Category Archives: choices

A Constituency of One

Politicians are elected and paid to represent the will of their particular electorate, their constituency. That is as it should be in a Republic, such as we have in America. But a politician’s constituency is usually quite large. A Senator’s constituency is one of the fifty states. A congressman represents the people of his district. A mayor works for the people of his city. A president usually seeks to represent all the people of the United States. (Sadly, however, some politicians use their office only to satisfy their own unlawful, immoral appetites.) But when your constituency is so large, it is nearly impossible to satisfy everyone.

A Christian, on the other hand, really only has but one constituency. It is true that as we live the Christian life we should consider others and not go out of our way to offend or seek conflict. We should try to please our neighbors and help to bear their burdens and not seek to please ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3; Gal. 6:2). We should always reply with a soft answer (Prov. 15:1). Our speech should always be spoken with grace, our answers seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). We should, as a matter of principle, try to get along with others, even taking the wrong if necessary (Matt. 5:39; I Cor. 6:7). But, in the end, when it comes to right and wrong, when it comes down to truth or error, when eternal life and eternal damnation are in the balance, we have a constituency of but One, that is, God.

Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Our goal as Christians and as gospel preachers should be to please God, not men. To that end, we study and work and rightly divide the word of truth. Our understanding, our preaching and teaching and our actions should not be influenced by how others will respond to the truth. Preachers forsake their obligations when they try to please everyone instead of focusing on teaching the truth that man needs. People will always want to have their itches scratched and they will find a man to do it if they can, but faithful gospel preachers will not succumb to that temptation (II Tim. 4:1-5).

Again, after expressing dismay that brethren in Galatia had so quickly allowed error to creep in amongst them, Paul wrote, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). For many Christians and preachers, popularity and acceptance are more precious than truth or serving Christ. No one wants to be disliked but if that is the price for pleasing God, then so be it. Many errors have been promulgated in the name of Christ because some weak-minded Christians have wanted to either entice or appease the sinner. Many have not learned the lessons that James taught: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Others teach things they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake (Tit. 1:10,11). How many sermons have been altered or not preached at all because the preacher was afraid he would lose his position if he spoke the truth? “They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18). How many elders have asked the preacher to not preach the truth because they were afraid they would lose members, and thus lose money, if the truth was spoken (Tit. 1:7). Thank God for preachers who will preach the truth regardless of what others may say, even though it may (and often has) cost them their positions (II Tim. 4:2). Thank God for elders who demand their preachers speak the truth regardless of what some members may say or do.

Like Israel of old, too many brethren today trust in the shadow of Egypt (Is. 30:1-7). They take counsel, but not of God. Isaiah described their attitude: “this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Is. 30:9-11). Some criticize us because we don’t keep up with the times or what the people will tolerate or the latest homiletical fads or social trends. They criticize those who teach doctrine instead of how to feel better about yourself; they despise those who would warn against error instead of embracing the denominational world as fellow-laborers; they turn up the nose to those who boldly wave the Banner of the Old Jerusalem Gospel instead of appeasing the populace with “community outreach.”

If preaching the Old Jerusalem Gospel is out of step with the times, then I am out of step with the times. Truth is, the Old Jerusalem Gospel has never been popular with the devil. As Christians, we should be concerned about how we walk and please God not men (I Thess. 4:1). Pleasing men is fine if it falls within the parameters of pleasing God first (Acts 5:29). God is our only real constituency.

Eric L. Padgett

Marks of the Lord Jesus

I was looking at a step stool the other day, which my brother made in high school a long time ago, and I noticed all the marks on it. There were indentations made by other objects hitting it, there was ground-in dirt, drops of paint, scratches and drops of what looked like glue, and other marks. It caused me to think that there were stories behind all those marks. That got me to thinking about my own body and the scars and marks I bear, each with a story behind them, stories I can’t even fully remember right now.

Then, in the solitude of that moment, my mind turned to the statement Paul made in Galatians 6:17: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Some had questioned Paul’s authority and apostleship, but Paul could literally point to the sufferings he went through to bring the gospel to the Galatian brethren and others. Paul’s dedication and service to the Lord was evidenced by the physical and the mental marks he bore in his own body.

In ancient times, a man could show his dedication to his master by having a hole bored in his ear (Ex. 21:1-6). The Jews also underwent circumcision to show their covenantal relationship to the law of Moses. The Judaizers who opposed Paul wanted to circumcise the Gentiles so that they could glory in their flesh (Gal, 6:13). But Paul responded to this by saying that he would glory only in the cross of Jesus Christ, by whom the world had been crucified unto him, and he unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

While the judaizers wanted to glory in their adherence to a dead and powerless law, Paul could persuasively argue for his service and dedication to the New Covenant of the living Christ by the very marks he bore in his body.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep (II Cor. 11:23-25).

What tangible proof can we offer that we are the servants of Jesus Christ? Do we have any scars to show for it? Have we yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin (Heb. 12:4)? Can we rejoice in our sufferings and fulfill that in which we fall behind in the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24)? Many of those who have defended this country in its wars bear in their bodies the literal proof of their loyalty to the flag by their wounds. How do we measure up in our loyalty to Christ?

Sadly, it is fashionable today among many members of the Lord’s church to be passive, to not bring about any conflict, to not ruffle any feathers, to not rock the boat, to not engage in spiritual battle, to not do anything that might cause the world to dislike them. That certainly was not the Lord’s way, else why were there constant attempts to bring about His demise (Mark 11:18). It was not Paul’s way, else why would he suffer so much persecution? It was not true of Christians in general else why would Paul say, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12)?

Those who want to be loved by the world need to listen to the words of the Lord. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:18-19). The world hated Jesus and sent Him to the cross and it will hate us if we follow Him. If the world loves you, it is only because you are of the world and not of Christ.

We have a choice. We can go unscathed by the world and unmolested by satan if we compromise our Christian dignity and the truth or we can maintain our Christian integrity and brave the fiery darts of satan (Eph. 6:10-20). Jesus gave the answer to this question when He said “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8). Some Christians, however, are not willing to endure even the smallest grief for the Lord.

Clearly, faithful Christians will bear in their bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. These marks will come as a result of having engaged in battle with this present evil world and its god. One day, those Christians who have compromised their love for the Lord for the love of the world will trade in their peace and placidity for confusion and damnation while those of us who are despised and molested by the world, and by weak brethren, will trade in our scars and wounds for the victors crown of eternal life.

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

Eric L. Padgett

Freedom of Religion

There has been a lot of attention given to the Freedom of Religion law recently passed here in Indiana. I don’t know enough yet about all the legal issues involved and I won’t go into them here. This only will I say, this country was founded on Judeao-Christian values, i.e., the values we find revealed by God in the Bible. Those basic values are what made this country the great nation that it is and, I am afraid, to willfully remove ourselves from them will be to remove ourselves from the protection of God’s Providence which brought us to this place of distinction in the world.

Quote after quote could be produced showing the favorable disposition of the Founding Fathers to God, Christianity and the Bible. For example, President Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” In a speech to the Delaware Indians, he stated:

“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it.”

Truly, so long as this country adhered to it’s Judeao-Christian heritage, God blessed this nation. But since, through the threat of financial ruin and intimidation of an influential minority, the constant drone of the liberal media against conservative, Christian points of view, and the passing off of the perfidious plague of political correctness as serious thought, we have devalued human life by adopting the insanity of abortion, we have glorified the sickest kind of immorality and debauchery through Hollywood’s hypnotic “eye,” we have sanitized and “normalized” the unnatural, sick and perverse abominations of homosexuality (which until 1986 was classified as a mental illness in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and, of late, powerful people in high places have attempted to foist upon the American people the rejection of Christ and the gospel in favor of the adoption of Mohammed and Islam.

It is only natural that sincere and conscientious Christians voice concern about their place in this increasingly hostile-to-Christian society. We should not expect things to get significantly better anytime soon for the Christian or even the nation. Indeed, expect them to worsen considerably. But this much we know: God is ultimately in complete control and shall work out His will in His own time, in His own way (Dan. 4:17,25,32; 5:21).

In the meantime, however, we should know that anytime the government attempts to force Christians to do that which they cannot conscientiously do–and make no mistake about it, this is happening even now!–they must adamantly refuse. Clearly “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:9). This action, of course, will have serious consequences and we will be persecuted as a result but all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). We must have enough faith to not fear men but God (Matt. 10:28).

Unless we Christians stand up and loudly voice our opposition to the godless agenda being advanced while we are still free to do so, there may come a time when it will be impossible to do so. It is terribly ironic that God does not even force us to do His will like the government is now trying to force us to do it’s will. God made us free and makes us free. We have freedom of religion with God, but not with man. Our federal and many state constitutions promise us that these God-given freedoms will not be abridged but in this day of lawlessness that may not mean anything.

Eric L. Padgett

Rejoice in My Sufferings

In truly descriptive language, the prophet Amos warned against complacency and placidity in God’s people: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion…that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches…that invent unto themselves instruments of musick…that anoint themselves with the chief ointments…but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:1-6). Just as in the days when Amos uttered this dire warning, we also live in an age and a culture when peace and pleasure are paramount. Even more disheartening is the fact that this attitude has taken hold of a great many in the Lord’s church.

Instead of challenging the denominational world to discuss and debate their false religious views, instead of calling their teachings and practices what they are–damnable error, too many in the Lord’s church now seek to “partner” with those in the denominations in sundry social and community activities. No, the reasoning goes, to expose the error might cause them not to like us and they might say bad things about us and then how could we reach them? Why, we might even suffer rejection or, worse, persecution!

How different this attitude is from that of Moses. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Moses and God’s people could have used a different approach than the one God authorized of separating themselves to the worship of God (Ex. 5:1). Moses might have tried to compromise with Pharaoh by offering to worship Egyptian gods as well as Jehovah. He might have offered to worship in Egypt and not in the wilderness as God had said. They may have gotten together for some kind of social affair so that they could learn to relate to one another’s needs. But Moses chose rather to do what God said and he was willing to suffer for it.

How different the attitude of some is today than that of the Lord’s apostles. When the Sadducees cast the apostles into prison for preaching and teaching the truth, the apostles, being set free from bondage by and at the command of the angel of the Lord (Acts 5:19,20), went out to speak the words of this life to all the people. When they were once again hauled before the Sanhedrin and asked why they were teaching in the name of Christ when they were straightly charged not to, they responded simply: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And then, when they had been beaten for the Cause of Christ, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

The apostles could have tried some other approach than the one authorized by the Lord. They might have left out the offensive parts of their preaching so as not to offend the Jews. They might have left out the preaching about the resurrection, which the Sadducees did not accept. The apostles could have left out the blood of Christ and His crucifixion to draw the Sadducees into the services, to increase their numbers and ease religious tensions. But instead, they wanted to obey God rather than men and were willing and glad to suffer for it, if that was the result.

The Christians in the first century also had a different attitude than many in the Lord’s church do today. Paul acknowledged that the brethren in Colossae were rejoicing in his sufferings for them. At the time of the writing, Paul was under Roman detention. They rejoiced, not because they wanted to see Paul suffer, but because he was fulfilling the will of God and filling up that which was behind in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). What did first century Christians do when they were reviled, persecuted and spoken against falsely? They followed the Lord’s command and rejoiced exceedingly because they knew they had a reward in heaven (Matt. 5:10,11).

If we suffer as Christians (that is, because we are Christians), let us not be ashamed as so many seem to be today. Rather, let us glorify God on this behalf (I Pet. 4:16). We should rejoice that we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings and reproached for the name of Christ (I Pet. 4:13,14). If someone asks us to go out for a drink, we should be able to say confidently, “No thank you, because I am a Christian, I do not drink alcohol.” If someone asks us to participate in some denominational service, we should be able to say without shame “No thank you, the Lord does not approve of that.” We should not be ashamed or afraid to speak the truth to those in error either doctrinally or morally.

Instead of seeking the path of least resistance, we ought to seek the path that is right (Matt. 7:13,14). We should never, ever intentionally try to offend others, but we must never, ever yield to the false notion that offense is, in itself, a sin. Jesus was, is and ever shall be offensive to many people (John 5:51-64; Matt. 13:57; Mark 14:27; I Cor. 1:18-31). We are not greater than our Lord (John 13:16). If Jesus was offensive, then so shall we be. If Jesus was persecuted, then so shall we be (John 15:20). If we suffer with Him, then we shall also reign with Him (II Tim. 2:11,12). If we are offered and sacrificed, then we ought to rejoice (Phil 2:14-18). Let us then rejoice in our sufferings and never be ashamed to suffer as a Christian!

Eric L. Padgett

“I Wish I Had More Time”

James Foley was ruthlessly murdered by Islamic terrorists. A video of his beheading has been posted on the internet by the terrorists in hopes of inciting fear throughout the world. Though I have not and will not watch the video, I understand that just before he is murdered he says on the video these heart wrenching words: “I wish I had more time.” Our hearts go out to his family. But his words and death teach us a very important lesson–none of us know what life will bring our way the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next day or the next year. All of us wish we had more time.

The patriarchs lived into the hundreds of years but even their lives were relatively short. When you compare a hundred years or even a thousand years with eternity, you realize that you don’t even begin to scratch the surface of time. But no matter how much time we are given in this life, we are really never quite ready when it is taken away from us or those we love. The time you and I are given in this life is so precious, so very precious. But sometimes we act as if we have all the time in the world and we really don’t. We should “remember how short my time is” (Psalm 89:47).

Even when I was younger I realized time was fleeting. I was never one of those who felt that I was invincible or that time would never catch up with me. I know I have not always used my time wisely, however, even though I knew I should not waste it. But one of the hardest tasks in life is to keep consistently focused on the important things. The cares of this world tend to choke the life out of us, if we are not ever vigilant and sober (Matt. 13:22). All too often we spend our time on the frivolous and mundane and do not give proper attention to the things which are eternal (II Cor. 4:1). Because we are given so precious little time, we should redeem every second of it (Eph. 5:16).

The ironic thing is that God wants to give us all the time there is! He has promised us everlasting life (John 3:6)! The Lord has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (II Tim. 1:10). If we could only realize that we are given a short period of time here in this life to develop our own character to be like God’s, then God will bless us with everlasting life (I John 5:13; Jude 21). Do we want to lay hold on eternal life? Then we must fight the good fight of faith (I im. 6:12). The promise of life is ours if we want it, the way to obtain has been made known to us, all we have to do is to lay hold on it!

We must realize that the fortunes of this life are not always under our control. Sometimes our lives are tragically taken from us by a horrible accident. At other times it is taken by some demented sadist, as in the case of Foley. Sometimes we face hardships and troubles so intense, that, under those circumstances, it is easy to understand the desire for these to come to an end. Even Paul had a desire to depart and to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). We cannot know what the morrow may bring us (Prov. 27:1). Therefore, we must always be ready (Mark 13:37).

Therefore we must continue to fight the good fight of faith and to do all that we can possibly do in this life so that when that when this life does come to a close for us we may say with the apostle Paul, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8).

Eric L. Padgett

Which?

Some times in life we are required to make choices. Some of these choices can have very serious and lasting consequences. Which person should I marry? Which house or which car will I buy? Should I have surgery or not? Should I speak out or should I remain silent. These are real options that sometimes require a hard choice to be made between two or more alternatives. But some times the choices presented to us are false. Sometimes we are told we must choose between two or more possibilities and the necessity of a choice is only apparent.

For example, sometimes we are told we must choose between hating and loving. We understand that the first and greatest commandment in the law of Moses was to love God and the second greatest was to love neighbor as self (Matt. 22:35-40). We understand that Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 15:17). But we also understand that God, our Heavenly Father, hates iniquity (Heb. 1:9). Are we any better than our Heavenly Father? Are we more righteous than He? The Lord specifically commended the churches of Ephesus and Pergamus because they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which, the Lord said, He also hated (Rev. 2:6,15). We should hate what the Lord hates and love what He loves! The choice between hate and love often is only a false choice.

Another example of this is the false choice between building and defending. I have heard certain segments of our brotherhood derisively call those who are committed to defending the faith “brotherhood watchdogs.” Those who use this language are usually never willing to stand up against anyone except those who stand up against doctrinal and moral error. But once again, this is a false choice. Just as the Jew of old in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem wrought with one of his hands and with the other hand held a weapon (Neh. 4:17,18), so, too, we must both build and defend the Lord’s church. In fact, in the Christian dispensation, because Truth is so intimately connected with the salvation in the Lord’s church, we cannot but help do one when we faithfully do the other. The choice between building and defending is a false one.

Another false choice often presented as the only options is between God’s love and God’s justice. Some emphasize God’s love so much that it sounds as if God never has judged anyone or never will be judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25). Truly, God is love (I John 4:8). Indeed, no greater love has been shown than when God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world to be offered as a ransom for all (John 3:16; I Tim. 2:6). But, nevertheless, God is going to judge man for his sins because God is just (Zeph. 3:5; Zech. 9:9). To be true to God we must teach all His word says about Him. The choice between God’s love and God’s justice is a false one.

Another choice the religious world likes to force us to make is the one between grace and works. Most in the religious world will say we are saved by grace and nothing else. Still others in the religious world will say that we can merit our salvation by being good enough or doing enough to earn our salvation. Again, the choice is a false one. We are saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8) just as surely as we are saved by works of obedience (II Thess. 1:8). God’s grace is extended to all men but it teaches us that we must do something in response (Tit. 2:11,12). The choice between grace and works is a false one.

Finally, some want to force a choice between faith and baptism. Some will emphasize the necessity of faith to the extent they say we are saved by faith alone. In fact, the New Testament teaches we are not saved by faith only (James 2:4). The Bible clearly teaches that baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The Bible clearly teaches that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:15,16). The right way of teaching this issue is to present the whole counsel of God and not just what we want to teach (Acts 20:27). The truth is, there is no choice between faith and baptism because it is not “faith or baptism” but “faith and baptism.”

In life, there are many serious choices we must make. Some are matters of life and death and eternity. Let us not add to these real and serious choices false and manufactured ones.

Eric L. Padgett