INCARNATE: The Entrapment of Lust

Photo via Tom Holms @ unsplash

DURING WORLD WAR II, Nazi Germany dropped pornographic pamphlets from the sky over enemy territory…

The reason; to distract the soldiers minds with fascinations causing them to ignore the front line. This has been the strategy of porn from its inception; while we fight the diversionary tactic of pornography, the enemy rolls in behind our backs and destroys our homes.

Imagine conquering an entire nation in less than sixty years by simply planting destructive seed in the minds of a few men and watching it spread to the masses. That is what Satan did through the likes of Hugh Heffner and Bob Guccione in the 50’s when Playboy and Penthouse became nationally distributed magazines. Over the years, images of undressed women and men engaged in illicit activity have jumped from the pages of embarrassed to purchase magazines to the privacy of our own personal computer screens and phones.

Jesus knew that something as small as gazing at the bait would lead to total entrapment. Paul Kendall

KneEmail: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

ZEAL IN THE WAITING ROOM

Photo via Nathan Bang at Unsplash

HE SLOWLY SHUFFLED HIS way into the doctor’s office. He was a tall, fair-skinned, aged gentleman. Judging by his appearance, I figured he was in his late 70’s, perhaps early 80’s.

He was sporting a crisp, white, short-sleeved shirt, grey ankle-length slacks, and a navy blue ball cap with the words “I ❤ Jesus.” He held a long, slender walking cane in his left hand and big wad of religious tracks in his left hand.

I watched as he systematically worked his way around the room. As it turned out, he was handing out leaflets pertaining to salvation. I’d seen this very tract many times around town. It proclaimed, “Believe on the Lord and be saved.” By my preacher’s count, he’d given out at least fourteen of the brochures to various patients in the waiting room.

Eventually he settled down just two seats away from me. I knew exactly what was coming. I was pouring over a magazine article when he leaned over and offered me a tract too. “Would you like to read this?” he asked. I declined the offer. “No thank you, sir,” I said kindly. For one fleeting moment he looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “You don’t want one?!” he huffed. “Are you saved?!”

Now I have to admit this was new territory for me. I was just sitting there waiting for my annual checkup when this gentleman—a total stranger—asked me in front of God and everybody—about my pardon from sin.

No, I wasn’t offended, just taken back by his raw courage—especially in front of all the other waiting-room folk in today’s prickly, politically sensitive, don’t-talk-about-religion-in-public society. I smiled and offered gently, “As a matter of fact, I am saved—and I attend the local church of Christ just down the road.”

He leaned back in his seat, nodded in what appeared to be reluctant approval and then thundered, “Well, Jesus died on the cross for everybody!” I nodded in agreement and said, “Yes, He did.”

But my religious cohort wasn’t quite done. Our little impromptu Bible study in the clinic took on an even deeper dimension. He then announced to me and the rest of the waiting room, “Yes, Jesus died for everybody—including the thief on the cross.” “In fact,” he said, the thief just looked over at Jesus and said, ‘Lord save me,’ and He did just that right then and there! More than that, He saves us all the exact same way today!”

My fellow student/patients sat there quietly, a few shaking their heads in obvious approval, while others just stared down at the floor. We had all come anticipating a checkup for a $25 co-pay, but as it turned out, we were also offered a clamorous denominational Bible study for free.

I paused for a just a moment and then shared one brief observation with my zealous neighbor. “I’m glad you mentioned the thief,” I said. You may remember that Hebrews 9 says, ‘For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” I continued, “The thief, unlike us, lived and died while an entirely different testament or covenant was in force, and He therefore isn’t an example for our salvation today.” I reached on my hip for my phone to show him the passage.

Sadly, our short debate was now over, not because I had spoken up, but because I offered a Scripture that countered his sectarian views. He bowed up like a scared cat in a corner and declared emphatically, “JESUS SAVES EVERYBODY IN THE EXACT SAME WAY!” No sooner had the words left his lips than the nurse called his name and he exited the room for his appointment.

I’ve mulled that whole situation over in my head several times. “Should I have spoken up? Was it wise to mention Hebrews 9?” Peter said, “Be ready to give an answer…” (1 Pet. 3:15), and I genuinely tried to do that in a Christian spirit. The man initiated the contact and I simply responded in kind with what little opportunity I was afforded at the time.

But the whole occasion got me to thinking on at least three levels. For instance:

1. Wouldn’t it be great if all members of the Lord’s church had the kind of fearlessness this elderly man exhibited at the doctor’s office (cf. Acts 4:13, 29, 31; Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 3:12; 7:4; Phil. 1:20)? Granted, however sincere he might have been, he was spreading a false, perverted gospel—in essence, easy-believism, but I couldn’t help but admire his boldness, his fervor, and his tenacity. He knew what he knew and he was compelled to share it (Jer. 20:9) with literally everybody around him. He wasn’t ashamed nor was he afraid.

2. The Oxford congregation receives all kinds of House-to-House literature. There are tracts and H2H periodicals scattered around our building. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to grab a handful to keep in our cars? Then when we’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, could can leave a few copies around for others to read and consume. Beloved, not all evangelism has to be confrontational. Sometimes it can as quiet and as innocuous as planting a couple of paper seeds in a doctor’s office reading stand.

3. It is one thing to say that Jesus saves, but it’s quite another thing to say that He saves everybody the exact same way. Yes, we would agree that the principles that relate to salvation (grace and obedient faith—Eph. 2:8) are the same under the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and New Testaments, but obviously the expression of faith under each are vastly different.

Noah was saved by God’s grace (Gen. 6:8) through obedient faith (Heb. 11:7) AS ARE WE TODAY (1 Pet. 3:20-21), but we aren’t obligated to build an ark. The children of Israel were saved by God’s grace (Exo. 14:13-31) through the obedience of faith (Exo. 14:22; 1 Cor. 10:1-2; Heb. 11:29), AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t duty-bound to cross the Red Sea. Naaman was saved by God’s grace (2 Kgs. 5:10, 14b) through the obedience of faith (2 Kgs. 5:14a) AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t commanded to dip seven times in the Jordan. The blind man was saved by God’s grace (Jn. 9:7) through the obedience of faith AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t required to wash in Siloam. Yes, the thief was saved by grace through faith—just as we are, but he was forgiven under the terms of an earlier covenant (Lev. 26:40-42; cf. 1 Kgs. 8, Dan. 9, Neh. 1, Psm. 51, 32) which do not apply to us today.

Allow me to illustrate. Suppose I were to send the following email to the IRS: “To Whom It May Concern, I do not intend to pay income taxes. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln lived and died without paying income taxes, so why should I therefore be expected to pay today? Signed Mike Benson.” QUESTION: What do you suppose would happen to me? It’s safe to say that if I stuck to my guns, eventually I would be put in prison for tax evasion because I currently live under the law (think testament or covenant) that requires U.S. citizens to pay income taxes. On the other hand, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln died BEFORE the income tax law went into effect, and were therefore never under its jurisdiction.

In a similar way, the penitent thief lived and died BEFORE the law of Christ went into effect. He was therefore never subject to its terms as we are today (cf. Heb. 9:27). The Testator—Jesus—hadn’t died yet. The Mosaic covenant was still in effect. We, unlike the thief, live under the terms of the new and better covenant (Heb. 9:7-13) which requires obedient faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4) expressed in baptism for the remission of sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 6:17-18).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”—Mike

Have You Ever Slept Through the Lord’s Supper?

Were the infirmities of 1 Cor. 11:30 figurative or literal?

I CAN’T SAY that I’ve given a great deal of thought to this particular passage until a recent Lord’s Day.

The brother presiding at the table brought it to my attention.

Paul wrote, “Many are weak and sick among you, AND MANY SLEEP” (1 Cor. 11:30 – emphasis mine, mb).

What exactly did the apostle mean when he said, “and many sleep?”

It is possible that he was speaking figuratively.

The brethren at Corinth had merged a common “love feast” covered-dish fellowship meal with the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 2:13).

Yes, their eyes were open, but their hearts were dull and closed – in essence, asleep.

It was a sort of congregational epidemic, kind of like what I heard about years ago in the Knoxville, Tennessee area with the flu more than a half a decade before Covid struck the U.S..

Brethren couldn’t shake hands or hug lest they spread the rampant, life-threatening virus.

Well, members at Corinth could shake hands and hug, physically and metaphorically speaking, but evidently they didn’t.

On the contrary, they divided and separated (vv. 17-19; cf. 1:10-12) and failed to exhibit brotherly love, care and affection.

What the Lord had initially intended as a feast for the soul had been incrementally warped and twisted into a gluttonous feast for the belly (1 Cor. 11:21).

What made it even worse was the fact that some were eating while others were actually going hungry.

The church body was “coming together” (vv. 17-18, 20, 33-34) at the same location (v. 20), but they certainly weren’t coming together in the highest sense of the phrase.

“Many are weak (i.e., feeble and infirm) and sick (i.e., powerless, without strength) and many SLEEP” (are dead).

A number of commentators think this refers to a kind of divine judgment (cf. v. 32) against various members of the congregation – akin to what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11; cf. Rev. 2:21-23).

They believe Paul was speaking literally.

In essence, they are convinced God actually made some members physically ill because of their divisive and unlovingly hypocrisy (v. 34).

That is a plausible interpretation and merits further study.

One brother thinks they were the former:

“They were languishing with spiritual infirmities (cf. lukewarm, Rev. 3:15-16, and those who had left their first love, Rev. 2:4). Because they had failed to discern the body (to properly remember the sacrificial death of Christ and its necessity of their salvation) they had grown negligent and lost interest in the higher values of life and eternity” (Winters, 159 – emphasis mine, mb).

IF these afflictions were in fact figurative, it’s scary to realize that this spiritual virus can still infect precious hearts today.

Brethren can be deer-in-the-headlights awake as they consume the loaf and swallow the fruit of the vine and yet simultaneously be in a spiritual stupor – physically awake, but spiritually asleep as Winters suggests.

Beloved, may I lovingly probe our hearts with the scalpel of the Word (Ps. 139:23; Heb. 4:12)?

Can we really partake of the communion and then intentionally avoid our own brethren following the assembly?

Can we, in God’s eyes, feast one minute on a minute piece of unleavened bread and drink the contents of the cup and then bad-mouth a fellow child of God the very same hour?

Can we sup and then later serve roast preacher and poached shepherd?

Can we close our eyes in silent meditation as we allegedly commune with the Lord Jesus, and then refuse to do the same with other members of His precious blood-bought body after the very same assembly?

Obviously these are rhetorical questions.

Of course we can’t.

Period.

Dot.

End of sentence.

Sure, we can consume crackers and juice and then salve our conscious’ by saying, “Look Lord, we took the emblems!”, but the reality is, doing so may actually indicate our inner weakness, sickness, or perhaps worst of all, spiritual slumber or death (cf. Mat. 9:12).

I have an exhortation.

Let’s observe, partake, worship, and evaluate our hearts – and then let’s really show one another, as well as the world, that we are one in Christ.

“For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Rod Sterling

I ALWAYS READ these kinds of news stories with a certain incredulity.

It’s kind of like watching old re-runs of The Twilight Zone.

All of those low-budget, black and white episodes make for interesting, even provocative, fiction, but they’re obviously neither true nor believable.

Well, the story which currently haunts my thinking isn’t fiction, but reality.

It seems the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is on the verge of altering its stance on how it defines marriage.

Less than a year ago, the group voted in its General Assembly meeting in Detroit to officially embrace gay unions.

In order for the vote to become formally accepted, a majority of the denomination’s 172 presbyteries have to now vote in favor of this new provision.

Incredible as it may seem, Amendment 14-F has been thus far embraced by 79 of 116 regional assemblies.

That means that at the Presbyterians are just mere 7 votes away from adopting homosexual “marriage” and amending its Book of Order from being uniquely between a man and a woman to any two people—male or female.1

It is as if I am back in the 60’s watching late night, three channel, Twilight Zone stuff.

“This just can’t be true.

How can any church endorse blatant immorality?”

Back in my grammar school days, Rob and Laura Petrie (e.g., The Dick Van Dyke Show) couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on TV.

And now, only a generation or two later, one faction of the Presbyterian Church is working hard to accept and promote rank perversion.

When is Rod Sterling finally going to step out in front of the TV screen and tell me that this is just an elaborate, satirical hoax?

Dear readers, as we ponder the ramifications of what is happening within one religious group today, permit me to stimulate our hearts and minds even further:

By what AUTHORITY does any group get to vote on whether or not to accept what the Bible teaches on ANY issue, including and especially marriage?

There is not a single passage or principle in Scripture that delegates that right to any collective. Jesus has ALL authority, not man (Mat. 28:18; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 3:17). We are to preach and carry out His will exclusively—and no religious group (including the church of our Lord) has the right to alter, amend, or legislate in the realm of doctrine or living (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; 1 Pet. 4:11).

The Lord Himself cast the deciding vote on marriage “at the beginning” (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:4-5). His will is not, nor will it ever be, subject to change or man-made modification (Psm. 119:89; Isa. 40:6-8;1 Pet. 1:25).

The apostle Paul said “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead more people into more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:16 ESV). Watch it—false teaching (babble) inevitably results in false practice (ungodliness). Friends, it is simply not possible to believe wrong and then live right before God. Doctrine and living are bound together (Phil. 1:9-11)! It is not “either or”, but “both and”.

Paul also spoke of some who “strayed” from the faith (2 Tim. 2:18). How does a group get from “one man and one woman” to either two men or two women? And the obvious answer is—because they stray, incrementally, piecemeal, a little bit at a time—and no one steps up to censure these obvious deviations from the revealed will of God.

But an even more difficult question also ought to prick our conscience, brethren. Many Presbyterians have remained deathly silent for far too long and now the denomination is about to rush headlong over the precipice of moral integrity and into the abyss of hedonistic relativism. How do we prevent the Lord’s church from doing the very same thing today? I increasingly hear of “gospel” preachers, who in their quest for numerical growth, say that they will not preach on subjects like marriage, divorce, and remarriage because doing so may “divide families.”2 Forgive me, but that kind of thinking smacks of cowardice at the least, and pragmatism (Col. 2:8) at the worst. Our liberal Presbyterian friends would be proud. Decades of silence from their pulpits have brought the denomination to where they may soon, in all good conscience, worship with and fellowship those who openly and unabashedly practice what God calls abomination (Eph. 5:11-13; Isa. 5:20).

I am of the conviction that if we are not extremely careful, we are not far behind the denominationalists. Think about it. How can we consistently condemn the open practice of homosexuality within the Presbyterian Church, but not also condemn the open practice of adultery within the Lord’s church? Ponder:

If we tried to convert a couple from San Francisco who practiced homosexuality, wouldn’t we insist that they repent of their sin first? If they legally kept an adopted child, would we say we can’t preach on homosexuality because a child is involved?

If we tried to convert a Tanzanian Maasai who practiced polygamy and had multiple children by two or more wives, would we not insist that he repent of his sin first? Would we baptize and then fellowship a man who openly practiced polygamy and refuse to teach him the biblical elements true repentance (Ezek. 18:2-23; Mat. 3:8; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9) because he had kids (cf. Ezra 10:10-11)? The “God would never split a family” doctrine is patently false.

Now if we won’t fellowship homosexuals who might have an adopted child, and we won’t fellowship the polygamist who has many children, how can we consistently fellowship the adulterer who also has children…? And the $100 answer is: WE CAN’T.

We simply can’t excise passages such as Matthew 19 from our Bibles like King Jehoiakim who cut out the Word with a scribe’s knife (Jer. 36:23). We can’t teach that repentance is necessary for sins like stealing, but not for sins like living in adultery (2 Cor. 7:10; Col. 3:7).3 On the contrary, we have a divine mandate, because we love souls, to warn others of the perils associated with all sexual sin—and judge those who are doing so (John 7:24; cf. 1 Cor. 5; Rom. 16:17).

Here’s my point. Once we begin to compromise the truth in one realm, we inexorably compromise it in another and yet another—just like the Presbyterians—until we’re not only accepting sin, but endorsing it ourselves.

Let’s stand together, and let’s stand up for what the Bible teaches about sin and repentance—however difficult it may be. This is not The Twilight Zone.

1 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/03/10/major-christian-denomination-is-just-seven-votes-away-from-making-a-monumental-decision-that-some-say-willcause-its-demise/

2 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1120-does-ezra-deserve-criticism

3 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1015-what-is-the-fruit-of-repentance