Category Archives: growth

Losing Weight

Over the past several weeks I picked up some extra weight that I don’t want and certainly don’t need. It seems to happen every year around this time when there is less chance to get outdoors and work around the yard. I am not saying for certain, but it might also have something to do with eating more of the wrong things around this time of year, too! Anyway, these extra pounds make it harder to do things I normally do and I don’t like it. I guess I’ll have to go on another diet. Again.

Sometimes we also gain extra weight spiritually and that weight hinders us from living the Christian life as we ought. Paul wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1). The figure that is being used here is the image of a contender in a foot race. In ancient times, as well as in modern, the runner wants to cast off all extra weight so that it will not slow him down. He wants every advantage to win. In ancient times that often meant running naked. Today we wear clothing that causes less friction.

Spiritually, many Christians carry around all kinds of extra weight that they don’t need and it hinders them. One weight that some Christians carry around is the weight of greed. Some are so enamored of money and wealth that they work so many extra hours that they neglect not only their family but they neglect God and His worship and service. Paul said that the love of money is the root of kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Even elders and preachers can be tempted by the prospect of monetary gain (I Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:10,11). If an apostle could be guilty of this, then so could we (John 12:6).

Some Christians carry around the weight of anger. Certainly, there are enough reasons to be angry in the world. There is cheating, stealing, murders, slanders, hate, etc., abundantly flourishing in the world. I’ve noticed that even Facebook has an icon that you can click to expresses anger at some post. But while we may become angry, we should not let it develop into sin. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). Anger may satisfy our emotions at the time, but ultimately, anger resteth in the bosom of fools (Eccl. 8:9). Throw off the weight of unrighteous anger.

Other Christians carry the weight of jealousy. Paul encountered those that preached Christ for envy, hoping to add affliction to his bonds (Phil. 1:15,16). Imagine, preachers envious or jealous of other preachers. But it happens. In general terms, some Christians are often jealous of other Christians or even of people in the world. But Paul stated that “charity envieth not” (I Cor. 13:4). Having love in our hearts will give us the strength to throw off the weight of jealousy and envy.

Unfortunately, many Christians carry with them the weight of worldliness. Far too often Christians want the benefits and blessings of Christ but do not want to have to change anything in themselves. Jesus warned against this attitude. “No man,” said Jesus, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). But many try and so become the enemies of God (James 4:4). What a burden to carry around!

One great weight that many Christians bear and may not even be aware of it is the weight that held back the people to whom Paul wrote, namely the sin of unbelief! Prior to the text above, in chapter eleven, Paul had just described great men and women of faith and their actions. Beginning chapter twelve he said we are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, meaning these men and women of faith. Those to whom Paul wrote were experiencing a bout of unbelief (e.g., Heb. 3:12, 19; 4:1-6). Far too often we have too little faith. Was this not a favorite expression of our Lord describing the mentality of His disciples (Matt. 6:30; 8:20; 14:30; 16:8)? If we just had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, we could move mountains (Matt. 17:20). But alas, we carry the burden of doubt. Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5)! Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

Yes, I’ve got a lot of weight to lose this coming year! I better get started.

Eric L. Padgett

100% Response To The Invitation, or, How not to be a struggling congregation!

Every time I preach, I get a 100% response to the invitation to obey the gospel by the alien sinner or by Christians to ask the Lord’s forgiveness. How do I do that? Actually, it’s not hard at all. You see, everyone automatically makes some kind of response. Some people respond to the Lord’s invitation by rejecting Him. Others respond with apathy and put off any immediate decision. Some are offended. Still others are interested enough to come back the next time. Some obey. When the word of God is preached and the invitation offered, there is always a 100% response to it. It may not always be what I want it to be, or what the Lord wants it to be, but there is always a 100% response.

I have had members of large congregations express to me the notion that because an individual is a member of a small congregation, he must not be doing something right, or, at the very least, those large congregations must be right with God or they would not be growing. They make a goal for themselves and a decided effort to make themselves likable to “their community.” And so they offer “programs” that appeal to their community and many times the community responds favorably to the “programs,” so long as those programs are offered.

I have heard others suggest that small congregations are by definition “struggling”. But this view is borne out of a misconception of the mission of the church. The great commission given by Jesus was to “teach all nations” and “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20). Our job is not to make ourselves likable or to please men. Our job is not even to fill a building with people. Our job is to spread the seed, to preach the word. It is God’s part to give the increase (I Cor. 3:7).

Paul wanted to persuade individuals to obey the gospel. He wrote, “knowing therefore he terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (II Cor. 5:11). To “persuade” means to “convince by argument.” While a scriptural argument may be valid and sound, it may not always persuade someone, not because the argument is ineffectual but because the heart of the individual is not open or receptive. The heart of another individual is not something over which we ultimately have any control.

Paul’s preaching of the resurrection brought him ridicule (Acts 17:32). Even some of his own brethren felt he was more their enemy than anything else simply because he preached the truth to them (Gal.4:16). In some places Paul was driven out of town and beaten and left for dead by those who did not like what he said (Acts 14:19). Should we consider Paul a failure because his “message” was not universally accepted or because he was not universally loved?

Even with the ability to prove what He said was true by miracles, wonders and signs, not everyone was persuaded by Jesus’ teaching and mighty works. If personality and charisma could bring about universal acceptance of the truth, surely Jesus would have done so. But He did not. In fact, he was so “despised and rejected of men” that He was wounded and abused and afflicted by them (Is. 53). Should we conclude from the fact that Jesus was not liked very much that He was “struggling” as a teacher of God’s word?

How do we define success as a congregation of the Lord’s people or even as an individual Christian? Should we define it by how much we are liked by the world? Jesus said the world hated Him (John 15:18). Should we define by how big of a congregation we have? Jesus blessed the congregation of Philadelphia even though it had “little strength” (Rev. 3:8). Furthermore, many denominational churches would be counted faithful if this were the only criteria. Should we define success as having great wealth? Jesus said the church of Smyrna was financially poor, though spiritually rich (Rev. 2:8). Should we define success by how many programs we have instituted? Jesus said many that have done “many wonderful works” of their own creation will be cast into hell (Matt. 7:21-23).

Every Christian struggles to some degree in living the Christian life. It is difficult enough to control our own life much less the life and thoughts and actions of others. In truth, we really can’t control what others believe or how they will respond to the gospel. Some try to do this by manipulating others, or enticing them. The one thing we do have control over, however, is our own actions. If we live the truth and teach the truth and preach the truth, we will be successful in God’s eyes and that is all that matters.

Eric L. Padgett

Christian Toolbox

Every now and then, something around the home will need repairing. A door will have to be replaced, a chair leg fixed, or even a wall removed or a room remodeled. Most homes have a toolbox somewhere on the premises for occasions such as these. The toolbox usually contains the basic tools needed for repair on the home or for the use on household projects. Similarly, every Christian should also have a spiritual toolbox that has the basic tools needed for Christian growth. These tools are very similar to the ones found in the toolbox in the home.

For example, on many occasions around the home a ruler is necessary to take measurements. A length may need to be figured, a distance measured or dimensions taken. If you are building something from scratch or repairing something already in existence, somewhere along the process you will need to take a measurement. In order to measure properly, you will have to have a standard ruler or tape measure. This ruler cannot be arbitrary or of your own creation. If you have a different measure than what the plans call for, then what you are building will be different than the plans or the existing structure. Too, if you change your measuring unit in the middle of the work, then your work will turn out very badly and might possibly be unusable.

Too many Christians fail to use the correct spiritual measuring unit when they work on their life. Some will use their feelings, some will use their family traditions, some will use opinions of people they respect, or some other faulty, human measure. We must be careful because if we use the wrong measure we will find ourselves being measured by it again (Matt. 7:2). Those who make up their own measuring unit, Paul says, are not wise (II Cor. 10:12). In fact, “divers measures” are nothing short of an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 20:10). What we need to use is the “measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us” (II Cor. 10:13). The only true measure is the word of God, for it is by His word that we shall be measured in the end (II Tim. 3:16,17; Rev. 20:11-15).

But once we have measured the material we are using around the home we may find that it does not fit as it is. It may be too long or too wide. We may have to cut it. For that we need some kind of saw. And so in our own life we may find that after we have measured ourselves with the word of God there are some things that do not fit and need to be spiritually trimmed. We may have to cut them off to fit. If we lie, we have to cut that off (Eph. 4:25). If we become angry to the point of sin, we have to cut that off (Eph. 4:26). If we steal, we will have to cut that off (Eph. 4:28). If our hand or foot offend us, that is, cause us to sin, we have to spiritually cut them off (Matt. 18:8,9). A spiritual saw is a handy thing to have!

Another basic tool that is needed is a level. If you have ever tried to put in a new door frame in an old house, you know well that the old house is not always exactly square! Sometimes you have to shim the door frame and square it so the door will open and shut properly. Or, if you are putting in a concrete drive or sidewalk, you have to keep the forms level or at a particular angle. In a similar fashion, spiritually, we sometimes get out of kilter, we get our priorities wrong. Jesus gently warned Martha about getting her priorities straight because she considered many things more important than doing God’s will (Luke 10:38-42). She was out of level. Jesus said no man putting his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). If we use the spiritual level of God’s word we can get our life back in order.

Another important tool to have around the house is a good wrench. Sometimes things come loose! If there is a leak in a drain or a water line you might have to tighten a nut. When you assemble an appliance, you might need to use a wrench. Sometimes in our own life we have the right parts and they are the right length and are level but they just need to be tightened a little. As time goes by, we sometimes loose our zeal and our intensity. We sometimes loose our faith. When this happens we need to tighten things up. Paul warns us to examine our self to see whether we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5). He warned the Galatian brethren who were trying to be justified by the law that they had fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). We can loose our grip! If you find yourself slipping a little, take out a wrench and study to show thyself approved unto God (II Tim. 2:15).

A clamp is another necessary tool. A clamp holds on to things or holds things together. If you have ever worked with wood, you know how indispensable a clamp really is. As Christians, we also need to hold on to certain things or hold things together. For instance, we need to hold fast that which is good (I Thess. 5:21). We should hold on to sound words (II Tim. 1:13), the profession of our faith (Heb. 10:23) and lay hold on to eternal life (I Tim. 6:19). At the same time, as brethren, we should be perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgement (I Cor. 1:10). As the church we are framed and builded together for a habitation of God (Eph. 2:21).

Finally, a hammer could be the most versatile tool we have. It is naturally used for pounding things, particularly fasteners like nails, but it can also be used to loosen things, or pry things apart, if you have a claw hammer. A hammer can even test for solid surfaces behind the wall. Jeremiah described God’s word like a hammer. He wrote, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). Sometimes we need to use God’s word like a hammer to break hardened hearts with th truth (Acts 2:37).

You can have a toolbox full of tools, but if you do not know which tool to use, the toolbox and it’s tools are useless. If your tools are not kept up, then they also become useless. Let us fill our toolbox full of useful tools that we may be ready for the task (I Cor. 15:58).

Eric L. Padgett

We Have Found Him

Two days after Jesus was baptized of John in the Jordan river to fulfill all righteousness, as He was heading into Galilee, He called to Philip: “Follow Me” (John 1:43). We do not know what other words Jesus spoke to him, if any at all, but we are left with the distinct impression that Philip obeyed His Master’s call immediately. What this text reveals about not only the character of Philip but also our own character is quite helpful.

First, note that Philip was apparently looking for the Messiah. You cannot find something for which you are not looking. It is true that Jesus called Philip to follow Him, but I cannot help but think that Jesus would not have approached him if he had not been seeking the Messiah. If Philip had not been useable material for the Lord, there would have been no need to call him. His knowledge of the Law of Moses and his desire to tell others about Jesus strongly indicate that he was looking for the Christ. He had probably heard of Jesus if he had not heard Him speak.

It is truly a blessing to find those who are seeking the Lord, to find men and women who are amenable to the will of God and need only to be shown the way. We need more men and women like this, men like Apollos, who can be shown the way of the Lord more perfectly (Acts 18:24-28). It is also a lesson to us to seriously seek the Lord (Psalm 105:4). When the Saviour calls us (through His revealed word), are we willing to follow His will immediately? Do we stubbornly cling to our own will and desires, our own preconceived notions, or do we humbly submit and follow like Philip?

Second, take note of Philip’s acquaintance with the word of God, at that time the Law of Moses. Philip recognized in Jesus’ demeanor, His character, and His teaching, that He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17). He was familiar enough with God’s word to be able to identify those qualities in Jesus of Nazareth which proved Him to be the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies. How many Christians today lack knowledge enough to be able to know the difference between truth and error when it is being taught? How many can give a “thus saith the Lord” and a “book, chapter, and verse” for their beliefs and practices?

It is characteristic of all faithful children of God to know the Book. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). There was a time when members of the Lord’s church were known to be superior in their knowledge of God’s word over all others. There was a time when members of the Lord’s church engaged their fellow man in discussions of the Bible, and took on their man-made traditions by deftly wielding the sword of the Spirit. We need to rekindle that spirit in the Lord’s people so that the Lord’s church will grow by true conversion and not just mere swelling through associating with those that seek to be a part of some mere social institution.

Finally, note the zeal with which Philip sought out Nathanael. This same spirit was also found in Andrew, whom, the Bible tells us, “first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias” (John 1:41). Then, he brought him to Jesus (John 1:42). These are the same words Philip uttered to Nathanael, “We have found Him!” Do we have that same child-like joy over knowing the Lord that these men had? Do we call our friends and neighbors, and tell the stranger on the street, that we have found the Messiah? Can others sense in us our joy over finding salvation or do we show more joy over our new car or a new bowling ball than over finding the Saivour of the world?

When Philip told Nathanael of His exciting news of finding the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael scoffed, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45). If you are like me, you have probably come across the doubters yourself. But Philip’s response was, “Come and see” (John 1:46). Not long after, Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him (John 147). The proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes. When people doubt or scoff, we must invite them to come and see for themselves. When we have questions, we need to investigate and reason with the Lord (Is. 1:8).

Shouldn’t we rejoice over finding the Lord? Shouldn’t we be moved to tell others the joy we have found in the knowledge of salvation? We have found Him! So let us go tell others that good news.

Eric L. Padgett

There Arose Another Generation

“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Between January 8 through February 5, 2014, the Barna Group conducted a telephone and online State of the Bible Survey of 2,034 adults in the continental United States regarding the views of Americans on such subjects as perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible engagement, Bible literacy, moral decline and social impact and giving to nonprofit organizations. This study was commissioned by the American Bible Society. There was some encouraging news as well as some discouraging news coming from this study.

The one consolation is that the Bible is still highly regarded in America. “When asked to name the books that come to mind when they consider sacred literature or holy books, Americans overwhelmingly name the Bible (79%). This proportion is more than seven times the popularity of the next most frequently mentioned holy book, the Koran (12%).” However, over the last four years, 7% fewer Americans have regarded the Bible as sacred and 4% more Americans regarded the Koran as sacred.

What the study reveals, however, is that those who are identified as “Millennials” (those who are aged 18-29 according to this study) are the ones who are driving this decline in respect for the Bible. While 50% of all Americans believe the Bible has too little influence on society, only 30% of Millennials hold this view. Only 16% of all Americans believe the Bible has too much influence. Furthermore, while 88% of American households own a Bible, this number is down from 92% in 1993. While the number of Bibles owned per household is 4.7–and this is up slightly from 4 years ago–only 15% say they read the Bible daily. Fifty-three percent read the Bible only 3 to 4 times a year. Again, only 40% of Millennials read the Bible while 66% of those who are 68 years and older read the Bible.

Another disturbing trend is that the readership of the venerated King James Version has decreased from 45% in 2011 to 34% in 2014. But the good news is the Kings James Version is still the preferred Bible translation in America. “Far fewer say they prefer the New International Version (13%) or the New King James Version (10%). The English Standard version is read by 6% of Bible readers, while the New Living Translation is read by 4%. All other translations were mentioned by 3% or fewer Bible readers.” But, again, it is the Millennials who prefer the Kings James Version less than other age groups.

According to another study by Pew Research, 68% of Millennials support “same-sex marriage.” “Millennials are easily the most godless generation of Americans, with 29 percent saying they are not affiliated with any religion and 11 percent saying they do not believe in any god at all, as compared to Gen Xers who are 6 percent atheist. As faith goes, only 58 percent of Millennials are sure of their beliefs, compared to 69 pecent of Gen Xers.” (“Millenials Most Godless and Politically Independent  Generation“)

What these studies reveal is that it is imperative that we start working on instilling a different attitude toward the word of God in our young people. One generation is all it takes for complete apostasy to occur. The only way to account for the current decline in the younger generation is that, unfortunately, parents are no longer rearing their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Parents are no longer teaching diligently unto their children the words that the Lord has spoken (Deut. 6:5,6). Neither are congregations preaching the word of God and emphasizing doctrinal soundness from the pulpit or the Bible classes but are instead teaching a “be happy, don’t worry” philosophy. Press too much doctrine and you are accused of being divisive.

I am sorry to say this, but I believe the church of the Lord in America is in bad shape. (America, itself, is in bad shape and no one can seem to stop the decline.) The traditional, biblical answers to traditional criticisms of the Word of God have been forgotten or, even worse, discarded by many. Whereas the Lord’s church used to be the place to go for Bible answers, too few today in the Lord’s church know the Bible well enough to provide those answers.

We must renew our commitment to studying and preaching and living the Word of God. We must teach them diligently to our own children with a renewed sense of urgency lest they forget the works He has done for Israel.

Eric L. Padgett

Seven Spiritual Foods

A hungry person doesn’t need to be told to eat. The hunger he feels drives him of necessity to find nourishment. If adequate nourishment is not found, the end result is death by starvation. Spiritual life is no different than physical in that respect. If proper spiritual nourishment is not found, the end result is spiritual death. The only difference between the physical and the spiritual is that most people do not feed their spiritual hunger, either because they do not recognize that particular feeling of emptiness for what it is or they feel the pain of spiritual hunger but do not know how to satisfy the need adequately. The Bible describes spiritual food in several ways.

First, there is the body and blood of the Lord (John 6:51-58). Jesus said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). Jesus was not here speaking of His Supper (which we will consider forthwith), for He had not yet instituted it. Nor was He advocating cannibalism here, which is against everything for which the Lord stands. The suggestion of eating His flesh and drinking His blood would have startled the Jews who were commanded not to eat of such literally, but Jesus was emphasizing that we have to assimilate all of Jesus into our lives. We must partake of and fellowship in His life and His death (Gal. 2:20; II Cor. 4:10,11). It is all or nothing with Christ.

Second, there is the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29). Jesus said “Take, eat…This do in remembrance of Me” (I Cor. 11:24). Thus, this meal and its emblems is designed to focus our minds and hearts on the sacrifice of Christ. It shows our communion with the Lord (I Cor. 10:14-16). We are encouraged by this “meal” to examine ourselves, taking of it in a worthy manner, discerning the Lord’s body (I Cor. 11:28,29). While all meals should have a spiritual significance, it is especially true of the Lord’s Supper.

Third, Jesus describes Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:47-51, 58). While the fathers had been sustained in the wilderness with miraculous Manna sent down by God from heaven, those who ate of it, afterwards died (v. 49). But Jesus declares Himself to be the Bread sent down from heaven which, if one eats, he shall never die (John 6:50,51).

Fourth, there is the living water (John 4:10-14). To a thirsty man, water is more precious than gold. Anyone who has ever been truly thirsty to the point of being parched understands the importance of water to the preservation of life. Jesus says that to drink of this water causes one to never thirst again (John 4:13). When we come to know the sweetness of the Truth of God, the refreshing nature of God’s salvation, we will never want to drink a drop from any other well. All other water is bitter and full of disease. And one day, if we are faithful, we will be able to drink of the fountain of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:1; 21:6).

Fifth, there is milk (I Pet. 2:2). Milk is for those who are young in the faith. But every child thirsts after milk, and cries for it when he does not have it. So should it be for the one has just obeyed the gospel. We ought to have the same attitude as that little baby who wants to be fed. We should desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18). How many people have obeyed the gospel and never sought after any further nourishment? Or, how many times have we left a child in the faith starve to death because we never supplied them with the opportunities for feeding or gave them food that was not fit?

Sixth, there is strong meat (Heb. 5:11-14). At some point in our Christian lives we should outgrow the milk of the word and move on to that which is stronger and more fulfilling. A grown-up needs to outgrow childish things (I Cor. 13:11). But some Christians like to keep sipping on their bottle of milk all their lives. This does not prepare one for the bigger issues they will face as a Christian. Not eating meat means we are stagnant in our growth. It means we are carnal and not spiritual (I Cor. 3:1,2).

Finally, there is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). As we grow in Christ, we will feast on the wonderfully delicious fruits of the Spirit, like love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. We, ourselves then, will bear much fruit (John 15:1-8). As God’s word takes greater control of our lives, we will bear these fruit to the glory of God.

Ready to eat?

Eric L. Padgett