Masquerading

This is the time of year when young people try to figure out what they want to pretend to be for Halloween. They will wear a mask that makes them look like something that they are not—like a monster or a superhero. It is all in good fun, and few adults are actually fooled by these disguises.

The Bible tells us that the devil tries to disguise himself in order to fool people. 2 Cor.11:14-15 says, “…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

Some of Satan’s servants try to portray themselves as protectors of women’s rights when they are really promoting the destruction of innocent babies in the womb. Others would like to be seen as people who promote love, acceptance and tolerance, but they are actually enablers for those who choose lifestyles that are forbidden by God. Still others insist that the enlightened approach to economic success is to redistribute wealth by punishing the “makers” and rewarding the “takers”, but their ways are not God’s ways.

Don’t be fooled by Satan or any of his cohorts! See through their masquerades and point out their schemes to others.  

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Joining the Church

We often talk about people “joining the church” when they accept Christ as their savior. Maybe there is nothing wrong with using this term, but it is not how the Bible refers to how new members become a part of the church.

In Acts 2 we read about how the church began on the day of Pentecost. Peter preached the gospel message and urged those who believed in the crucified and resurrected Jesus to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (v.38). We read in verses 40-41, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

So, it doesn’t say that they “joined the church”. It says that they “were added”. This leads us to ask the question, “Who did the adding?” The answer is provided in v.47—“…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Is there really a difference in saying someone was added to the church instead of saying that they joined it? Perhaps. If I join the church, I could get the idea that I set the terms of my membership. If the Lord adds me to the church, it is clear that he sets the terms.

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The Gospel Presented

Have you ever noticed how the gospel was presented to a wide variety of people when the church first came into existence? A quick glance at the book of Acts shows us that God’s plan to save the world through Jesus was revealed to people from all different walks of life.

In Acts 2 the gospel was presented to the religious people. The Jews, who should have recognized their Messiah, had instead rejected him and handed him over to be crucified. But God raised Jesus from the dead and the apostles proclaimed this Jesus to be Lord and Savior of all who would accept him through faith by repenting and being baptized.

In chapter 3 we see the good news revealed to the hurting. A man who was lame from birth was miraculously healed, and the spiritual lesson behind this miracle is that all who are hurting—for whatever reason—can be healed and enabled to walk with God.

Chapter 8 shows how salvation through Jesus was given to Simon the sorcerer, someone who was caught up in the occult. Even those who are deeply involved in weird religious practices are shown that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.

The seeker finds Jesus in Acts 8. The man from Ethiopia had travelled a long way looking for some answers, and, with Philip’s help, this seeker found Jesus.

Acts 9 tells us how the gospel message found its way into the heart of a fanatic. Saul—later known as Paul—was a religious terrorist, going to great lengths to persecute believers of Jesus. Then, after his dramatic encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Saul’s life took an amazing turn for the better, climaxing in his sins being washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16).

In chapter 10 we read about how salvation came to Cornelius, a devout man who was praised for his prayers and generosity. We find, however, that even devout people need Jesus.

In Acts 16 we see that Lydia, a successful businesswoman, receives Christ. The world may look up to people who do well financially, but they are just like the rest of us, sinners in need of a savior.

Also in chapter 16 we see the gospel being presented to an abuser. The Philippian jailer may not have personally flogged Paul and Silas, but he was responsible for the wounds inflicted on these innocent men whose only crime was preaching Christ. After he repented, the jailer himself washed the wounds of the men he had abused. Then he and his whole household were baptized into Christ.

Skeptic philosophers are the beneficiaries of the church’s evangelistic efforts in Acts 17. The people in Athens loved to talk about and listen to the latest ideas about religion. They even had an altar built for the worship of “an unknown god”. (I guess they wanted to cover all the bases!). Paul explained to them that the one true God has been revealed to us in the crucified and resurrected Jesus.

In Acts 19 we read about how the gospel was revealed to the misinformed. Some believers in Ephesus had been improperly baptized. After hearing the truth, they were baptized correctly.

Chapters 24-26 show us how the gospel was presented to people in high government positions. Even powerful politicians (especially powerful politicians?!) need Jesus.

So we see in the early history of the church that the message of salvation through Jesus went out to all types of people. Some responded; some did not.

What was true back then is still true today. Everybody needs Jesus. And the church needs to be talking to everybody—yes, everybody—about Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.

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Frozen by Fear

Two farmers were talking one hot July day. One of them asked the other, “How is your cotton doing this year?”

“I didn’t plant any,” came the answer. “I was afraid of the boll weevil.”

“Well, how is your corn?”

“I didn’t plant any corn either. I was scared that there might be a drought.”

“How about your potatoes?”

“I don’t have any. I was afraid of potato bugs.”

The first farmer finally asked, “Well, what did you plant?”

“Nothing,” answered the second farmer. “I just played it safe.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story of a man who played it safe. He was a servant who was supposed to make an investment for his master, but instead he didn’t do anything. He admits in v.25, “…I was afraid.”

The master called this fearful servant “wicked” and “lazy” (v.26) and subjected him to the ultimate punishment (v.30).

This story warns us about the danger of becoming frozen by fear. There are risks that we must take as we make investments in the kingdom of God. But we can’t allow these risks to cause us to be afraid to do anything at all!

Take some chances for the Lord. Invest in his kingdom and trust him for the results. Then you will hear the words that every follower of Jesus longs to hear some day—“…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

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The Golden Rule

One of the best known ethical teachings comes from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.7:12). This teaching has come to be known as “The Golden Rule”.

Other religious teachers had expressed this thought in the negative—“Do not do to others what you yourself dislike”—but Jesus puts a positive spin on it and gives it a place of prominence in his teaching.

There are numerous ways that we can apply the Golden Rule to our lives. If we want respect, we should be respectful to others. If we would like to be treated kindly, we should be kind to those around us. If we would like for others to forgive us, then we must routinely practice forgiveness. The list goes on and on.

If everyone practiced the Golden Rule, what a better place this world would be!

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C6 H0

October 29, 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of what is considered one of the greatest upsets in the history of college football. On that date in 1921, Centre College defeated Harvard University by a score of 6-0.

Harvard was a powerhouse in those days, having won four national championships over the previous ten seasons. Centre seemed to be greatly outmanned, but they prevailed in the end, giving the small school in Danville, Kentucky a win for the ages.

Many people in Danville painted or whitewashed C6 H0 on buildings to commemorate the victory. Time has erased most of those memorials. However, there is one building on Centre’s campus that still shows the score. Someone has kept repainting C6 H0 as a continuing reminder of that amazing victory.

The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the victory that Jesus won on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago, when he defeated sin once and for all for all of mankind. As long as we continue to celebrate communion together, time can never erase the memory of that victory!

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”—Luke 22:19-20.

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Preaching the Word

This past September 29th marked the 30th anniversary of my first sermon. I was quite nervous as I delivered that sermon at the Clarksburg Church of Christ (now Clarksburg Christian Church). The text was from James 2 and the message was about not showing favoritism.

The congregation must not have been terribly disappointed with this brand new preacher, because they invited me back to preach the next Sunday. The church was looking for a preacher, and I was looking for a place to preach. I don’t remember the subject of that second sermon, but I must have done all right. After the worship service that Sunday, Bert Brown, one of the elders at the church, handed me a key to the church building and said, “I guess you’ll be needing this.” That’s how I learned that they wanted me to come and be their preacher.

In the 30 years that have elapsed since then I have delivered approximately 2,000 sermons. Most of them occurred at the 6 local congregations I have served, but there were a few revivals, homecomings and guest speaking opportunities along the way.

There have been many ups and downs over these three decades of preaching, which is to be expected. Someone once described preaching as “a joyful burden”. It is indeed frustrating when people reject the Word of God, sometimes maligning the messenger along with the message. However, I try to focus on the positives, the times when people believed the message and obeyed it. It is truly heart-warming to reflect on lives that have been forever changed by the Word of God.

The Bible contains the good news of salvation through Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Scriptures tell us how to accept Jesus as our Savior: through faith (Mark 16:16), repentance (Acts 2:38), confession (Romans 10:9-10) and baptism (Romans 6:3-4). God’s plan of salvation is so simple that a child can understand it, yet at the same time it is so deeply spiritual that scholars have written multitudes of books on the subject.

Besides telling us how to be saved, the Bible is our road map; it tells us how to live a life that pleases the God who created us for his pleasure. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The Scriptures keep us from stumbling around in the darkness. The Bible enables us to clearly see the paths of righteousness that the Lord has set out before us.

The greatest honor in my life is that Jesus died for me. The second greatest honor is that God called me to be a preacher. I have never taken that call lightly! I have always endeavored to be faithful to the text and deliver life-changing messages that were relevant, interesting and challenging. I have tried to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I have preached in season and out of season. I still try to fan into flame this gift God has given me and do the very best at what he has called me to do.

One of the most important things that a preacher can do is to remind followers of Jesus that they too are preachers in a sense. Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The early church grew in leaps and bounds because men, women and young people shared the good news about salvation through Jesus everywhere they went. The church of today has great opportunities to spread the light of the gospel in this dark, dark world. But it will only happen if we take seriously the commission we have received: to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples by spreading his Word. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Preach the Word!

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Talk to Him

Charles Spurgeon shared the story of an old farmer who told about his encounter with the devil. The devil was tempting him and he finally said to the devil, “What do you want from me anyway?”

The devil answered, “Why, I want your soul!”

To this the man responded, “I have entrusted my soul to Christ. You will have to see him about this matter.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”—1 Peter 1:3-5.

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Whitewashing the Black Sheep

The children in a prominent family decided to give their father a book of the family’s history for a birthday present. They commissioned a professional biographer to do the work, carefully warning him about the family’s “black sheep” problem: Uncle George had been convicted of murder and was executed in the electric chair at the state penitentiary. The biographer assured the children that he could smooth over the situation to their satisfaction. Sure enough, when the book came out, it said that “Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties and his death came as a real shock.”

There is no need to whitewash our family history and pretend that we have it all together. The Bible says that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). We all are sinners in need of a savior. And we thank God that he sent us a Savior—His one and only Son, Jesus!

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Our Motivation

Mary Garden

Opera star Mary Garden, considered one of the greats of her profession, said there was one thing she always told herself before going on stage: “There’s one person in that vast audience who has made a sacrifice to come and hear me, and for that person I’m going to give my very best.”

There is a biblical principle that states that all of us—even those who are not famous opera stars—should strive for excellence in whatever it is that we try to do.

Eccl.9:10a says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”. Col.3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Always remember that the Lord is in the audience, and the Lord deserves your very best.

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