Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rejoice in My Sufferings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric L. Padgett

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

Scratching Doesn’t Always Relieve The Itch

Have you ever had a place that itched but you just couldn’t find the spot to scratch that would relieve it? It can nearly drive a person up a wall! It is not until you scratch in some seemingly completely unrelated area that you find the relief you seek. I have also found that sometimes in life we think we know what we want but, in reality, what we are seeking would not really satisfy our desires. We try to scratch an emotional or carnal itch but can’t satisfy the desire. We are looking in the wrong place or for the wrong things.

For example, some people think they want complete social and moral freedom. They think they want complete freedom to act on each urge or to satisfy each base impulse. But what they generally find is that such a life is not ultimately satisfying. The prodigal son soon found that wasting his substance on riotous living did not satisfy his deepest desires. When he finally came to himself, he found that even being a hired servant in his own father’s house was far better for him than the course he had previously chosen (Luke 15:13-21). Many people think they want moral freedom but what they really need is freedom from sin and satan (Rom. 6:23; Acts 8:23; II Tim. 2:26).

Another example is when people seek to remedy an emptiness they feel in life by seeking material wealth and so they heap up silver as dust (Job 27:16). In their pursuit of wealth they often abandon the important things in life. Many mistakenly think that providing toys and gifts for their children and jewels and baubles for their wives can substitute for real love and affection. It does not and can not. All those things can never replace just being there and doing things with your family. Many think that having great wealth will eliminate all of their troubles. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts” (I Tim. 6:9). So instead of scratching the itch of emptiness with seeking material possessions we ought to be seeking the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and loose his own soul (Mark 8:36).

Some people see what they believe to be injustice in society and feel the urge to intervene and correct the problem. So they set out to make ever more laws governing social structures and institutions. However, they fail to understand the true cause of all real injustice is not structures and institutions in society and it is not solved by social engineering, but the real problem is a heart problem and the solution comes in making the heart right. When Paul faced slavery in the first century, he did not mount a campaign to eradicate the institution of slavery in the ancient world. He simply preached the gospel of Christ and knew that it’s affect on people’s heart would change the way they conducted their lives. Paul’s actions with Philemon and Onesimus illustrate the principle. He told Philemon to receive Onesimus as more than a servant, “a brother beloved” (Philem. 16). Instead of seeking social justice we need to seek justification (Luke 16:15; Rom. 3:30).

Some people are exercised over the world’s disapproval of the Lord’s church and try desperately to make the world love it. It is normal to want to be loved and accepted. But we must realize that the world will never love the Lord’s church as it is scripturally constituted. The world hates the Lord, as He presents Himself in His word to the world, and they will hate His church if it follows His example (John 15:20). The urge to make the Lord’s church more palatable to world by watering down it’s doctrine or changing it’s mission or altering it’s design is foolhardy and misguided, however well-intentioned. Adopting the practices of the pagan world to be accepted by them was a course adopted by ancient Israel and was a course fraught with all manner of unintended deleterious consequences. Furthermore, it was a result of their rejection of the Lord and His will (I Sam. 8:5-22). It is trying to satisfy an itch by scratching in the wrong spot. Instead of seeking the world’s approval, we ought to be seeking the world’s conversion.

Most people are well intentioned. But good intentions are not enough when it comes to our salvation and service to God. Just scratching doesn’t always relieve the itch.

Eric L. Padgett

I Know Thy Works

Every one of us draws conclusions about other people we meet and even about people whom we have only minimal knowledge. We get a first impression of others when we first meet them or learn of them. We base our conclusions about others on clues that we get from their personality, statements, clothing, behavior, acquaintances, beliefs, etc. (Matt. 7:20). Sometimes our judgements are valid, and some times they are flawed. Sometimes the conclusions we draw at first blush have to be revised, either for better or for worse, when we learn more. The Lord, however, is never mistaken about what He knows of us.

In the letters to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2,3), one of the statements the Lord repeatedly makes is “I know thy works.” In fact, He repeats this seven times, showing His perfect knowledge of the condition, not only of these congregations, but of the church all over the world at all times. The Lord knew them better than they knew themselves. He also knows us better than we know ourselves.

To take just one example, to the angel of the church at Ephesus, the Lord said, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). The Lord knew and approved of the vigilance for doctrinal purity of the Ephesus church of Christ. Some brethren today, however, would not approve of the Lord’s approval of those who “try” false teachers and certainly would not approve of calling them liars. But this is what the church at Ephesus did and the Lord approved of them.

They also did not faint or give up on the Lord or the truth when the times were tough. One of the hardest things for us to do as Christians is to stay the course when everything seems to be going against us. It takes tremendous courage and confidence to stay the course when everyone else is telling you that you are wrong or ridiculing you. Noah, having been a preacher of righteousness, may have faced this kind of opposition building a massive boat where no rain had fallen (II Pet. 2:5). But he worked anyway and finished his work and was saved from destruction. Nehemiah faced enemies who wanted to get him to quit the Lord’s work and meet on the plains of Ono but he said,”Oh no! I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:1-9). The wall was built and the work completed. These men did not faint nor fail. Neither should we.

But what the brethren at Ephesus missed was they had lost the zeal with which thy had once served the Lord. The Lord said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. [5] Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). While they were doctrinally sound, they apparently lost their love for the Lord which affected their works. Their works were no longer appropriately motivated.

What the Lord required them to do was to repent and start all over and do the “first works.” When we find ourselves in a similar situation, we must also heed the Lord’s warning. When we first obey the Lord, we generally have great zeal and enthusiasm that motivates us to want to be doctrinally correct, wherever that may lead us, and to do more. But as we face opposition and the harsh realities of hardened hearts, we often loose our own enthusiasm and become more like the nay sayers and often compromise the truth to be accepted. We can restore the zeal we once had by doing the things we once did when we had that zeal.

We must get back to the basics, because the Lord knows our works. He knows our hearts. He does not make mistakes. May we be able to say at the end of our days, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: [24] And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Eric L. Padgett