Category Archives: Church Life

The Good Confession

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When Paul wrote his first epistle to the young preacher Timothy, he referred to Timothy’s conversion in the following manner, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). While Timothy had professed to be a follower of Christ and had testified of his faith and his knowledge of the Christ on several occasions through preaching, Paul is probably specifically discussing the moment when Timothy became a child of God and was added to the church. This most likely happened during Paul’s initial missionary trips to Lystra, Timothy’s hometown (Acts 14 and 16).

Paul also reminded the church of Christ at Rome, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). From this text and other passages it is definitely clear that the Bible teaches that confession of faith in Christ is a prerequisite to salvation. There are also other absolutes required by God which are revealed in the Scriptures, including hearing the word (Rom. 10:14-17), believing in Christ (John 3:16, 8:24), and immersion in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Paul called Timothy’s profession of faith, “the good confession.” What did he mean by that? And what was this confession exactly? And what did it signify? It was “good” because a confession of faith in Jesus represents a heart that has accepted the truth of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and which has also been changed by the power of heavenly love to obediently submit to the will of God. This confession involves both an acknowledgement of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and a commitment to service to the Lord for the rest of one’s earthly life. The significance of confessing Christ is that it honors God and glorifies Jesus as the one and only Lord of lords and King of kings – understanding that Jesus alone is the one through whom we can be acceptable to God (John 14:6). It truly is a good confession, a beautiful confession, and a necessary confession!

Recently, through some of our missionaries working in India, I found this statement which I believe is extremely powerful and perhaps best sums up what a biblical confession of faith in Christ really involves:

Confession before baptism in India – “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. I believe that He died, was buried, and resurrected from death. I believe that He built His church and I confess His name and will be faithful unto my death to the Christ and His church.”

The good confession is more than just admitting that we believe in Jesus. It makes us ready for our immersion by which we can be cleansed of all past sins and contact the saving blood of Jesus. It is also a spoken covenant to God by which we put Him in charge and commit ourselves to His kingdom for the rest of our lives. It is not the good confession because it comes from our lips. It is the good confession because God is good in spite of our sin. It is the good confession because it admits that without the blood of Jesus and the love of His cross we are nothing but lost.

“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” – Acts 8:36-37

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I Am Now Ready

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Luke records the parable that our Lord taught about a man who was prepared to live, but who was not ready to die. The man had “…much goods laid up for many years” (Luke 12:19). He had forgotten one thing; he might not have many years left. As we read about the man whom God called a fool (v. 20), we should be impressed with the necessity of preparing for our own departure from this life. 

Some seemingly have missed the point of this parable. They apparently focus on the question asked the man was asked: “…[T]hen whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided” (v. 20)? 

These people are careful to take care of all of that. They make adequate preparation for funds for their own burial; they have their will made out so that a proper distribution of their material possessions will be made; an adequate insurance policy, trust fund, etc. will provide for those left behind.

Like the man in the parable, they have forgotten one very important thing. We remember that the statement that led to the question was, “…[T]his night thy soul shall be required of thee… (v. 20).

We are not prepared for death (or really for life for that matter) until we have made adequate preparation concerning our soul.

As far as I am able to determine, we have no way of knowing what, if any arrangements, Paul made for his burial, his possessions, etc. We do know, though, that he wrote these words:  “…I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6). 

Paul’s confidence about his death was based on his relationship with the Lord.  I’m praying that the same can be said about you…and me.

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The Hypocritical Blanket

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Almost every night, I say a prayer with my son and tell him goodnight. Though sometimes, admittedly, I rush through these last few moments before he goes to sleep, they are some of my favorite minutes of the day.

Some nights we read a story, every night we pray. He says a prayer, then I say one. I tell him “good night” and “I love you,” then his lights go out. It’s a routine I hope does not end anytime soon.

The other night, though, another step had to be taken. I was pulling up his blanket over him when I noticed I didn’t have hold of the sheet underneath. So, I reached way down to nearly the foot of his bed and grabbed the sheet, which was all wadded up down there.

As I pulled it up, I just looked at my 8-year-old son with a face that basically said, “Please explain this.” After his usual “What?” he said, “It looks made up that way.”

He was right. The blanket is thick enough that it covered up the sheet that had never been properly made up. It looked fine, but the sheet was now all wrinkled and creased.

As I heard him say that (with a sly little grin on his face that had me just a tad worried), my mind went to my own life. Are there times when I cover up a thought or an action with enough Christian stuff that I sure look like I’m all made up for the Lord?

You see, too often, we put on a good front, but our insides are all wrinkled and creased by sin. Anyone can put on a nice dress or a shirt and tie and smile for an hour at church. Anyone can shake hands and say the ever-popular “fine” when asked how they are doing.

We all look made up.

Inside, though, are we a wrinkled mess of secret sin?

That’s my lesson from a blanket (that was made up properly last night. I checked!).

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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Healthy Boundaries

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The last few weeks have been exhausting to say the least. Events and decisions in America have been so polarizing lately. Sometimes it is hard to even want to hear another word about all of the controversy. But we must remember that important subjects are going to cause opinionated discussions. We are not just talking about freedoms and rights in America. We are dealing with issues that are going to determine where people are going to spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but lately I have been considering the level of my association with some people who in the past I have considered friends. Many people I am acquainted with have been very vocal in their support of things that the Bible clearly condemns. What am I supposed to do about that?

The biggest problem is that I cannot have an open and intelligent discussion with some of them about what God’s word says because they will not accept it as authority. They would rather cower to social pressure and the political agenda, and they refuse to call what is right, right and what is wrong, wrong. It makes it very hard to move forward in any kind of relationship with anyone who has their mind made up and refuses to be shaped by the holy word of God.

Jesus told his disciples, “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (Matthew 10:11-15).

It is purely ironic that as per the present hour in our world certain cities are mentioned here. But what is Jesus saying? He is reminding His followers that there are going to be times when we cannot get through to people with the truth. If we have made an honest effort and the truth is not received, we need to move on. I must first love people enough to have tough discussions which may bring about some soul searching and needed changes. Once that talk has taken place, if people fail to respect the authority of the written word of God, I need to travel along and let them go.

Christians are to be separate from the world. They have, by the grace of God, been set upon a rock. Christ did not die on a cross so that our faith would waver every time a political or spiritual controversy comes along. When struggles do arise we need to be engaged in profitable conversations. And if need be, we must choose to walk away from any relationship that would weaken our faith or cause us to be entangled in the cares of this life.

Setting proper boundaries in our relationships with others will promote health for us spiritually and keep us on the narrow path that leads to heaven. We need help and guidance from our God to make those necessary and wise decisions. It is my prayer that He will help us to know when to stay in the house one more night, and when to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

“And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor. 6:15

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Excited for A While

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A few years ago, I decided to put into practice the concept of beginning my day by hearing the Bible. I thought that might be helpful; especially in light of Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV).

I found an app on my phone that allows me to listen through the entire Bible each year. In fact, it has a number of different reading plans and a number of different translations.

I have tried for the past few years to not listen to the same translation every year. This practice has given me some interesting insights on various passages. 

Let me stress something. The fact I choose a particular translation as my “translation of the year” does, in no way, necessarily mean that I am endorsing that translation for anybody else to use. I decided on this practice for purposes of comparison only

That is definitely the case with the translation I am listening to this year. Although I do not even own a print copy of The New Living Translation, that is what I’ve been listening to. 

On some occasions, listening to that translation has caused me to shake my head in disbelief. I wonder how the people who worked on it could have come up with what they put in the text. 

There are also times when I have what I sometimes call a “hmmm moment.” I’ll hear something and think, “Hmmm; I never heard it put that way. I need to see how close that is to the original meaning of the text.”

That was the case recently as my daily passage included John 5:35. As you may recall, our Lord was defending His authority to some who were already seeking to kill Him (cf. John 5:18). In the course of this discussion, Jesus mentioned John; the one who was to prepare the way for Jesus.

Here are different translations of what Jesus said in verse 35:

  • King James Version: “He was a burning and shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”
  • American Standard Version: “He was the lamp that burneth and shineth, and ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light.”
  • English Standard Version: “He was a burning shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
  • New American Standard Bible: “He was a lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”

It is interesting to notice that all of these translations speak of an interest and a time that was temporary. The argument could be made that those to whom Jesus was speaking lost interest in the message of John. It could also be thought that the Lord was speaking of the temporary nature of John’s ministry. 

It seems to me that both of these ideas come together as one remembers the purpose of John and of his ministry. While the Jews might have been interested in hearing a message about the Messiah (at least for a while), they did not accept the fact that John was pointing them to Jesus as that Messiah. They would have none of that.

As I listened to how this verse reads in the NLT, I realized that there are people living today who match the description found there. These people and their reaction have very little to do with their opinion of John. Their reaction is to the Lord, Himself. 

Please notice the words we find in the last part of John 5:35 in the NLT:

“..and you were excited for a while about his message”

How often does this happen with regard to the message of Jesus? How often does a person get caught up by an emotional appeal and the excitement of a particular moment and use that as the primary reason to follow Him? 

Do you know of anybody who, at one time, made a genuine commitment to the Lord and followed the example of the Ethiopian eunuch who “…went on his way rejoicing” after his baptism (Acts 8:39)? Do you know of any of those people who, in the words of Jesus, “…are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.  But these have no root; they believe it for a little while, and in time of testing fall away” (Luke 8:13, ESV)?

The question of whether or not we will spend eternity in heaven is not a matter of being excited for a while. It is a matter of being committed for life.

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Stay Off the Roof

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Our Sunday morning Bible class has been studying the book of Daniel. As we studied chapter 4, I realized an unusual link between the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and Israel’s greatest leader, King David. It was not in their leadership styles or military prowess. It was definitely not – at that point – their shared faith in God. What struck me about both of these great leaders was they both got in trouble wandering around on their roof!

In the well-known account of 2 Samuel 11, King David strays from his normal mode of operation and sends his army out in the spring of the year without him at the head. A closer look at the early chapters of 2 Samuel reveals another change David made: he did not consult the Lord before making this decision. He should have known better. Relaxing at home in the palace, David is walking around the roof one afternoon and spies Bathsheba in a private moment. What results is a series of sins that, while forgiven, produce consequences that change the course of a man, a family, and a nation.

Similarly, in Daniel 4, we find Nebuchadnezzar ignoring previous incidents which should have made him pay heed to the words Daniel spoke to him in verse 27: “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” He should have known better. Instead, as we continue reading we find Nebuchadnezzar strolling on his own palace rooftop. His sin was not one of lust or greed, but of pride and self-praise instead of praise for the Almighty. His consequences were immediate and amazing, changing him from a powerful world leader to a crazy man living as a beast of the field.

While both men went on to learn from their mistakes (Psalm 51; Daniel 4:34-37), I couldn’t help but think, “What if they hadn’t been on the roof?”

But then … What if I hadn’t downloaded that book? What if I hadn’t watched that movie? What if I hadn’t opened that website? What if I hadn’t … After all, I should have known better!

One of the lessons we can learn from these 2 great kings in the Old Testament is to avoid temptation in the first place. Don’t set ourselves up to fail. Don’t get into compromising situations. Seek to gain the blessing found in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…”

In a sense, stay off the roof!

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The Power of Surrender

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We see these signs all over town. They are triangular in shape and red and white in color. When we approach we know that our job is to wait and see if there is other traffic before we proceed. These signs say, “Yield.” In context, to yield means, “to give up possession of one’s claim or demand; to surrender or relinquish physical control; to surrender or submit (oneself) to another.” We know it is not only the law that demands that we yield, but it is in our best interest and safety to do so. Sometimes patience pays off. Sometimes we are delivered by our willingness to surrender.

Years ago in Babylon there were three young Jewish men who also recognized the power of surrender. Their names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. King Nebuchadnezzar assigned them Babylonian names by which they are better known: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. These young men were unwilling to worship the idol the king had set up. They would only worship the one true and living God, Jehovah. After being interviewed by the king and threatened under penalty of death they still resolved not to bow to the golden statue. They were cast into the furnace of fire and delivered without incident by the power of God.

As the three young men walked out of the fire unsinged, Nebuchadnezzar offered this corresponding statement: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” (Dan. 3:28).

Notice the phrase, “yielded their bodies.” An enormous amount of power exists in such a thought. The idea is that they fully surrendered themselves to the flames. Such is almost hard to fathom. The king recognized that their ability to yield was connected to the level of their trust and faith in Jehovah. The more we trust something the more we can surrender. People don’t jump out of planes if they don’t trust the soundness of the parachute. People don’t commit in relationships who don’t trust the one to whom they are committed. People will not yield to a god in whom they don’t truly believe. Our surrender and the degree to which we can yield our bodies to God will always be in direct proportion to our level of faith and trust in Him.

Which brings us to the final question: Can we fully yield to Jehovah? Talk is cheap. Real-life furnaces have a way of proving the extent of our actual commitment. But the deeper our faith, and the greater our trust, the more we will be able to surrender. Only flame-proof faith can discover the power of genuine deliverance. Only full surrender can experience the reality that there is nothing too hard for the Lord.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” – Isaiah 43:2-3a

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Racism is Heresy

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The recent shootings in Charleston, South Carolina have only brought into stronger relief the need to discuss an ugly issue: race relations. Each time there is a crime where race plays a role, it not only reopens the conversation, but it tragically opens old wounds, too.

Racism is sin. We know that, but I want to use an even stronger word today. Racism is heresy.

I choose that word very carefully. I do not throw around the word “heresy” lightly. It is, admittedly, a loaded term. To describe something as heresy is basically to say that there is such a chasm between this issue and what is Biblically correct that there is no middle ground. This is, to put it another way, a salvation issue.

Why would I choose such a loaded word as “heresy” and put racism in that category? Often, the term heresy is used to describe things like “Jesus did not actually die on the cross.” That statement, to anyone who trusts in the Bible as the Word of God, is heresy. There is no possible middle ground in that statement. Either the Lord Jesus did die on the cross or He did not. There is no way to compromise such an issue.

Racism is in that same category.

The reason is simple: the Bible emphatically states that God created mankind and that Christ died for all people.

Period.

There is no way around that. In the great resurrection chapter, Paul made one statement that is very powerful, though it is brief. He wrote, “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 15:39). The inspired writer did not talk about there being many kinds of human flesh, but one.

We are all children of Adam and Eve, though our skin color may vary widely. We are all humans, created in the image of God to His glory. In fact, the variety of skin colors found around the world speaks to the majesty of God. Consider the variation in things like flowers and the colors of fruits. We see that variety and glorify God for His design. The same is true of the variety we see in the spectrum of skin colors found throughout the world.

And we need to always keep in mind that Christ died for people of every race and nationality. He did not die only for people who look like me. He died for all.

To say, or even to imply, that another race is “lesser” is to undermine the very glory of God’s creation and the power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Such is nothing short of heresy.

Each time there is a crime that grows from hatred, calls are made to figure out the motive. People put forward countless solutions; everything from government initiatives to gun control to indicting violent movies, and beyond. In reality, all of these may have their place, and the conversation is certainly healthy, whether you agree or disagree with a particular position.

But the solution is deeper than that. It is more simply stated, but it is harder to measure. That’s because it is knowing that racism is, at its core, not an issue that a government can fix. It is, instead, a heart issue. The solution is this: every person seeing every other person as a fellow soul, created by God to His glory, and one for whom Jesus died.

When we get that right, racism will end. Until we get it right, the heresy of racism will only continue.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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The Chariot Ride

[NOTE: This post from Jeremiah Tatum was originally posted on his personal blog, Ancient Words, in 2008. We have reprinted it here with his permission for his article this week.]

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Everybody needs somebody. Once on the road to Gaza a man came upon a chariot. In the chariot he saw a man who was reading from the book of Isaiah. But the man didn’t understand what he was reading. So the man in the chariot invited the man on the road to join him in his chariot. Everybody needs somebody.
One of the greatest honors one can ever receive is an invitation into someone else’s chariot. Seldom do people allow others to ride with them. On occasion, I have been offered such a ride. I am so thankful to those who have asked me to ride with them. In some small way I hope I have helped to make a difference.

There have also been times when I have invited others into my chariot. I am thankful that they were willing to spend time with me, and could help me understand the truth in a better way. They had to be patient with me. They had to know the truth themselves before they could show it to me. I am so grateful for their influence and the changes and hope that their moments in my chariot brought into my life.
We are all riding in a chariot. But where we may be able to go depends on our willingness from time to time to let others ride with us. God urges us, not only to allow others to ride, but also to overtake chariots who need guidance, faith , and hope. And at the end of our lives, when we get to our desired destination, there will be no doubt in our minds about how we were able to arrive safely. In our hearts we will know what made the difference. It was what we learned on the chariot ride.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” ~ Acts 8:29
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What is the Message “Up in Front?”

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A number of years ago, I read a book that disturbed me and challenged me at the same time. The book was written by individuals who had left the church I read about in my Bible and had either joined with various religious groups or had given up on religion entirely. 

My spiritual journey had taken me in the opposite direction as was the case with these people. I had left a religious group composed of sincere and well-intentioned people, but who wore a name not found in God’s Word for His people. These people whom I loved then and love now also believed and practiced some things for which I found no biblical authority.

My journey took me to a group that appealed (appeals) to the New Testament as the exclusive authority for all that is done and taught religiously. Since Jesus promised to build His church (cf. Matt. 16:18) and since He is its head (cf. Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), I am humbled and honored to be a member of the church which does have a biblical name. That name, of course, can be found in Romans 16:16 wherein we read “…the churches of Christ greet you” (ESV).

As already stated, the authors of the book I read went in a different direction. I was interested in knowing what caused them to do that. 

As I remember it, I found the typical responses. I remember reading about such things as hypocrisy, “church politics,” lack of love, lack of involvement, and a host of other things. While all of those saddened me greatly, I was, unfortunately, not surprised to read some of these indictments (which, by the way, existed in the first-century church, too).

It may have been a quarter of a century since I read the book, but I am still challenged by one comment in the book. The word picture presented by the author is still as fresh in my mind today as it was when I first read it.

This person told how the former place of worship had information in the front sharing the attendance and contribution. This was in contrast to the current place of worship. It had a huge cross literally hanging over the head of the preacher. The author’s comment on this was that the emphasis of one group seemed to be on how they were doing while the message of the other group was on what the Lord did.

As I type these words, I’m thinking about what the people with whom I worship have in front of them as I preach. To their left, they see a list of song numbers–what we are going to do or have done during that period of worship. On their right, they see that board that reports on our attendance and contribution–how we are doing.  Behind me, they see a baptistery–a reminder of what they need to do or have already done

It is my prayer that the man in the middle of all of this (me) is, in the words of Paul, focused on “…Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul left little doubt about what people saw when he preached. He identified the people of Galatia as those “…before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3:1, NASU).

The spiritual journey of every individual needs to lead to the foot of the cross.

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