TRY TO IMAGINE the scene in your mind’s eye.
She’s a young, attractive lady in her mid-twenties. She approaches you and others in the foyer of the church building Wednesday night just before Bible study. She immediately thrusts out her left hand, spreads her fingers, and displays the sparkling silver band on her third finger. With obvious enthusiasm she announces, “I got married today!”
While the group is still reeling from her initial announcement, she drops a second explosive. “Yes! We’re married, and of course, we’re done…”
“You’re done?” you gingerly inquire.
She smiles back. “You know, silly, we’re married now so we don’t have to work so hard at our relationship, because we love each other.”
Every reader understands this is fiction, but it hopefully illustrates a point.
No right-thinking, mature individual would dare say that just because a young lady has gotten married that she’s done working on her marriage. The ceremony, including the exchange of rings and vows, is only the beginning of her relationship; it is the start of her marriage—not the totality of wedlock.
I can’t help but wonder how many Christians essentially take this very position when it comes to their union with Christ?
So many brethren live under the impression that baptism is the ENTIRETY of the Christian walk and that all an individual has to do is be immersed (e.g., “get married”). Like the girl’s wedding ceremony, it’s as if water is the only thing that matters, and once that rite is accomplished, there’s nothing left to do—no effort is required, no growth is expected, no devotion is to be displayed, and no fruit is to be borne.
Beloved, baptism is essentially the wedding ceremony; it is the time we take Christ’s name (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). And as important as that is (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:4; 11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27), the real work (1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 2:12) of spiritual commitment to Jesus only starts on that blessed occasion (2 Peter 3:18)! Immersion doesn’t signal that we are finished; it says that we are just beginning to keep our vows to love, honor, and obey the Lord (Luke 14:26).
Are you still working since you got married, or are you done? Was the day of your baptism the end—or the beginning?
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4).
Question: “Is there any place in the New Testament where Jesus actually condemned homosexual behavior? If so, I have not been able to find it. … It seems to me that if the Savior didn’t say it was wrong, then neither should we.”
Answer: While it is true that there is no New Testament record of where Jesus explicitly stated that homosexuality is wrong, He did, in fact, condemn the behavior.
A careful study of the Bible will bear this out. Please read the following Bible passages and then consider the questions which follow:
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4).
- What did Jesus say about God’s creative work?
- Did He make Adam and Joseph?
- Did He create male and male, or did He create male and female?
- According to this passage, what has been God’s plan for sexual union (“one flesh”) since the beginning of time?
- Was His plan for a male partner to be joined to another male partner, or was it for a husband to be united to his wife?
- According to this passage, is a man to cleave to his male partner, or to his spouse?
Consider: Since Jesus approved of his Father’s plan (i.e., one man, one woman, one flesh,) could we correctly say that Jesus condemned homosexuality?
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46,47).
- What law was Jesus born under (cf. Gal. 4:4)?
- What law did Jesus live under? Answer: The Law of Moses.
- Did Jesus endorse and follow the Law of Moses (Luke 22:44; John 5:46; Hebrews 4:15)?
- What did the Law of Moses say about homosexual behavior? (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17).
Consider: Since Jesus was born and lived under the Law of Moses, and since He endorsed the Law of Moses, and since the Law of Moses explicitly condemned homosexual behavior, then could we correctly say that Jesus also condemned it?
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for he will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).
- What did Jesus say the Holy Spirit would do for the apostles? Answer: Guide them into all truth (v. 13.)
- When/as the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth; would He speak on His own authority? Answer: No, He would speak on the authority of Christ (v. 14).
- What did Jesus say the Holy Spirit would do in verse 14? Answer: “He (i.e., the Holy Spirit) will take of what is Mine (i.e., Christ’s) and declare it to you” (i.e., the apostles).
Consider: Since 1) the apostles would be guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit, and since 2) the Holy Spirit would not speak on his own authority but instead would speak on the authority of Christ, and since 3) the Holy Spirit would take of what was Christ’s and declare it to the apostles, then by WHOSE AUTHORITY would the apostle’s speak/write/teach when the Holy Spirit guided them into all truth? Answer: Christ’s.
Question: What did the apostle Paul (by Christ’s authority) say about homosexual practice (Romans 1:24-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; 2 Pet. 2:6-10; Jude 7)?
Yes, Jesus did condemn homosexual behavior in His Word–in all three dispensations–Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian, and He said through inspired writers that those who practice it will be lost (Gal. 5:19, 21).
The good news is, “There is hope for the homosexual; he has reason to believe there is hope for a brighter future. Paul states that some at Corinth had engaged in homosexual acts, but they had been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The same can happen today. As anyone who repents of a sin, the homosexual can be forgiven. He can experience the same freedom and joy that any other sinner knows when he becomes a Christian. The Bible condemns homosexual sex but clearly states that non-practicing homosexuals can be saved” (Doug Sensing, “Christian Response To Homosexuality,” Gospel Advocate, April ’93, Vol. CXXXV, No. 4, 12).
It was January 1945.
Young Sergeant Russell Dunham found himself and his platoon in a desperate situation. Pinned down by withering machine gun fire, trapped at the bottom of a steep hill, hindered by snow all around and a barrage of artillery fire behind, Dunham made a life-changing decision.
He charged the hill–alone.
A bullet slashed across his back, sending him tumbling. He got back up and charged the first machine gun nest. Kicking aside a grenade that landed at his feet, he shot the machine gunner and his assistant.
Then his rifle jammed! Dunham never hesitated. He jumped into the machine gun nest, grabbed the third gunner and hurled him down the hill. “The captain said we needed prisoners,” he explained later.
The second machine gun nest, about fifty yards away, trained its fire on him. Dunham responded by grabbing an M-1 rifle from a wounded soldier and advancing toward the nest. When he was close enough, he lobbed two grenades into the enemy emplacement, wiping out the crew. Then he started for the last enemy stronghold, sixty-five yards above him. When Dunham had crawled to within fifteen yards of the machine gun, he stood up and lobbed his last two grenades, wiping out the crew.
All told, Dunham single-handedly destroyed three fortified positions, killed nine of the enemy, wounded seven more, and captured two.
Why did Dunham risk his life like that when others didn’t? He loved his country. And on that day, Russell Dunham proved it. His acts of courage earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor–and the gratitude of millions of Americans.1
James tells us that faith without works is dead.
Even non-Christians say the same thing: “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you’ve gotta walk the walk.” “Practice what you preach.” “Put your money where your mouth is.” “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Ask yourself: What deeds am I doing that reveal my faith in God? Do I follow through on my promises to others? Am I taking an active role in the church?
If we claim to be believers, let’s act like believers! Let’s let our actions be consistent with our faith in God. Don M. Aycock & Mark Sutton, “Faith and Works,” Still God’s Man, 380-81.
1 Reader’s Digest, June 2001, 122-23.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
IN NOVEMBER 2015, Czech pilot, Zbynek Abel, was forced to perform an emergency landing of his Aero L-159 Alco subsonic attack jet when it collided with a bird.
The aircraft was armed with powerful weapons that could destroy other planes and attack cities, but it was downed by a bird hundreds of times smaller and had no powerful engine, deadly weapons, or skilled pilot.
THOUGHT: Small trials can threaten to take us down, making them as dangerous as the large trials we fear most. Scott LaPierre, “Expect Trials,” Enduring Trials God’s Way, 18.
What is the solution to daily trials?
“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” (Mat. 7:24-25; cf. 2 Chron. 14:11-12)
YOU JUST FOUND out that you’re going to be a grandparent for the very first time-and it’s twins.
You just received a big, overdue promotion on your job.
You finally finished that grueling term paper for one of your toughest classes and the professor gave you an “A.”
You just found out you’re getting an unexpected, yet significant tax refund from the IRS.
Your son is coming home in a couple of weeks after an extended tour in Afghanistan.
Your daughter just got engaged to a faithful Christian young man and their wedding is in three months.
That worrisome tumor on your arm turned out to be benign and the doctor will excise it next week.
That dangerous storm front which forecasters said was headed your way has moved off to the north and dissipated.
You just caught a massive redfish down on the coast, or you shot that big whitetail you’ve been after for a couple of years.
You just got a hole-in-one at the local golf club.
We love good news.
We love telling good news.
I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we derive so much pleasure from sharing good news is not only because it gives us yet another personal occasion to re-live all of the joy over again, but because we get to see how our friends and loved ones react when they initially hear the announcement.
They respond, often times, with the same excitement and fervor we did.
Which leads me to a couple, hopefully, sobering questions.
If we’re so anxious to tell others about things like babies and bucks, why aren’t we just as anxious to share the best news of all?
Why are we hesitant, maybe even resistant, brethren, about telling people about God’s great love for them through his precious Son, Jesus Christ?
People keep secrets, but they share good news.
Good news, if you think about it, really isn’t good news until we share it.
Evangelism really isn’t evangelism until we say something.
Brother-sister, when was the last time you shared The Good News with another?
“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
IT WAS IN the early morning hours of September 8.
Eyewitnesses say that it was a stormy evening on Lake Michigan.
Nighttime navigation was always difficult in 1860, but especially so on this occasion.
Gale-force winds made the trip all the more perilous. Passengers were nervous and with good reason.
Around 2:30 AM, about twelve miles off the Illinois coast, the steamboat “Lady Elgin” was suddenly rammed by a large, wooden schooner.
The “Augusta” had been laboring under the tempest and collided with her on the port side, just aft of her paddlewheel.
Lady Elgin’s crew attempted to plug the hole in the hull with a mattress, but to no avail.
The breach simply could not be repaired and pounding waves quickly forced water into her oak-framed body.
Edward Spencer was on board the Lady Elgin when the accident occurred.
He was a student from nearby Northwestern University and decided to help.
Oblivious to the storm and its attendant dangers, Edward plunged into the icy waters and began rescuing fellow passengers.
There had been approximately 485 patrons on board (the ship was rated to carry only 300 people); about 380 of them drowned on that awful day.
Edward lived–and so did seventeen other people whom he had saved during the deluge.
However, the strain of the occasion exacted its toll on his young body.
The nerves in his legs had been irreparably damaged during the mishap, and doctors were forced to confine him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
On his 80th birthday, Edward’s friends and family gathered to celebrate.
Someone in his company asked him, “What is your most vivid memory about that tragic day?”
He replied, “Not one of the seventeen returned to thank me.”
I wonder which burden was more difficult for Edward to bear?
Was it the lifetime loss of movement in his legs, or was it the thoughtless negligence of those seventeen unnamed passengers whom he had snatched from that watery tomb long ago?
In Luke 17, Jesus came in contact with a group of men who were suffering with leprosy.
Their plight as well as their knowledge of the Lord’s power prompted them to cry for help.
Commenting on this incident, one author notes:
The law of Moses required those afflicted with the loathsome disease of leprosy to keep away from the rest of the people (Lev. 13:45-46). This is why they “stood afar off.” Because lepers could not associate with others, they usually congregated together for the sake of association; and, in this instance, there were ten of them. One of them was a Samaritan; the others were Jews. Ordinarily, the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans; but, their common affliction had drawn them together. Leprosy is one of the most dreaded and terrible diseases known to man. It starts with sores; then, it eats away at bodily tissues until the body itself begins to be consumed. The nose, the lips disappear; fingers decay and fall off; joint after joint separates, eventually, the vital organs cease to function and death follows. Those who had leprosy were regarded as ceremonially unclean; they were required to live outside the city; and, had to cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ at the approach of others. The lepers remained at a distance because they were forbidden to draw near to others–this being a sort of quarantine to keep from infecting more with the disease. The lepers heard of the Lord; they know of His powers to heal; and they pleaded with Him to “have mercy” on them. Their deep sense of need led them to beg for whatever ministration the Lord felt disposed to give them… Jesus heard the pitiful cries of these desperate men and was willing to help. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests… A person who was healed of leprosy was to show himself to the priest who made an offering for him and officially pronounced him clean (Lev. 14; Matt. 8:4). Though actually clean through the miraculous power of Christ, these lepers had to be made legally clean by compliance with the law of Moses in order to be allowed association with the people” (J. Noel Meridith, “Exhortations for Servants,” Luke: Fifth Annual Firm Foundation Lectureship, William S. Cline, ed., ’88, 414-415).
Ironically, despite the fact that Jesus had healed ten men, Scripture says that only the Samaritan came back and expressed his heartfelt gratitude.
“Now one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks…” (vv. 15-16a).
I wonder what the Lord felt when that singular leper returned and said “thank you” (v.17)?
Then too, I wonder how the Lord feels today when we fail to express gratitude for the “healing” (Isaiah 6:9-10; 1 Peter 2:24) he has granted us?
He walked the lonely road to the cross.
He gave his life as a ransom on our behalf.
He made salvation possible to us all (Titus 2:11).
Are we saying “thank you” in return?
Could it be that we’ve lost sight of the enormity of what Jesus did for us nearly 2,000 years ago on the tree (Romans 5:15-18; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8)?
When the apostle Paul considered his deliverance from the consequences of sin (i.e., death–Romans 6:23) he exclaimed, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)!
When we begin to recognize the sacrifice that was made on Calvary, we will stop thinking in terms of obligation and requirement.
Our motivation to follow Jesus won’t be prompted by command alone, but also out of an abiding gratitude that pours forth from our lives (James. 2:14-26).
Thankfulness will be translated into loving, lifelong devotion and submission.
Do you need to say “thank you” to Jesus?
Where are the seventeen?
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18; cf. Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2; Hebrews 13:15).
WOULD YOU CONSIDER yourself rich, even wealthy?
Imagine doing the following, and you will get a glimpse of what life is like for more than a billion people in our world today:
- Take out all of the furniture in your house except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use your blankets for beds.
- Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit. Leave one pair of shoes.
- Empty the pantry and refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, onions, and a dash of dried beans.
- Dismantle the bathroom fixtures, shut off the running water, and remove all of the electrical wiring in your house.
- Take away your house and move your family into the tool shed. Place your house in a shantytown.
- Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and books.
- Leave only one radio for the entire shantytown.
- Throw away your bank book, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies and leave the family a cash hoard of $10.
Now, what did you say a moment ago? Are you rich?
Yes, to most people you and I are extremely wealthy.
That’s something to think about the next time we are tempted to complain about our circumstances.
The Bible says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have…” (Hebrews 13:5).
Think about it.