No God? No Morals.

No subject of any magnitude can be intelligently addressed that first does not, at some level, acknowledge that God exists. The world we live in has to be explained for us to understand it and anything else in it. But that explanation cannot be advanced until the primary question of origins is answered. If one proceeds in any endeavor based upon faulty assumptions, the end result will be skewed and could, in fact, be very harmful. For instance, if a doctor assumes your dizzines is the result of an inner ear infection instead of a stroke, the results could be disastrous for you. Basic, underlying assumptions, then, are obviously very important.

Fortunately, the answer to the question about ultimate origins is actually very simple in that it can only have one of two answers. Either God does exist or He does not. But setting aside for the moment the actual arguments for His existence, it is important to understand the implications of either of those propositions. Both propositions imply very different, alternative worldviews.

If God does not exist, then certain things follow. First, if God does not exist, then all questions of morality are subjective. By “subjective” I mean that there would be no objective truth–that is, realities external to the mind–to be discovered only personal positions to be advocated. When Israel did not acknowledge the law of God during the period of the Judges, it is said that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). This is so basic a truth, a first-truth, if you will, that it hardly demands any defense.

Yet some have attempted to deny the force of this truth by saying that even if there were no external, objective moral standard given by God, that we could all agree on what we consider to be right and wrong and that that agreed upon view would then constitute the “objective” standard by which we are to decide all moral issues. However, even if everyone in the world were to agree on a particular view, that view has the potential of changing over time through the changing of the individual opinions of the people who make up the deciding group, in this case the world.

But clearly, no standard could be considered objective in any real sense of that term–i.e., existing in reality, external to the mind of the thinker–that is liable to change based upon the mere whims of fancy or opinions of vast multitudes of disparate peoples.

In addition to this point, it would also have to be true that whatever view was decided upon as the standard for morality for all people would have to stand the test of broad practical application across a broad spectrum of people. These alleged accepted “moral” principles would have to be quite distinct from the kinds of laws we find in the legal codes of the many coutries of the world. These laws are all localized and fitted to the particular population to which they apply and without notable acception, all of them continue to grow in size and volume.

But moral principles would have to necessarily transcend these local statutes. But man has not shown the slightest indication that he is capable of fashioning a principle that is both universal in nature and also comprehensive in scope. That makes the word of God so much more incredibly wondrous when you consider that within the pages of God’s word, the little book we call the Bible which we can hold in one hand, we find principles that have guided all mankind all over the globe throughout the centuries since it’s creation. These principles have never been improved upon. What is more, it is not a mere coincidence that whenever man tries to develop principles to govern man’s moral decisions they very often resemble what we already know to be true from the Bible. That is because it is not in man to direct his own steps and he must plagerise God’s word to have a semblence of credibility.

It is clear that if God does not exist then there is no objective standard of right and wrong and anything that we might call immoral or evil would only be so in name, not in reality. If God does not exist, then everything that we would call vile could also be called good. Child molestation? Only a preference. Rape? Only a choice. Torture? Just someone’s idea of a fun.

No one in complete or even partial possession of their faculties believes these previous, final, few statements are true. We know that morality lies not in the uncertain and unstable opinions of man but in the immutable counsel and omniscient mind of God. That part of the mind of God that we need to know for our life in this world and for our salvation is revealed to us in His inerrant, plenary, word revelation to us in what we call THE BOOK, the Bible. If God does exist and He has communicated to us through not only the created world but also His Word, then that fact underlies and is the true foundation of all knowledge.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

Eric L. Padgett

The Bible, Political Parties and World Views

The Bible is God’s plenary, inspired, word-revelation to man (II Tim. 3:16, 17). It is a presentation to us of the things that God wants us to know about Him, ourselves and the world (Psalm 19:7-14; 119:97-112; etc.). While the immediate concern of the Bible is man’s fellowship with God (i. e., our initial, pristine fellowship with Him, subsequent fall, and ultimate restoration through Christ), the Bible also presents to us principles that address every aspect of our lives. God has truly given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3).

While it is certainly not incumbent upon every Christian to develop a formal and systematic world view philosophy based on scripture in order to be saved, every Christian must realize that God’s word must be the final say on how we view the world, what actions are legitimate in God’s sight and what we should believe and know (Psalm 119:30,31). “God’s word is truth” has important implications for every field of human endeavor and inquiry (John 17:17). Issues and topics may arise that are not directly spoken of in the scriptures, but in principle, they are addressed when all of the passages and teachings of the scriptures are gathered and handled correctly (II Tim. 2:15).

Concomitant with the view that scripture is the final authority for all legitimate views and actions, both in religious activity and in everyday life (Col. 3:17), is the necessity of handling the scriptures with the correct hermeneutical approach. All men who handle the scriptures correctly will only draw such conclusions from them as is warranted by the evidence. Being irrational is always inappropriate, but especially so when handling the word of God (Is. 1:18; Rom. 12:1,2).

Politics, for example, is one of the most divisive issues that we face. It is so divisive that many families are literally torn apart by disagreements. For that reason many people just avoid talking about it altogether. But does the Bible have anything to say about it? While the Bible does not say anything specifically about modern American politics, for instance, it does give us principles which would affect our views of politics in these times.

For example, one’s views on the subjects of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, pedophilia, the nature of gender, the nature of marriage, the nature of the family, personal responsibility, economics, government, capital and corporal punishment, psychology, entertainment, science, creation, medical ethics and an endless list of other issues are both topics of concern in the sociopolitical and cultural world presently, but they are also addressed in principle in the Bible. Biblical teaching on these issues is relevant when we try to determine what kind of politics or world view we should embrace with God’s approval.

Yet many who call themselves Christians will identify with a party that embraces all of the unscriptural views on these issues. That is not to say that everyone in either party (or in any of the other third parties) holds to monolithic views. This is not a blanket condemnation. Naturally, there may be a few who do not hold the party line. But by and large, it cannot be successfully denied, that the democrats, as a matter of party philosophy, hold to increasingly more liberal, less scriptural and emphatically more radical views.

When the left does attempt to offer scriptural support for their views on these issues, they are always very loose and very shallow with their handling of Biblical principles of interpretation. By definition liberals, leftists and progressives seek to cast off the traditional and established norms. Long-standing and time-tested views are always discarded in favor of the latest social novelty and theological fad. First and foremost, modern leftist ideology seeks to normalize and justify the most grotesque and heinous kinds of behaviors and views under the very thin and sheer veils of tolerance and love. But their tolerance is most intolerant and their love strongly resembles hate.

However, every single time the left gets a chance to pursue their vision of life, chaos, hatefulness, lies and deception, the breakdown of law and order and moral decay always follows. Always! The reason the left persistently gets the answers to life’s most pressing questions so wrong is because the left always looks to themselves for answers to life’s most pressing questions instead of God. Such an approach to knowledge and life is doomed to failure from the start. It begins at the wrong starting point and is based upon a false foundation and presumes a false conclusion.

It is important, then, to understand that the word of God gives meaning and direction to every facet of our life. God’s word should guide us in thought and in word and in deed (Col. 3:17). If we cannot fit a proposition or belief into a solid, coherent, Biblical world view, then that proposition or belief should be disqualified, dismissed and discarded. Christians should train themselves to think of God’s word not only in terms of a compilation of religious tenets to be believed and obeyed (though it is that) but also comprehensive, coherent manual to life to be studied and a world of verbal truths to be mined for spiritual treasures.

Eric L. Padgett

Peace On Earth

When will there be peace on earth good will toward men? Every year around Christmas, certain local companies put up signs quoting Luke chapter two declaring “Peace On Earth” and “Good Will Toward Men” (Luke 2:13,14). Most people take this to mean that the Lord is going to literally bring peace to this earth and that nations will no longer rise in war with one another. Bing Crosby and David Bowie famously sing together about a time when men will live in peace again, the day of glory. But is this what Jesus was describing?

Before Jesus left this earth He told His apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Later Jesus told them “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus promised peace to His apostles. Just what did this mean?

Certainly it will not be denied that as Christians we enjoy blessings that no others do. All spiritual blessings are in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). Peace is among those spiritual blessings afforded Christians (Gal. 5:21-23). We are allowed to partake of the divine nature having escaped the pollutions that are in the world through lust (II Pet. 1:4). The Lord of peace Himself gives us peace always by all means (II Thess. 3:16).

Indeed, there is a peace that passeth all understanding (Phil. 4:7). It is the kind of peace that allowed Paul and Silas to sing in the face of persecution (Acts 16). In nearly everyone of his epistles, the apostle Paul began by addressing the letter with “grace and peace from God the Father” (cf. I Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col.1:2; I Thess. 1:1; II Thess. 1:2, etc.). We are enjoined to follow peace with all men (Heb. 12:14) and live peaceably with all men, as much as lieth in us (Rom. 12:18).

But this calmness of soul and lack of conflict with our fellow man derives from a deeper source of peace. Before we can have any real, meaningful peace of mind, we must first have peace with God. In describing the sinful condition of man Paul quoted Isaiah and affirmed that the way of peace we have not known (Rom. 3:17; Is. 59:7,8). Both Jew and Gentile fall under this condemnation for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This puts us at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7; 5:10).

But Jesus is our peace and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us–that is, between man and God (Eph. 2:14). The middle wall of partition refers to the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place in the tabernacle and in the temple (Ex. 26:31-33). The ark of the testimony with the mercy seat was in the most holy place (Ex. 26:34).

Thus, the most holy place, or the holy of holies, represented Heaven and God’s throne (Heb. 9:24) and no one but the High Priest could go in and approach God (Heb. 9:7). Now, Jesus, our High Priest, has broken down that wall so that the way into the holiest of all has been made available by our forerunner, providing us a sure and steadfast hope (Heb. 9:8; 10:19; 6:18-20). By His own blood He entered once into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:11,12).

Therefore, Christ has slain the enmity and reconciled both Jew and Gentile unto God in one body by the cross, so making peace (Eph. 2:14-17). God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (II Cor. 5:19). Being the Prince of Peace He came and preached peace with and reconciliation to God. Peace always comes after belief in and obedience to the Lord (cf. Luke 8:42, 8:48). Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

The United States and, indeed, every other place in the world is experiencing great unrest and lack of peace. Politicians and those other persons who occupy the halls of power may claim and give assurances that they can secure peace through treaties and agreements among men or through legislation but they have yet to prove it. From the beginning of time, peace has not reigned on the earth, at least not for very long and only in local situations. The longing for peace is real and it is also illusive. The world may be able to give a temporary cessation of conflict, but it cannot give the kind of true, lasting, inner peace that the Lord gives. The world has tribulation; Jesus gives peace. The world will continue to have conflict and it will only get worse and worse (II Tim. 3:13). Because we have been reconciled to the Father and because Christ has redeemed us by the blood of His cross, we can have peace with God and our fellow man. No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.

Eric L. Padgett

Be Ye Thankful

This year has been very difficult for almost everyone. In my own case, at the beginning of the year, my own family suffered a very personal loss of a dearest loved one. I am not alone in that, I know, as many others have faced the same trials and have not even been allowed to put them to rest as a family. We have faced government supression of worship and people are now afraid of one another because the government and news media have stoked a unreasonable fear of a virus that has a ninety-nine percent survival rate. As lockdowns persist, depression and suicides are up and alcohol addiction has increased. We have faced killer hornets and a near collision with an astroid. Our political system is in an uproar, cities are burning and we may well be on the verge of another civil war. How can we be thankful in the light of all these calamities?

Each of us, if we examine our lives, will still find many things for which we can be thankful. We can be thankful for our portion of health. Do you have vision? Have you enjoyed a beautiful sunrise or sunset lately? Be thankful. Do you still hear? Have you heard a little, innocent child laugh or heard someone say “I love you?” Or have you heard a beautiful piece of music? Be thankful you have your hearing. Do you still enjoy good food? Did you enjoy a good Thanksgiving meal? Be thankful for taste. Do you have money in the bank? Be thankful? Do you have a family who cares about you? Be thankful. Do you miss someone very badly? Be thankful they were in your life and filled your life with love. On and on the list could go of simple things that are truly great blessings.

Yet life can be cruel. We all face trials. My trials may be different than yours but it is just as great a burden on me as yours is on you. Nevertheless, James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations knowing that the trying of our faith worketh patience (James 1:3). In fact, Peter tells us we should rejoice that we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings (I Pet. 4:12). Early Chritians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41). The Lord said they are blessed who are reviled for the name of Christ (Matt. 5:10-12). Jesus further said in the world we will have tribulation but that He had overcome the world (John 16:33). So can we because faith is the victory that overcomes the world (I John 5:4). No suffering now is even worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). We may sow in tears now, but we will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).

No matter how bad it may seem, no matter how bad it actually is, there remains hope for the Christian (Rom. 8:20), a hope the world does not have (I Thess. 4:13). That, by itself, is plenty of reason to be thankful.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations (Psalm 100:4,5).

Eric L. Padgett

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

We are up against an evil in the United States (and in the world) the likes of which we haven’t seen before. Oh, he has been around for a long time, but he has been subtile in how he worked. He has had his bold moments. In the garden, during Noah’s day. Especially at the cross. But mostly he works subtily and preys on weak minds and sick hearts. He sows the seeds of corruption in the field of righteousness and no one notices until it is too late. He has stolen the hearts of many people, young and old, through the education system and though entertainment media, just like he stole the heart of Eve with the desirable forbidden fruit. He has gotten people to be complacent and at ease with prosperity and distracted many with social media trivialities.

Now he is out in the open, brazenly attacking truth, and goodness, and decency. He has gotten many people to believe they never had to speak out or to speak up or to stand up. Soon they won’t be able to. If you think the censorship of big tech was bad before, just wait. Just wait. Because you won’t be able to speak out or speak the truth because it will go against the good of the state. You didn’t like the so-called “shelter-in-place” rules but you complied. Now they will control where you go and whom you meet and how many people can meet together. If you preach against immorality, you will be silenced. You didn’t like the mask, but you gave in and wore it. Now you will literally be muzzled. NOW YOU WILL SUBMIT TO THE STATE! Don’t think for a moment this is an exaggeration. If you think that, then you are like the frog in boiling water and can’t see how far along you’ve been cooked already.

However, perhaps this is happenning “to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan. 4:17). We have demonstrated that we, as a people, cannot be responsible with God’s blessings and have given them up for pleasure and convenience. We knew God, but glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in our imaginations and our foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21). The world has been turned upside down. Men call evil good and good evil. We have professed to be wise and have become fools. Instead of building the walls with a sword in hand ready to fight, we have laid down the sword because we didn’t want to offend. We have sheathed the Sword of the Spirit, we have taken off the whole armor of God and held hands with the devil and swayed to music of tolerance and sang Kumbaya, thinking we could appease him. We have fallen asleep in the lap of Jezebel and soon our strength will be cut off. We think we are at peace but we are dying in our sleep and our peace is an illusion. And the devil laughs. When will we wake up? Or is itoo late? I wonder.

I hope and long and yearn for the return of the Lord “when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power” (I Cor. 15:24). I am tired. I am sick and tired of the devil’s lies and wicked ways winning all the time. I am sick and tired of warning and crying out only to be laughed at or patronized while we continue to see sin and wickedness advance and grow stronger every day. I am ready, Lord, for it to come to an end. I am ready, Lord, to see that old serpent and death and hell cast into the lake of fire. “O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever” (Psalm 74:10)? How long oh Lord, how long? But until then I will fight and I will speak out with what little voice I have. As long as I have breath, I will fight the battle for the mind and soul for myself and others, if they will hear. I hope you will too.

Eric L. Padgett

The Color Of Jesus’ Skin

In recent days some have called for all images and statues of a white Jesus to be removed because, they say, it promotes “white privilege.” Shaun King, in particular tweeted “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.”

Shaun King is a civil rights activist and writer associated with such groups as BLM. He has also been embroiled in controversy with various fund-raising schemes he started and then ended abruptly. Some have claimed that the objects of his fund-raising charities never saw any of the money he raised. It is also quite interesting that Shaun is very light skinned black man. Some have even questioned his status as a black man since the people on his birth certificate designated as his mother and father were both white. He claims, however, that his real biological father was a light skinned black man.

I never knew who Shawn King was until his recent tweet garnered so much attention. Others have tried to make the same argument, namely that Jesus was not white and specifically that He was black. I want to address this issue here.

The Bible does not explicitly give details about the color of Jesus’ skin, but there are things we see in the scriptures that give us some clues. First, we know that Jesus was a Jew. Jesus was neither African nor European. Therefore His skin was neither African black nor European white. His skin was the color of the Jewish people in the first century. What was that color? Let us examine some scriptures.

As we begin, we must understand that all people today have descended from Adam and Eve. Adam was the first man and Eve was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). Therefore, all the variety of skin colors in the world have their origin in the genes God gave in creation to Adam and Eve. In a very real sense, we are all brothers and sisters by creation. The apostle Paul stated it this way, that God had made of “one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).

It is also the case that 1,656 years after Adam and Eve were created that there was a genetic bottleneck of eight people during the time of Noah and that we are all also descended from Noah’s three sons. The table of nations found in the book of Genesis (chapter 10) shows that Noah’s descendants re-populated the earth. Shem gave rise to the Semitic peoples of the middle east. Ham gave rise to the black peoples of Africa and Japheth gave rise to the European nations.

Given the fact that their genetic material provided for all the skin variations in the world, Adam and Eve’s children could have been born with different colors of skin. However, it is also possible that as people moved into their respective locations in the world, the genetic material was isolated and differences, including skin color, facial features, body sizes and cultural differences, began to appear between those groups. In any event, the differences between us are real and tangible.

Now what do we know about the skin color of the Jews? The Bible tells us that Moses married an Ethiopian woman (Num. 12:1). The word translated “Ethiopian” comes from the word for Cush. Cush was the son Ham who was Noah’s son. The name Ham is derived from a word which means “hot,” “sunburnt” and “black.” The name “Cush” means “black.” So Moses married an Ethiopian woman who was black skinned. Miriam and Aaron used this issue to condemn Moses, though their real problem was jealousy of his authority. The objection to Moses’ marriage to a black skinned woman was just an excuse. But the fact that they used the color of her skin is significant because it shows there was difference between the skin colors of Moses, Aaron and Miriam and Moses’ Ethiopian wife. Jeremiah also draws a clear line between the color of the Ethiopian’s skin and the skin of the Jew when he writes, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23). From this we surmise that the Jew’s skin was not black like the Ethiopians.

Another interesting fact about Moses is that when he was just a babe his mother put him in an ark of bulrush and left him at the edge of the river where Pharaoh’s daughter could find him. When he was found and Pharaoh’s daughter opened the ark, she immediately recognized the child as “one of the Hebrews’ children” (Ex. 2:6). There evidently was something distinctive about the child which revealed his nationality. It likely was not his clothing for a babe that young probably had little clothing to identify it.

In another instance we find one of Solomon’s wives being described as black (Song 1:5,6). Notice that she defended her skin color by saying that she was “comely” and that the sun had burnt her skin. But the significant point here is that she was of a different color than Solomon so that she was compelled to address that issue. Solomon did not share the same color skin as this black woman. In fact, in the Song of Solomon, Solomon is described as “white and ruddy” (Song 5:10). This accords with the description given of Solomon, and ultimately Christ, as the white lilly of the valley and the red rose of Sharon (Song 2:1). This red (or ruddy) and white are often associated with one another.

“Ruddy” is the expression that is used to describe two other people in the Bible. First, Esau was described as coming out of the womb “red” or ruddy and hairy (Gen. 25:25). Then David, Solomon’s father, was also described as “ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to” (I Samuel 16:12; 17:42). The name of the first man, “Adam,” of course, means “ruddy” or “red clay” (cf. Gen. 2:7).

The word “ruddy” is defined by the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary as “(of a white person’s skin) having a red color, often suggesting good health.” Collins English Dictionary defines this word as “(of the complexion) having a healthy reddish colour, usually resulting from an outdoor life; 2. (Colours) coloured red or pink: a ruddy sky” (Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991). Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines it as “a healthy, reddish color. In two places in the Bible the word refers to the rosy complexion of vigorous health (Song 5:10; Lam. 4:7). As a boy, David was also described as ruddy (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:42). Some scholars believe the word in this case may mean that David had red hair” (Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). The King James Version Bible Dictionary defines “ruddy” as “redness, or rather a lively flesh color; that degree of redness which characterizes high health; applied chiefly to the complexion or color of the human skin; as the ruddiness of the cheeks or lips.).” A 1742 dictionary defines ruddy as “of a blood-red colour, flesh coloured.”

In describing the state of God’s people during the captivity, Jeremiah states that before the captivity “her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire” (Lamentations 4:7). Later, however, because of the hardness of their lives, “their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick” (Lamentations 4:8). Here we see the natural state was again white and ruddy but because of hardships, their visage had changed.

Clark’s comments on this verse are representative of other commentators and so it is quoted here.: “‘In the first line the whiteness of their skin is described, and in the second, their flesh;’ and as גֶּזֶר‎ gazar signifies to divide and intersect, as the blue veins do on the surface of the body, these are without doubt intended. Milk will most certainly well apply to the whiteness of the skin; the beautiful ruby to the ruddiness of the flesh; and the sapphire, in its clear transcendent purple, to the veins in a fine complexion. The reverse of this state, as described in the following verse, needs no explanation. The face was a dismal dark brown, the flesh gone, the skin shrivelled, and apparently wrapped round the bones.”

These are the indications, then, we get from the scriptures as to the color of the skin of the Jews. It was not naturally black. Naturally, their skin complexion was generally light. This was apparently seen as the idea picture of man. If that were the case for Jews throughout Bible history, should we expect anything different from Jesus of Nazareth? He was, after all, of the lineage and seed of David.

rHowever, in every group, there is a wide variety of colors. There are some white people who are darker skinned and some black people who are light skinned. Such variations exist even within a family. Ultimately, however, it makes no difference at all what the color of Jesus’ skin was. Red, yellow, black or white, we are all precious in His sight, as the song states. No matter what color His skin was He is still our saviour. What is more important is that one day we, who have obeyed His commands, will all be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2).

Eric L. Padgett

Don’t Worship The Image Of Gold

Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold on the plain of Dura. It was commanded publicly that when the appropriate signal was given that all would “fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:5-6). God’s people at this time were in captivity and subjected to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel, and three young Hebrew men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had risen to prominence in those trying times and in those trying conditions (Daniel 1:17-21). It was found that their wisdom and understanding were ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm (Dan. 1:20). These three young men, whose names were changed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:49).

These young Hebrew children were also faithful to their God. God had said in His law “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).

Because they were faithful to Jehovah, there arose a conflict in their lives. Should they obey the command of the King, who told them not to worship Jehovah as Jehovah had said or should they obey their God, Who told them not to bow down to man-made idols? For them, there was really no conflict at all, no trouble in deciding which way they should go. Not even when the king commanded in spite that the furnace to be made seven times as hot as normal (Dan. 3:19).

They responded boldly to Nebuchadnezzar: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up (Daniel 3:16-18).

There was no compromise on their part, no wavering even in the face of death. No fear of the retribution promised by earthly dignitaries. Only a solemn determination to follow the commands of their True King, Jehovah God. What an example of courage. What an example of faith. Oh that God’s people would have such courage. Oh that they would have such faith today.

These three Hebrew children were not alone. Daniel found himself in a similar situation under Darius the Mede. Daniel was appointed by Darius over all the princes of the kingdom. But those jealous princes connived a way to attack Daniel by getting Darius to pass a law, by playing to his pride, which would have cast into the lions den anyone who prayed to anyone except the king. Daniel knew this law was put into place and yet he chose to obey His God instead of the king. God protected him from the lions when the king reluctantly carried out his arbitrary, man-made laws.

The apostles faced a similar situation when they were commanded by the authorities not to teach or to preach at all in the name of the Lord. What do you think the apostles would do? “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men'” (Acts 5:29).

Brethren, the application of the lesson is clear. Don’t fall down and worship the image of gold. We ought to obey God rather than men.

Eric L. Padgett

HUMILITY

Jesus stated very simply: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Jesus spoke these words when describing the actions of the Pharisees with whom He often clashed. They loved the praise of men, they loved the recognition on the streets of Jerusalem, they loved the power that their position seemingly gave to them. However, in making this statement, Jesus was letting them, His disciples and the multitudes know that you just cannot barge through the pearly gates.

The Christian life is not one to be lived out loud, so to speak, at the top of your lungs. It is not to be foisted upon the masses by coercion. Foy E. Wallace once related that when he went to a town to hold a meeting the preacher there said he boasted that he went through town with a loud speaker attached to his car and preached to all within ear shod. Brother Wallace said, “I told him as lovingly as I was old that he was a public nuisance.” The gospel is spread not by coercion but by persuasion. Paul wrote, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (II Cor. 5:11). It is not brashness but meekness that wins souls to Christ.

It takes humility to become a faithful Christian. It takes humility to realize that you are a sinner. Paul said that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Paul had to humble and abase himself before the Lord and acknowledge that he, himself, was the chief of sinners (I Tim. 1:15). Previously, he had thought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:9). But when the Lord told appeared to him and said “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,” he humbly responded, “Lord, what would thou have me to do” (Acts 9:6).

The Lord’s church could do with a bit more humility in some quarters. It could do with more humility starting with her preachers. Some preachers think too highly of themselves and like Diotrephes of old they want to have the pre-emminence (III John 9). They think more of getting a name for themselves than of preaching the gospel. All too often, doctrinal accuracy is forfeited in favor of showmanship. Paul warned young Timothy to war a good warfare with a good conscience (I Tim. 1:18,19).

Because of their position of leadership and authority, elders also need to be humble. Paul warned Timothy that elders should be mature enough not be lifted up with pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil (I Tim. 3:7). Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that he had served the Lord with all humility of mind and warned them that from among their midst some would arise, speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:19,29,30).

Christians in general should live quiet and peacable lives for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God (I Tim. 2:3,4). Christian men should be holy and Christian women ought to conduct themselves modestly (I Tim. 2:8,9). God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble (James 4:6). “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10).

Eric L. Padgett

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