“For Whoever Greets Him Takes Part In His Wicked Works”

The church of Jesus Christ is held in very high esteem by the Scriptures.  Our Lord built her himself, and she cannot be destroyed (Matt. 16:18).  He exercises his supreme authority solely in her interests (Eph. 1:22).  She is his body, and is what fills him up (Eph. 1:22-23).  She is the only avenue in which one can know the awesome wisdom of God, which was God’s plan from before the world began (Eph. 3:10-11).  She is the only place in which one can give God glory (Eph. 3:21).  Christ saves only her (Eph. 5:23), and died for her as well (Eph. 5:25).  He has set her apart for glory, to cleanse her and present her to himself without any spot or blemish of sin (Eph. 5:26-27).  He nourishes and cherishes her just as we do with our own bodies (Eph. 5:29-30).  She is God’s family, and is also the firm foundation of the truth of his Word (1 Tim. 3:15; cf. John 17:17).  Jesus purchased her with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

Yet, over the years careless and misguided souls have tried to change the church from what the Bible describes it as being.  They say that the Lord’s church is made up of all the different denominations, sects, and religious groups which exist today, that “one church is just as good as another,” that “we all are going to Heaven, just by different roads.”  They say these things even though all of these different churches, sects, and groups of Christendom have different doctrines, follow different creeds, leaders, and authorities…all while claiming to be led by the same Holy Spirit.  Does the Spirit of God tell one church one thing and tell another church the exact opposite?  Or does God’s Holy Spirit-inspired Word (2 Pet. 1:19-21) actually teach that there is ONE body and thus ONE church (Eph. 4:4; cf. 1:22-23), that there is actually ONE faith (Eph. 4:5), and that this ONE faith comes only from God’s Word (Rom. 10:17)?  God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).  Satan is (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43).

The teaching of the Scriptures are so plain, so why do people stray from them and start these man-made churches which teach false doctrine?  The Bible tells us why (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  They do so because they want someone to scratch their itching ears.  They want someone to teach them only what they want to hear rather than the truth of the Word of God.  This is why it is so important to walk in truth and love, friends.  Love and truth are very closely mingled together, because love means that we walk according to God’s commandments which are truth (2 John 4-6; John 17:17).

So how do we walk in truth and in love when we encounter those who teach error?  First of all, we must beware of them (2 John 7; 1 John 4:1-3; cf. Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 23-25; Acts 20:29-31; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Pet. 2:1-3).  In John’s day, they were teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh.  That was a direct falsehood, which is why John called them deceivers and antichrists (“antichrist” simply meaning “against Christ,” which is what one is when one teaches falsehood about Christ.  “The Antichrist” being some supernatural, satanic, unstoppable, end-of-the-world-bringing force is a false concept also brought about by false teachers.)

Secondly, we must be on guard by watching out for ourselves and examining ourselves (2 John 8; cf. Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33; 2 Cor. 13:5; Acts 20:28; Gal. 6:1).  We must never take our relationship with God for granted, for by doing so it will be easier for us to fall prey to the deceptions of these false teachers and thus lose our heavenly reward (2 John 8; cf. Heb. 3:12-4:1).  This is why our own, regular, committed, deep study and meditation of God’s Word on a daily basis is so important (Ps. 1:1-3).  It is only through deep study and obedience of God’s Word and constant self-examination that we will abide in the doctrine of Christ.

Abiding in the doctrine of Christ is crucial if we are to keep a healthy relationship with God, because those who do not abide in Christ’s teachings do not have God (2 John 9; cf. 1 John 1:6; 2:3-5).  The doctrine of Christ is defined as both teaching about Christ (cf. 2 John 7) as well as the commandments which he gave (cf. 1 John 3:24).  Those who keep his Word will have a relationship with him and his Father (2 John 9; cf. John 14:21, 23), and will never have to worry about losing their reward.

This is why it is so important that we be on the lookout for those who would deceive us and cause us to lose our inheritance.  Appropriately, God has told us to not even eat or give a greeting to false teachers (2 John 10-11; cf. Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 1 Tim. 6:20-21; Eph. 5:11).  From time to time, those who teach error will come our way.  Some will be proven to have taught error out of sincere ignorance, and will be open to scriptural correction (cf. Acts 18:25-26).  However, those who are proven to be unrepentantly teaching falsehood and who are trying to get us to agree with, comply to, and support their false teachings are to be completely avoided.  We are not to eat with them or give them a greeting, a term which in biblical times not only referred to salutations but also meant to give your approval and support to what that person was doing.  Giving your support to a teacher of truth, whether that support be food, hospitality, and/or financial in nature (cf. Philemon 22; 3 John 5-7), meant that you would be a fellow worker with that teacher (3 John 8).  Unfortunately, the same would be true if you gave your support to a false teacher as well (2 John 11).

Therefore, it is urgent that we do everything we can to support those who teach the truth while in no way giving credence or support to those who unrepentantly teach error.  We should not give our money to them, or advertise what they are doing for fear that such would cause people to be exposed to them and fall prey to their deceptions.  Remember, souls are at stake…including our own!  The honor of the church which Jesus died for is at stake as well!

My hope is that we can all walk in truth and in love…the truth and love which are found in the Scriptures alone.

The Peace Which Prayer Brings

We live in uncertain times.  I think all of us can agree with that.  Words such as “bankruptcy,” “job loss,” “job insecurity,” “personal debt,” and “fiscal cliff” seem to dominate the news lately.  Dwelling on all of these things adds a tremendous amount of stress to our lives.  As a result, we develop feelings of distress, discouragement, and discomfort in our lives.

What can we do, if anything, to obtain relief from these burdens and pressures we feel everyday?  The answer to this question is found in the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7.  In these two verses of Scripture he writes:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  From these two brief verses come three principles that will help to alleviate the burdens we bear in life.

First, our Lord through his apostle is telling us that we need to develop the right mindset as we deal with our burdens.  Simply put, we are not to be anxious about anything!  Truly, our anxiousness about a matter will not make the situation better nor will it make us feel better.  Anxiety is in effect an unproductive emotion.  Jesus provides us with a wonderful discourse on this topic in Matthew 6:25-34.  I urge you to read this passage, for in it he tells us we should not worry nor be anxious because God will provide what we need when we need it.

Second, Paul tells us that we need to take all our anxieties and give them over to God in prayer.  This makes sense because most certainly God is better able to deal with our anxieties than we are.  He is able to help us in our time of need because he knows what is best for us, and he also has an infinite amount of resources at his disposal to bring us the help we need!  Let us also remember concerning this particular principle that we are to approach him in prayer in a spirit of thanksgiving.  During this week when we focus on the holiday of Thanksgiving, let’s not put as much attention on the good food (as hard as that may be to do) as we do on being grateful for having the food in the first place, as well as the roof over our heads and all the other blessings that God gives us that we take for granted.  (Especially the spiritual blessings that come from being a Christian!)  When we pray with gratitude, we can learn the lesson that focusing on being grateful for what God has already done for us assures us he will continue to take care of all of our needs.

And third, God tells us that if we pray, then peace will replace the anxiety we feel.  And not only will peace replace our anxiety, but that peace will continually protect our hearts and minds.  All of this is possible for those who take the time to cast their cares upon God.  Knowing these truths, we need to ask ourselves why we waste another minute of our lives being anxious, worried, burdened, and overwhelmed.  Let us give God the glory in our lives by being filled with joy and peace rather than anxious.

Hope all of you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Who Needs The Church?

Man wants Christ without his church. God’s Word says otherwise.

There are many people who go through life thinking that their relationship with God is just fine while they have little or no relationship with the church.  The reasons they give for staying away from the assembly range from hypocrisy, real or imagined, to the idea that they can just as meaningfully worship at the fishing hole, in the garden or on the couch.  The line from the Don Williams song rings true for them:  “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.”  Their view of Jesus may be that he simply wanted to spread a message of love.  They may see the church as a non-vital body part like an appendix that they can just as easily do without.

No one can deny that the church is an imperfect thing.  By its nature it will always be imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people just like the folks who criticize it for its imperfections.  But neither can one deny the church’s rightful place and priority in the life of the Christian…if one believes what the Bible says.  The New Testament simply knows nothing of a faithful Christian who is willfully unattached to other Christians through corporate worship and spiritual fellowship.  Here are just a few of the truths that the New Testament teaches us about the church.

First, the church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:24).  To cut yourself off from the church is to be cut off from the body, to be amputated.  The amputated hand is not only cut off from the arm but also from the head, who is Christ (Col. 1:18).  Let’s be real clear.  The amputated body part dies.  So does the amputated Christian.

The church is also the bride of Christ (Heb. 12:22-24; cf. Rev. 21:2).  Think about that for a minute.  If we are part of the church, we are part of the bride of Christ.  So if we leave the church, what are we doing?  Aren’t we basically walking out on Christ?  Ending our spiritual marriage to him?  (Rom. 7:1-4)

The apostle Paul said that the church is the place where God is glorified (Eph. 3:21).  If one leaves the place where God is glorified, how does that one going about glorifying God?  Isn’t it a sign that this person is more concerned with what they want than what God wants?

Paul also called the church the household, or family, of God (1 Tim. 3:15).  To leave the church is to leave God’s family.  It is to be the prodigal son or daughter (Luke 15:11-32).  And until we, like the prodigal son, “come to our senses,” we’ll be sloppin’ with the pigs.

Peter called the church the possession of God (1 Pet. 2:9).  If we decide to no longer be a part of the church, we decide to no longer be part of what God owns.  Therefore, we are striking out on our own, being on our own man or woman rather than God’s.  That might sound good for a while, this independence, but as far as eternity goes it is the last place we want to be.

Finally, Paul said that Jesus is the Savior of the church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Do you want him to save you from an eternity in hell?  If you do, then you need to be in his body, the church…because he is the Savior of the church.  The church is who he saves.  Back in Noah’s day, there was only one place to be if you wanted to avoid drowning…in the ark.  Today, there is only one place to be if you want to avoid hell…in the church of Christ.

The church isn’t perfect as it exists on the earth.  We’ve already established that fact and that’s news to no one.  But it is perfect in its design because God is its Designer.  God created it with the realization that it would be populated by imperfect people.  A few of those imperfect people may be insincere hypocrites who have no interest in being truly transformed.  God knows who they are.  But the rest of them are conscientious men and women who are acutely aware of their own sin and shortcomings.  They know they are not perfect in and of themselves.  But they also know they are perfected by the One who is.  So they stay with his church.  You would do well to stay with it too.

Otherwise you’ll spend longer than you bargained for with those hypocrites you allowed to keep you from the church.