Why Mega-churches Are Wrong

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Why Mega-Churches Are Wrong
The bigger the number the better. This is the unsung motto of the denominations today. Churches today would leave the impression with their gargantuan assemblies that Jesus said, “Broad is the gate and easy is the way that leads to life, and there are many who go in by it!” But wait, Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:14). Jesus would further proclaim, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword,” (Matt. 10:34) indicating that the way is indeed rigorous. This type of teaching would lead to many of his disciples forsaking Him in John 6:66. This is not the portrayal in the modern mega-church era.
Mega-churches are by definition, churches with more than 2,000 people in attendance on an average weekly basis (Bird, 2012). Warren Bird cites the earliest known church to have more than 2,000 members and sustain that number through the 21st century as the Moody Church of Chicago (2012). Subsequently modern community churches like Life Church may not equal 2,000 in weekly attendance (or maybe they do) but when a police officer is required to safely direct the traffic into and out of the church…the church is too big. This truth can be understood from reading 1 Thessalonians 2.
1 Thessalonians is a very intimate epistle by Paul to a young church. Perhaps no other epistle by Paul is more positive and uplifting besides the book of Philippians. The church had not been established long, as can be logically deduced from reading the epistle in conjunction with the history of the Thessalonian conversion in Acts 17. Although Paul was only with these brethren and sisters for a short time before being driven out of town by the unbelieving Jews, he says this,
“We (Paul, Silas, and Timothy) were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us…as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,” (1 Thess. 2:7-11).
Paul, Silas, and Timothy’s relationship with these brethren was as personal and intimate as a mother’s care for her children and a father’s love for his children. No greater bond of love can be found than the two used in illustration by Paul. This is how well Paul knew these brethren on an individual basis. Certainly he could not have said these words had the church been 2,000 in attendance every week, even if he had stayed in Thessalonica for years on end. These verses exemplify the Christian unity and closeness required of every congregation.
This bond of unity is impossible when there are so many people in attendance that one cannot remember the names of people, let alone actually know the people. Bigger numbers do not equate to a better church. This is only one of many reasons that mega-churches fail to meet the New Testament church example.

Bird, Warren. (2012). World’s first megachurch? Leadership Network. Retrieved from http://leadnet.org/worlds_first_megachurch/

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

“Some Having Swerved”

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“Some Having Swerved”
I Timothy 1:5-8

Both of Paul’s epistles to young Timothy teach a great deal about basic truths that Timothy needed to learn in order to become a successful servant for Jesus Christ. These truths are plainly seen in the first chapter of the first letter to Timothy. The apostle wastes no time in telling Timothy why he left him at Ephesus. This journey refers to one of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts where Paul went to Ephesus, accompanied by Timothy, but departed to Macedonia shortly after arriving at Ephesus. Verses 3-4 point out the reason for their separation. Paul instructed Timothy to ensure the teaching of the gospel was for the use of edifying because several law lovers had deceived some of the new congregational teachers at Ephesus by binding fables and “endless” genealogies as New Testament truths. These were not for the use of edifying, but rather to promote pointless question asking that caused many to veer from the truth! Timothy had to stop the spread of this false doctrine, or the church at Ephesus would fall into apostasy! Listen to Paul’s words on how such error is combated. He says, “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned;” For the Christian, that is the basics of Christian living. Thayer even says that the word “commandment” mentioned in verse 5 refers to right living! How do you refute false doctrine? How do you destroy scorners of church members? How do you combat evil? Your actions must bespeak your name—Christian. We have to live righteously. This is done through charity (love) out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. But then Paul says, “from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling.” It is apparent that some of the members at Ephesus had erred from the truth that edifies and turned unto “vain jangling” which is defined as “empty chatter.” It is interesting that the Greek word astocheo is translated “swerved” in this verse. In the English, this word means “to deviate from; miss the mark.” Yet this same Greek word is found in two other passages, both in the epistles to Timothy. But in the other two verses, the English word translated is “erred.” They all mean the same thing, but this is noteworthy because the verb “swerved” is a good way to describe some Christians today. They believe the truth and obey it, but somewhere along the way, an abrupt right turn is taken, and they have veered far from the straight and narrow.
Over the years, many have deviated from the divine Word in an effort to justify their own personal beliefs and life styles! That’s what these law lovers were doing. They muddied the waters surrounding what had to be obeyed, and what had been fulfilled; the result was the swerving of members from the truth because the law lovers were clinging to their Jewish heritage out of pride. Today, it’s the same thing! Some have swerved because of their pride. Yet God does not justify swerving. He gives us three principles to practice in verse 5 to prevent swerving and pride. Time will not permit discussion of those three principles, but charity out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned is God’s solution to swerving. May we all seek after these things, so we do not miss the mark.

Colby Culbertson

Developing the Church in 2040

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Developing the Church in 2040

​Once upon a time there was a little church who had an honored and revered church leader. This respected man carried the congregation on his shoulders. A few years went by and that leader deceased, followed by the dwindling away of the church only two brief years later. This is not a fairy tale. This story represents the sad fate of many churches after the patriarchal leader of the church passes away. Why does this happen? The problem may be more complex, but one integral quality of a great leader is the development of other leaders. Great men develop and leave greater men after them so the above circumstance does not repeat itself.
​Consider four examples of leadership development from the Bible. The first is a unfortunate example. Joshua was selected by God and Moses to be his right hand man and the next leader of Israel. Upon designating Joshua as the next shepherd of Israel, God declared to Moses, “Set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd,” (Joshua 27:16-17). From this point forward a careful Bible reader will notice Joshua at the right side of Moses. Joshua accompanied Moses half way up Mt. Sinai when the 10 commandments were first delivered in Ex. 32. No later than Joshua chapter one, Joshua is highly respected by all Israel after giving an inaugural address prior to leading the fall of Jericho. The Israelite nation would go on to follow Joshua at his word, and at Joshua’s death it would be said of him, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel,” (Joshua 24:31). Moses success in developing a stalwart leader out of Joshua is evident from scripture. However, as excellent a leader as Joshua was, he failed in one of the key qualities of leadership. Joshua failed to leave another Joshua after him. Certainly, Israel was faithful during the days of the elders that followed, but Joshua did not develop those elders as Moses had developed Joshua, leading to the dark ages of Israelite history during the judges.
Other premier examples of leadership development are seen in Elijah’s tutorship of Elisha who would follow to be the most profound prophet of miraculous ability in Israelite history. Look at Jehoiada who would guide the young king Joash from the time of a young child to when he would reign autonomously on the throne of Judah (2 Kings). Jesus Himself selected twelve men to be his right hand men, and among those twelve, Peter, James, and John would receive special interest from Jesus as they displayed strong leadership abilities. These three were especially selected to go with Jesus on the mount where He was transfigured in Matthew 17. When reading the gospels and Acts, these three are mentioned more than any of the other disciples besides Judas Iscariot. These men made sure the church thrived during the deepest of persecutions.
Moses, Elijah, Jehoiada, and Jesus all practiced leadership development and intended that the church in 2016 do the same. Every congregation is faced with this task. Without leaders who practice leadership development, it may be said of the church in 2040, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25).

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

“After The Due Order”

 

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In 1 Chronicles 13 we read an interesting account about the Ark and the Israelites. King David and the people determined to bring the Ark back. The Ark had not been in use since before King Saul. The returning of the Ark would be a big celebration. The Israelites planned a large procession and put the Ark on a new cart. As they were going along they came upon a rough place in the road. The Ark began to fall and a man name Uzza held his arms out to stabilize it. When he touched it, he fell dead.
David had the same reaction to Uzza`s death that many today would have. He was angry with God. David reasoned that all Uzza did was try to stabilize the ark to keep it from falling.
Two chapters later, in 1 Chron. 15 David proclaimed that it was time to bring back the ark. This time David said that the Ark would be carried on the shoulders of the Levites as God had commanded. As David readied the men he proclaims in 1 Chron. 15:13 – “For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”
What does David mean when he says “After the due order?” The word due, in this case, means what is correct or right. The work “order” means mandate or commandment. So when David said they did it not “after the due commandment” he meant that they did not act in accordance with God`s commandment. Thus when God caused Uzza to die he not only punished Uzza for touching the ark but also caused the people to stop and consider if what they were doing was honoring God or pleasing themselves.
Today many departures have taken place in our self-gratifying world. Many continue to leave the faith. We still have the charge to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3. It is sad to see many turn their backs to the truth. They turn their backs to the only way to God. They do not walk not after the due order.
Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the Life and no man comes unto the father but by me.” John 14:6 Paul says in Eph. 4:4-6 ” There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and earth and is the one in control of the church Col. 1:18. Yet many seem to think that even though they have good intentions, that they can improve or help God in the worship.
Paul warned of such departures and divisions in Acts 20:29-31, 2 Tim. 4:3, 4. In Tim. 4 Paul said that there would come a time when “they would not endure sound doctrine but would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” This can be clearly seen today. If you want to hear some so called preacher tell you that you can be saved by grace alone, you can have it. If you want to hear someone tell you that all you need to do to be in touch with God is send them money you’ve got it. If you want to hear that you don`t need to go to church or become part of God`s institution to be saved you can find it. If you want the doctrine of prosperity, you can find. None of these ideas can save anyone because they are not after the due order.
If we want to please God we must follow him “After the due order.” Notice with me a couple of examples:
1) Communion
Changing the number of drinking vessels in the Lord’s Supper is an example: Individual cups were invented by J.G. Thomas. They were first used in Putnam County, Ohio in 1893. The idea became very popular and spread rapidly throughout the country. As people became more conscious of germs and the possible transmission of disease by several people drinking out of the same container, more and more churches adopted the practice. This innovation is not following the “due order.”
2) Sunday school classes
The dividing of the assembly for the purpose of teaching is another example. The Sunday school movement began in Britain in the 1780s. The Industrial Revolution had resulted in many children spending all week long working in factories. Christian
The English Anglican evangelical Robert Raikes (1725-1811) was the key promoter of the movement. It soon spread to America as well.
Religious education was a core component. The Bible was the textbook used for learning to read. Many children learned to write by copying passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn-singing. Teaching Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the movement.
These innovations, as well as others were started with good intentions. God doesn’t accept them? The reason is; they are not after the due order.
When we tamper with God’s design, we become like David, Uzza, and the rest of the Israelites. We must follow the “due order.”
Sean Smith

Jesus-The Defense Attorney

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Jesus- The Defense Attorney

​In Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses told the children of Israel that God would raise up a prophet from them like Moses himself. This prophet was Jesus Christ who would save the world of their sins. Moses and Christ were alike in several respects, and a brief survey of Exodus will evidence this parallel.
Moses was a mediator between God and Israel just as Jesus is the mediator between God and man today. Understand before reading any further: a mediator is a negotiator who lobbies with an authority for the sake of another. Now consider Exodus 20:19. This passage follows the event of Moses descending from Mt. Sinai with the 10 commandments when God’s magnificent power and glory descended on the mountain. The passage reads, “Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’” Because the Israelites knew they had been unfaithful to God and felt unworthy to be in God’s presence, they asked Moses to be the mediator between themselves and God. In like manner 1 Timothy 2:5 says Jesus is our mediator and for good reason. Jesus became our sin sacrifice on the cross, and now whenever we sin and ask for forgiveness, Jesus goes before God to lobby for our forgiveness. Think of Jesus as the defense attorney in the court room, God being the Supreme Court justice, and the sinner being the guilty party on trial. The attorney lobbies to the judge on behalf of the guilty party with the end goal of forgiveness. Another Biblical example would be that of Abraham lobbying with God on account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham negotiated with God, bringing the magic number for destruction down to 10 righteous people in Genesis 18.
Today, no man on earth or angel in heaven has this unique authority as defense attorney besides Jesus Christ. We may intercede for our brethren and sisters in prayer, requesting for forgiveness, healing, or blessing on their behalf; however, this is not the same as negotiating back and forth with the Father. Only Jesus has this privilege, because only Jesus is both man and God at the same time, able to equally represent both parties in the courtroom of forgiveness. Think about this heavenly scene ongoing in the highest of Supreme Courts the next time you ask for forgiveness.

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

Cornelius and the Holy Spirit:More Than a Feeling

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Cornelius and the Holy Spirit: More Than a Feeling

Notwithstanding the numerous biblical accounts of baptism for the remission of sins, the book of Acts contains the greatest historical record of conversions to Christianity. The Jews experienced the power of the first gospel sermon in Acts 2, realizing that it convicted them to their very core (vs. 37).

When the Jews recognized the grave error of crucifying the Messiah they long awaited, they responded to Peter’s charge – repentance followed by baptism for the remission of sins (vs. 38). The Bible records some 3,000 souls were added to “them” (vs. 41), which is clearly defined as the church in verse 47 of the same chapter.

The Holy Spirit’s descent upon the Apostles who waited for the “Helper” in Jerusalem as commanded by Jesus (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:7) caused unlearned Galileans to speak in native tongues from countries and regions they never visited. The thousands of Jews who were required to be in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost noticed this miracle. They realized the Apostles’ power displayed, and the kingdom of God was now open for all who would obey.

The special case in consideration is Cornelius and his household. In Acts 10, we learn of a man who was “a devout man”, “feared God”, “gave alms”, and “prayed to God always” (10:2).

In short, Peter receives a vision (vs. 9-15) that revealed a new people welcome into the kingdom of God – Gentiles. In verse 28, Peter acknowledges the prior sentiments Jews felt towards Gentiles by stating, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any many common or unclean.” This is in direct reference to the vision Peter received.

When Peter is delivering the gospel to Cornelius, another miraculous event occurs. The Holy Spirit descends upon Cornelius and all who were there (vs. 44). The Jews even recognized the gravity of this event, for we read in verse 45, “And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

We then find Peter upon the condition of Cornelius’ salvation speak, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (vs. 47). The next verse is key. “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (vs. 48).

Why is this important? There is one main reason: The Holy Spirit descending upon Cornelius was not a salvation event. The Holy Spirit was a sign for all to recognize that the kingdom was open for all races for all time. Peter commanded baptism, for he knew this was the only way for Cornelius to receive the remission of sins.

The belief that you must have the Holy Spirit descend upon your heart and mind to cause you to feel different, think different, and act different, as a proof of salvation is absolutely ridiculous given the fact that Peter commanded Cornelius to be baptized. The Holy Spirit’s purpose was to not save Cornelius. If the Holy Spirit’s power was to save on the descent, then the sermon at Pentecost was not necessary for the Jews, for they would’ve received the same power.

Let us never feel like we must experience a good feeling in our stomach without obedient acts to the gospel as those shown at the Day of Pentecost and the event at Cornelius’ household. Let us always have a good feeling for obeying that “form of doctrine” (Rom. 6:17) which leads to our salvation – belief (Mark 16:16), repentance (Luke 13:3), confession (Matt. 10:32, Acts 8:37), and baptism (Acts 2:38, I Pet. 3:21). Without such, we should have a stomach ache.

Drew Mauldin

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

Out of Plumb

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“Out of Plumb”
Amos 7:7-8
The book of Amos is classified as one of the minor prophetic books, all of which prophesied about the approaching fall of the people of Israel. The people of Israel were once God’s chosen people, but for hundreds of years now had forsaken the God of Heaven who had delivered them out of their original Egyptian bondage. By the time Amos was called to prophesy to the people in turning them away from sin, Israel was on thin ice with God. When we arrive at this textual passage in chapter 7 of Amos, God uses an interesting example to make the chosen people understand the most basic knowledge that a person has is that every group of people on earth has a set of rules, which govern them. Whether these rules are strict or lax, liberal or conservative, every civilization of mankind that has existed on this earth since man was created has lived by some understanding of right and wrong. This passage in Amos is interesting because it can be easily understood even in this modern day. God again pleads with his chosen group of erring people warning them that He would allow them to be taken into bondage once again if they would not repent! Amos sees a vision that the Lord showed him in which the Almighty God himself stood upon a wall “made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand.” What is a plumbline? Some may not be familiar with this terminology but a plumbline is a mechanism used to determine whether something is exactly vertical or straight. In God’s example, He is using the “plumbline in his hand” metaphorically. The plumbline represents God’s laws & commands. God’s laws and commands include both religious (worship) and moral (everyday life) laws. Our Heavenly Father would use it to measure the people of Israel and determine how far to either side the people had deviated. When a wall or structure did not line up with a plumbline, it was said to be “out of plumb!” Israel was most definitely out of plumb & God said at the end of verse 8 in our text that he would no longer overlook Israel’s progressive path away from the plumbline!

Now let’s all understand something. There are no new sins that have arisen in our society, but instead there is a rapid growth in apathy toward God’s moral law. What are morals? The English dictionary defines morals as the “behavior of a person in matters of right and wrong.” How a person behaves when faced with certain choices or circumstances tells us what that person’s morals are based upon. Any child of God will have morals that line up with the Father’s plumbline (God’s written Word). May God’s people always stay true to the morals written in His Word and never be found “out of plumb.”

Colby Culbertson

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

Violence in Our Time

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Our group of seven had just placed our order when the police officer walked through our section of the busy restaurant saying firmly, “This building is being evacuated. I need everyone to leave through the side door, now!”

Within a few seconds, we were outside wondering what was going on. From what I hoped was a safe distance away I looked back to see a grandson politely holding the door for everyone as they left the building. “This is not a good time to be so polite,” I remember thinking as I called his name for him to leave his post and scurry to safety along with the rest of our group.

Standing there, random thoughts of perils kept running through my mind: Perhaps somehow a robbery is involved. Is it a bomb threat? If it is a bomb, are we far enough away? Is this a terrorist thing and someone is about to blow themselves up or start shooting everyone?

When the situation was not resolved within a few minutes, we left the area to go to another restaurant. As so often happens in a large city, the evacuation of the restaurant did not make the news and apparently nothing happened other than the restaurant’s business was disrupted and the patrons were inconvenienced, some mid-meal. Our event appears to have been a false alarm.

Sometimes though, the alarm is not false. Sometimes the person strolling through the crowd is not a law enforcement official helping everyone to safety; he or she is bringing violence and death into the peace of everyday lives, forever changing families, communities, and nations.

Today, the World Health Organization attempts to track and report trends regarding violence. Their belief appears to be that the rule of law would curb most violence, if enacted and enforced in every nation throughout the world. They report: “The enactment and enforcement of legislation on crime and violence are critical for establishing norms of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and creating safe and peaceful societies. On average, the laws surveyed were reported to exist by 80% of countries but to be fully enforced by just 57%” (Global Status report on Violence Prevention, 2014). of course, “acceptable behavior” would logically include a common belief system that encourages respect for all and violence toward none, which unfortunately, is not universally accepted.

While the World Health Organization is not religious in any way, they have stumbled upon the purpose of government in the world from a biblical perspective. World governments are identified as serving God in a special way, not as part of God’s kingdom, but as protectors of the common citizenry by using the fear of punishment as a deterrent to violations of law.

Paul was inspired to write: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Rom 13:1-7).

One area of increasing violence today involves killing in the name of religion, either because of the religion of the murderer, or because of the religion of those being killed. Jesus talked about those who would think they were serving God in killing the disciples: “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:2-3). While those words were addressed to those who would be first century Christians, it is amazing how very current they are today in many places around the world including the United States.

In October 2015, when a gunman opened fire at a community college in Oregon, survivors reported that the shooter asked individuals if they were “Christians.” If they said “Yes,” he replied: “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second… And then he shot and killed them” http:// http://www.people.com/article/umpqua-community-college- gunman-allegedly-targeted-christians-report

Today, none who are persecuting those who claim any allegiance to Christ are doing anything new. They are at the end of a long line of those who have done the same throughout the centuries.

In the first days of the church, our brother Stephen was killed when an angry mob threw rocks at him until he died (Acts 7:58-59). On the heels of Stephen’s death, a zealot named Saul decided to do his best to destroy the Lord’s church. “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem… As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1,3).

Imagine being at home in those days when the banging on the door was a demand to know if there were any Christians inside. At that moment, the inhabitants faced a horrible situation: lie and live (maybe), or tell the truth and die a horrible death. either choice had both immediate and eternal consequences.

Years later, when Paul talked about that time in his life, he remembered the violence in which he participated. “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20). He also recorded: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:9-11). Since Paul was a witness against those who would not recant their faith in Christ, he was also most likely among the first to throw rocks at them to kill them (Deuteronomy 17:6-7).

We are to be thankful for those in our nation whose work is to protect all citizens and to administer appropriate punishments allowed by law regardless of religious affiliation. At the same time, we need to remember it is not our place as Christians to be administrators of those punishments. Vengeance is not ours (Hebrews 10:30) and carnal battles are not ours to fight: Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36). A practical application of these truths is that we cannot serve in the military, or in a gun carrying position of law enforcement, or in a political system as a judge or legislator.

Refusing to participate in the law’s vengeance does not prevent us from taking advantage of all the rights we have as citizens of the land in which we dwell. Paul used his Roman citizenship to avoid being flogged (Acts 22:25) and to appeal his legal case before Caesar (Acts 25:11). This was within his rights as a Roman citizen and was not a violation of the law of God.

Of course, there is no guarantee that all the laws of any nation will be appropriate for Christians. It may be that some laws of a land are contrary to the Bible’s instructions. In that event, we have no choice but to respectfully decline to follow that particular law since we must obey God first(Acts 5:29), even as we do our best to be loyal and faithful citizens of our nation. For example, if the freedom to assemble were withdrawn, we would quietly gather for worship anyway.

If violence against those who believe in Christ comes to our community, or even our home, may we have the same faith and courage as all those who have suffered and died because of their faith in God. The Holy Spirit inspired special mention for redeemed martyrs: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9- 10).

If government based persecution happens where we live and it appears dangerous to continue to live there under such circumstances, it is difficult to know what course is best. Still, it is not appropriate for Christians to arm themselves and become part of a movement to drive out the government. The scriptures tell us to “honor the king” (I Peter 2:17).

We have Bible examples of what others did in similar circumstances. When the church was persecuted in Jerusalem after the death of Stephen, most Christians fled from the area so they could live where there was less danger (Acts 8:4). Similarly, when the Roman ruler Claudius did not want any Jews in Rome, Aquila and Priscilla left town and found a new place to live in Corinth (Acts 18:2) Moving to a new area in our community, another state, or even another nation may all be considered if persecution invades where we live.

As God’s faithful, our task in a world of increasing violence is to remain a people of peace. Paul wrote, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17-18).

In my recent restaurant experience, it was frightening to be asked to leave, to have the peace of the moment disturbed. I cannot imagine what it was like to be in San Bernadino, California, Roseburg, Oregon, Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France when multiple individuals were slaughtered there in recent months.

Let us not forsake our faith and let us not be afraid in such difficult times. rather, let us remember the words of Jesus as he instructed the twelve: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Greg Gay

March 2016 issue of the Old Paths Advocate

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

It’s Not Funny

 

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It’s Not Funny
In Ephesians 5:1-4, the bible says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

In this passage, Paul tells us to be imitators of God (v. 1) in both conduct (v. 3) and speech (v. 4). Yet sadly in the world, and too often in the church, the accepted behavior is opposite scripture. Adam Clarke’s commentary helps define the following words and phrases from verse 4:

“Filthiness” – Any thing base or vile in words or acts.

“Which are not convenient (which are not fitting)” – They do not come up to the proper standard; they are utterly improper in themselves, and highly unbecoming in those who profess Christianity.

An obvious takeaway from Ephesians 5 is that crude “humor” is not funny. Paul is challenging Christians to prove their devotion to God by their action—to be mature. Although it may be popular even in the current culture of the church, this form of speech is not “cool” and it should not make you feel good. Paul asserts that faithful attendance to worship services alone does not make one faithful if he or she is not faithful in speech and conduct. And although modest dress professes godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10), modest dress does not make one godly if his or her speech and conduct do not exude modesty. Attend faithfully and dress modestly, but do not neglect modesty and faithfulness in word and deed.

Christianity is not just a club with a few rules; Christianity is a lifestyle. If we are to be imitators of God, should we boast in our unrepentant slander? Should we spew unbecoming, unholy speech? Are the words we speak fitting for a Christian? Speech is an indicator of a man’s heart (Luke 6:45). Before we can imitate God, we must “cleanse the inside of the cup (Matt. 23:25-26).” We cannot imitate him unless we do (Matt.12:34). Let us be urgent to purify our hearts.
Matthew 12:36 – “…for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.”

Joey Hickey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

Jesus is Supreme

 

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9 Reasons Muslims, Mormons & Jehovah Witnesses Need to Read Colossians 1

​There are at least three very influential religious sects that profess Jesus to be a good prophet, but deny His deity. Perhaps, there are more than three, but Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah Witnesses comprise a large body of religious followers the world-wide, and they all have this faith in common. Muslims uphold the Koran as God’s preeminent revelation to man. Mormon’s do the same with the Book of Mormon, and Jehovah Witnesses have gone so far as to attempt retranslating the Bible and disassociate any references to Jesus as God in the New World Translation. Still, with all this rejection of Jesus as God, all these groups claim Him to be a good prophet. Obviously, none of these groups have heeded Paul’s words in Colossians 1.

​In Colossians 1, Paul exhorts the Colossians for being faithful. This had been reported to him by Epaphras, a member of the Colosse Church of Christ. In verse 9, Paul begins a prayer for the Colossian brethren, and starting in verse 13, he begins to describe to them the supremacy of their savior Jesus Christ. He gives nine distinct qualities of Christ’s supremacy before ending the first chapter.

​First, Christ is God, yet Christ took on human flesh so He could be the perfect sacrifice and mediator for man (Col. 1:15,19, 22). Second, Christ is the creator of the universe (Col. 1:16). Third, Christ was able to create all things because He preceded all things (Col. 1:17). Fourth, Christ is the source of energy for all creation (Col. 1:17). Fifth, Christ is every Christian’s hope that they will all be resurrected and glorified in the flesh as Jesus was the third day after crucifixion (Col. 1:27). Sixth, Christ is preeminent over Muhammed, Allah, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and any other false prophet that would discredit the Messiah (Col. 1:16, 18). Seventh, Christ died to redeem the sins of everyone including Muhammed and Joseph Smith (Col. 14, 20, 21, 22). Unfortunately, both of those men denied Jesus deity and will have to beg for His forgiveness on judgment day. Eighth, Christ is God Himself, or as Paul puts it, “The image of the invisible God,” (Col. 1:15). Ninth and last, Christ is head of the church of Christ, the only body by which men have hope of salvation (Col. 1:18, Eph. 4:4). Now listen to Jesus own words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6).

​Ironically, all the aforementioned groups that would propose Jesus to be a good teacher and the Bible to be a good book have blatantly disregarded the first chapter of Colossians. Most every one of these mainstream religious bodies would say the Bible is a good book, but clearly they would not make such a statement in light of Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1. One thing is for sure, Christ is supreme over every human and spiritual being, and it is before Him that every knee shall bow and give account to on judgment day (Rom. 4:11-12).

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org