A monthly publication by the Klang Church of Christ, containing articles written by bro. Roger D. Campbell, to help educate, edify, encourage and equip the saints of God.


I S S U E   N U M B E R :


          December 2011



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BEWARE OF FALSE MESSAGES ABOUT HOW TO BE SAVED


By God’s grace, He makes redemption possible through Jesus’ blood (Ephesians 1:7). God’s Son is the Lamb of God that came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and His gospel is God’s power to salvation (Romans 1:16). All people that fully accept the Bible’s message believe these truths.

But what must a person do in order to be saved? From those that claim to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, we hear a variety of answers to that question. When it comes to religious messages, “Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24). Let us list some of the false and contradictory messages that denominational teach about how to be saved from past sins. All quotations below are authentic.

I. Just believe in Jesus/faith only – Under the heading “The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church,” it is stated, “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” [taken on 20 September 2011 from http://archives.umc.org]. A: Jesus said that the person who is saved is the one that believes and is baptized (Mark 16:16). What Jesus said is not the same as “faith only,” is it?

II. Just pray and ask for forgiveness – “Sinner friend, just bow your head right now. Ask Jesus to forgive you, a sinner, and ask Him to save you. He will” [tract: “Ye Must Be Born Again”]. “. . . the sinner is saved in answer to prayer, in response to a request for salvation” [Mr. Ben Bogard, Baptist preacher, Bogard-Warlick Debate, page 81]. A: Never in the Book of Acts do we read that people lost outside of Jesus were told to pray to be saved.

III. Just believe and pray – “You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer (prayer is talking with God)” [tract: “Have You Heard of The Four Spiritual Laws”]. “If you are ready to accept this gift (salvation, rdc), pray this prayer: Jesus, I believe that you are the holy Son of God. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and that you rose from the dead. You are my salvation. Please wash all my sins away and make me a child of God. I give my life to you today. Amen” [tract: “What Is Meant by Salvation”]. A: This is a standard sample of what is called “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Nowhere in the Book of Acts do we read such a notion! Sinners were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

IV. Just believe and confess faith – This argument is often based on Romans 10:9,10, where we read of two salvation conditions: believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord. A: These verses say nothing of repentance, which is also a condition of salvation (Acts 3:19). So, Romans 10:9,10 is not “all there is to it.”

V. Just repent – In the presence of two other men, I once asked a denominational preacher, “If someone asked you, ‘What must I do to be saved,’ how would you answer?” His response: “There is nothing that you have to do to be saved. The only thing you have to do is repent.” A: First, his answer is self-contradictory, as he states that there are zero things to do to be saved, then he changes and says there is one thing a person must do. Second, the Bible’s message of forgiveness is repent plus something, not repent only (Acts 2:38,3:19).

VI. Just repent and believe – “When a man repents from his sins and believes in Jesus, his sins are forgiven (Rom. 10:9-10) . . . Baptism follows this part of salvation, that is, the forgiveness of sins. It is not baptism that brings the forgiveness of sins, but repentance and faith in Jesus” [taken on 29 Nov. 2011 from City Harvest Church web site; www.chc.org.sg/eng]. A: Biblically speaking, those who have a desire to repent are those that already believe, not vice versa. The purpose of baptism is, indeed, to wash away sins (Acts 22:16). That makes it a condition of salvation after faith and repentance.

Observe this. The six theories above contradict one another. Faith only is not the same as repent only, and neither of those is the same as pray only. Faith only is different from faith plus prayer, and repent only is different from repentance plus faith. What a confusing mess! Let us tell people the Bible truth that Jesus saves those that believe in Him and obey His gospel by being baptized into Him for the remission of their sins (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 2:38).

False teaching about salvation cannot save even one soul. Brothers and sisters, knowing the garbage, that is, the false teaching that comes from denominations about how to be saved, I never, ever plan to encourage a single person to attend a denominational church. Never. And, in view of their false doctrine, I have no intention of telling anyone that “every church is the same.” What about you?





“IF YOU RETURN TO THE LORD”


In 1 Samuel 7 we read about the prophet Samuel, who was the last judge in Israel’s history, and how he exhorted and worked with the children of Israel. In this chapter we learn that the ark of the covenant remained in one place for twenty years (7:2), that “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life” (7:15), and a place was named “Ebenezer” because there the Lord helped the Israelites (7:12). We also read that as the Israelites struggled to overcome the Philistines, Samuel spoke these serious words to them:

       If you return to the LORD with all your hearts,
       then put away the foreign gods and the
       Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your
       hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and
       He will deliver you from the hand of the
       Philistines. [1 Samuel 7:3; emphasis mine, rdc]

We understand that we are no longer battling with the Philistines. We also recognize that in the church we do not have judges who serve as deliverers and leaders in the fashion that Samuel did. Yet, it is still true that the events and messages of the Old Testament era “were written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11). So, there are timeless principles for us to learn, even from the above-quoted words of 1 Samuel 7:3. What can we learn from Samuel’s exhortation about returning to God?

“If” you return to the Lord – There was no guarantee that the Israelites would do so. They needed to. God wanted them to; so did Samuel. But, would they? That would be their own personal decision to make. No one could force them and no mere human could know for certain if they would make such a choice.

Return to the Lord – For those that have forsaken Him, there is only one path of spiritual safety. What is that? Return to Him! He alone is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). It is a horrible thing for God’s people to leave Him. Jehovah says that He forsakes those that forsake Him (2 Chronicles 15:2). When a child of God or group of His people choose to stay away from Him, that is simply adding folly to folly. God’s passionate plea to His erring children has always been, “Return to me” (Jeremiah 4:1).

A fallen brother in the Lord once told me and others that were visiting him that, if God would take him back, then he would come back. We snatched the opportunity and told him that the God of heaven is exactly that kind of God – He is willing to take back His erring children who will humble themselves and come back to Him on His conditions. Just as the rebellious, lost son was welcomed home by his father in the Master’s stirring “Prodigal Son” parable (Luke 15:20-32), so our heavenly Father is ready to accept again those who truly return to Him (James 5:19,20).

Return to the Lord with a prepared heart – What kind of prepared heart? Many who have separated themselves from God by their sins (Isaiah 59:1,2) prepare their hearts to receive an education, to get married, to make money, to go on holidays-vacations, or to retire. Sadly, some never prepare their hearts in the manner that exceeds all others in importance. What did Samuel tell God’s people about preparing their hearts? If you are coming back to God, then “ . . . prepare your hearts for the LORD.” No one truly returns to God without first making the proper preparation in the mind. What will such preparation cause a person to do? Read on.

Return to the Lord with all the heart – That should not have come to a surprise to any who heard Samuel’s words. The Lord has always wanted people to love Him and serve Him with the whole heart (Deuteronomy 6:4,5). Trying to return to God as “a double-minded man” (James 1:8) will not please Him. Being a lukewarm follower of the Lord is repulsive to Him (Revelation 3:15,16). If a part of me loves the world and wants to remain its friend, then let me not think that somehow trying to be God’s half-hearted friend will make Him happy (James 4:4).

Return to the Lord and put away false practices – Samuel’s specific message was for Israel to put away the false gods that it had worshipped. In principle, it was a charge to stop doing whatever violated God’s law. That means to repent of all wrongs done. Put them away, gladly put them away, and let them remain put away! We must cease our love of sin and then stop the actual sinning if we want the Lord to accept us back into His favor. Brother Simon was told to repent of his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (Acts 8:21,22).

Return to the Lord and serve Him only – No one can serve two or more masters (Matthew 6:24). For those who have left their first love, they must stop living to please themselves, stop trying to please others, and forsake any idol that has somehow taken over first place in their hearts. “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). The Lord alone must be our Master!

What was Israel’s response to the words of Samuel that we have examined? (1 Samuel 7:3). They put away their false gods “and served the LORD only” (7:4), confessing, “We have sinned against the LORD” (7:6). Great! Dear brother or sister, if you have left our glorious God, will you not humble yourself and return to Him with all your heart? If so, He graciously will forgive you and His caring children will rejoice with you!




THINKING STRAIGHT: SEEING THINGS THE SAME WAY THAT GOD DOES


The Lord God makes it clear that His way of thinking differs from how humans view things. As He said, just as the heavens are above the earth, even so His ways and thoughts are above man’s (Isaiah 55:8,9). But, He has revealed His will in the Bible, and through that revelation we can understand how He wants us to act, speak, and think. So, when it comes to those matters about which He has spoken, it is possible for us to conform our thinking to be in harmony with His thinking on such matters.

It is a challenge, yes, a great challenge, to keep our thinking straight. We are easily swayed by those around us. Often people’s thinking is greatly influenced by those who educate them, the media, the rich and famous of society, and those who are in the entertainment world. Our young brothers and sisters are especially vulnerable to persuasive, yet unhealthy viewpoints. As a Christian, I must be honest with myself and admit that the world does not think like my Lord wants me to think.

No, not every concept that a non-Christian introduces is dangerous or spiritually deadly. Yet, there are a number of commonly-used words or expressions that you and I must be able to analyze and use properly. To use them “properly,” of course, means to use them in harmony with what the Bible teaches, speaking and thinking “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Let me mention a few such terms about which you and I need to be certain that we keep our thinking straight.

“Beautiful” – While fashion magazines and Hollywood rave about someone’s outward appearance, and cosmetic companies overwhelm us with advertisements about how to have an attractive appearance, we know that Jesus said that there are those who “appear beautiful outwardly” but inside they are dead and unclean (Matthew 23:27). The Bible’s instruction for those who want to influence others in a positive way is to demonstrate “the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4). Yes, that message was written to Christian women whose husbands were not in the Christ, but in any setting, a person’s real “beauty” is in the heart, not the face.

“Rich” – Here is a word which is understood universally to mean one that has lots of money or material possessions. As followers of the King of kings, though, we recognize that the greatest riches a person can obtain are the spiritual blessings that God grants us in His Son (Ephesians 1:3). With such blessings, we are rich! Our God has chosen us “to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). It is not wrong to possess material riches, but in the Lord’s sight, spiritual riches are far more valuable than the temporary, losable, material stuff.

“A good person” – There are people that from a moral point of view we would consider to be “decent folks.” Some have wrongly concluded that since “those who have done good” will be raised to “the resurrection of life” (John 5:29), then any person that does good or nice things for others will go to heaven. The truth is, in the New Testament “to do good” involves more than just being a good moral person that assists others and refrains from doing physical harm to his fellowman. God’s standard of “doing good” means to be a righteous person (1 Peter 3:12), as only the righteous will enter into life eternal (Matthew 25:46). Put another way, only those that love the Lord will receive the crown of life (James 1:12). Such a “good,” God-loving person is one that obeys Him (1 John 5:3).

“A good athlete” – Some young people struggle to feel good about themselves because they are not blessed with a lot of athletic talent. In some circles, being “a good athlete” is the way to popularity and fame. For God’s children, however, being able to run fast, kick a ball well, or use some type of racket to hit an object skillfully should not be what we count as a top priority. You see, there is a type of race in which all saints are engaged. It is “the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). In this race, “the Christian life,” each of us is chasing “an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25). As good soldiers of the Christ, we are to recognize the guidelines that our Lord has set for the race in which we run: “. . . if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). If you are blessed with physical athletic skills, do not be puffed up with pride. On the other hand, do not lose heart if you are not gifted with sports skills. For all of us, let us strive to be good “athletes” in our race for the Lord.

“Success” – Were we to conduct a survey and ask both adults and youth what it means for a person to be a “success,” how do you suppose most people would answer such a question? The great majority of people would say that people who have an abundance of money, have a high position in their occupation, are well-known, or are well-educated, are successful. One person defined “success” as “just being yourself.” What did Jehovah tell His servant Joshua was the path of success? “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). To have or be a success, Joshua needed to meditate on God’s word, speak about His word, and obey it. For such a person, the ultimate reward will be to hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). That is real success!




GALATIANS 1:13,14 - THE APOSTLE PAUL’S PAST IN JUDAISM


As the apostle Paul defended the genuineness of his apostleship and teaching, he informed the Galatian saints that he received the gospel which he preached through the revelation of the Christ (Galatians 1:12). In the next two verses, we read of his personal background before he became a follower of the Christ. Paul wrote:

       For you have heard of my former conduct in
       Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God
       beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I
       advanced in Judaism beyond many of my
       contemporaries in my own nation, being more
       exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my
       fathers. (Galatian 1:13,14)

What do we learn from these statements about Paul’s religious life before he obeyed the gospel? First, it is obvious that Paul was not only religious, but he was actively involved in Judaism. He was not an observer; he was a participant. He was not a proponent of Judaism in name only; it was the center of his life. No one could point a finger at Paul and say, “He is lukewarm or apathetic when it comes to his religion.” Yet, even though Paul was devoutly religious, he was lost as long as he was outside of the Christ (Romans 3:23,24; 6:3,4).

To his credit, in his pre-Christian life Paul vigorously opposed what he was convinced was wrong. He openly persecuted God’s church and tried to destroy it (1:13). The man had strong convictions, did he not? He considered the Lord’s church to be a false religion and a threat to Judaism, which he counted as the one and only true religion from God. What was Paul’s motive for his persistent persecution of God’s people? At least twenty years after his conversion to the Christ, he looked back and in his own words said, “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). So, Paul did what he did (oppose and damage Jesus’ church) because he was convinced that it was the right thing to do. Yes, he had strong convictions, but he was still lost outside of the Christ. Do those of us who today are members of Jesus blood-bought church stand up and oppose religious error as bravely as Paul stood against what he thought was false doctrine? We need to give that question serious thought.

A third thing that we observe from Galatians 1:13,14 is Paul’s advancement in Judaism. He advanced in it beyond many of his contemporaries. He had been trained in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, who was a highly-regarded teacher among the Jews (Acts 22:3). He also had authority from the highest positions in Judaism to carry out his attacks against Christians (Acts 9:14; 26:10-12). Despite Paul’s high standing among the Jewish authorities, his “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1) did not please the Almighty. So, remember, a person can be of high standing in a religious movement and still be lost.

Paul’s zeal in religious matters was exceeded by none. He was zealous. He was exceedingly zealous. He was “more exceedingly zealous” (1:14). The man had amazing passion for what he did in the name of Judaism. As he said, he “was zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3). No one can be faithful in God’s sight without being zealous. Jesus wants His followers to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Yet, we are reminded by Paul’s past zeal that just because one is zealous does not mean that he is saved. Remember, after Paul was converted, he prayed for Israel (the Jews) to be saved. Why did they need salvation? He admitted that they had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:1,2). So, only zeal that is based on proper knowledge of God’s word leads to proper conduct.

Look further at the realm of Paul’s former zeal. It was zeal “for the traditions” of his fathers (1:14). Have you ever met anyone today that is zealous for the religious traditions of his family? Some refuse to accept the Bible’s truth because they are so influenced by man-made traditions. They know that submitting to the gospel message would mean going against the traditions that their loved ones hold so dearly. When their faith is not strong enough, they shrink back from obedience to the gospel and instead hang on to the commands of men which make worship to God vain or useless (Mark 7:7). Make no mistake about it: when Saul of Tarsus (Paul) turned away from the Jewish traditions and became a convert to “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), he knew that he risked alienating himself from many of his own family members and countrymen. What happened in his life after his conversion? He became the number one enemy of the Jews that continued to hate God’s church. But, thank God, he remained faithful to his Master.

What if the zeal, energy, conviction, and passion of Saul of Tarsus could be turned to serving Jesus and preaching His gospel? Thankfully, that is exactly what happened! The change in Paul’s life is one of the most amazing transformations in history. Praise God for his willingness to accept the truth.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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