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 :


            January 2011



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WRONG IS STILL WRONG, AND RIGHT IS STILL RIGHT


There are numerous Bible exhortations for God’s people to follow that which is right and stay away from what is wrong. In the spiritual realm, it is God alone Who determines what is right and what is not. Here are three New Testament passages that point to the need for Christians to stay with what is good:

       “. . . Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
       “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every
              form of evil
” (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22).
       “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good . . .” (3 John 11).

Regardless of what happens in life, regardless of what others do or say, the Lord’s will does not change. Wrong is still wrong, and right is still right. Let us look at some applications of these truths.

Wrong is still wrong, even if you are the king. King David slept with another man’s wife, Bathsheba, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27).

Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my brother in the flesh. When Aaron led the Israelites in making a golden calf, regardless of the fact that he was Moses’ elder brother, Moses properly called Aaron’s action “sin” (Exodus 32:21).

Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my cousin. Korah’s rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron was wrong, even though he was their cousin (Numbers 16:1-11).

Wrong is still wrong, even if you were faithful to the Lord in the past. Good conduct in the past does not offset or cover up present evil. The churches of Galatia had run well, but someone later hindered them from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7). Past faithfulness does not negate current negligence.

Wrong is still wrong, even if you are a gospel preacher. When Peter acted as a hypocrite, Paul rebuked him to his face (Galatians 2:11-14).

Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my friend. None would doubt that Judas sinned when he betrayed Jesus, though the Bible calls Judas the “familiar friend” of the Messiah (Psalm 41:9).

Wrong is still wrong, even if many people support someone’s wrongdoing. The Jewish leaders that wanted to see Jesus killed got the backing of “the multitudes” in crying for His death. Nonetheless, their action was evil (Matthew 27:17-24).

Now consider the other side of the picture. Right is still right, and truth is still truth, even if the one that tells me the truth is arrogant. His arrogance is unacceptable, but if he shows me that the Bible says Jesus is the Head of the church, then his arrogance does not change that fact (Ephesians 5:23).

Right is still right, and truth is still truth, even though the one that tells me the truth is inconsistent in his/her own life. One may not “practice what he preaches” in the matter of being prejudiced toward others, but if he shows me from James 2:1-9 that partiality and racial prejudice are wrong, then the truth that he has proven from the Bible is not negated by his own personal inconsistency.

Right is still right, even if the one that tells me the truth has a bad attitude. The one that points me to the truth that Jesus wants us to seek first the Kingdom may be an envious, bitter, grumpy man that simply cannot stand people, but what he says about Jesus’ demand is still true (Matthew 6:33).

Right is still right and the truth is still the truth, even if I do not like it. An advocate of a modern “Women’s Rights” group may not like what God says about women not being allowed to have dominion over men in spiritual activities, but God’s instruction remains true, whether any human likes it or not (1 Timothy 2:11-14).

Right is still right, even if other people make fun of it. Jesus endured mockery more than once, but His message and course of action were correct, regardless of men’s negative reaction.

We read about it in the Bible time and again. We see it demonstrated in the lives of people in our generation over and over. People that are doing wrong often try to come up with some kind of defense to justify their wrongdoing. They may be able to smooth it over with other humans, but God still sees and knows. Wrong is still wrong.

At the same time, people who are told what is right, either about religious truth or else the reality of their own personal activities, sometimes try to dodge the truth by appealing to some fault in the messenger of truth or in other people. When all is said and done, however, right is still right.

May the Lord help each of us to have a love for that which is right and an equally strong hatred for all that is wrong in His eyes. May we each be committed to doing good and abstaining from evil..”





WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT GOD IN THE BOOK OF JONAH?


What comes to mind when you think about the Book of Jonah? Is it Jonah’s journey inside the belly of a fish? Is it the repentance of the people who lived in Nineveh? What about Jehovah? If you take Him out of this 48-verse book, there is not a whole lot left. Since the God of heaven does not change (Malachi 3:6), we are assured that the God whom Christians serve is the same One about Whom we read in the Book of Jonah. Here are some of the Lord’s attributes (there is not space for all of them) that this fascinating book reveals.

(1) God lives. The very first verse of the book records that the Lord spoke to Jonah. It was not a dream; God really talked to him. Only a living God could do that. How different that is from man-made idols: “They have mouths, but they do not speak” (Psalm 115:5). Our God lives!

(2) God communicates with man. God had a message which He wanted Jonah to deliver to the people of the city of Nineveh (1:1). Some have the notion that, yes, God created the world, but He has no interest in its habitants. Wrong! God cares about and communicates with humans. Today, God speaks to men through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

(3) God uses human instruments to get His message to mankind (1:1). Yes, in ancient times, God did speak directly to humans (Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham . . .). But, there has always been a place for humans to be involved in carrying His message to men and women. He “has in due time manifested His word through preaching” (Titus 1:3). Now, He depends on His faithful servants to carry the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15).

(4) God sees and is aware of all that takes place on the earth. He saw that the Ninevites were living rebelliously (1:2). Would that mean that He also saw Jonah when he tried to flee from the presence of the Lord? (1:3). It sure does. No one keeps a secret from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

(5) God considers some activities to be “evil.” Whatever the people of Nineveh were doing, God called it “wickedness” (1:2) and an “evil way” (3:10). Anyone who thinks everything that every human does is good has not read the Book of Jonah!

(6) God has the whole world in His hands. He used His creation to achieve His purposes. He sent a great wind (1:4) and prepared a great fish (1:17) for Jonah. Later He prepared a plant, a worm, and a strong east wind (4:6,7,8).

(7) By prayer, God is reachable from any location on the planet. Jonah prayed to Him from inside a fish’s belly (2:1), then again when he was in Nineveh (4:2). Neither of those locations was part of the “holy” homeland of the Israelites.

(8) God knows the exact message that humans need to hear. After Jonah escaped from the fish, God told him, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (3:2). Yes, and God expects you and me to proclaim the message that He has chosen – the gospel. God knows what “good news” every person needs.

(9) When God issues a warning to those living in sin, it carries with it the implied truth that if men turn from their evil actions, then He will turn from His planned course of destruction. Jonah warned that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days (3:4), but when the Ninevites repented, God relented from doing harm to them (3:10; 4:2). That principle is plainly set forth in Jeremiah 18:7-10.

(10) God is gracious. That is exactly how Jonah described Him (4:2). Seriously? Do you mean that God showed grace in the Old Testament era? He sure did (Genesis 6:8).

(11) God is merciful (4:2). Many conclude that the God of the Old Testament was a merciless God of wrath. He has always been a God of wrath, but at the same time, He has always been a God of mercy.

(12) God is slow to anger (4:2). Again, that is just what Jonah said about Him. He is not a trigger-happy, ready-to-scorch-sinners God. No, He is longsuffering. And aren’t we glad that He is?!

(13) God is abundant in loving-kindness (4:2). God does not simply have a tiny amount of love and kindness. In fact, He has an abundant supply! Right here in this one verse, Jonah 4:2, we learn that the Lord of heaven and earth is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and full of loving-kindness. Remember this verse. Be prepared to show it to anyone that wrongfully charges the God of the Old Testament period with lacking goodness or compassion.

(14) God shows pity. Jonah had pity on a plant that protected him from the sun. In great contrast, God was a whole lot more concerned about the great number of precious people in Nineveh than he was a soul-less plant. He showed pity on them (4:11).

In terms of where it is found in the Bible, the Book of Jonah falls almost exactly in the middle. It is book number 32 out of the Bible’s 66 books. It presents clear pictures of the Creator that help us understand many of His attributes. Now that we have done this type of study with the Book of Jonah, why don’t you give yourself a personal project? Why not pick out a different book of the Bible and investigate what it teaches about the God of heaven? You will be rewarded for your efforts!

God is great. He deserves our honor, praise, and steadfast service. Let us set our hearts to learn His true nature, to love Him, and to live for Him.




FAITH AND EVIDENCE


See if the following sentiments sound familiar. “Having faith means that you believe in something that you cannot prove.” “When you believe something, you don’t care about evidence, you just trust in what you feel in your heart.” “If you accept something as being true based on the evidence, that is not faith. Faith means that you accept something without real proof.”

These statements are popular notions in our day. Each of them expresses the basic idea that where there is evidence, there is no faith; and, where there is faith, there is no evidence. In other words, faith and evidence do not go together. What about it?

I checked on-line definitions given for the word “faith” by Webster’s New World College Dictionary and The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language [all definitions taken on 20 November 2010 from http://www.yourdictionary.com]. In one instance, “faith” is defined as “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at ‘belief,’ ‘trust.’” A 2nd definition supplied for “faith” is “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” Note that in both of these cases, “faith” is said to be belief that is not based on evidence or proof.

When I turned around and searched the meaning that these dictionaries give for “evidence,” I made a most interesting discovery. Here is one way that “evidence” was defined: evidence” – “something that tends to prove; ground for belief.” Are you confused? When it comes to “faith,” we are told that it is not based on evidence. But, then the very same source turns around and tells us that “evidence” is the ground or proof of belief or faith. In other words, they tell it “both ways!” So, which is it? In biblical terms, is faith based on proof, or is faith the conviction that exists in one’s mind without proof?

The Book of John is quite helpful in coming to a proper understanding of this topic. After Jesus had a conversation with a woman of Samaria, she went and shared with others the exciting news of the Master’s fabulous insights, saying, “Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:28,29). What happened next? Many of the Samaritans went to where Jesus was. Hear the confession that some of them made to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; emphasis mine, rdc). In this instance, what was present on the part of the Samaritans? Did they have faith, evidence, or knowledge? They had all three! That is correct. They saw Jesus with their own eyes and heard Him with their own ears. That was evidence. But, they believed in Him. That was faith. And, they said they knew that He was the Christ. That was knowledge.

Peter later told Jesus, “Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). Notice that Peter said that he (and the other apostles) both believed and knew who Jesus was. In the Bible, having knowledge or 100% certainty does not mean that there can be no faith. In addition, we must ask: On what was Peter’s response based? What caused him to believe and know the truth about the Christ? Jesus said that God revealed it (Jesus’ Deity) to Peter (Matthew 16:17). That was evidence. Again, in the case of the apostles three things went hand in hand: evidence, knowledge, faith.

We understand that having the proper evidence and knowledge is no guarantee that people will submit to the Christ. Some saw the evidence of the Lord’s power when He raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew and admitted that He did many miracles, yet they refused to follow Him (John 11:46,47).

“But we have never seen Jesus like people did in the first century. We just have to accept Him without any proof.” Not true! There is more than one way to prove the validity of something. There were also Christians in the first century who did not see Jesus in person, yet they believed in Him and loved Him (1 Peter 1:7,8). Their response was based on the evidence. Eyewitnesses saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. Their testimony is reliable proof (1 Corinthians 15:5- 8). Go back to the Book of John. What was John’s purpose in recording what he did about the earthly life of Jesus? “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Did you see that? John supplies the proof of Jesus’ Deity.

Look at it this way. We have never seen heaven or hell, yet we believe in their existence, right? How did we conclude that there really are such places? We may not say it out loud in every instance, but here is the basic thought process through which we go. There is evidence to prove that God exists (Romans 1:18-20). Next, there is evidence to prove that the Bible really is God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus, because the Bible is the word of the trustworthy God Who does not lie (Titus 1:2), it becomes the reliable, convincing evidence for everything that we believe. The Bible is the authoritative message of the living God. So, while many people talk as if “faith” means believing when there is no evidence, in fact, where there is no proof, there cannot be real faith! (Hebrews 11:1).

Follow the evidence. Apply the Law of Rationality, which states that we must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of faith, it is quite simple: no proof means no faith, period. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, which is our evidence (Romans 10:17).

Biblical faith is conviction that is based on the proof provided, with that conviction or persuasion leading to trust and submission. We cannot prove in a laboratory that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day. The evidence is there, though, my friend, it is there! (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Do not be deceived into accepting modern-day concepts and philosophies that contradict Bible truths.




JOHN 6:66-69 – “LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?”


What a memorable two-day period in the life of Jesus. He fed 5000 men, which prompted some to want to make Him king by force. In the middle of the night, He walked on the sea. The next day, in a synagogue He spoke about Himself being the bread of life.

At the conclusion of His message in the synagogue, something horribly sad took place, followed by an inspiring confession. Hear the words recorded in only one Bible passage, John 6:66-69:

       66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
       67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, Do you also want to go away?
       68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words
            of eternal life.
       69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of
            the living God.

Here is a scenario that involved Jesus, many of His disciples, and the twelve apostles. The message is straightforward. There have to be some lessons in there for us to glean about human decision-making.

It is possible for disciples of Jesus to choose to walk no more with Him. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (6:66). Who were those that turned away? His disciples. Who forced them to abandon Him? No one: it was their own personal decision. What possible good reason could a person have for deciding that life is better without Jesus than it is with Him? There is no such “good” reason available! Those who hear what the Master has to say but choose not to obey Him are foolish. Jesus said so (Matthew 7:26,27).

There is no such thing as remaining a faithful servant of Jesus if one chooses to forsake Him. Jesus said, “If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also” (John 12:26). It is often claimed that it is not possible for followers of Jesus to sin in such a way that they will be lost. Yet, the Bible says that we must take heed, lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Bible further teaches that a person who has turned from the truth (he was first “in” the truth before departing from it) is dead and needs to be saved (James 5:19,20). No one can remove the truth that one who chooses “to turn from the holy commandment” (2 Peter 2:21) is in worse spiritual shape than if he had never learned the truth. Mark it down. Choosing to forsake the master is not just dangerous: it is a dooming and damning act.

In some cases, many of Jesus’ followers choose to leave Him at the same time. Often, folks leave the Lord one at a time over a long period of time. This, however, was a mass exodus. “Many” disciples hit the road, and they did so on the same day. Talk about a rapid reduction of people in the camp! The parables in which Jesus spoke of one lost sheep, one lost coin, and one lost son reinforce the truth that God does not want anyone to perish (Luke 15; 2 Peter 3:9). How it must grieve Him to see groups and multitudes leave Him.

Let us not miss two significant truths in this matter. First, those that leave Jesus do not do so because they have discovered some deficiency in His character. There is no blemish to be found in Him! (1 Peter 1:19). Second, no one walks away from the Lord because they have found a flaw in His teaching. People may not like the doctrine of our Lord, but regardless of man’s response to His teaching, what He says is truth and is exactly what every person needs to hear and heed. His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). We dare not compromise the truth in order to try and maintain a big attendance. Jesus surely did not do so.

When the Lord’s faithful observe others leaving Him, they must make a choice, too: to follow the departing sheep, or stay with the Shepherd. The fact that Jesus asked the twelve if they also wanted to leave Him shows that they could have, if they had such a desire. We have witnessed the sad scene of several families getting mad and leaving the church together because they were offended by the truth that was taught. At first, one family was upset, then their friends or other family members decided to call it quits with them. Brothers and sisters, if our best friends in the whole world or biological family members choose to leave the Lord and His church, we must not join them in their evil deed (1 Timothy 5:22). Do not let the devil deceive you into believing that it would be better to be with family and friends in hell than it would be to be in heaven without them. Think!

There is only one choice that makes real sense. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (6:68). Peter’s question indicates a determination to stay with the Master and His truth – that is the only decision that makes sense. As the Lord later explained, it is quite simple. Abide in Him, the Vine, and enjoy life. On the other hand, choose not to abide in Him and the result will be spiritual death, guaranteed (John 15:1-6).

Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. In our generation, we have widespread access to supposed life-changing and life-improving programs, plans, and propaganda. There is nothing that “the geniuses” of our day can propose that can improve upon Jesus’ words or make them obsolete. His words are lifegiving! His words can save the soul in this life and take it to heaven when this life is over. Lord, help us to be wise enough to be satisfied with Your words, help us to be humble enough to submit to them, and help us to be caring enough to share them with others.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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