptism, one is then raised as a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), having all sins forgiven and beginning a new life as a Christian (Rom. 6:3-4). For the one being baptized does so “through faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). In other words, believing that God will keep His word and forgive after one submits to these necessary steps. And now as a Christian, we then need to…
6) Continue in the faith by living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
We are currently meeting for only our Sunday 10 a.m. worship service each week, due to the coronavirus situation.
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
https://thomastedwards.com/go/all.htm/ (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)