Monthly Archives: March 2014

On Being Judgmental

The waters of worldliness are lapping over into the ark of safety and threaten to overthrow the faith of many. Christians are forgetting their Christ-given mission as Christians and are acting as if the Lord never spoke about certain moral, doctrinal, philosophical and theological issues. Many Christians are adopting the approaches and attitudes of the secular and sectarian worlds and, all the while, political correctness is destroying our society and is contaminating the Lord’s church.

I offer the following as an example of this sad trend. It was stated in a recent article in a well known brotherhood publication (“Homosexuality and the Church“) that “Teenage members of Churches of Christ perceive judgmental attitudes as hampering the fellowship’s spread of the Gospel.” The topic of the article was homosexuality. The judgmental attitude spoken of was calling homosexuality a sin. This was further described as a one dimensional approach to the problem of homosexuality.

The answer to the problem of homosexuality, according to the writer of the article, is not to try to change anyone’s sexual orientation but to “discuss struggles.” They spend a lot of time in prayer, but it is not to “pray the gay away.” Rather, the group “feels like” they can get into the work of the Holy Spirit in these individuals’ lives.”

Not having the space to address the gross misunderstanding concerning the Holy Spirit manifested in such a statement (see here), it should be clear to all Christians familiar with God’s word that New Testament and Old Testament writers–actually inspired by the Holy Spirit–spoke plainly about “homosexuality.” “Homosexuality,” or, as the Bible calls it, sodomy, is an “abomination,” something that is morally disgusting or abhorrent (Lev. 18:22). It is a sin that is worthy of death (Lev. 20:13). It is “unclean,” “dishonorable,” “vile,” “against nature,” “unseemly,” and the product of a “reprobate mind” (Rom. 1:18-32). Those who engage in this activity cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10). This is the way New Testament writers spoke on the subject. But according to our “enlightened” society today, especially our teenagers, if this article is to be believed, this approach was dead wrong and we should “reframe the discussion” and start talking “about love, compassion, support and grace.”

Many have allowed liberal social theories to color their view of the gospel and of the church. But the Lord’s church is not a social experiment, it is the eternal Kingdom of God (II Pet. 1:11; Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18,19). It is not open for restructuring. The gospel is not social theory, it is the inerrant Word of God and it is not subject to alteration (Gal. 1:6-9). If it is indeed true that the majority of teenagers in the Lord’s church in our generation look upon the preaching of the Old Jerusalem Gospel as being judgmental, then sadly many in the Lord’s church have failed in their responsibility in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4); a generation has arisen which knows not Jehovah nor the works He has done for spiritual Israel (Jud. 2:10).

Sodomy is but one example where the world has influenced the thinking of many in the Lord’s church. The increasing focus on entertainment in the church is another. Reliance upon feelings instead of a “thus saith the Lord” is yet another example. The list could be extended but the point is instead of making excuses for sin, we ought to be condemning it. This is not being judgmental, this is being like Christ and His apostles. Should the Son of God have had a “peacemakers conference” with the scribes and pharisees or was He right when he called them “hypocrites” (Matt. 23)? Should the apostles have spent “a great deal of time “listening and asking questions” rather than attacking and condemning people” or were they right when they told the crowd assembled on Pentecost that they had with “wicked hands” crucified the Son of God (Acts 2:22-36)? Should Paul have viewed the Athenians as “much more than their sinful identity” when he told them that they ignorantly worshiped an unknown God (Acts 17:23,31)?

The Lord’s prohibition against judging others (Matt. 7:1-5) was against superficial, hypocritical judgment. Jesus further said, get the beam out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to judge others correctly (Matt. 7:5). We cannot help but judge. It is a part of life. The judgment must be scriptural for Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24; cf. II Chron. 19:6), but we cannot refrain from judging. Indeed, “to do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

The bottom line is this: It is not judgmental to call sin sin. Instead of making sinners feel good about themselves in their sin, we ought to be making them–and ourselves–uncomfortable in sin (Acts 2:37). This is not wrong, it is the work of God. All attempts to soften the impact of God’s word are misguided.

I end with the words of Peter: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19).

Eric L. Padgett

Do You Remember Shammua, Shaphat or Sethur? Neither Do I.

“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:30-31).

These first words were spoken by the son of Jephunneh, after he and eleven others went into Canaan to “spy out the land” (Num. 13:17). Even though the others were aware that the land “flowed with milk and honey,” they were not of a disposition to subdue the land God had given them. What is more, their fatalistic view pitifully infected the rest of the people with fear and they consequently wept and murmured against Moses and Aaron (Num. 14: 1-5). Instead of optimistically pursuing the course God had given them, they preferred to overthrow Moses and set over themselves a new captain who would lead them back into the bondage of Egyptian subjugation.

But Caleb and Joshua had another spirit and were not inclined to cower in fear; they were not inclined to let the “giants of the land,” or the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, or the Canaanites dissuade them from obtaining the victory God had promised them. Caleb and Joshua implored the people of God “rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:8,9). Even so, if the Lord had not intervened, Caleb and Joshua would have likely been stoned by this disobedient and gainsaying people (Num. 14:10).

Today, the Lord has commanded His people to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). There are all kinds of “isms” that inhabit the land: liberalism, legalism, modernism, materialism, humanism, socialism, Communism, Catholicism, Protestantism, denominationalism, atheism, evolutionism, theological pluralism, environmentalism and modern paganism, to list but a few. There would appear to be “giants” in the land defending these distortions of reality, Dawkins, Hawking, Dennet, Ehrman, Shelly and others. What should we do? We should simply “go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” The Lord has promised.

As we preach the gospel of Christ we will inevitably have to speak out against these “isms.” We must drive them from the land. What we speak must be the Lord’s will (I Pet. 4:11). We must preach and teach the certified gospel that is not of men neither by man (Gal. 1:1-12). God’s word must guide all of our life or there is no real guidance at all (Col.3:1-17). Our very world view must be framed by the word of God. If we have the love of God in our hearts, if we have a zeal for the Truth of God, we will stand against these “isms” with all our human might. Only “rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:8,9).

As we do so, there will be many who will oppose this effort, even from within our own ranks. There will be those who say, “you draw more flies with sugar than vinegar.” “Don’t be so negative!” “Don’t you realize that you are offending these people?” (cf. Matt. 15:12-14; John 6:60,61). “Preach the man and not the plan.” “You are driving people away.” Many will adopt the ways of the world in an effort to appease the world. But such efforts, while they may be well-intentioned, appealing and even temporarily successful, are ultimately doomed to eternal failure. It is never easy following the Lord’s footsteps, but that is the only way to salvation (Acts 4:12; I Pet. 2:21).

The question for our day is, in which camp do we stand? Do we stand with Joshua and Caleb who had confidence in God’s will or do we follow Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, and Geuel and cower in fear and defeat? Whose names are remembered in the annals of history? Which of these lives does God praise and sacred scripture honor? In which camp do we stand?

“The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2).

Eric L. Padgett

Honor to Whom Honor: Gospel Preachers

It would be an interesting map if all the various influences on a person’s life throughout his life could be shown graphically. Each individual and event would have to be weighted to signify just how much influence was there, among other things. As I say, it is an interesting thought, but maybe not practical as there is so much influence in a person’s life the task might be too great. But I want to continue the thought I began last week and identify some (and I stress “some”) preachers who have made a lasting impact on me.

Some of the men of which I speak, I never met personally. One of the greatest influences on me was Foy E. Wallace, Jr. I was influenced first of all by his writings. His books, like “A Review of the Versions,” “Number One Gospel Sermons,” “Bulwarks of the Faith,” “The Gospel for Today,” were books that I read very early on after my conversion. They helped me to see a way of thinking about the scriptures I had not considered. Then I came across the only recordings that still exist and I love to hear him him preach. In his debates with errorists and his defense of the truth through his editorship of the Gospel Advocate he did immense good. He made a great impact on me as well as on the brotherhood.

Another man who influenced my thinking greatly was Thomas B. Warren. Brother Warren had studied philosophy and logic and, in my opinion, there was not his equal in logical thinking and clear reasoning in the brotherhood. His debates with Antony Flew and Wallace Matson were great examples of his reasoning ability and great victories for the cause of Truth. His books, like “The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians,” are classics of Christian reasoning and defense of the Truth. His writing is not the flowery or showy type so often seen today but it is clear and rational and scriptural. We need more men like him who are unashamed to stand for the truth and are equally able to defend it.

Brother Garland Elkins has also had a profound impact upon me. I can listen to brother Elkins preach for hour on end and never grow tired. His nimble recollection of scripture and his meek but forceful presentation of the truth and defense of it are a pattern for me in my preaching, though I fall far short of his example. His lessons are filled with book, chapter and verse preaching and quotation of scripture, but they also contain the occasional anecdote that brings the point home. He has a great sense of humor, as well. I remember on one occasion in Kentucky when he was encouraging others to attend the Spiritual Sword lectureship, he said “You want to go to heaven, don’t you!” Every young preacher ought to listen to his sermons and learn from them.

Brother Robert Taylor has also been a good example to me and of those that love the word. His dedication to the study and memorization of the scriptures should be taught to every young gospel preacher. Brother Taylor is also a prolific writer. His writings should be in every, Every EVERY library of every faithful gospel preacher and every faithful church. His work on the defense of the King James version of the Bible is in the same category as brother Foy E. Wallace’s works on that subject. As an aside, I remember on one occasion my brother and I were waiting in a hotel room for the next session of a lectureship to start and, to pass the time, we played basketball in the hotel room with the trash can and a wad of paper. We made a little noise. As we went out of the hotel room brother Taylor was coming out of the room next to us. I always wandered if and worried that we disturbed him.

Another brother who made an impression on not only me but also the whole brotherhood was Guy N. Woods. Brother Woods was a first-class Bible scholar and his commentaries are second to none. I only made it to hear him preach in person once, but I relished the opportunity! If you disagree with bother Wood’s position on a passage, you had better thought out your reason very clearly and scripturally. His voice and preaching style were distinctive. There will never be another Guy N. Woods.

The instructors at the Memphis School of Preaching also had an important impact upon me. Brother Cates’ tireless work ethic and brother Curry’s knowledge of history impressed me greatly. Brother Renshaw and brother Hearns will always be remembered, as well. But of all the instructors there, brother Keith Mosher, Sr. stands out the most to me. The quality which most impresses me about brother Mosher is his ability to teach. To this day whenever I hear brother Mosher speak, I still learn something I never knew before. Jesus, of course, was the Master Teacher and so teaching is an important part of the preacher’s work. Brother Mosher does this as well as anyone I have ever heard. He is always a favorite of the students at the school.

Brother Gary Colley is another great gospel preacher who has influenced me. He has a tremendous knowledge of God’s word and is such a Christian gentleman. He has a great sense of obligation to the Lord. I recall on one occasion he was scheduled to speak at a congregation which had fellowshiped those who were in error. Even though the event had been scheduled, and even though it meant a loss for him in several ways, he wrote the brethren there and told that he could not, under those circumstances, hold the meeting for them. He chose to stand for the truth rather than to enjoy the accolades of a few unfaithful brethren. That example still stands out to me as a great example of Christian courage.

There are so many others I wish I could mention. I know I have left out many others. Brother Roy Deaver, Wayne Coats, Wayne Jackson, Ira Rice, Jr., Franklin Camp, William Cline, Frank Starling, O. B. Porterfield, Dean Fugett, Dub McClish, Johnny Ramsey, Ben Vick, Jr., H. A. Buster Dobbs, Bill Jackson, Gus Nichols, H. Leo Boles, J. W. McGarvey, Earl Geiseke, J. Noel Meridith, all the great restoration preachers, and on and on the list could go. These men are deserving of honor, not just for their influence on me, of course, but for the work they have done and continue to do for the Lord. It is my prayer that Christians everywhere have good, sound influences on them and honor those who do influence them for the right.

Eric L. Padgett

Honor to Whom Honor

One of the things I am most thankful for in life is the influence of good people with whom I have come into contact over the years. We all understand, in one respect, no man is an island unto himself. We are influenced by the people we meet and the things we experience. At the risk of being too personal and missing some who should be named, I want to use this column over the next couple of weeks to make mention of the people that have influenced me over the years.

Before anyone else, of course, I must mention my family. My Mom and Dad have had the greatest impact on my life in shaping who I have become. It seems too obvious to say that I would not be who I am without them, but it is true. Though they did not obey the gospel until later in life, they were and are decent, moral people. They taught me the values that are found in the Bible because they were brought up that way by their parents, even though they themselves were not New Testament Christians then, in my formative years. My brother and sisters are also decent, moral people because of the influence of my parents. I know the statement is true “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6) because the Bible teaches it, but I have also seen it I action.

My siblings were and are also a great source of strength and comfort to me. I have been very blessed, indeed. Our family is close, very close. It saddens me to see families that are not close and homes that are broken. I will never understand these families going on television and airing their sometimes sick and demented feuds and problems before the world. That they are willing to do this betrays an underlying problem in their view of the family and life in general. Not only is it painful to see, but it is detrimental to our culture and society. The lack of recognition and respect for God’s design for the family is a disease eating away at our national health. The family is the second most basic unit of society and when it is undermined the nation will also fall. With the state of the family in our time as it is, it is no wonder that we are seeing an America in decline (Ps. 33:12; Prov. 14:34).

Another good influence on me has been the brethren in the congregation in which I grew up. Charles Hagerman had a profound influence on the direction I took doctrinally. He took me aside and took the time to introduce me to faithful and sound brethren and to explain doctrinal issues to me. He always gave me his periodicals, or books, when he was finished reading them. Vernon Johnson also influenced me greatly. Though he had a meeker approach than Charlie, his guidance was invaluable to me. I remember with great fondness and miss sorely the times when we three would meet at the building early, before anyone else had arrived, to discuss various issues of the day. Lindell Wells was an example to me in dealing with adversity. He had many problems not of his own creation but faced them with Christ-like dignity. When I first obeyed the gospel, Cliff Renner’s classes helped me to grow and brother Lynn’s perspective on life still means a lot to me. Of course, I can’t forget sitting at the feet of brother Larry Albritton, as he preached the gospel. His love of the word and his tireless Christian example are humbling.

These were the men, but there were also many ladies of the congregation who also had a profound impact on me. Sister Pearl Brinker’s knowledge of the Bible would put to shame the knowledge of many preachers that I know. She was an avid student of the God’s word and was always willing to teach the ladies’ class. Sister Hagerman was always willing to attend the nursery, not just to keep the children occupied playing games, but to teach them God’s word. I remember with great fondness visiting the three sisters, Carmen Greer, and Rosa and Annie Ruth Devault. Sister Greer would spend hours telling me of how the Lord’s church used to be and would reminisce of those days long since gone. She also loved to write Christian poetry. Sister Rosa DeVault devoted her life to taking care of her invalid sister. She was a very gentle woman and I loved to hear her sing. We would talk a long time about the Lord’s church and about the state of society. I am saddened that we can no longer talk but I hope one day to resume our discussions again. Edith Wells’ quiet, Christian example and her encouragement are always welcomed and appreciated. And I, of course, admire sister Albritton for her strength of character, love of the truth and children and support of her husband and family. Mike and Cindy have also been an encouragement to me as well as good friends.

There are many others I could mention. Tim and Tod Gilley, Brother Dalp, brother Fowler to name but a few more. These all have had the profoundest impact on me throughout the years. I hope in some small way, at least, that I can be a blessing to others in my example as others have been for me.

This post is personal, I realize, and may not mean much to anyone else. I apologize for this. But I want to honor those who have blessed me with their lives. Next week I want to mention those preachers who have had an influence on me.

Eric L. Padgett