In the Old Testament book of Esther, there is a man named Haman, who had been advanced above all his fellow princes in the kingdom of King Ahasuerus. All the king’s servants bowed before him and paid him homage because the king had commanded it. Materially and professionally, Haman had everything going for him, but spiritually he was utterly bankrupt.
When we are neglectful about counting our blessings or too focused upon the wins and losses in this life, we can get to be about like Haman. Continue reading » All This Avails Me Nothing
(2 Corinthians 3:3, “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”)
What possessions do I really need? Something I have come to realize is that my little Cambridge New Testament is my constant companion. So, I guess I need it. I have many other Bibles that are finer, with more features, but this one is convenient and is “well trained” by usage and handling. Using Power Point presentations in sermons for many years now, and knowing how effective imagery like that can be in preaching, there is still something to be said about standing before an audience to preach the word with no aids at all but a faithful Bible like this without fear of the power going out! I have it with me always and get kind of panicky if I misplace it. Ask most preachers and you will find that my little quirk is not so rare.
My grandfather told me about forty years ago he never travelled without at least $200.00 in his wallet and advised me to always do the same. That advice seems quaint, now. My father had favorite Bibles, too, but never left the house without his pocket knife and I have rued the times I have not heeded his practical advice. Then there is American Express which apparently does not think much about Bibles because they tell us never to leave home without their credit card! On the subject of having a few key things, laughingly I remember just a bit of a wacky poem by Jeff Cooper (now deceased, an old master of skills-at-arms) which goes, “…ain’t many troubles that a man cain’t fix, with seven hundred dollars and his thirty ought six.” That is just a little bit more prepared than I usually need to be for the life I have chosen, but you get the idea!
The better part of wisdom seems to indicate that a few material things, like Bibles (!) might be very useful to have. I was just looking at my two large suitcases containing everything I will need while I am here in India teaching classes for preacher students half a world away from my home, when another stray thought came to mind. What struck me was an old Latin quote of all things, which has rattled around in the kind of cobwebby areas of the old cranium for a long time. “Omnia mea mecum porto.” If you are not familiar with this quote, please allow me to explain further. I remembered it, believe it or not from my scouting days, as it is one of the wise sayings supporting the concept of “Be Prepared,” the famous motto of the Boy Scouts. And then learning in adulthood where the quote is derived, I now am rounding out my comprehension and hope you too will appreciate it.
Not really all that obscure, the great Seneca of Rome wrote (in his Epistulae Morales 9.18-19), about a remark made by the highly esteemed Greek philosopher, Stilpon (c. 380-300 B.C.). His home city of Megara was besieged and destroyed, not untypically, by the army of a fellow Greek, named Demetrius (nicknamed Poliorcetes, because he was a destroyer of cities). Perhaps, wishing to gloat a bit, Demetrius did not assault him, but did verbally confront Stilpon as the venerable thinker calmly walked away from his city in total ruin, the flames of the burning city leaping high in the sky behind him. Sadly, he had lost the city of his birth, his home and his family, a disaster which almost no one could ever recover.
Noticing that Stilpon had nothing with him but what was on his back and nothing in his hands, Demetrius sardonically asked him if he had lost anything. Stilpon calmly said, “I carry all my property about me.” In other words, “I have lost nothing.” Stunned, this made Demetrius actually doubt whether he had really conquered anything. Seneca writing of this historic statement interpreted Stilpon’s remark, in Latin, as “Omnia mea mecum porto,” or “All of my goods are with me”: justice, virtue, prudence, the very fact that he considered nothing good that could be snatched away; material things being transient and impermanent but the classical Greek principles he revered were in the mind and character of the man.
What we have here is the concept of the man who is fully furnished with all he needs, within his heart or mind. The Book of Proverbs says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” (23:7a). Naturally, this made me think, standing there looking at the two bags, what if this was all I had in the whole wide world? And this reminded me of Paul’s words in, 2 Timothy 3:15, to his son in the spirit, Timothy, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” All of us who have taken the Lord’s word to heart like this and have lived with the word for a long time appreciate anyone else who is dedicated to the scriptures and have made them at home in our hearts. But even more this passage tells us 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
As Christians we know that nothing we accumulate here will travel with us to the next life except what resides in the heart or soul. Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Yes, I can conclude; I have everything I need right inside my heart.
The word “teetotaler” means someone who abstains completely from alcoholic beverages. The Bible calls on Christians to be teetotalers. Continue reading » Teetotalers
In 1 Corinthians, chapter one, Paul greets these brethren, stating that he thanked God for them. Since Chloe let Paul know of their division over names (v. 11-12), he told them they were to be united (v. 10). He also stated that he was glad he baptized none but the few mentioned in verses 14 and 16 for fear that some might think he had baptized them in his own name (v. 15).
Paul then turns his attention to the “preaching of the cross” (v. 18). In so doing, he makes several interesting contrasts. In the last half of 1 Corinthians one, Paul contrasts the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. Paul said God used what appeared foolish to the world, what appeared weak, that which was considered base, despised, and things that are not “to bring to nought things that are.” Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 really brings out the contrast. There, we read, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Paul makes it clear that God chose what the world calls foolish to save lost souls. And truly, those who are lost consider the things of God foolish. In fact, “the fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Therefore, it pleased God to use what men consider foolish (preaching the gospel) to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). Understanding passages like this makes me appreciate passages like Romans 1:16 all the more. Remember that Paul said he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Though it was considered foolishness by men, he told the Romans it was “the power of God unto salvation” to save those who believe. Knowing the saving power of God is revealed in the gospel, it is imperative that men and women do all they can to spread the gospel (2 Tim. 2:2). Only through teaching and spreading the gospel will men be presented with the opportunity to hear and obey the saving gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Continue reading » The Foolishness of Preaching Morality
The Bible overflows with exhortations to purity. Note the following passages as examples of this:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matthew 15:18-20).“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart“ (2 Timothy 2:22).
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8) .
“Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters,’ Says the LORD Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
From the preceding passages of scripture, the call of God to purity among His people becomes very clear. This call to purity covers the gamut … every aspect of our lives. One very interesting area where God demands purity is in conscience. However, a proper understanding of the term “conscience”, and the use of the term “purity” in connection with it is necessary for us to understand the teaching of scripture. This we will endeavor to establish in this article. Continue reading » Be An Example … In Purity: Purity in Conscience
Man has an inherent need to worship. This need is as strong as his need for sleeping, for eating, for companionship, etc. If we go to the most remote corners of the world we will find this need being fulfilled by all societies. People may not always worship the right thing, but they worship something. They may not always worship in the right way, but they worship some way. They may not even believe in the God of heaven, but they believe in some supreme power.
Some in our society teach that it does not matter how you worship if you are sincere. In An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. IV, page 236, W.E. Vine says, “The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture.” He is saying that God has made us and allows us to serve Him if we choose, in any manner we choose. It means that God does not care how we worship Him and that any worship is acceptable to Him. If this is the case then how can there be true or pure worship? Continue reading » Be An Example … In Purity: Purity in Worship
(Could A Lack of Moral Purity Have Caused the Downfall of Demas?)
Recently, I read of a discovery made in the nation of Greece, this year, that stunned quite a number of anthropologists digging below the ancient city of Thessalonica. They unearthed a vast system of overly large tunnels and chambers which had only been hinted at in various ancient texts, some texts well over 2,000 years old. It seems that this city’s subterranean realm was very well known in its own time throughout the Roman Empire. It was devoted to the commercial exploitation of prostitution and all other kinds of sexual wickedness. In fact the complex is so large that it must have employed thousands of people and so was of major social and economic significance. The walls of these tunnels and chambers are richly and graphically embellished with murals, caricatures, and other artistic but very obscene etchings and paintings of a pornographic nature. These pictures tell the story that this place was intended to impress the reveler in Roman times with the idea that when one had descended into this place they had entered “the underworld” in which every sexual deviancy imaginable could be experienced. This place was in its “heyday” and at full swing during the life of the apostle Paul. Continue reading » Be An Example … In Purity: Purity in Morals
“Accustom your children constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.”
So wrote Samuel Johnson in 1778 concerning the absolute necessity of telling the unvarnished truth. The writer is concerned in this present article with examining the subject of relating the truth of God’s word, that is, teaching pure doctrine to the hearer. If we permit ourselves or an esteemed fellow traveler the right to a certain amount of unchastised impurity of doctrine, we invite a flood of apostasy to deluge us, for once the door of error has been made ajar, it becomes impossible to bar it again. Continue reading » Be An Example … In Purity: Purity in Doctrine
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
The preceding paragraph of instructions, given by the great Apostle Paul to Timothy, his “son in the faith”, contains much of benefit to all who wear the name of our Lord. The call to diligence in doctrine, love and morality are not exclusive to young evangelists. Rather they are needed for all who would be followers of God. Continue reading » Theme Editorial: “Be An Example … In Purity”