Monthly Archives: July 2015

Think On These Things

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

The Christian has a very difficult task. He must live in a world that is increasingly secular and vulgar while maintaining a moral distance from the world. Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). A major part of staying separate from the world is keeping the mind under control, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). Paul told the Corinthian brethren that part of our job as a Christian is to cast down imaginations and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:4,5). We must encourage that in others and cultivate this character in our own lives.

God’s word is the only true source of that which is appropriate for the mind to consistently contemplate. The Psalms begin with thought of thinking on the word of God. “His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The meditation here referred to is not some kind of mystical, oriental, transcendental type, but the “meaning here is, he thinks of it; he endeavors to understand its meaning; he has pleasure in reflecting on it. It is not a subject which he puts away from him, or in respect to which he is indifferent, but he keeps it before his mind, and has satisfaction in doing it” (Barnes). By hiding His word in our hearts, we can strengthen our ability to avoid temptation and giving in to sin (Psalm 119:11; cf. Josh. 1:8).

Paul said we should think on things that are true. Jesus said of God’s word, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Lies should not be a part of our practice because they come from the devil (John 8:44). Truth can sometimes be painful (Gal. 4:16), but lies will keep us from heaven (Rev. 21:27).

Honesty is also a requirement for Christian contemplation. Honesty is a very close relation to truth. To be honest is to speak the truth to others and to ourselves. Not only are we to contemplate that which is honest, we are to provide for honest things in the sight of God and man (II Cor. 8:21; Rom. 12:17). We bring forth fruit in our lives when an honest heart receives the word of God (Luke 8:15).

We should think about things that are just. To be just is to be equitable, innocent and holy. It is very easy to let ourselves slide into injustice, especially when it gives us an advantage or the truth would hurt us in some way.

Our minds should gravitate to things that are pure. The world has allure, its silver, its gold. The wicked and evil grow ever more bold. Filthiness is put on display daily and the putrid stench of sin fills the air in our culture these days. It vexes the soul of the righteous. But we are to display a pure conversation (manner of life, conduct) coupled with fear (I Pet. 3:2). As we hope to see the Lord, we should strive to purify ourselves even as He is pure (I John 3:2,3).

We should also think on those things that move us toward love or are lovely or instill love in others. Why think on the ugly when you can think on the lovely or the gracious? The Cambridge Bible Commentary remarks: “The Christian is here reminded that his Master would have him attend to manner as well as matter in his life. Grace should make gracious.”

If there is a good report, we should think on that. We have to deal with that which is bad and evil. We must oppose error and sin. But what happens is, all too often, we continue to dwell on the bad, on the wicked and the evil. We are willing to hear that which is bad about someone, but not the good.

If we can cultivate these thoughts in our minds, and focus on the virtuous and the praise-worthy, then we will have helped ourselves immensely in living the Christian life as the Lord requires us to live and the God of peace shall be with us (v. 9).

Eric L. Padgett

A Walk Through The Bible Zoo

Animals are frequently mentioned throughout the scriptures and have played an important role in the story of salvation. First of all they are God’s creations. God created the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field and every thing that creeps upon the face of the earth (Gen. 1:20-25). While they are not on the same moral level as man, man has been given stewardship of them along with the rest of creation (Gen. 1:28; Psalm 8:6-8).

Like everything else that God created, animals were made to reproduce only after their own kind (Gen. 1:25). Animals were given the ability to adapt to the varied environments that occur on the face of the earth, but their adaptation occurs within the confines of their baramin, or created kind. No creature has ever or ever will cross that line of demarcation between kinds.

Animals were not made in the image of God as was man (Gen. 1:26). For this cause, no animal could ever satisfy man’s need for companionship, however lovable and cuddly they might be (Gen. 2:18-20). However, God did command the use of animals as a substitute offering in place of man’s life when man violated the law of God and God’s justice demanded a payment of blood (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:21; Heb. 9:22; 10:1-19; etc.).

Besides all this, there are spiritual lessons to be learned from the animals. The first specific animal that is mentioned in the Bible is the serpent (Gen. 3:1). Our adversary, the devil, employed the serpent, perhaps because it was the most subtle of the beasts of the field, to tempt our first parents. It is likely that the serpent had legs initially because it’s curse was to go upon it’s belly all the days of it’s life (Gen. 3:14,15). John calls it “that old serpent” and describes it as a dragon in the book of Revelation (12:9).

The adversary of man is also described as a roaring lion, seeking to devour those who are unsuspecting of his wiles (I Pet. 5:8). Therefore, the devil can be both subtle and roaring in his attempts on our salvation but we should not be ignorant of his devices (II Cor. 2:11). But we can resist him no matter what form he may take in his attack upon us (James 4:7).

Those who serve the adversary of man are described as another vicious beast, a wolf. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). False teachers pretend to be something that they are not. They infiltrate the flock to spread their deadly doctrine. Paul stated, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Christians, on the other hand, are described by the Lord as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16). We live in a world filled with dangerous wolfs that will not spare the innocent sheep.

Other creatures teach more simple lessons. The wise man reminds the sluggard to go to the ant and consider her ways so that he might be wise and industrious (Prov. 6:6). Jesus uses the fowls of the air as a lesson in trusting in God’s providence (Matt. 6:26). James uses all animals to show that they can be tamed, but the tongue cannot be (James 3:7). There are lessons to be learned from conies, locusts, spiders and other creatures created by God (Prov. 30:24-28).

Perhaps the most important creature made by God is the lamb. Jesus is described as the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter and the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Is. 53:7).

These are a few of the lessons to be learned from the animals in the Bible.

Eric L. Padgett

GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men (Matthew 16:21-23).

The words that the Lord spoke to Peter in the hearing of all the apostles must have surely cut deep. Undoubtedly, the words spoken by Peter only expressed the thoughts already in the hearts of all the apostles and it is likely that the words spoken by the Lord to Peter were also meant for all the apostles, as well (Mark 8:33). But to be addressed as the “accuser” by the Lord was very harsh treatment, indeed, for one who was merely trying to protect the Lord. This severe response to the actions of Peter suggest several important lessons to be learned.

First, satan’s attacks on us can come from unlikely places. Peter, more than likely, had no thought of trying to keep the Lord from doing what was right. Very likely his only thought was to keep his Lord from facing death. Perhaps, his motives were selfish–to keep his Lord from leaving him. Whatever the motive, the request of Peter was a temptation to Jesus and He had to put a stop to it immediately. Paul was similarly tempted when Agabus warned him of impending dangers in Jerusalem and he responded by saying “Why mean yo to weep and to break my heart…” (Acts 21:10-13).

Our family and friends and co-workers and fellow Christians can lay down temptations and obstacles before us to keep us from doing the will of God even though they may have every intention of doing good. Our families, for instance, out of fear for our health may warn us to not do some work or to slow down. They mean well, but sometimes their good intentions only serve to hinder the advance of the truth.

Second, we must learn to savour the things of God. To “savour” means “to exercise the mind, i.e. entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction); intensive to interest oneself in (with concern or obedience)” (Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). Too many so-called Christians view Christianity as merely an emotional response to stimuli, but it is far more than that. It is a response of the intellect. God said through the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together…” (Is. 1:18). Paul, by the Spirit, said that Christianity is our “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1,2).

We must learn to meditate on God’s word constantly and allow it to guide us in life (Psalm 1). Too many Christians will say, “Well, I feel…” or “I think…” instead of pointing to the scripture and reasoning that “This is what God says.” I was once in a meeting with the elders of a congregation that was fellowshipping error. One of the elders kept saying to us, “What do you want us to do?” Our response was to point out that it is not what we want but what God wants that matters, as we pointed to him the appropriate scriptures. That is the attitude of far too many Christians in our time but it is especially sad when it comes from an elder of the Lord’s church.

Third, we must constantly be on guard against falling from grace. It is significant that just before this incident Matthew recorded Peter’s response to the Lord’s query, “Who do ye say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter responded correctly and boldly: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter stood out in his response in that instance. But very soon after, he unwittingly tempted the Lord to do wrong. Later, he, himself, would do wrong in denying His Lord (Matt. 26:74).

Falling from God’s grace is a real possibility (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 12:15). When we think we have arrived, it is just then that we are in the most danger. Paul warned, “Wherefore let him that thicket he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). David had defeated all his enemies when he was tempted with perhaps his greatest temptation (II Sam. 11:1-5). Noah had literally saved the world before he gave in to temptation (Gen. 9:18-21). Peter was ever impetuous and even though he had distinguished himself as a faithful disciple, he was liable to err when he least expected it, even as are we all.

Finally, we can learn from how Jesus handled this situation. Jesus immediately quelled the temptation which He faced. He didn’t waste time to think about it. He didn’t mull it over. His response was immediate and decisive and complete. He wanted the evil out of His way. His response to temptation was “Get behind me,” “Get out of My way!” Too often, because there is already something in the temptation that appeals to us, we allow it to remain unchallenged for a time. Then it continues to draw us in. Remember, we are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lusts and enticed (James 1:14,15). But James also tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Just as Joseph fled Potiphar’s wife, we should flee temptation with all haste (Gen. 39:12).

These lessons and more can be gleaned from this incident in the lives of Jesus and Peter.

Eric L. Padgett

“Forgive me”

Every so often you see a news item in which a person, usually famous, is caught doing something wrong. The person may be cheating on their spouse, using words that are deemed offensive, physically abusing someone else, or something else distasteful or wrong. This gets the media‚Äôs full attention for quite a while until the guilty party eventually does a “mea culpa,” i.e., claims responsibility for the act and says “I’m sorry.” The carefully worded and orchestrated confession may be accompanied with tears and appropriate promises of penance. It is great theater!

I cannot read the hearts of men, but I suspect that on many of these occasions played out so often in the media the profession of sorrow is feigned. The person may be sorry they were discovered, they may be sorry that they are being maligned in the media, they may be sorry that all the attention is hurting their career, but they are not genuinely sorry that they did something wrong. The show is only for the purpose of getting back in the good graces of the politically correct and powerful minority. Paul the apostle described this kind of attitude when he wrote: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).

Some people may be able to fool some other people into thinking they have truly changed, but rest assured no one will ever fool God (Gal. 6:7)! If the repentance isn’t genuine, no media production will ever move God to forgive that person for the sin. But if the repentance is genuine, and God knows whether it is or not because God knows the heart, then it doesn’t really matter what men may say or do.

The great assurance we have from God is that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive (Heb. 8:10-12). Peter denied the Lord, and he was forgiven (Matt. 26:75; John 21:15-19). Great king David committed adultery, lied, and murdered and was able to receive forgiveness (II Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51). Saul of Tarsus blasphemed Christ, hurt people and killed Christians, and received forgiveness (I Tim. 1:13). The woman caught in the act of adultery was forgiven by the Lord (John 8:1-11). The thief on the cross was forgiven (Luke 23:43). Jesus was willing to forgive those who were complicit in His crucifixion (Luke 23:34). Simon the sorcerer was forgiven if he truly repented (Acts 8:22). You and I can also be forgiven if we truly repent (Acts 3:19).

When the repentance of an individual is genuine, it is a very wonderful thing. Jesus said there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents of his or her sin or wrong (Luke 15:7,10). When someone says “forgive me,” and means it, really means it, it is the indication of a heart that is softened and pliable and reconcilable to the will of God (or someone else, as the case may be). It is also the acknowledgment that there is an objective right and wrong; it is an acknowledgment of a personal violation of that standard. It indicates a meekness of heart that is very rare in our society. It manifests a beauty of character that the Lord desires in His children (Deut. 10:12-16).

“Forgive me.” These words can either be both the most powerful and humble words a man can utter or they can be the most distasteful and hypocritical. How will use them?

Eric L. Padgett