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20 / 20 Vision

When you go to an optometrist you hope that he will tell you that you have 20/20 vision. This means that your vision is normal. Sometimes, however, our vision is less than normal and we need to have corrections made so that we can see better, usually in the form of glasses or contact lenses. However, there are many other diseases than can impair vision that need correcting.

Spiritually, we also need to be able to have 20/0 vision. Spiritually, there are “diseases” that can affect our having clear insight into how we live our lives. Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, then both will fall into a ditch (Matt. 15:14). We do not want to be spiritually blind. Being spiritually blind is far worse than losing our natural vision. To avoid spiritual blindness we need several things.

First we need to have clear vision. That is, we need to understand things as they really are. The Bible speaks of some ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth (II Tim. 3:7). This is spiritual blindness. One of the great commands in scripture is that we be sober (Tit. 2:1-10). This does not just mean that we drink no alcohol, but that we be clear thinking about life.

Second, we also need to be able to see close up. Some people can see fine far away but have trouble adjusting their eyesight nearer to them. Spiritually, we can also have trouble seeing nearer to us than farther away. Paul warned us to be able to examine ourselves–that is, see close up and personal (II Cor. 13:5). Jesus said there were some that could see the mote in another’s eye but could not see the beam in their own eye (Matt. 7:1-5).

Third, some people can see close up just fine but cannot see far away. Peter said that the man who does not add the Christian virtues is blind and cannot see afar off and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (II Pet. 1:9). Some Christians cannot see the big picture and forget what living the Christian life is all about. Paul said in order for us to live the Christian life acceptably we have to see the great cloud of witnesses and look to Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1,2).

This year let us have 20 / 20 vision. Let have clear vision, examine ourselves and look unto Jesus.

Eric L. Padgett

CONSCIENCE

Have you ever stubbed your toe? Or, hit your thumb with a hammer? Maybe you burned yourself playing with fire? When you do so, you feel an immediate, unpleasant sensation. It’s that little thing we call pain. This helps you know that something is physically wrong. A good conscience is a little like that. When you do something morally or ethically wrong, a good conscience will cause you a certain amount of moral or ethical pain.

Pain acts like an advanced warning system that protects you from further problems. If you didn’t feel physical pain when you contacted fire, for instance, you could easily burn yourself up before you knew it. But because it hurts, you quickly withdraw yourself from that dangerous situation. In the same way, moral and ethical pain is an advanced warning system that alerts you to moral and ethical dangers.

How many times have you offended your own conscience? That is, how many times have you done something you know you shouldn’t have done and you felt a sense of guilt and shame afterward? That is the part of man that acts as a moral judge that informs us when we have done wrong, the part that we call the conscience. However, this moral pain only comes when the conscience has been conditioned to respond correctly.

The apostle Paul said he always exercised himself to have a conscience void of offense towards God and man (Acts 24:16). Please note that Paul indicates in this that the nature of the conscience is such that it is under a person’s control. We can exercise our conscience, make it stronger and more sensitive. Some people have a weak conscience (I Cor. 8:7). Such a mind and conscience is easily defiled (Tit. 1:15).

Some people have had their conscience seared with a hot iron so that it is without feeling (I Tim. 4:2). When a person sins, if his conscience is good and has been taught well, he feels a sense of shame. One can draw back when this happens and correct his own misconduct. But, if one chooses to ignore the warning signs, the next time he is tempted the sin will be easier to commit, meaning there will be less pain. Each time one gives in to sin, one’s conscience becomes a little more calloused and sin becomes a little easier.

Some people have resisted the warnings of their conscience until they have gotten to the point of being past feeling (Eph. 4:19). These people are really very dangerous. A person who no longer feels a sense of shame or guilt or sorrow, that is, no longer allows their conscience to bother them, will do just about anything. The apostle Paul described such a condition in Romans 1:18-32.

It takes a good, uncalloused conscience to respond to God’s word. When the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman “caught” in the act of adultery, Jesus merely asked them, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her (John 8:7). “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (John 8:9). Even these people could not resist the voice of their conscience on that day.

When people hear the gospel, they will only respond to it if their conscience is pricked, just as those on the day of Pentecost responded to the truth because they were pricked in their hearts (Acts 2:37). That is why God calls on us not to harden our hearts (Heb. 3:7-18). When we do respond to the Lord’s invitation out of a good heart or conscience (I Pet. 3:21), we must work to maintain it. We must hold the faith in a pure conscience (I Tim. 3:9).

Eric L. Padgett

WHAT IS WRONG?

What is wrong with our society? We are destroying historical monuments to erase our history. We allow men, dressed as weird, gross caricatures of women, to read to our children in public libraries in order to confuse them about the distinct line between the gender boundaries. We allow men dressed as women, many who are sex offenders, to enter into women’s restrooms. People are mutilating their bodies and claiming to be some gender other than their biological gender. We are legalizing vices that were once off limits to any decent society. What is wrong with us?

What is wrong with the church? We are replacing a thus saith the Lord with movies, theater, plays and exercise classes and other social events. Churches that wear the Lord’s name are using translations that once would have been avoided. Things are happening today, both in society at large and in the church, that we never would have believed could have happened just a few, short years ago. It is as if we are witnessing the methodical and purposeful erosion of our culture. It seems to be spiraling out of control. How could this have happened?

One reason this has happened is that we have seen our society turn further away from God than ever before. A Pew research study released in October 2019 found that only 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christian. That is down twelve percent over the last decade. Is it any wonder, then, that there has been an increase in immoral and godless behavior? Even Richard Dawkins, a well known atheist, very recently admitted that those who believe in God, especially Christians, are more likely to engage in moral behavior. Of course, the Bible is clear about this. When people move away from belief in God they open the floodgates of depravity (Rom. 1:18-32; Psalm 14:1-7).

Not only was the United States founded upon Judeao-Christian principles and values, all of Western culture was, as well. It is these values that have made America the greatest nation, in many respects, to ever exist. Those values have formed the basis of our law and culture and have been a blessing not only to ourselves but to the whole world. But the further we turn from God to a more secular based society the more chaos ensues and the less unique we become. Those on the left criticize traditional values and tout post-modern, liberal culture and consequently are overseeing the dissolution of western civilization. When we turn away from God anything goes and that is exactly what is happening. And we seem to be letting it happen all in the name of tolerance.

Second, there no longer seems to be a concern for truth in our society. According to a recent Gallop poll, nine in ten Americans say they have lost trust in the media to tell the truth. The internet is rife with lies and half-truths. We once taught our children the importance of being honest. George Washington, for instance, was held out as an example of the virtue of honesty. We taught our children he said “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” We used to hail the example of “Honest Abe.” Now we teach our children these were lies and encourage them to use lying as a survival strategy.

This all is a direct result of turning away from God. When there is no God there is no objective ground for the truth. Everything becomes relative. It is true that Relativism is not a new doctrine. It has been around at least since the fifth century before Christ. A Greek philosopher by the name of Protagoras said that man was the measure of all things and, in fact, denied we could know that God even exists. But today this view is very pervasive. For example, a child who has a Christian message on their t-shirt is disciplined by a public school but a child who dresses like the opposite sex is protected and even encouraged as brave. Many examples like this could be multiplied.

This became a serious issue in the church, as well, when certain brethren began saying that for all we know we may be wrong about this doctrine or that. Therefore, they said, we should not be dogmatic about any particular doctrine. They took up Protagoras’ view and ran with saying we could not even know if God exists. These men have taken up the relativists banner and changed the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:25). But the Bible is clear that we can know the truth and it will make us free (John 8:32).

Finally, because truth is no longer important, westerners are embracing false, eastern religions like never before. Islam, in particular, is making inroads into our culture at an alarming rate. Alarming because their stated goal “in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house” (http://www.theoakinitiative.org/pdfs/teamb/15-Shariah-The-Threat-to-America-Team-B-Report-Web-285-308.pdf). When you read their intent it is alarming to know that, as NPR stated it, “a record number of Muslim Americans ran for statewide or national office this election cycle, the most since the terror attacks pf Sept. 11, 2001.”

What is needed is a modern intellectual, moral and spiritual crusade to take back the values and traditions that are our heritage. We need to give an answer to every man for the hope that is in us with meekness and fear (I Pet. 3:15). Maybe it is because we have not sanctified the Lord God in our hearts that we are unwilling or unable to defend the truth and those values. Many of us will remain faithful to the Lord no matter what happens to our culture but we will have to do it in greater isolation and at greater peril if we do not make up the hedge and stand in the gap now (Ezek. 22:30).

Eric L. Padgett

The Sweat Of Your Face

God created man to work. When God put man in the Garden of Eden He gave him the job of dressing and keeping it (Gen. 2:15). Out of the 290 times the word here translated “dress” is found in the Old Testament, it is translated 227 times as “serve” (cf. Gen. 15:14; Ex 1:11-14; cf. “labor” Deut. 5:13; etc.). Similarly, the word “keep” means “to hedge about or guard.” It is used of the flaming sword which kept the way of the tree of life (Gen. 3:24). It is also used of keeping God’s covenant and law (Gen. 17:9; Deut. 7:11). Thus, man was placed in the Garden of Eden to be its caretaker and keep it.

Now this was before the Lord God cursed the ground (Gen. 3:17). In the garden, man was a caretaker but the Garden of Eden was a lush, rich and beautiful place that freely released her fruits. Eden is described as the opposite of a desolate wilderness (Joel 2:3) and the opposite of a waste and desolate ruin (Ezek. 36:35) where great trees spread forth their branches (Ezek. 31:9, 16, 18) and precious jewels lay strewn about the ground (Ezek. 28:13). Man had work to do but the ground yielded with ease her fruits. After the curse, however, man’s labor was to be multiplied as the earth would no longer yield her fruits without also bearing thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-19). Man’s work was cut out for him. His work would be in the sweat of his face (Gen. 3:19).

In creating the world, the Bible says that God, Himself, “worked” and then rested from that work (Gen. 2:2). Now we should not in any way suppose that when the Bible says that God “worked” and “rested” that somehow He was fatigued and needed to regain something He lost in weariness. God is omnipotent and there is no end to His power. But that also does not mean that He did not expend energy in creation. Just because I can easily carry a bucket of water from the well to the house does not mean that it did not come without work. God ceased His work and rested from, thus putting an end to, those particular works. Being made in His image we also must work before we rest.

My mom always taught me, “You get your work done first!” To this day she follows this principle herself. Even the creatures of nature teach us this lesson. The Bible commands us, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6). The ants are constantly working to provide for themselves, as do all the animals of nature. But those who do not work will come to poverty (Prov. 6:11). The lazy always find an excuse not to work (Prov. 20:4). The Bible, however, is clear that poverty comes to those who refuse to work (cf. Prov. 10:4; 13:4; 20:4).

Indeed, it is not only a principle, but a command. Paul said if a man does not work, neither should he eat (II Thess. 3:10). There were some to whom Paul had written that believed the world was going to come to an end soon and, because of this, they ceased to work (II Thess. 2:1-3; 3:11). But Paul said that not even the apostles were exempt from this command to work (II Thess. 3:8). Even though Paul preached the gospel, he worked. His own hands ministered, he said, to his necessities (Acts 20:34). He was by occupation a maker of tents (Acts 18:3).

Whatever we do, we should do our very best and work as hard as we can (Eccl. 9:10). The Lord will bless those that work hard at what they do when it is not wrong or sinful (Ruth 2:12). It is a basic principle of life that the laborer is worthy of his hire (I Cor. 9:9). When we give our all at something worthwhile, we prepare ourselves to succeed and we make ourselves prepared when opportunities present themselves. While the parable of the talents is not about our physical labors, it sets forth a principle that God blesses those that work hard (Matt. 25:14-30).

Even when we are working for those who employ us in this life, we should work with the same intensity and character as if we were working for the Lord (Col. 2:22-24). It does not matter what we are doing, as long as it is within the parameters of God’s word, we should do it heartily as unto the Lord (Col.3:23). This does not allow us to slack up when the boss is away because we are not working merely for a mortal employer but for the Lord, as well.

Finally, since we are working for the Lord, we will be judged by Him according to our works (Rev. 20:13). Not only will our earthly works be judged, but our spiritual labor will be, as well. Therefore, we must be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord forasmuch we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Cor. 15:58).

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:11-15).

Eric L. Padgett

Attacks Upon The Family

God created the family and it is a sacred institution (Gen. 2:18-20). God designed man so that he shall leave his father and mother–that is, leave their local, protective care, not necessarily their moral influence–and cleave to his own wife so that they become one flesh and begin a new family (Gen. 2:21-25). It is within the parameters of the marital relationship that men and women are to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:27,28). It is the parent’s responsibility to rear their children in the context of the family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6; Eph. 6:4).

This arrangement is of divine origin (Matt. 19:5). One of the blessings of this order is to provide a protective environment for the rearing of children in the way they should go (Prov. 2:1-5; 22:6). The husband and wife provide moral and spiritual support for one another (Eph. 5:21) and both, ideally, work together in the bringing up of the child (cf. Luke 2:51). The world, however, is hostile toward those who walk in righteousness and this is never more apparent than when seen in the vicious attacks upon the family as God created it.

Historically, in our modern, western culture, the devil attacked the family by attacking the institution of marriage itself. Of course, in ancient times, all sorts of sexual perversions were rampant in the pagan cultures and God’s people were commanded to avoid those heinous sins (cf. e.g., Lev. 18). But since the establishment of Christianity, God’s design for the family was largely followed by those in the west influenced by the Judeao-Christian ethic. The brunt of the attack on the family since was focused largely on promoting illegitimate children and illicit lifestyles.

But more recently, the devil has attacked the family by again promoting the notion of homosexuality as normal. Such sins have always been around, of course (cf. Rom. 1:24-28). But only recently, in our modern, western culture, has it become so out in the open and so flagrant. Up until 1974, homosexuality was treated as and pronounced to be a mental sickness by the American Psychiatric Association. Now you cannot watch a commercial or listen to the radio without first being fed a sickening dose of homosexuality. The propaganda has been so effective that now one is considered abnormal who does not condone such sickening behavior. Those who speak against it are condemned as intolerant.

But since then, the devil has pushed to make it commonplace to see two men or two women acting the part of a husband and wife. However, nature itself teaches us that two men or two women do not go together as husband and wife for they cannot naturally produce children. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, as the saying goes. Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities were destroyed because, among other things, in practicing homosexuality, they were going after “strange flesh” and did “wickedly” (Gen. 19:7). The Lord has condemned homosexuality as an abomination that was worthy of death under the Old Covenant (Lev. 20:13). Paul said by inspiration that these abusers of themselves with mankind will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10).

Incredibly, in August of 2016, Barrack Obama “ordered 9,000-plus federal buildings across the United States [to] allow biological men into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.” This came after the Department of Education under the Obama administration had already advised schools to allow “transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms designated for the opposite biological sex.” All of this was presumably based on a novel interpretation of the Civil Rights Act. However, it was nothing but a further attempt to erase the God-given design for the family. Sadly, it has literally put many defenseless women and children at risk because they are at the mercy of violent sex offenders and other perverts.

Another sordid and sick attempt to destroy God’s design for the family has been to promote sex change surgery and blur the clear, immutable line between male and female. Bruce Jenner is perhaps the most notable and pathetic example in our time. Men and women are being encouraged to disfigure their bodies chemically and surgically and are being hurt emotionally and spiritually while the rest of society is made to feel guilty for opposing such sick behavior.

Another of the attacks the devil is using to destroy God’s design for the family is to use men dressed as women to read to children in libraries. Actually, when I say they are dressed as women that is quite misleading, for many if not most of these people are dressed as bizarre, even demonic, creatures. Those involved in these efforts specifically target children for the stated purpose of normalizing this bizarre behavior. It is an attempt to warp the mind of the young and get children to accept the idea that God’s way is not right.

Many are the perversions satan is using to destroy the family. It should not really surprise us. The family is a powerful tool to bring up the young in the way that they should go. It is no wonder that the devil is desperately trying to do everything in his power to destroy the family. May we, in turn, do all we can to promote God’s created order in the family and thereby strengthen the church and perhaps save our nation and culture.

Eric L. Padgett

The Glory Of The Lord

Oh, the wondrous things that Moses saw with his own eyes! Among the things that he saw was the bush that burned but was not consumed from which the Lord spoke to him (Ex. 3). He saw the mighty hand of God working in the ten wonders that plagued the Egyptian people and Pharaoh (Ex. 7-12 ). He saw the Red Sea open up as a wall on either side of him and then proceeded to walk through across on dry ground (Ex. 14:21-31). He saw the earth open up and destroy the adversaries of the Lord. In spite of all of this, even with all that Moses had already seen, he still asked Jehovah, “Shew me Thy glory” (Ex. 33:18).

It is impossible to understand who God is without also understanding something of the glory of the Lord. The word glory is used in scripture to describe praiseworthiness or that which sets one above another in some particular respect. It is that which brings renown. In scripture, when used of men, it is often used of one’s wealth, for instance (cf. Gen. 31:1; Psalm 49:17), or one’s personal dignity (cf. Psalm 30:12) or of man’s wisdom and strength (Jer. 9:23,24). It is also used of things such as the forests of Israel (Is. 10:18) and nations (Matt. 4:8). But man’s glory is as fleeting as the grass which withers away (I Pet. 1:24).

God is inherently glorious (I Chron. 16:27; 29:11). One does not have to look far to see the glory of God for the heavens declare it (Psalm 19:1; Rom.1:20). And yet beyond this natural testimony of God’s glory is something that has a very visible and tangible existence. During the Exodus from Egypt, some of the children of Israel complained about lack of food after only six weeks journey (Ex. 16:1). God promised them bread from heaven and that He would show them His glory (Ex. 16:7). And as they looked out over the wilderness, the glory of God appeared in the cloud that had accompanied Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 16:10).

Then, when the children of Israel came to mount Sinai, the Bible says the cloud covered the mount and the glory of the Lord abode upon it and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud (Ex. 24:16). “And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. 24:17).

Given the fact that Moses had seen all these manifestations of God’s glory, it is puzzling that he now asks to see the glory of the Lord (Ex. 33:18). He must be asking for something different than that which he had already seen. And God allows him to see something more than any person had ever seen before or would ever see again, although the Lord warns him that no man could see His face and live (Ex. 33:20). The Lord told Moses that there was a place by Him, and he would stand upon a rock, and while the glory of the Lord passed by He would put Moses in a cleft of the rock and cover him there with His hand (Ex. 33:20-22).

Moses was then commanded by God to hew two tables of stone so that the law might be re-written thereon. He was to carry these tablets of stone with him up into the mount (Ex. 34:1-4). On the next day, after Moses had ascended the mount, the Lord, Jehovah, descends in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed the name of the Lord (Ex. 34:6). In some form, the Lord stood there with Moses. It reminds us of the transfiguration of the Lord when Moses and Elijah stood with the Lord speaking to Him of the Lord’s impending death (Matt. 17:1-3).

At this moment the glory of the Lord passed before Moses as the Lord proclaimed the name of the Lord by declaring His moral goodness (Ex. 34:6,7). Moses stayed there in the mount with the Lord for forty days and nights and wrote upon the tables of stone the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (Ex. 34:28,29). When Moses came down from the mount the skin of his face shined (Ex. 34:29). Paul tells us that Moses’ face so shined with glory that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold his face and Moses covered it with a veil (II Cor. 3:7; Ex. 34:33).

But the glow of Moses’ face ceased to shine and Paul says the reason Moses put the veil on his face was so that the children of Israel could not look to the end of that which was to be abolished (II Cor. 3:13). As glorious as this scene was, and as glorious as the Old Covenant was, it is far exceeded in glory by the New Covenant (II Cor. 3:9). We now, as Christians, have the privilege of looking into this New Covenant and beholding the glory of the Lord ourselves and are changed into the same image unto glory (II Cor. 3:12-18).

When we look at Jesus though the word we see the Father more clearly than Moses could see Him when He passed before Moses (John 14:7-9). The Lord is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person (Heb. 1:3). We are able to see His glory as the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Though we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), we are able through Christ to rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1,2).

Though in this life we face tribulations, it is really a light, momentary affliction that works a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17). The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18) because when Christ shall appear, we shall also appear with Him in eternal glory (Col. 3:4; II Tim. 2:10). In heaven, we shall bathe in the light of His glory (Rev. 21:11,23).

Eric L. Padgett

Lies and Error

Very early on in the history of man, Eve was attacked by that old serpent in the garden of Eden. He did not afflict her physically like he did Job. He did not tempt her sensually like he did David with Bathsheba. His method of attack was as devious as it was simple: get Eve to believe something that was not true. Eve quoted God’s word to him but he denied and then twisted what God had said. This has been one of the devil’s most effective tactics since.

Jesus said the devil was the father of lies and was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). Doctrinal error is nothing but a lie. Paul warned against those who would teach some other “gospel.” But, he said, it was not another gospel but a perversion of the gospel, i.e., a lie (Gal. 1:6-9). When Paul met with the elders of the Lord’s church at Ephesus he warned them against “grievous wolves” who would not spare the flock “speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:27-31). Those “perverse things” were nothing but lies.

Toward the end of his life the great apostle Paul confidently proclaimed that he had fought a good fight and finished the course and kept the faith (II Tim. 4:6-8). He also warned against those who would “not endure sound doctrine” but after their own lusts would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears and “turn away their ears from the truth” and turn unto fables (II Tim. 4:3,4). There is always the danger that men will turn away from the hard truth and turn to comforting and pleasing lies (Judges 2:10).

Jesus warned against those that would worship Him in vain, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). The real source of the problem emanated from their heart, which was far from the Lord (Matt. 15:8). They had elevated their traditions above the commandments of God (Matt. 15:3-6). Giving heed to the commandments of men only serve to turn men from the truth (Tit. 1:14). The law of God is counted as a strange thing to those who place a high value on human tradition and commandments of men (Hos. 8:12).

John was fighting against the same pernicious evil when he fought against those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (I John 2:23; 4:2,3). He also warned against the many false prophets who had gone out into the world. He said, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Jesus likewise warned of those that come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly were ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15-20). They were not what they appeared to be. Paul warned that satan sometimes presents himself as an angel of light, as do his minions (II Cor. 11:13.14).

What is to be done about such men as tell lies about God and His word? Paul said have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them (Eph. 5:10,11). Shine the light of truth on the error (Eph. 5:13,14). Unfortunately, men tend to love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and some men love to drain the life-blood of truth out of the heart of the victims. They handle the word of God deceitfully (II Cor. 4:2). Fortunately, the preaching of the cross and the shedding of the light of truth make those doctrinal vampires run for cover (II Cor. 4:3-6).

Paul said to mark those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Christ and avoid them (Rom. 16:17). To mark them is to scope them out. We cannot do that when we have our heads in the sand or when we close our eyes and shut our ears to what is going on in our world or in the brotherhood. We may have to withdraw ourselves from certain brethren because they walk disorderly or do not follow the truth of the gospel (II Thess. 3:6). We are to bring them to the point of feeling shame when we purposely keep no company with them (II Thess. 3:14,15).

We are not to receive into our houses or bid godspeed to any that do not bring the doctrine of Christ (II John 9-11). The principle set forth here is to not do anything that contributes to their error or make them feel as though they are accepted by us or the Lord. If we do bid them godspeed then we are partakers of their evil deeds and give support to a lie.

Eric L. Padgett

Wealth Can Never Save The Soul

What should be the Christian’s attitude toward money?

Many great men of the Bible had great wealth. Abraham was very rich when he came out of Egypt and was probably already rich in Ur (Gen. 13:2). His nephew Lot also had great wealth (Gen. 13:5,6). Isaac had such great wealth that the heathen Philistines envied him (Gen. 26:13,14). Jacob had been blessed by God with more than enough to suffice his great tribe (Gen. 33:11; 32:5,10). God blessed Solomon with great riches (I Kings 3:11-13). Boaz was known as a “mighty man of wealth” (Ruth 2:1). Job was the greatest of all the men in the east (Job 1:3). God had given Jehoshaphat great substance so that he had riches in abundance (II Chron. 17:5). David, himself, died with great riches (I Chron. 29:28). Hezekiah had exceeding much riches that God had given him (II Chron. 32:27-29).

There were also wealthy righteous persons, both male and female, in the New Testament, as well. Zachaeus, for example, was a wealthy man (Luke 19:2). His position as chief of the publicans apparently brought him wealth and not necessarily dishonestly. But we do know that he gave half, not all, of his goods to the poor and whatever he had gotten dishonestly he payed it back fourfold (Luke 19:1-10). Joseph of Arimethea was not only a member of the council but he was also a rich man who was Jesus’ disciple (Matt. 27:57). There was a group of women who followed Jesus and supported Him with their substance (Luke 8:1-3). Some of them at least were women of some social standing and wealth. Joanna, for instance, the wife of Herod’s steward was one of the women who supported Jesus. Lydia is another example of at least a moderately wealthy Christian women. She catered to a wealthier class of people being a seller of purple and a traveler for her business (Acts 16:13-15). Even the congregation in Laodocea was rich and increased with goods (Rev. 3:17).

The Bible is clear that when God created the world He created it with a social structure that required the ownership of private property. First, this is seen in the fact that at the very basic level God owns the earth because He created it (Ex. 19:5; Psalm 24:1). Second, when God created man He gave him dominion over all the earth and everything that creeps upon the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Then Lord put man to work in the garden to dress and to keep it (Gen. 2:15). When man mingles his labors in the sweat of his face with the soil, or the work of his hands, the fruit of the work is the man’s possession (Gen. 3:17-19). This is how Cain and Abel could bring offerings from their respective fields of labor (Gen. 4:1-5).

When God told Abraham to leave Ur and go to a land that He would show him, Abraham is said to bring all his “substance” which he had gathered (Gen. 12:5). Thus, Abraham is described as being rich (Gen. 13:2). When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments God codified this principle in the law when He condemned stealing (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19). There can be no theft where there is no private property. Again, in the New Testament Barnabas, for instance, and Ananias and Sapphira had property and sold it and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 4:34-37; 5:1-6). When Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much they had given Peter told them “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” (Acts 5:4).

Often the Bible declares that it is God that provides riches (Deut. 8:17,18). Job declared that it was God that blessed him with wealth (Job 1:20,21). The wealthy patriarchs declared that it was God that blessed them with great riches (e.g., Gen 33:11; II Chron. 32:29). Certainly it is God Who has provided for us our daily necessities (Matt. 6:25-34). There is no doubt, however, that wicked men can use wicked means to increase their wealth (Prov. 22:16; 28:8; Psalm 73:2-12). Just good old hard work can also make one rich (Prov. 10:4; 13:4). But, generally speaking, wealth and riches are blessings upon the righteous (Psalm 112:1-3).

How, then, do we harmonize this with other statements in the Bible which seem to condemn wealth? For instance, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven (Matt. 19:24). Jesus often used hyperbole to teach a principle. For example. Jesus said if you right eye or hand offends you pluck it out of cut it off. This cannot be taken literally (is it only your right eye that offends you?) nor did Jesus intend it to be taken that way. He established a principle, however, about the urgency of removing obstacles to righteousness.

The Bible does declare that there is a danger in wealth. Paul said that they that would be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (I Tim. 6:9). Furthermore, those having wealth tend not to be satisfied with it for “he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase” (Eccl. 5:10). Jesus warned “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

Without a doubt the love of money is he root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Riches can be deceiving (Matt. 13:22) and are only temporary (Prov. 27:24). Riches can lead to pride (Ezek. 28:5), anxiety (Eccl. 5:12) and have caused some to err from the faith (I Tim. 6:10). Most importantly, wealth can never save the soul (Psalm 49:6-9; I Pet. 1:18).

Eric L. Padgett

It’s About Time

When God created the world, He not only gave it a spatial and material reality, He gave it a temporal one, as well. We live in and with the reality of time. Exactly what time is has been the subject of great debate since, well, the beginning of time! We cannot even talk about our existence unless we speak in terms of time because we exist in time. But while it may be impossible to speak exactly as to the nature of time, we do know that on the fourth day of creation God gave us a way to measure it (Gen. 1:14-17). And measuring time has taught us this: time for us passes far too quickly (Job 7:6).

Therefore, time is so very precious. We must learn to redeem it (Col. 4:5; Eph. 5:16). We should pass our time here in fear because we know we are going to face the judgement (I Pet. 1:17). Jacob considered the days of his life “few and evil” when he told Pharaoh that he was one hundred and thirty years old (Gen 47:9). When compared to the years of his fathers that was certainly true (cf. Gen. 5). Even now our days on earth are as a shadow (I Chron. 29:15) or as a vapor that appears for a little time then vanishes away (James 4:14). They are as a tale that is told (Psalm 90:9).

Time is a gift of God. It is God that gives us these days in which we spend our time (Eccl. 5:18; 8:15). The ancient patriarchs were given much time on earth. However, man’s days and years are now limited on average to threescore and ten or at most fourscore (Psalm 90:10). This limitation is the result of sin (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, it is wise to learn to number our days and use our time wisely (Psalm 90:12). Even the Lord observed we must work the works of Him that sent us while it is day for the night comes when no man can work (John 9:4).

David recognized that his times were in the hands of God (Psalm 31:15). That is why we should not be so arrogant as to say I will do this or that but rather say and believe if the Lord will, I will do this or that (James 4:). If we think we have time to do something God may say to us “Thou fool, this night is thy soul required of thee” (Luke 12:16-20). Not only are individual’s times in the hand of the Almighty, but the times of the nations are in His hand, as well. God has determined before the times appointed and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26).

The truth is there is a time and a season to every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1-8). Everything in its time. And yet, there is an element of uncertainty from man’s perspective (Eccl. 9:11). God certainly knows when all things will happen, though He does not ordain all events. It must be clearly understood that while God has all things under His control, He does not violate any one person’s free will which He gave them (e.g., Josh. 24:15; Matt. 28:18-20). We all choose what we will do and when we will do it. But God uses our actions to bring about His own will (cf. Gen. 50:19,20).

We know that in the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son made of a woman under the law to redeem that were under the law (Gal. 4:4). Therefore, He has “made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” (Ephesians 1:9,10). So God, Who in the past spoke to man in sundry times and divers manners, has now, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1,2). This was not made known in other ages but is now revealed by His apostles through the Spirit and made known by the church (Eph. 3:1-13).

But for the Christian who knows these things, he will use his time wisely. He will spend his time, for instance, in the worship of God and encourage others to do so as the day approaches (Heb. 10:25). We should exhort one another daily, lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). In times past we walked according to the course of this world, but now, we are made nigh by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:1-13). We ought to adhere to the word because there will come times when many will not endure sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:1-5). Understanding God’s plan, then, we will pass the time of our sojourning here in fear (I Pet. 1:17).

If we really knew what time it is we would wake out of sleep for the night is far spent and the day at hand; we would cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (Rom. 13:11,12). “Little children,” John said, “it is the last time” (I John 2:18). That ought to both thrill us and scare us because there is an inheritance incorruptible ready to revealed in the last time at the judgement (I Pet. 1:4,5). So “when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more and the morning breaks eternal bright and fair, and the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore and the roll is called up yonder” will you be there?

Eric L. Padgett

He Treads Above The Wite-Capped Waves

Jesus’ apostles had been waiting for Him in the boat but He had been a long time in reaching them. He told them He would meet them but He first had to dismiss a crowd that had been listening to Him teach (Matt. 14:22) and then He spent some time afterward in prayer in the mountain alone by Himself (Mark 6:45,46). But from His place of prayer, Jesus saw His disciples toiling and fighting the wind and waves and went to them in the fourth watch, walking on the water (Matt. 14:23-25; Mark 6:48).

The apostles were understandably afraid when they saw Jesus walking to them on the water in the early morning hours. They were undoubtedly tired, having battled a tempestuous sea all through the night (Matt. 1423-25; Mark 6:34, 45-48). They were so afraid, in fact, that when they saw Jesus they literally cried out or screamed in their fear because they thought they were seeing a ghostly apparition (Mark 6:49).

The Lord immediately allayed their fears and spoke to them saying “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27). The ever impetuous Peter immediately blurted out, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me to come unto Thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). And for just a moment, he did. He stepped out of the boat and was able to walk on the water going to Jesus. But when he began to look around at the waves and the wind, he began to be afraid all over again and began to sink. He cried out in fear to the Lord “Save me!”

On another occasion, the Lord was asleep in the hinder part of the ship while the wind and waves covered the boat. The apostles were afraid for their lives and rushed to wake Jesus, rebuking Him, saying, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)? Jesus returned the rebuke by asking them, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). He rebuked the sea also and at His voice the winds bowed down in reverence. The apostles’ fear was born out of lack of faith in the Lord. If they had considered Who it was that was in the boat with them and what He was to do, then they should not have been afraid.

How easy it is in this world to be afraid. There are all sorts of threats to our well-being and they seem to be increasing daily. Muggings, terrorists, war, financial disaster, immorality affecting our families, thugs, oppression etc. Sometimes we feel as though we are all alone and we just want cry out, “Lord, don’t you care?” We often cry out “Lord, save me!” As faithful Christians, however, we should know just what and whom to fear.

The Bible says that we should not fear anything that can happen to us in this life. David said he was not afraid even of a great army that should come against him (Psalm 27:3). If we know that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, then we “will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).

The apostle Paul, quoting the sentiments of the Psalms, writes “we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). The most that any person can do to us is to take our life. A prospect that from the human perspective is to be avoided at all costs. But Jesus said not to be afraid of them for that (Luke 12:4). Rather, He said, be afraid of Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28).

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (I Peter 3:13,14). As Isaiah assured Israel:

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish…For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10-13).

Paul once asked the rhetorical question: If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)? As long as the Lord is on board, no Euroclydon wind can ever capsize our vessel (Acts 27:14). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7). Never charter a vessel with the name S. S. Fear or sail under Captain Terror. Our Captain commands even the winds and the sea and He treads above the white-capped waves of doubt and fear!

Eric L. Padgett