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 :


            March 2011



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YES, GOD IS LOVE, BUT . . .


The whole world needs to hear the truth that God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Our Creator, by nature, is love. In a world filled with evil, where many people are self-centered and fail to show proper regard for others, it is great to know that God is love.

While the thought that God is love can be the source of encouragement, comfort, and assurance, there are those who misuse the great truth that God is love. For many folks, saying, “God is love” is like a magic formula that instantly removes the guilt and consequences of sin and makes everybody happy because, you see, if God is love, then He will accept everything which each person does. In reality, from a biblical standpoint, that is not the case.

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He loves everything that every person does. Our Lord hates all forms of lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that men will not have to face the consequences of the mistakes that they make. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and it is still true that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that all people will be saved. Are you sure? Yes, sir. Jesus declared that some will go into “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). In fact, He said that “many” are traveling the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He will not hold humans accountable if they rebel against His will. Those who do not obey the gospel “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He accepts false religious messages. The devil’s fatal appeal is that, because God is love, then He counts all religious teaching as good. In fact, those who pervert the gospel of the Christ stand accursed (Galatians 1:6-8). God’s word plainly shows that false teachers are headed to destruction (2 Peter 2:1,2). So, while God is love, that does not mean that false teachers can hide behind God’s banner of love and not be held accountable for what they say.

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He will not judge us according to His word. His love does not remove the reality of judgment. The Christ said that the word which He spoke will judge people (John 12:48). That is an unchangeable truth.

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He is not also righteous and just. One aspect of God’s character or nature (such as love) does not offset or do away with other aspects of His nature (like justice). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne . . .” (Psalm 89:14). Doesn’t the Bible talk about both the goodness and severity of God? It does. In fact, they are mentioned together in the very same verse (Romans 11:22).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He will act out of harmony with His revealed will. My relative in the flesh that dies outside of the Christ will be lost eternally. Per God’s arrangement, all spiritual blessings, including redemption, are available only in His Son (Ephesians 1:3,7). Thus, I dare not appeal to Him to somehow go against what He has revealed in the Bible and save my deceased, outside-of-the-Christ kinsman.

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that His children have the right to live as they please. We are blessed to have freedom because of God’s love and grace, but we must not abuse such freedom by fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Indeed, those who participate in the works of the flesh without repentance “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:13,19-21).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that He will not rebuke and discipline those who sin against Him. What did Jesus say to the lukewarm saints in Laodicea? “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that His children are exempt from trials, struggles, and temptations. Each of those matters is a part of life for all people, both saved and unsaved alike. Jesus Himself was not exempt from any of these (Hebrews 4:14,15). Like gold, our faith must pass through tests and trials to show its genuineness (1 Peter 1:6,7).

Yes, God is love, but that does not mean that nothing bad or unpleasant will ever happen to us. God the Father loved Jesus, but Jesus suffered (1 Peter 3:18). God has never promised that our life on earth will be free from discomfort and “bad experiences.” The fact that God loves us should motivate us to keep being faithful to Him, looking forward to being with Him forever in heaven.

Yes, God is love, but let us not misuse His love.




“THE SOUL WHO SINS SHALL DIE”


Does the title of this article sound familiar to you? It comes from the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet of the Lord whose mission was to declare God’s word to those Jews that were taken into captivity by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 1:1-3; 3:15).

Some of those captives charged God with misconduct, saying, “The way of the Lord is not fair” (Ezekiel 18:25,29). Why would they say such? They evidently thought that it was unfair for them to be sent into captivity when the brunt of the sins that caused Judah’s fall had been committed by their parents and others. “Why should we have to pay for what others did?” That seems to have been their mentality.

It is in that context that we find God’s clear declaration: “The soul who sins shall die” (18:4,20). While we will not quote the entire chapter, we do want to look at some different circumstances that develop in life and God’s description of certain individuals and their choices. We will do this by looking at statements which all begin with this thought: “If a man . . .”

If a man is just – What does it mean to be “just?” Hear God: “But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right” (Ezekiel 18:5). So, a “just” person is one that does what is lawful and right in God’s sight. There is more: “If he has walked in my statutes and kept my judgments faithfully – He is just; He shall surely live says the Lord” (18:9). Again, a just person, though he is not sinless, lives a life that is characterized by faithfully keeping God’s instructions. In 18:24 we read of a “righteous” man. In fact, the word “just” in 18:5 and 18:9 is from the same Hebrew word from which the word “righteous” is translated in 18:24 – being “righteous” and being “just” are one and the same.

If a righteous man has a son that commits abomination – What if the just/righteous person that God has just described (18:5-9) has a son that chooses to rebel against God? “If he begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood . . . or committed abominations . . . Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him” (18:10-13). What should we conclude from these truths?

Number one, just because a person has a righteous father, that does not automatically make him righteous, too. The reality is, a spiritually wholesome, righteous environment does not always produce righteous offspring. In the same way that environment can be overturned, so can habits, both for good or bad.

Second, an unjust son cannot hide from God behind the righteous life of his father. Daddy’s faithfulness to God cannot keep his son out of hell if the son chooses a course of rebellion against God. Remember, God said a son that chooses a lifestyle in which he commits abomination, “He shall surely die.” And, third, the son is responsible for his own choices. Yes, it is true that the instruction and example of parents go a long way in influencing the decisions of their offspring, but the offspring are accountable to God for their own choices. It is called personal accountability.

If an unrighteous man has a son that walks in the ways of Jehovah – This is the reverse of the scenario we just considered. “If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise . . . But has executed my judgments and walked in my statutes – He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!” (18:14,17). So, if dad is a rebel, “. . . he shall die for his iniquity” (18:18). However, at the same time, the righteous son, who has enough sense not to follow his father’s deadly path, he shall live.

If a man sins – This is the climax, so to speak, of Ezekiel 18’s instruction. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (18:20). Yes, a father’s attitude, speech, and behavior can rub off on his son, and vice verse. But, at the end of the day, each person is responsible for his/her own choices. In God’s sight, no one has the right to do these three things: (1) blame others (including close family members) for his sinful choices; (2) claim the faithfulness of others as his own; (3) transfer his just standing with God to the spiritual “account” of others.

If a wicked man turns from his sins – “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all my statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (18:21). You know what this means, right? It is possible for an evildoer to come to his senses and quit living in sin. Such a person passes from death to life (James 5:19,20). So, what is important is how a person finishes the race of life, correct? Did you note that when one really turns from his sins, he turns from “all” those sins? (18:21). God’s will is for sinners to “repent and turn from all” transgressions (18:30).

If a righteous man turns from his righteousness – Again, this is the opposite of the case that we just examined. What does the Lord say about this fellow? It is not good news: “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity . . . All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die” (18:24). Our standing in the sight of Jehovah is not based on our past conduct, but rather on where we are right now in our spiritual lives. That is a spiritual principle we see frequently in the new covenant as well (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:7).

If a man dies – “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies, says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live” (18:32). God is grieved, not glad, when people choose a life of sin. He wants no one to perish, but desires for all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Think on these things.




DOING JUST AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE


It is not uncommon in various circles of life to see people take the approach of doing as little as possible – just do enough to complete a particular task, no more. We see it sometimes in athletes – they do not hustle and, because they consider themselves to be extremely talented already, they do not work diligently to raise their level of skill. Perhaps we have watched as those who serve in a restaurant, work in a bank, or service our vehicles make it plain that they do not intend to work hard under any circumstances. Such folks have a do-just-as-little-as-possible philosophy.

While some of the above scenarios may cause us to be frustrated, it goes beyond frustration to find that some who have had their sins washed away by the blood of the Lamb and added to His church do not put forth their greatest effort in His Cause. They have joined the crowd. Which crowd? The one that plans to do just as little as possible in practically any endeavor. These saints do not intend to break a sweat for God, they have no desire to put forth any “extra” time or money in God’s service, and they would appreciate it if the leaders of the local church would not bother them by asking them to participate in the activities of the congregation. They say that they want to please God and go to heaven, but their attitude and action demonstrate misunderstanding, apathy, and, yes, laziness. It is sad, but true.

Do any of us honestly believe that when Jesus lived on the earth, His motto was, “When it comes to doing my Father’s will, I am going to do just as little as possible?” We would never draw such a conclusion from what we read about Him in the Bible. Jesus confessed that His “food” was to do the Father’s will (John 4:34), later adding, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). No true imitator of the Son of God will approach God’s work with the idea of doing as little as possible.

Let us not try to hide the facts. A member of the church that does not give his/her best effort in serving the Lord is failing to do what He expects of every one of His followers. That is correct, every one. God’s charge to the 1st-century Christians in Corinth was to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding the work of the Lord . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:58). “Abounding” in the Lord’s work sounds a whole lot different than “doing just as little as possible,” don’t you agree? We further read that God’s children are supposed to be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11) and “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Again, “fervent” and “zealous” are far removed from the pitiful approach of doing just as little as possible.

Jesus had something to say about entering a certain gate: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). To enter the narrow gate, one must “strive,” that word being a translation of a Greek word [α􀀀γωνίζομαι/agōnizomai] which includes the idea of endeavouring with strenuous zeal to obtain something [Thayer, word no. 75]. Lazy, do-as-little-as-possible people should not get their hopes up about living with God eternally, because for them it is not going to happen.

A disciple of Jesus who tries to “sneak by” by doing as little as possible in His Kingdom does not really appreciate what Jesus did for us. Brothers and sisters, He became poor that we might be spiritually rich through His poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). The Christ willingly endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2), bearing “our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He loved us when we were worthless sinners (Romans 5:8), and yet our response to that sacrificial love is to do as little as possible? That is unthinkable. Where is our gratitude?! God’s grace gave and gave and gave some more for our benefit, yet some will hardly lift a finger to work for Him.

A child of God who approaches serving Him with such a mentality is like leaven in the home and in the church – he is a destructive, hurtful influence. We have seen it ruin a family’s or congregation’s zeal to work for the Master. Salt that loses its flavor is good for nothing (Matthew 5:13). I do not want to be like good-for-nothing salt, do you?

In Christian homes, we need parents that give their greatest efforts to teach their children the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). That task is not secondary to helping our kids get a secular education or anything else. Believe me, when Christian parents do as little as possible in training their kids to learn about and serve the Christ, the results will be disastrous from a spiritual standpoint.

We need Bible class teachers that pour their heart into their work! Our Bible class programs suffer when teachers do as little as possible in preparation and in the classroom. We need gospel preachers that give their best effort in presenting the word of God and in their preparation to do so. We also need every member of the church, from those who have labored in the Lord’s vineyard for decades to those who were recently converted, to be caring individuals, going “the extra mile” to serve others.

What can I do if I realize that in the past I have had the very attitude that we are discussing – I have tried to get by by doing as little as possible in the Lord’s Kingdom? “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). After such a prayer of repentance, I need to make and keep a commitment to work diligently for my Lord.




Acts 17:30 – GOD COMMANDS ALL PEOPLE IN ALL PLACES TO REPENT


That is part of the message that the apostle Paul preached to the people in the ancient city of Athens. As he preached to them about the one, true God of heaven, Paul told them, “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

Yes, God commands all men in all places to repent. What does that show us about God? First of all, it shows us God’s authority. He, as the Creator and Giver of life (Acts 17:24,25), has the right to command people what to do. You know as well as I do that some people strongly dislike authority. They despise the idea of anyone ever telling them what to do. For some, they carry that same attitude from other areas of life into the realm of religion. They make no secret about it: they do not want God “trying to run” their lives, and they do not want any “self-righteous, church-going fanatics” telling them that they need to repent. Men might laugh at God’s command to repent, they can try to ignore it, and they can even raise their voices and say that you will never find them accepting God’s authority. All of those tactics change nothing: God’s command to repent stands. It changes not.

In addition, the fact that God “commands all men everywhere to repent” not only shows God’s authority to issue commands, but it also shows the universality of His authority. His rule is over all people of all races, of all tribes, of all nations, and of all locations. There is nowhere to run in this world to escape God’s authority!

Third, God’s command for all men everywhere to repent also shows God’s universal knowledge. He knows what is going on in all places. He sees the need for all people to repent. Remember, “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

In addition, we observe that since God commands all men everywhere to repent, then this shows that God cares for all people in all places. If the Lord did not care, then He would just allow people to do their own thing and continue their march toward hell without a word on His part. The Bible tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Let us now look at the human side of things. God commands people of all locales to repent. What does that show us about mankind? First, there is something about man that makes him stand in need of repentance. If there were no need for people to repent, then the Lord would not command such, right? The problem is sin. All people have sinned (Romans 3:23), and that of which people must repent is sin (Acts 2:38; 8:22). The command to repent does not apply to babies and toddlers. Why? Because they have never sinned. They have never violated the will or law of God (1 John 3:4; 5:17). The command to repent is for those that have sinned, and sin is the one and only thing that can separate a human from the God of heaven (Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:1).

Furthermore, the fact that God commands all men everywhere to repent proves that all men are amenable to God’s law. That is, all people are obligated to obey God’s will because it applies to them. If God’s law did not apply to a lost sinner, then God’s command to repent would have no punch to it. In fact, if God’s law did not apply to sinners, then He would not even command them to obey Him in the first place! Jesus charged His apostles to go preach the gospel to every person in order that every person might be saved (Mark 16:15,16). Saved from what? Saved from sin. But, what is sin? Breaking God’s law, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4). So, those outside of the Christ sin when they violate God’s law, which brings us back to our point: all men in all places are amenable to God’s law.

Now, here is a thought. Do you suppose that the Lord wants all people in all places to know that He wants them to repent? Jesus told His followers that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). So, yes, since the Lord wants the message of repentance and remission of sins preached to all people, then He wants every person to know His will about these topics.

That raises another question. How do you suppose people are going to learn about their need to repent? Does our God have a plan for people to hear about His command to repent? He does, indeed. There are certain people upon whom God has placed the responsibility to teach the gospel, including what it says about repentance. Those people are called “Christians.” Yes, brothers and sisters, you and I, we are the ones in whom God has entrusted the task of telling the world of His salvation and their need to submit to His will, including the necessity of their repentance.

Like the apostle Paul, we must tell folks “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Like the apostle Peter, we must tell lost people, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “But people won’t like it if we tell them that they need to repent.” What does that have to do with it?! God commands them to repent, and He expects you and me to tell them about that command.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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