Familiar Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Posted by on April 27, 2003 under Sermons

What is the biggest investment you have made in life thus far?

For some it is a house.
For some it is furnishings for your rental home.
For some it is automobiles.
For some it is property.
For some it is marriage.
For some it is children.
For some it is a retirement program.

For a moment, in just what comes to mind, focus on what you consider to be your biggest investment. I absolutely do not wish to make you feel guilt. I absolutely do not want to fill you with regrets. I absolutely do not want to make you feel a sense of failure. That is not my reason for asking the question.

Allow me to ask it again. What is your greatest investment? I am asking everyone–men and women–to answer to yourself that question.

Now a second question. How important to you is it to protect your investment? A fair statement: we will not knowingly neglect or hurt a significant investment. This is the focus thought: when we make big investments, we will make enormous sacrifices to protect those investments.

Let me use a personal illustration. Years ago, a few years before I came to Fort Smith, I started and tried to sustain a Bible lesson video production business. With significant encouragement from someone I helped, I was challenged to put some of my material in video format to create teaching materials for churches. In the beginning, three of us were to work together to produce study series. A lot happened, and the end result was that I produced the material, did the on-camera work, and Joyce cared for the business aspects of that work.

I made investments I did not dream I could make. When it was necessary to allow that work to die, it was extremely difficult.

We make huge investments to meet one or more needs. Huge investments require forms of sacrifice. When we make significant sacrifices for the good of huge investments, we are quite serious about protecting our investment.

Question: how big an investment did God make in us? Question: how important does God regard our protecting His investment? Question: how does God want us to protect His investment?

  1. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, 11 Paul wrote this:
    Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
    1. In the community of Christians at Corinth, this was the situation:
      1. Different Christians were devoted to different leaders/teachers.
        1. It may have been that they were doing what was “the proper thing” in the city and society–showing loyalty to the Christian they regarded to be their spiritual patron.
        2. Paul emphatically declared that the Christian community does not have a system of human patrons.
      2. The literal situation:
        1. Some were saying, “I belong to the Paul group of Christians.”
        2. Some were saying, “I belong to the Apollos group of Christians.”
        3. Some were saying, “I belong to the Peter (Cephas) group of Christians.”
        4. Some were saying, “I belong to the Christ group of Christians” (please take note that he did not commend these people for taking “a stand” and causing division in the community of Christians).
      3. Paul said to all four groups this is absolutely not what God wants.
        1. God invested Jesus Christ in your salvation.
        2. Christ is not divided.
        3. You should be devoted to Christ because he, not Paul, was crucified for you.
        4. You should be devoted to Christ because you were baptized into him, not Paul.
        5. In fact, I was not devoted to baptisms, and baptized only a few of you.
        6. God sent me to tell you the good news so you would hear about and understand the investment he made in you by allowing Jesus to be crucified for you.
    2. Paul then devoted the entire first part of his letter (the first four chapters) to show them how unspiritual their division was.
      1. He talked about God’s wisdom in the crucifixion, a wisdom many did not see.
      2. He talked about his emphasis on Jesus Christ when he taught them.
      3. He talked about the fact that those who understood spiritual realities responded to his message.
      4. He talked about the fact that all their teachers served Christ, not themselves.

  2. Paul made this statement in 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17:
    Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
    1. This is a specific case when the King James translation makes a fact quite clear.
      1. In the Greek language, the original language in which the New Testament was written, there are plural and singular pronouns.
      2. For example, in today’s English language, the pronoun “you” can be either singular or plural.
        1. With the pronoun “you” I might talk to one person or to many person.
        2. In the Greek language that was not possible–there was a Greek pronoun for an individual “you” and a Greek pronoun for a group “you.”
      3. The King James translation made a distinction between singular and plural “you.”
        1. If a plural “you” was to be translated, the King James used the English word “ye” (now archaic).
        2. Thus the King James translation had this translation of 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17:
          Know ye (plural you) not that ye (plural you) are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (each of you singular)? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye (plural you) are.
      4. Notice the facts about Paul’s argument against congregational division among Christians.
        1. Collectively all of you Christians in Corinth form God’s temple in Corinth.
        2. That is possible because God’s spirit exists in each one of you as individual Christians.
        3. Collectively all of you are God’s temple.
          1. The temple is not a building.
          2. The temple is not a place, a piece of property.
          3. The temple is all you Christians.
          4. It is not a matter of being in a common assembly.
          5. It is a matter of belonging to a common Lord with each being filled with God’s spirit.
    2. That makes division and quarreling among Christians absolutely ridiculous–Christians cannot do anything more unspiritual than quarrel and divide
      1. Doing that is totally unspiritual and destroys God’s enormous investment in you.
      2. Let me be very clear:
        1. You collectively are God’s temple.
        2. If any of you behave in ways that destroy God’s temple, you will receive God’s harshest consequences.
        3. I clearly say to you that God Himself will destroy anyone who destroys God’s temple.
        4. Division and quarreling destroy the temple.
        5. If you destroy God’s investment, God will destroy you.
    3. A declaration that they belonged to Christ did not justify quarreling and division.
      1. Very few times does a New Testament writer promise the certain destruction of God.
      2. Causing division is one of those few times.
      3. Paul said, “No matter what you think you owe another human, when you do things to harm the Christian community, you guarantee yourself that you will receive God’s wrath.

  3. Humans do not add to God’s community of Christians, and humans do not subtract from God’s community of Christians.
    1. From the birth of Christianity, the Lord added to the saved those who were being saved.
      1. You are not “in” because I or any other human says you are “in.”
      2. You are not “out” because I or any other human says your are “out.”
      3. God knows who is and who is not doing God’s will; humans can be deceived.
    2. What does that mean for us?
      1. Our commitment must be to forgiveness.
      2. Our commitment must be to nurturing the weak.

What is your commitment? Is the community of Christians blessed because of your life?

“Jesus, What Do You Want Us To Do?”

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“David, what is your goal? What would you like to happen? If you could make anything come true in this congregation that you would like to be true, what would happen?”

I have two goals. One goal is for all of us as a community of believers who belong to Jesus Christ. One goal is for me as a person. First, I want to begin by sharing my goal for all of us. If this congregation could become anything I imagined, what would happen?

To understand my desire, you must begin by realizing that the society we live in is complex. You must realize those complexities make life complicated for most of us. You must realize the complications most of us face produce lots of struggles.

“So your goal is to challenge us to make life simple instead of complex?” No, that is not my goal. Life has never been simple, and it never will be simple. The goal of Christ’s church cannot be to simplify life.

“So your goal is to make the church an uncomplicated place?” No, that is not my goal. When people get involved in each other’s lives, it is complicated. The goal of Christ’s church cannot be to avoid the complicated.

“So your goal is to make the church a place where people can flee from struggles?” No, that is not my goal. Personal struggle is a part of existence on this earth. The goal of Christ’s church cannot be to provide a haven free from all struggle.

“Then what is your goal?” My goal is to challenge us to be a people who want to be Jesus’ disciples. “What would that look like?” This is my vision: we would become much more than the common concept of “a church.” We would become a seven-day- a-week community of Christians who cared about each other because we care about Jesus.

  1. Focus on the word “community.”
    1. The church in the book of Acts was not a building, not a Sunday assembly, not a collection of programs, not an organization that challenged people to place membership in it; it was a community of people who cared about each other because they believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
      1. Christians were disciples of Jesus.
      2. Jesus taught them how to treat each other.
      3. Jesus taught them how to treat all people.
      4. Jesus taught them how to serve God.
    2. I want you to see and understand what I am talking about. (Nothing I say is intended as a “put down” to anyone–I personally have dug sewer lines, worked as a masonry helper and a carpenter’s helper.)
      1. For any community to exist and function, there must be persons willing to perform every task that needs doing.
      2. Somebody has to collect the garbage.
      3. Somebody has to unstop the toilets.
      4. Somebody has to fix the plumbing.
      5. Somebody has to put on roofs.
      6. Somebody has to install air conditioning and heating.
      7. Somebody has to build things.
      8. Somebody has to drive trucks.
      9. Somebody has to encourage people who are discouraged.
      10. Somebody has to take care of the sick.
      11. Somebody has to challenge people to reach for their potential.
      12. I could go on and on.
        1. There are lots of needs.
        2. We build a sense of community when people who care fill those needs.
    3. Jesus’ disciples do two things.
      1. They let Jesus teach them how to care.
      2. They let Jesus teach them what is good.
      3. So disciples become caring people who commit themselves to doing good.

  2. An illustration Paul used to explain the same thing to two congregations was based on the human body.
    1. He made extensive use of this illustration twice; once in his letter to Christians in Rome, and one in his letter to Christians in Corinth.
      1. To both he said they would improve their basic understanding of the church if they would compare it to a human body.
        Romans 12:3-8 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
      2. Your body has a lot of parts that do very different things.
        1. Yet, all of them work for the good of the whole.
        2. If all those parts do well what they have the ability to do, the body is healthy, and every part is benefitted because the whole body benefits.
        3. If even a few of those parts fail to do what they have the ability to do, the whole body is sick.
        4. The key is every part functioning well as it does what it has the ability to do.
        5. The key is NOT having every part doing two or three functions.
      3. Not every Christian has the same abilities.
        1. Some are great at producing insights.
        2. Some are great at serving.
        3. Some are great at teaching.
        4. Some are great at encouraging.
        5. Some are great at giving.
        6. Some are great at leading.
        7. Some are great at showing mercy.
      4. Paul said whatever you are good at doing, do it well for the good of everyone.
    2. Paul used the same illustration when he wrote to the Christians at Corinth.
      1 Corinthians 12:12-20 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
      1. God’s purposes in Jesus Christ are not accomplished by everyone doing the same thing.
        1. That was never God’s purposes in Jesus Christ.
        2. That was never God’s purpose when you were baptized.
      2. God’s purposes are achieved when each Christian does well what he or she is capable of doing.

  3. “What difference does it make?” It makes a huge difference!
    1. Let me illustrate this huge difference by using 1 Corinthians 5 as an illustration.
      1. The situation:
        1. This community of Christians had a horrible case of incest in the congregation, and they acted like nothing was evil.
        2. A son was living with his father’s wife, and the community of Christians ignored the situation.
      2. Paul’s directive:
        1. Make it very clear that these people cannot be a part of your community and live the way they are living.
        2. Have no association with them.
      3. The objective:
        1. Verse 5: you want to move these people back to a spiritual existence.
        2. You want them to repent of their immoral lives and become spiritual people again.
      4. Why would it work?
        1. It would work because they were a community who needed each other.
        2. The loss of being a part of the community was so severe that these people would redirect their lives to be part of the community again.
    2. This would not work in most congregations today.
      1. If you tried it, the result would be horrible.
      2. They would quit, or the congregation would split, or they would go to another congregation.
      4. Why would it not work in most congregations today?
        1. Christians are not a community who seek everyone’s best interest because they care.
        2. We have made the church an organization that stresses church membership instead of encouraging it to be what God intended: a community of people who care about Jesus Christ and each other because they are disciples of Jesus.
    3. Let me put this in very practical terms.
      1. There are several lonely people in the congregation. A community responds to the loneliness.
      2. There are several struggling people in this congregation. A community responds to the struggling.
      3. There are several alienated people in this congregation. A community reaches out to the alienated.
      4. There are all kinds of needs, all kinds of problems, all kinds of struggles surrounding us. In a community of faith, we all use our abilities to help because we care.

  4. For a community of Christians to exist here and now, what do we need to do?
    1. We have to be disciples of Jesus instead of mere church members.
    2. We have to use our abilities to help and benefit others.
    3. That is my goal, my vision: to challenge all of us to become Jesus’ disciples who care enough to help people.
    4. Many of you share that same goal; may we all share it.

“At the start of this lesson, you said you had two goals, one for us as a congregation and one that was about you as a person. What is the one you have for yourself?’

My personal goal is to be the kind of disciple that causes other people to want to follow Jesus. Whatever I am, whatever the day of the week it may be, whatever the situation, I want to be a positive influence for Jesus.

What is your personal goal?

“Sore Thumbs” and Christians

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Everyone involved in “hammer experiences” knows about “sore thumbs.” Hammers drive things–nails, tacks, loose objects. Often if it is loose, hammers tighten it.

Hammering often involves two problems. First, “things to be driven” usually must be held. The thumb helps hold. Second, hammers do not have “automatic guidance systems.” Hammers hit indiscriminately. When they hit a thumb, only the thumb experiences pain!

After the hit, sore thumbs are obvious. All they do is get hurt, yet they are always there. Thus, ages ago sore thumbs became symbols of the obvious.

Christians should be society’s “sore thumbs.” Because they suffer? No. Because they constantly reflect pain? No. Because they are forever “in the way”? No. Because they are powerful symbols of social negatives? No. Then why should Christians be society’s “sore thumbs”? Because they are incredibly obvious.

My point: people belonging to Jesus the Christ should be obvious in positive, hopeful ways in society. Their lives are obviously ruled by God through Christ. People must see God makes them who and what they are. People must see the benefits of godliness.

Telling society “the disaster” of failed homes is not working–and has not for a long time! Christians must demonstrate the blessings of a godly family. We need to show society the benefits of becoming godly wives, or godly husbands, or godly parents. Society must see the advantages Christ brings to homes. Those from ungodly homes need hope and encouragement, not rejection.

Telling society the problems of addiction and indulgence is not working–and has not for a long time! Our lives must reveal the benefits of godly freedom. Society needs to see something real but superior to indulgence’s pleasures.

Telling society, “Money is not god; greed is destructive; and hatred is disaster,” is not working–and has not for a long time! Society must see us living for something superior to money, serving something superior to greed, and confronting our hatreds.

We must show people. People must first see to develop a desire to listen. “Telling” is ineffective until first we demonstrate what we “tell” in our lives and relationships.

The finest “telling” cannot negate Christian daily lifestyles that produce horrible family members, or pleasure-seeking that opposes God, or unapologetic materialism. Correct doctrines endorsed by ungodly lives cause God to be rejected and Christ to be a farce. In Christianity, church membership must never be a substitute for daily discipleship.

“Skip Over” Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 13

Posted by on April 20, 2003 under Sermons

I hope that most of us present have convictions. I hope that our convictions are based on our understanding of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ and God’s work through Christ in our lives. I also hope our convictions are continually growing, maturing. In that growth I hope our convictions are willing to change when we grow into more mature understandings of God’s will and God’s son.

That introduces us to some most interesting questions. Question one: has there ever been any change in your convictions? For some of us, that is a hard question to answer. Some would say, “No!” and take great pride in that answer. Some would say, “Yes!” and take great pride in that answer.

In these statements, I speak for myself, not for you. In my life, growing in understanding of scripture and God’s purposes has changed a number of my convictions. As I learn, I grow. As I grow, I mature. As I mature, I must accept the responsibility to transform. Transformation requires change. One of the changes produced by a maturing understanding is changes in convictions. When those changes occur, I feel deeply blessed. I also feel deeply thankful that God provided me opportunity to grow and to change.

Question two: if your position is, “My convictions have never changed,” why do you hold to that position? Do you think you possess all truth and have nothing left to understand? Do you think you always had a complete, perfect understanding of God’s mind and God’s purposes? Do you think you have nothing significant to learn about God, God’s purposes, or God’s work through Christ in your life?

Question three: do you think that there are people who need to change their convictions? Who are they? If you could name names, would your list exclude yourself?

  1. The connection between Paul and some of the Christians in Corinth grew to be a very tense relationship.
    1. 2 Corinthians provides a lot of evidence of that tenseness.
      1. In chapter one Paul addressed those who thought he was “wishy-washy,” unreliable, and perhaps just plain deceitful. “He will promise you one thing then do something totally different.”
      2. In chapters 4, 5, and 6 Paul talked a lot about his personal struggles–struggles which most of them did not understand.
      3. In 10:10, some said Paul wrote an impressive letter, but he was very unimpressive in person, and he was a terrible speaker.
      4. In chapter 11 obviously some severely attacked Paul’s apostleship.
      5. The fact is that in much of 2 Corinthians Paul defended himself against numerous attacks from some in the community of Christians at Corinth.
    2. Before we begin to examine some of Paul’s emphases in the last chapter (chapter 13), let’s put our personal perspectives in the place that we can “hear” what Paul wrote.
      1. If you made great personal sacrifices to help a group, and some in that group attacked your motives and your person, how would your react?
        1. If someone from that group said you were so unreliable that your promises could not be trusted, how would you react?
        2. If someone in that group who criticized you had no idea of the sacrifices you personally made for them, how would you react?
        3. If someone in that group said they were totally unimpressed with you as a person, how would you react?
        4. If someone said that nothing you taught them came from God’s teachings and emphasis, how would you react?
        5. Would you be kind and encouraging, or would you be belligerent and make them pay for their attacks?

  2. I want you to notice some emphases in chapter 13; keep in mind the criticized Paul was writing.
    1. The first emphasis I call to your attention is seen in the first four verses.
      1. He would soon make his third visit to them.
      2. This visit would be different: when he came he would confront his critics and ask them to prove their criticisms to his face.
        1. I especially want you to notice something in verse three.
        2. What is the issue Paul will address when he comes? Ego issues? Personal reputation issues? Personal reaction issues? Issues involving a personal defense of himself? No.
        3. The issue he would address was this: was Christ speaking through him?
        4. He wanted them to understand how mighty Christ was in them.
        5. The basis of the confrontation would not be about Paul, but about Christ.
        6. Their opinion of Paul was not the foundation of the issue; their opinion of Christ was the issue.
        7. If they understood Christ, these people would not speak and behave as they did.
      3. In verse four Paul pointed to an interesting reality seen in Jesus and reflected in the devout Christian.
        1. The killing of Jesus reflected weakness to them (in their world a god was beyond the destructive acts of humans).
        2. It is Jesus’ resurrection that reveals power.
        3. So Paul said that if we seem weak as we physically serve God, that is not proof that God does not speak through us.
        4. God’s power in us is seen in the life we receive through Christ.
        5. The fact that they were resurrected through baptism to newness of life revealed God’s power in them.
    2. The second emphasis I call to your attention is seen in verses 5 and 6.
      1. To me, this is Paul’s appeal to their consciences.
      2. Being God’s person ultimately must be a response to what you know about yourself.
        1. You are not a godly person because other people say you are a godly person.
        2. You are a godly person because of what your heart understands about yourself in your relationship with Christ.
        3. If you are a godly person, it is because Christ is alive in you as he exercises lordship over your life and behavior.
        4. Paul said I am not asking you to do something we do not do–“I hope you realize that we constantly evaluate the place Christ has in our lives.”
    3. The third emphasis I call to your attention is found in verses 7-10.
      1. Please notice that Paul’s focus is on what is in their best spiritual interest, not on reacting to their attacks on him.
        1. Paul’s prayer was that they “do no wrong.”
        2. Paul’s motivation: “my concern is for you and your best interest, not our reputation.”
        3. “If you do what is right, how it makes us look is of no significance.”
      2. “Our objective is totally summed up in our commitment to the truth, not a commitment to be impressive to others.”
        1. This statement is easily abused by many Christians when we defend the attitude, “The conclusions that I accept and follow are the truth, so you must reach the same conclusion I have reached.”
        2. In this attitude we can associate anything with “the truth” and insist that others who do not endorse our conclusions oppose “the truth.”
          1. Specific modes of entertainment.
          2. Specific types of clothing.
          3. The kind of jewelry worn.
          4. Tattoos.
          5. Hair styles.
          6. Etc.
      3. All we have to do is classify something as part of “the truth,” and then seek to impose our control over others by demanding they conform to “the truth.”
      4. If that is your concept, I urge you to change it.
        1. That approach to “truth” is not what Paul referred to in this verse.
        2. If Jesus Christ lives in you, his presence in your life produces a set of standards and values.
        3. That set of standards and values determines (a) your thinking, (b) your behavior, and (c) your relationship values [how you treat others].
        4. The problem at Corinth was deeper than changing the way some Christians behaved–it’s foundation was placing Christ in their lives in the place he should be.
        5. Remember verses 5 and 6–test yourself to see if Christ is in you.
        6. The “truth” Paul is referring to was the “truth” about the role Christ should occupy in your lives.
      5. “The important things are your strength and completeness in Christ–not what you are or are not doing to our reputation.”
        1. “Our prayer is not, ‘Lord preserve our reputation.'”
        2. “Our prayer is for your spiritual completeness.”
        3. “If your completeness is produced through our weakness, that is okay.”
      6. “I am writing this to you before I come so there can be some ‘self-correcting’ before I come.”
        1. “If that happens, there will be no need for confrontations.”
        2. “The authoritative mission God gave me was to build up, not to tear down.”
    4. The fourth emphasis is seen in verses 11-13.
      1. Look at the very practical encouragements Paul gave them [and do remember the kinds of problems they had].
        1. Rejoice–division and strife do not produce joy, but allowing Christ to live in your life should produce joy.
        2. Make your spiritual goal be completeness–too many had the spiritual goal of achieving control over other Christians, not letting Christ live in them.
        3. Be like-minded–focus on the matters you hold in common, not on your differences.
        4. Live in peace–stop the war your division started and nurtured.
      2. If you do these things, the God of love and peace will be with you.
      3. Greet each other with a holy kiss.
        1. Once more this is given as a command.
        2. Respect each other enough to promote closeness and healing.
      4. Even though you have been very troubled, even though some of you have made my life miserable in your attacks, you are still a part of the community of Christians.
        1. Other Christians do not wish to exclude you from that community.
        2. Quite the opposite–they send their greetings.
    5. Then Paul closes with three reminders:
      1. The foundation of grace is Jesus Christ.
      2. The foundation of love is God.
      3. The foundation of fellowship is the Holy Spirit.
      4. May all three be with you.

There is an overall emphasis I hope each of us see. Paul’s attitude toward his Christian adversaries and the typical attitude between Christian adversaries in the church today is radically different. Paul was focused on their well-being, not their destruction.

The Price of Freedom Is Blood

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Suppose today instantly you could go to any country on earth to ask this question: “Would you like to have freedom?” This is the only question you ask–you literally conduct a one question interview. The only requirement: you must ask this question to people in different nations in different circumstances.

If you went all over the world asking that question, what answer would you expect? Many of us would expect the answer, “Yes! I would love freedom! Freedom would be a wonderful blessing to my people!” Most of us would be shocked when some said, “No! Freedom is terrible! Freedom would be an awful experience for my people!”

If you conducted this one question survey, you would be shocked. We have lived in a free society for generations. In this society, our concept of freedom is formed by our lifestyles. We cannot imagine two things. First, we cannot imagine life without freedom. Second, we cannot imagine anyone not wanting our concept of freedom.

In 1972 while en route to the mission field, Joyce and I had the joy of stopping in Rome for a few days. I remember a conversation with the manager of the older hotel we stayed in. Europe was experiencing some difficult economic times. He said, “We would be much better off if we had a Mussolini in control. At least we would know what to expect.” Mussolini was a fascist premier in Italy who entered an alliance with Hitler.

While on the mission field, Joyce and I witnessed a national election. We lived in a society that had no birth records, no death records, and no voter registration. The president of the country submitted the names of the people to serve in his congress. There was only one party. The voter agreed or disagreed with the president’s choices.

After voting, the voter had a hand stamped. The voter promptly went to a water hydrant and washed the ink off. We asked a friend what kept a person from voting a second time. He looked at us blankly and asked, “Why would anyone do that?” He explained, “We are a one party democracy. We are not ready for two party democracy.”

Suppose everyone agreed on a good definition of freedom. With that agreement, this is my question: “What is the price of freedom?” This month vividly reminded us of this truth: the price of freedom is blood.

  1. Read with me Galatians 5:1 then 5:13-15.
    Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
    Galatians 5:13-15 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
    1. When Paul wrote these statements, there was no freedom in the world of the Roman empire.
      1. Though the word “free” was used commonly in regard to a certain kind of people, it did not refer to the freedom you and I take for granted.
      2. The most significant form of freedom in the first century world was freedom from slavery.
        1. The man or woman who was a slave had no rights, no civil liberties.
        2. The typical slave was accustomed to having an owner tell him or her what he or she could and could not do in every circumstance.
        3. To the majority, being free meant not to be a slave.
    2. Paul was not speaking politically but spiritually.
      1. According to Paul, a person could at the very same moment be a slave physically and be spiritually free (see 1 Corinthians 7:21-24).
      2. A person literally could be a slave and at the same moment be free in Christ.
      3. The freedom Paul spoke about had nothing to do with our 21st century American concept of free existence in a free society.
    3. What was Paul talking about?
      1. Almost every form of religion in Paul’s day enslaved its followers.
        1. A follower had to know the correct rites.
        2. A follower had to know the correct traditions.
        3. A follower had to know the correct process.
        4. For any religion to be effective in a follower’s life, he or she had to do things just right.
      2. Judaism, the Jewish religion, had very much become this kind of religion in the first century.
        1. “You must be circumcised.”
        2. “You must offer the right sacrifices.”
        3. “You must keep the correct holy days.”
        4. “You must follow the correct Jewish traditions.”
        5. “Only then can you have a proper relationship with God.”
      3. Some Jewish Christians insisted that Christians who were not Jews do things the Jewish way.
        1. Paul said that it was totally unnecessary for a Christian who is not a Jew to do things the way Jewish Christians did them.
        2. God gave Jesus to free everyone.
        3. God gave Jesus to do more than free from sin those who trusted and obeyed him.
        4. God gave Jesus to free people from the way things were done in their past.

  2. Paul said God freed you as Christians so that you can serve each other in love.
    1. That sounds like an oxymoron (a combination of two statements that in no way go together).
      1. God freed you to serve?
      2. If you are free, why do you have to serve?
      3. If you serve, does that not cancel your freedom?
    2. Paul said your freedom is found in love, not in irresponsibility.
      1. If you define freedom as having no responsibility, the end result is that your freedom will destroy other people.
      2. You will even feel justified in destroying others in the name of freedom.
      3. Love for others will not permit you to do that.
      4. That is why love is the source of freedom.
    3. So you say, “I don’t understand that.” Allow me to try to explain.
      1. If you hate me, I do not have to hate you back–that is freedom.
      2. If you slander me, I do not have to slander you back–that is freedom
      3. If you are bitter against me, I do not have to be bitter toward you–that is freedom.
      4. No matter what evil you do against me, I am free to do good toward you.
    4. If you still have trouble understanding that, look at Jesus.
      1. They spit on him; he did not spit back.
      2. They slapped him; he did not slap back.
      3. They cursed and mocked him; he did not curse and mock them.
      4. They used their power against him, but he did not use his power against them.
      5. They killed him, but he forgave them.
      6. They were slaves to evil, but he was free in God’s love.
    5. The freest person to ever live on this earth was Jesus.
      1. Nothing in this world enslaved him. Evil never motivated him. Not even death dominated him.
      2. Our issue is this: do we want freedom?

  3. There are some basic realities we need to understand about spiritual freedom.
    1. Reality one: not everyone wants spiritual freedom.
      1. Some like to be slaves to their desires.
      2. Some want the pleasures of indulgence even if indulgence means slavery.
    2. Reality two: some have a wrong definition for spiritual freedom.
      1. They think spiritual freedom means irresponsible thinking or irresponsible behavior.
      2. They think spiritual freedom means indulgence without any form of restraint.
      3. They think freedom means doing whatever it takes to be “happy” right now.
    3. Realty three: some use a wrong definition of freedom to gain and exercise control.
      1. To them, freedom means seeing it their way, doing it their way, surrendering to their traditions, allowing them to “call the shots.”
      2. This kind of people are not interested in your being free, but are interested in their being in control.
    4. Reality four: spiritual freedom is expressed by serving in love.

Romans 6:20-23 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This week I saw and heard an interview conducted with a member of the civilian reconstruction team in Iraq. This is the team that entered Iraq after the fighting and do two things. First, they are to help Iraq “get up and running” again. That includes things like getting the utilities back on, getting the kids in school, getting the hospitals running, and returning the basics of life back to normal. Second, they are to move that country toward a democratic society.

This person talked about the challenges they confronted. One particular part of the interview caught my attention and fascinated me. As this team began to contact people in southern Iraq, people often ask, “Why are you here?” He shared his answer, and in his answer was, “To give you freedom.” His comment: “People who have never had freedom do not even understand what I mean.” “To give you freedom” was an answer with no meaning.

Lately as we watch funerals, hear taps, and hear twenty-one gun salutes, we should have not doubt about the price of freedom. Were we to attend one of the funerals for a service person killed in Iraq, and were we to ask his or her family, “What is the price of freedom?” the family could tell you. In tears, they would say, “The price of freedom is blood.”

This morning I want you to understand that each of us can be spiritually free. Each of us can be sanctified, purified, forgiven, and spiritually liberated. That can happen in each of our lives because God paid a price. I hope each of us realizes that the price of our freedom is blood, the blood of the sinless, innocent Jesus.

My question to you: do you know what spiritual freedom means? Do you understand what God has done? Do you understand why Jesus died?

Cause (Again) To Evaluate

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Joyce’s dad, Allen, died Wednesday morning, April 9, around 9 a.m. We immediately prepared for the trip and left. As we left, Fort Smith had beautiful blue skies, lots of sunshine, and rising temperatures. In an hour we were under solid overcast with a cold wind.

About 2 p.m. we were traveling in an Interstate construction zone with one lane [per direction] restricted driving. A rear tire disintegrated. Traffic was heavy. The well graveled shoulder sloped downward significantly. Instantly I pondered how to change the tire in that circumstance. Immediately a man who worked on the local roadways appeared, turned on flashing lights, changed our tire, and told me where to buy and mount a new tire quickly. How blessed we were! In an hour we were again en route.

Allen was a collector. He loved yard sales. His passions were tools, the old and the unusual. He rarely discarded anything. Through the years he acquired massive collections of everything imaginable–and he could tell you what most things did.

After the funeral, our children and grandchildren [Allen’s only grandchildren and great-grandchildren] made a “supervised” inspection of grandpa’s collections. Each selected something that he or she associated with grandpa. Joyce, Jerry [Joyce’s brother], and I watched as curious eyes and hands explored grandpa’s “treasures.”

Allen loved to buy, sell, trade, and give away. He often gave things to others. Many, many times he said, “You never know when someone might need this.” Thus he bought the single crutch at a yard sell to go with the ten pair he had [or a hammer when he had a dozen, or one more of his countless screwdrivers, or a wrench to add to wrenches galore].

He was not greedy. He just loved “possibility” thinking. After he retired, two things occupied his time–tinkering with his collections and using them to help others.

As I watched grandchildren and great-grandchildren examine his collections, I witnessed the beginning of a progression. His collections became their memories. Soon his collections will become merely things to be “disposed of.”

Often our valued “treasures” in life become “things to be disposed of” when we die. Within less than six months of our death, someone will ask, “Why did he like that?” “Why did she buy that?” Our valued becomes meaningless. Our treasure becomes a thing.

The only enduring treasures we leave are relationships of love. All else become merely “things.” Thanks, Allen, for the relationships of love.

The Power of Personal Influence

Posted by on April 13, 2003 under Bulletin Articles

Directions: Read entire article. Ending hope overshadows opening pessimism.

Some days I shake my head in disbelief. Despair falls. My heart grieves. Everything seems to assault God’s patience, grace, love, and forgiveness. When I view God’s investment in human salvation [definitely including Jesus’ life and blood!], I wonder why God does not write humanity off as a bad debt. Thinking humanly, I wonder if God ever thinks, “Why did I make such an enormous effort to save people?”

What causes such days? Often they begin by listening to emphases on “God’s priorities” in this life. They continue as the human priorities assigned to God’s word reflect our concerns, not God’s. They proceed with vivid reminders that societies are devoted to materialistic ambitions, addictions to power, greed, indulging physical desires, exploiting the weak, deceit, manipulations, “just causes” perverted by private agendas, and the judging/condemning attitudes that target the “blindness” of others. They often conclude by human arrogance masquerading as “godly concern.”

Contrast my human perspective with God’s perspective. God sent His son into a world filled with idolatrous people who did not know Him. He sent Jesus to live among a small, poor people living in an occupied territory.

Jesus lived among a people who so misunderstood God they did not know He had/has a world mission. Their attitude: “if God has us, why should He want other nations?” Wow! His small people living in isolation misunderstood Him as they lived in a world that did not know Him!

So, what was God’s incredible plan to change the world? Start with one and let him train twelve. What optimism! [Or would you use another word?]

This one who trained twelve had a simple message for people who trusted his teachings enough to follow him: “You are the salt of the earth and light of the world. You are God’s influence to change the world. Let people see what God does in you!” (Matthew 5:13-16)

God’s power to change this city, this state, the United States, and the world is not found in incredible preachers, astounding church leaders, mind boggling congregational programs, unbelievable financial strength, or shocking positive statistics. You are God’s incredible power to produce positive change. You are God’s salt and light. When you have the courage and faith to be God’s influence by changing the way you live, God changes the world.

Please, let people see God’s influence in your life every day! Let people see God by observing the way you struggle, love, serve, and live!

“Skip Over” Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 16:10-24

Posted by on April 6, 2003 under Sermons

One of the more demanding situations we enter is the awkward situation. This awkward situation involves us, but we did not create it. However, because it involves us, it is essential that we deal with it. We do not have the option of ignoring it (unless we want to generate even bigger problems). We must get constructively involved.

Tonight we look at 1 Corinthians 16:10-24. After writing a letter that dealt “head-on” with some extremely awkward situations, Paul said, “Here are some specifics in which you can practice what I am writing you about. Show God, show yourselves, and show me that you want to be godly people, not worldly people.”

  1. Let’s begin with just a little bit of review.
    1. This was a community of Christians who had a lot of problems.
      1. Internal division.
      2. Incest.
      3. Lawsuits.
      4. Sexual immorality.
      5. Confusion about marriage.
      6. Selfishness.
      7. Confusion about worship.
      8. Too little love.
      9. Competitions in the use of spiritual gifts.
      10. Denial of a personal resurrection.
    2. The first four chapters of the letter are devoted to the problem of internal division.
      1. In the world and society of a Roman city, it was absolutely essential that you be loyal to your patron.
      2. Some regarded Apollos to be their spiritual patron, some Peter, some Paul, and some Christ.
      3. Their divisions occurred along the boundaries of their loyalties to those they regarded their spiritual benefactors.
      4. Would you please note: at no time did Paul commend those who caused division out of loyalty to Christ.

  2. With that brief review, I want to focus your attention on Paul’s ending of the letter.
    1. Paul begin the letter by dealing with a very awkward situation: their internal division.
      1. Some of those causing that division definitely opposed Paul.
      2. Some of those causing that division championed Paul.
      3. Paul dealt with both “head-on,” and he commended neither of them.
        1. He told those who were for him and those who were against him that they were wrong.
        2. He emphatically declared that spiritual loyalty should never be given to a human messenger.
    2. One of his closest friends, finest fellow workers, closest associates might soon arrive in that volatile situation.
      1. Timothy might come; Paul in other places referred to Timothy as his son in the faith.
      2. What a time for Timothy to visit Corinth! Timothy might arrive and find everyone mad at Paul! He might come to a situation when it was a serious disadvantage to be Paul’s close friend!
      3. Paul made some requests on Timothy’s behalf.
        1. Do not give him reason to be afraid.
        2. Realize he does the same thing I do–work for the Lord.
        3. Do not let anybody despise him.
        4. Send him on his way to me peaceably.
      4. Then Paul talked about Apollos (remember that Paul mentioned him several times at the beginning of the letter and confronted those loyal to Apollos for causing division).
        1. Note that he declared Apollos was a brother–confronting those causing divisions did not mean Apollos was less than a faithful brother.
        2. Paul encouraged Apollos the visit these Christians at Corinth–Paul regard his presence there to be a positive asset.
        3. Apollos made the decision not to come–Paul was not the reason he did not come.
        4. Apollos would visit them later.
    3. Paul then gave them some urgings:
      1. Be dependable in your devotion to Jesus Christ like the mature people should; that means you have to be alert (which they had not been in chapters 5 and 6) and you have to be strong (in their commitment to godliness).
      2. In everything you do, let love be your standard (which had not been the case in the divisions).
      3. Note the people among you Christians who are committed to Christians and who serve Christ’s purposes: follow their lead and encourage them.
      4. I am glad three of you visited me.
        1. The three who came to see me supplied what was lacking on your part (they made Paul feel loved and appreciated).
        2. They lifted my spirits.
    4. Paul sent greetings from Christians in Asia.
      1. He also sent greetings from Aquila and Prisca who had a group of Christians meeting in their home.
      2. He said all the Christians there sent greetings.
      3. Then he asked them to greet each other (remember the strains produced by the division he noted) with a holy kiss–showing affection for each other had to attack the stresses that had separated them.

  3. Paul closed with these requests.
    1. Note this letter is signed by me.
    2. Love of Jesus Christ must be the standard for every Christian.
      1. If a person claims to be a Christian but does not love Jesus Christ, let that person be accursed–anathema.
      2. Lord, come!
      3. May Jesus’ grace be with you.
      4. I love you all in Jesus Christ (his confrontations did not mean he did not love them).

Two concluding observations:

  1. We need to understand that being in Jesus Christ produces godliness in our relationships and behaviors.
  2. When we confront ungodliness, we must let the love be evident.

How Well Do You Listen to God?

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to begin this morning with a historical incident that occurred in the reigns of Ahab, the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah (both Israelites).

  1. The incident: (1 Kings 22)
    1. We must have a little background.
      1. Ahab was truly an ungodly, wicked man.
        1. His queen was Jezebel, a Sidonian woman who supported the prophets of Baal and made Baal worship Israel’s official religion.
        2. He was the king who hated Elijah, God’s prophet.
        3. He was wealthy but wicked.
      2. At this time Assyria was a major threat to northern Israel and to Judah.
        1. At this time Assyria often was the powerful nation that controlled the region.
        2. But Ahab entered a coalition of several nations, fought Assyria, and broke Assyria’s control over their area.
      3. Though Assyria’s control was broken in the region, Ahab did not gain control over one of Israel’s oldest cities.
        1. Ramoth-Gilead had been one of Israel’s cities of refuge.
        2. It was one of the places east of the Jordan River that was settled before Israel entered Canaan.
        3. Literally from the beginning of Israel’s association with Canaan, Ramoth-Gilead was a part of their territory.
      4. When Assyrian control of the area was broken, Ahab saw an excellent opportunity to regain control of the city.
    2. So he invited Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to combine armies, conquer the city, and reclaim Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22).
      1. Jehoshaphat quickly agreed: “I am as you are; my people as your people; my horses as your horses.”
      2. But . . . Jehoshaphat made one request before they declared war.
        1. Before they attacked Ramoth-Gilead, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab to consult the prophets.
        2. Do a little remembering:
          1. Ahab’s kingdom worshipped the idol Baal.
          2. Ahab’s queen supported the prophets of Baal.
          3. The prophets of Baal would be the prophets that Ahab consulted.
        3. So Ahab called the prophets of Baal and asked them if the kings should begin this battle or refrain from this battle.
          1. Without one voice of decent, the prophets told King Ahab to start the war–“go for it!”
          2. They said, “The Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
          3. To emphasize the point, one of the leading prophets (Zedekiah) made some iron horns and promised King Ahab that he “would gore the Arameans until they are consumed”–certain victory!
          4. In others words, they told the king what he wanted to hear.
        4. However, Jehoshaphat asked, “Can’t you ask a prophet of Jehovah God to prophesy about this battle?”
          1. Ahab replied, “There is one prophet in my country I could ask, but he never says anything good to me. However, I will send for him.”
          2. Ahab then sent a messenger to tell the prophet Micaiah to come prophesy.
          3. The messenger told Micaiah, “All the other prophets have been favorable to the king. Please, when you prophesy, agree with them.”
          4. Micaiah responded, “I will say what the Lord tells me to say.”
    3. Before we look at what Micaiah said, we need to focus on God.
      1. God is pictured as He was in Job: having a meeting with the heavenly council.
      2. God asked His advisors, “Who will entice Ahab to attack Ramoth-Gilead?”
        1. One of the spirits said he would.
        2. God asked the spirit what he planned to do.
        3. The spirit said, “I will be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.”
        4. God said, “Do it. Let him think he is going to win when he will actually meet disaster.”
    4. Micaiah came to King Ahab.
      1. The first thing he said was precisely what the king wanted to hear: “Go to battle and you will surely succeed–you will certainly win.”
        1. Micaiah told the king what he wanted to hear, and the king did not like it.
        2. So the king commanded Micaiah in the name of Jehovah God to tell him the truth.
      2. So Micaiah gave him a second message.
        1. He told Ahab about God’s council, and Zedekiah did not like what he said.
        2. He told him that he saw them like sheep scattered on a mountain without a shepherd.
        3. Ahab’s forces would be defeated.
      3. Ahab then said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you? He never says anything good to me!”
      4. Then they prepared for battle by imprisoning Micaiah.
    5. One thing I want to note: God permitted Ahab to hear what he wanted to believe.
      1. If we think that God will not allow us to reach ungodly conclusions in our thinking and convictions, we deceive ourselves.
      2. I do not care who we claim to be, God always allows us to believe what we wish to believe.
      3. God allows us to justify anything we want to justify.
      4. Because we call ourselves godly in no way assures us God sees us as godly.

  2. Likely the last letter that we have which Paul wrote is 2 Timothy.
    1. It is a personal letter from Paul to Timothy that focused on two situations.
      1. Paul expected to be executed in his near future.
      2. He wanted Timothy to continue teaching and stressing the things that Paul taught and stressed.
      3. Paul made this statement in 2 Timothy 4:3,4. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
    2. In the churches of Christ, this was one of our favorite passages in the 20th century.
      1. We used it frequently to defend whatever issue we were discussing.
      2. We especially used this scripture when someone disagreed with our conclusions.
    3. This morning I want to encourage you to consider what Paul meant when he said this.
      1. Paul said, “In the future (he was talking about in Timothy’s life time) dangerous periods were coming.”
      2. What would make these times dangerous?
        1. People would not be willing to listen to sound doctrine.
          1. Note two things.
          2. People would lose the desire to hear; they would not listen.
          3. They would have no desire to listen to sound doctrine.
        2. What is this “sound doctrine”?
          1. The words “sound doctrine” simply mean “healthy teaching.”
          2. Healthy in what way? It brings listeners closer to God.
          3. The need for teaching implies that there were matters they did not know about God or understand about God that they needed to know and understand.
        3. When people will not want “healthy teaching,” what will they want?
          1. Instead of hearing healthy teaching, they wanted their conclusions confirmed.
          2. To make sure that happened, they surrounded themselves with teachers who told them what they wanted to hear.
          3. They did not have to change desires, they did not have to go through transformation because what they heard justified their desires.
        4. Please remember that the world of Paul’s lifetime was filled with idolatry.
          1. People said there were may ways that a person could go to God without knowledge of or understanding of Jesus Christ.
          2. Two prominent ways were the myths of idolatry and the genealogies of the Jewish people.
          3. Myths basically declared God was too far from humans to be reached by Jesus.
          4. The genealogies said that approaching God was a matter of ancestry.
        5. Those people preferred to hear about alternate routes to God than to hear that God reached down to them in Jesus Christ.

  3. I combined these two scriptures for two reasons:
    1. First, in all ages people have the same problem: they want to hear what they already concluded was okay.
      1. Generally speaking, people never have wanted healthy teaching that brought them to a better understanding of what it meant to belong to God.
      2. People always have wanted to hear what they agree with before anything was said.
      3. It was very important to Paul for Christians to have the willingness to hear what they needed to hear. Decide for yourself by reading with me 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6.
        For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
    2. God allows us to hear precisely what we want to hear.
      1. I am talking to Christians, not those who are not Christians.
      2. God allows us to believe what we want to believe.
      3. If you doubt my conclusion, listen again to Paul’s words to Christians in Thessalonica:
        2 Thessalonians 2:11,12 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

  4. Among Christians there has occurred an enormous spiritual divorce, and that divorce causes most people who are not Christians to be totally unimpressed with us.
    1. What great divorce?
      1. We have divorced what we believe from how we live.
        1. Everybody but us can see this divorce in our pleasures.
        2. Everybody but us can see this divorce in our greed.
        3. Everybody but us can see this divorce in the way we treat people and the way we act outside of church buildings.
      2. We call ourselves godly because of our religious positions.
      3. We do not call ourselves godly because of the way we think and live.
    2. Do you regard yourself to be a godly person? If you say yes, may I ask why?
      1. Do you regard yourself godly because you are sure you believe the right doctrines?
      2. Or, do you regard yourself godly because Jesus Christ has changed the way you think and act?

Paul said everyone of us will stand before God in judgment. Which of these two responses would you like on that occasion?

Response one:

  • God: “Why did you think that was so important?”
  • Us: “I stressed that because You said nothing about it.”
  • God: “Now let Me get this straight: because I said nothing about it, you thought it was important.”

Response two:

  • Us: “God, You said a lot about helping people, praying for people, being holy instead of living for pleasure, being pure instead of living for greed, letting Christ be our Lord instead of letting our desires be our Lord. So we let Jesus teach us how to change who we were.”
  • God: “Thank you for serving Me by placing My emphasis where I placed it.”

Are you willing to listen to God? Where do you place His emphasis?

Children of the Savior

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

At times it seems as if life is composed of a series of delicate moments. One such delicate moment in the New Testament occurred in Acts 10 when the Jewish Christian Peter was directed by God to teach the God-fearing Gentile, Cornelius. What Peter did was unheard of among Christians at that point. A Jewish Christian teaching a Gentile who was not even a Jewish convert? No way! That could not reflect God’s concern! Yet, it did. God unquestionably directed Peter to extend the kindness of God’s grace to Cornelius. It took a lot to convince Peter that he should do this unthinkable deed!

How did Peter handle this delicate moment? How did he introduce this Gentile to the Jewish Messiah? Basically Peter said two things. The first dealt as much with Peter’s realization as with Cornelius’ realization. “I now understand that God is equally concerned about everyone’s salvation.” The second dealt with Cornelius’ understanding. “You already know two things about Jesus from Nazareth. First, the Holy Spirit and his power verified God anointed him. Second, you know he went about doing good and healing people.”

“Doing good” and helping people are huge on God’s priority list for godly people. Few statements emphasized this as dramatically as did Jesus’ judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46. The difference between the accepted and rejected was the way they responded to people who were in need. Jesus’ emphasis was not held by many of his own people. Because he was committed to doing good to people, many affirmed he was a “good man,” but many also declared he was a bad man because “he leads the people astray” (John 7:12). Doing good to those in need not always is welcomed–not even for Jesus!

This coming Sunday evening, immediately after our worship (about 7 p.m.) representatives from the Good Samaritan Clinic will inform those interested about the opening (in the near future) of a clinic for uninsured and underinsured in Fort Smith. A broad group of doctors, nurses, and interested individuals who are a part of those who believe Jesus is the Christ will provide quality, compassionate, affordable medical care which will include the elderly and the homeless. Those responding to our outreach called The Way directly will benefit from this new medical service.

Those interested in knowing more about the clinic or volunteering to work with the clinic are encouraged to stay next Sunday evening. The presentation will occur immediately after our worship assembly.