THEY FORSOOK ALL

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FISHING WAS THEIR livelihood. It put food on their table and a roof over their heads (Mark 1:29).1 Fishing “paid the bills.” But these two brothers quit their boats and nets and immediately followed Jesus (Mark 1:18).

Remember also that Simon and Andrew not only left their jobs, but their families as well (Mark 1:30; cf. Matthew 19:271 Corinthians 9:5). It was kind of like being in the army reserves and receiving a call to serve in a foreign theater of conflict (cf. 2 Timothy 2:4). The brothers were already acquainted with Jesus (cf. John 1:35-42; 2:1; 2:13, 17, 22; 3:22; 4:1-27, 31, 43-45; Luke 5:1ff), but some time later He summoned them to active, permanent duty (cf. Luke 22:28).

Vocation. Close relatives. Simon and Andrew walked away from both. “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11; cf. Genesis 12:1). Read those words again slowly. Let them sink down into your heart. They forsook ALL.

Would you quit your job at a moment’s notice? Would you close your business on an impulse, pack your bags, and then bid farewell to your loved ones for an undisclosed length of time? No? Simon Peter and Andrew did.

Now stay with me for a moment. Don’t get lost.

  • Could this be why some of us never attain our New Year’s resolutions?
  • Could this be why we are unwilling to pursue real change in our lives?
  • Could this be why goals are often little more than lofty pie-in-the-sky wishes?

You see, following Jesus means leaving certain things behind (cf. Mark 10:28Luke 5:28; 18:28). Following Jesus means forsaking our nets and walking away from the lazy comfort of the status quo. For children of God, it means constantly changing our internal spiritual street address (cf. 1 Peter 2:22 Pet. 3:18) and venturing into unknown territory (cf. Hebrews 11:8). For Simon and Andrew it meant surrendering familial bonds, shutting down their seafood restaurant and living out of their suitcases (Luke 9:3). It’s one thing to do a weekend gospel meeting in another state; it’s another thing entirely to become a full-time, traveling missionary. Where would they sleep at night?2

How would their meals be provided? There were no welfare programs to help the brothers find housing during their tour of duty in Palestine. The Roman government certainly didn’t offer food stamps to itinerant Jewish preachers. They couldn’t depend on monthly social security checks to make ends meet. They just left. They forsook all.

Maybe that’s why so many of us shun the opportunities afforded by the New Year and never grow to maturity in Christ. Maybe we reject the promise of self-improvement and real in-depth spiritual growth because 1) genuine resolutions require legitimate change (i.e., leaving), 2) change means uncertainty, and 3) uncertainty scares us. The fear of the unknown is so paralyzing that we never leave our boats and nets for the real trophy catch (Phil. 3:13-14). Think of just a few life examples:

  • Starting and maintaining a regular exercise program demands self-discipline (think sweaty exercise sessions, running on the treadmill, working out with weights, and changing our diet and eating habits). Uncertainty and fear whispers, “What if I fail and I don’t lose the weight, or what if I do lose the weight but it all comes right back?”
  • Curbing a hot temper requires much more than an empty promise at the start of the first month on the calendar (Eph. 4:26-32). Fear inquires, “What happens if, in a moment of weakness, I lose it again like I have a million times before? Then what? How many times am I going to have to start over again?”
  • Learning to teach an adult auditorium Bible class means leaving the quiet confines of a padded pew and standing in front of people who sometimes know more Scripture than we do (cf. Heb. 5:12-14). It means anxious hours of private study and wondering if brethren will want to even hear what you have to say. It means standing in front of your peers, perhaps at times with a weak and timid spirit, armed only (Rom. 1:16) with a powerful Word.

The question that begs to be answered is, “Are we really willing to forsake all in the interest of the maturation of our faith (Gal. 5:22-23Col. 3:12-152 Pet. 1:5-11) and the good pleasure of our heavenly Father?”

What about you, dear Christian? Are YOU willing to forsake all? Can you, like Simon and Andrew, leave your nets and boats and step out in faith for the journey ahead?

The calendar says Thursday, March 2, 2022. I urge you to leave–immediately.

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessings fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

1/ See John MacArthur, “Peter,” Twelve Ordinary Men, 37.
2/ Hospitality was a sacred duty in this NT culture.

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