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 :


             May 2012



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“BE A SINNER, NOT A WINNER”


The image is fresh in my mind, because it just happened last night (23 April 2012). Donna and I were walking down the street, and I saw it first. I said, “Ah Ma, look at that guy’s shirt.” Here came a young man, probably in his late-20’s, walking toward us and wearing a shirt which had these words printed on the front of it in large, bold type: “BE A SINNER, NOT A WINNER.”

Perhaps this fellow thought that it is “cute” to wear such a shirt, or maybe he was just wearing a free shirt that someone gave him; I do not know. Here is what I found ironic. At the time when we saw this gent’s shirt and its slogan, my gracious wife and I were both carrying our Bibles. We were on our way to a Bible study, hoping to go against the shirt’s slogan and turn a sinner into a winner. This all brings some thoughts on sinning, winning, and clothing.

When it comes to “sinner” versus “winner,” there are some biblical principles to consider. For one thing, it is certain that sinners – those who willfully remain in sin, are losers in the spiritual realm. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yes, sin kills, causing its practicers to be described as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). What about sinners’ relationship with God? The Bible says that they are “alienated and enemies” (Colossians 1:21); or, as we read in Isaiah 59:2, iniquities “separate” people from Jehovah.

The ultimate consequence of sin, of course, is eternal loss – the loss of the soul. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). If a soul is eternal in nature, then in what sense is a person’s soul “destroyed” in hell? The Greek word for “destroy” (α􀀀πόλλυμι/apollumi) means “not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of wellbeing” [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, word no. 622].

Clothing that says, “Be a Sinner, Not a Winner” may bring a smile to one person’s face and cause another to laugh out loud, but let me assure you that God sees no humor in such a blatant statement. No, sin is not a laughing matter. If you are tempted to disagree, then consider this Bible truth: “Fools make a mock of sin” (Proverbs 14:9). Sin damages the physical body, hardens the conscience, ruins marriages, destroys reputations, separates families, alienates friends, and closes the door to heaven forever to its slaves (Galatians 5:19-21). Surely a right-thinking child of God would never even consider endorsing a slogan that in any way encourages people to “Be a Sinner.”

The sinner-loser connection is clear. What about being “a winner” in God’s sight? Remember, the observed T-shirt also advertises the idea, “Not (Be) a Winner.” In fact, being a winner in life is what matters most of all. And who are the true winners in life? Those who are on the Lord’s side! Our great God makes His people victorious. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). It is written also, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ . . .” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Again, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4; all emphasis mine, rdc). Those three highlighted words tell it all: victory – triumph – overcome. For such victors, there is “an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25) reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). Let us never be ashamed to try and teach the gospel to sinners in order to help them become winners with us!

Never would I conclude that the man wearing the “Be a Sinner, Not a Winner” shirt is a Christian. Yet, some members of the church wear clothing that is just as disappointing, distasteful, disturbing, and disgusting. As Christians, we need to be very cautious in the clothing that we wear, including clothes that have various forms of writing on them. Our clothing and our words combine to send a message about our true character. A godly person shuns clothes that would bring shame on the name of the Lord or His church. Any words that are sexually suggestive, filthy (or euphemisms, which stand for profanity), disrespectful to God, or in any way incite improper thoughts in other people’s minds – none of these are appropriate for God’s people to adorn. Clothing that advertises alcohol or tobacco products, has images of immoral people, or in any fashion salutes or supports any form of unrighteousness is off limits for God-fearing people. Brothers and sisters, we are to set forth light in society, not darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). We are to set forth words that build up (Ephesians 4:29), not those that lead to lustful thinking and sinful actions.




ELI – THE NEXT-TO-LAST JUDGE OF ISRAEL


After the death of Joshua, who led the Israelites in conquering the land of Canaan, God raised up judges through whom He delivered Israel out of the hands of her enemies (Judges 2:16). The last one was Samuel, whom Eli mentored in the tabernacle. What do you suppose we could learn from the life of Eli, Israel’s next-to-last judge? Here are a few lessons:

    •  Before we make an accusation, we need to be certain that we have the facts straight. When Hannah, Samuel’s mother, prayed in her heart to Jehovah while she was in the tabernacle, Eli saw her lips moving, but heard no sound coming from her mouth. He concluded that she was intoxicated, so he rebuked her with these words: “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” (1 Samuel 1:14). In fact, Hannah had not been drinking at all, but simply had a sorrowful spirit (1:15). Immense harm can come to a person, family, or congregation by one simple false accusation. Let us think things through before opening our mouths – be slow to speak (James 1:19). The Bible says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

    •  Like others before and after him, Eli had to endure the mental pain of having corrupt children. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons, did not know the Lord. The Bible calls these two men the sons of Belial, meaning corrupt or wicked (1 Samuel 2:12). Because of their position as priests, these two renegades negatively influenced the nation of Israel, but even if they had been common, little-known people in society, every child of God that wants to go to heaven is crushed when his children choose to live according to their own desires instead of submitting to the Lord’s instruction. The Bible’s message of the end of Eli’s earthly life paints a sad picture – an old man (98 years of age, 4:15) receiving the news of his wicked sons’ demise, then his own life being taken (4:17,18). If your stomach feels empty and your heart is crushed because of an unfaithful child, there are no magic words that can be spoken to remove your hurt. But, know this: Eli and others have walked that road before you did. Yes, the pain is immense and may feel unbearable, but remember God’s “lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). Cast your cares on the mighty God (1 Peter 5:7). He sees it all. He cares, too. So do your brothers and sisters in Jesus (Romans 12:15).

    •  It is a sin to honor humans more than we honor the Lord. Eli’s sons sinned greatly (1 Samuel 2:17). Eli was aware of what his sons did, and he spoke to them about their misconduct. In the end, when God analyzed how Eli handled the situation with his sons, He sent a man of God to tell him, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering . . . and honor your sons more than Me…?” (2:29). What a serious charge! God instructs Christians to honor government authorities (Romans 13:7), parents (Ephesians 6:2), and others, but our first devotion, our top level of honor, must go to our Creator! Today we honor the heavenly Father by honoring His Son (John 5:23), and we honor His Son by submitting to His words (Luke 6:46).

    •  In order to please God, those in positions of authority must take a strong stand against sin. One of Eli’s glaring faults was his failure to take sufficiently strong action against his sons. God declared that Eli’s “sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13). Wait a minute; when Eli became aware of his sons’ wicked conduct, he told them, “No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear” (2:24). So, he did not turn his head the other way and act as if his sons were innocent. He scolded them. How can he be at fault? To his credit, Eli admitted his sons’ evil ways. And, he did speak to them about correcting their errors. However, in God’s sight, Eli’s action was not strong enough. Parents, are you listening? Discipline your child while there is hope (Proverbs 19:18; Hebrews 12:5-9). Overseers, are you listening? Sometimes gentle reminders work. Sometimes serious warnings are called for (1 Thessalonians 5:14). But, in some cases, stronger “medicine” must be applied in order to bring about a cure (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14). In the case of Eli’s sons, remember that when they were priests, they were not little kids. They had to be at least thirty years old to serve in the tabernacle (Numbers 4:46,47). What was the consequence of Eli not restraining Phinehas and Hophni properly? They made the people of God transgress and abhor the worship of Jehovah (2:24,17). Eli was indirectly responsible for that tragic situation. Lesson to note: it is wrong to take action that violates God’s will; but, it is just as sinful to fail to do what is right, including taking a firm stand against evil.

    •  A wise person wants to hear all that God says on a particular subject and is willing to accept His will. After God spoke to young Samuel about His plans for Eli’s house, Eli told the lad, “What is the word that the LORD spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you” (3:17). If Eli really felt that way in his heart, then he was a wise man. After he heard God’s sentence of doom, Eli said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (3:18). Again, if Eli was sincere when he said that, then his attitude was commendable. In the Christian era, a truly wise person is one that hears what Jesus says and then obeys Him (Matt. 7:24-27). Can our Lord count on you and me to do that consistently?




WHAT LESSONS CAN WE LEARN FROM THE CHURCH IN THESSALONICA?


The Lord’s church in the city of Thessalonica began when Paul and Silas preached there (Acts 17). Later it was blessed to receive two inspired letters from Paul (1 and 2 Thessalonians). From the message of those two epistles, we learn some great lessons. I am going to highlight briefly some of those, and I encourage you to study them on your own – dig deeper for valuable instruction.

    †  People remember us. Good, bad, or ugly, they do not forget what they see in us. “. . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope . . .” (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3).

    †  A good example is a powerful influence on other Christians. “So that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:7). From the context, what do we learn were some of the ways in which the saints in Thessalonica had been good examples?

    †  Every congregation needs to be evangelistic minded. “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth . . .” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). This was a new local church, but apparently the saints got involved in spreading the gospel without delay after they were converted!

    †  It is not enough to cease doing the wrong things. We also must begin to do (and continue doing) the right things. “. . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

    †  Although there is a sense in which we are “waiting” for Jesus to come again (“and to wait for His Son from heaven,” 1 Thessalonians 1:10), the church in Thessalonica was working while it waited. Should we not do the same, working while it is still day? (John 9:4).

    †  The church in Thessalonica needed to be nurtured in order to mature properly. All Christians need to be established, comforted, and encouraged. “. . . we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children . . . and sent Timothy . . . to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith . . . Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 2:11; 3:2; 5:11). These thoughts do not imply that we ought to “baby” people, but rather we should pay attention to what they need for their spiritual development.

    †  In a world filled with hatred and many folks who, truthfully, are not easy to love, it is possible for you and me to be loving people. In fact, we must be such people! “But concerning brotherly love . . . you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren . . . But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10).

    †  It is possible for saints to continue to grow in love and in other traits (look at the last passage above, 1 Thessalonians 4:10). God wants us to continue to grow! The church in Thessalonica was a growing congregation. “. . . your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

    †  While we focus on carrying the gospel to lost people, the spiritual needs of Christians must be met also. Sometimes that can be a time-consuming, energy-draining, challenging task. It requires discernment to recognize just who needs what. “. . . warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

    †  There is always the potential for a congregation to be deceived, be pulled away from the truth, and suffer shipwreck. No congregation is exempt from such a threat. That danger existed in Thessalonica, even though the members had grown in faith and love. “. . . we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter . . . Let no one deceive you by any means . . .” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

    †  Christians need to be reminded of what they have already heard and learned. We sometimes must hear things more than once before they sink in (and hearing it twice is no guarantee!). “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5).

    †  It is pure fantasy for one to imagine that a congregation can exist and avoid totally the development of any disorderly activity. “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner . . .” (2 Thessalonians 3:11).

    †  Sometimes exhortations and warnings are not enough. “. . . warn those who are unruly . . .” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some situations develop to the point that stronger action must be taken for the good of the sinning person(s) and the entire congregation. “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly . . . And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14).

    †  Thessalonica was located in Macedonia. As one of “the churches of Macedonia” which are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3, the Thessalonian congregation not only was involved actively in evangelism, but in benevolence as well. This clearly shows that a local church can do both. And, the saints did at least part of it while they were in “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2). Think about it.




Luke 1:31-33 – GABRIEL’S MESSAGE TO MARY ABOUT HER FUTURE SON


Before Mary had conceived Jesus, God sent an angel to the city of Nazareth to inform her about some fascinating events. Here is a portion of Gabriel and Mary’s conversation that is recorded in Luke 1:

          (31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb
          and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name
          Jesus. (32) He will be great, and will be called the
          Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give
          Him the throne of His father David. (33) And He
          will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of
          His kingdom there will be no end.

If we consider Mary’s life in chronological order, this visit from Gabriel was the first event in her life that is recorded in the Bible. After she heard this message from God’s angel, surely her thinking and life would never be the same again! Our focus, though, is not on Mary, but on the glorious things that Gabriel told her about her firstborn child. Let us look at some of the facts set forth by Gabriel.

(1)He will be great” (1:32). Yes, He would be greater than great! Melchizedek was great (Hebrews 7:4); so was John the Baptizer (Matthew 11:11). The greatness of those two men, however, was nothing in comparison to our Lord’s. Our “great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14) is not God the Father, yet the Bible describes Him as “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).

(2) Mary (and others) would “call His name Jesus” (1:31). Neither Mary nor Joseph selected that name. God did the choosing. But why that particular name? Because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). You see, the name “Jesus” means Savior or “Jehovah is salvation” [Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, word no. 2424].

(3) He “will be called the Son of the Highest . . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (1:32,35). Born of a virgin human female, He is called “the Son of man” (Matthew 16:13), a designation which points to His humanity. To call Him “the Son of God” shows His divine nature, which is what the Father confessed when He declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5; 3:17). Jesus said that those who refuse to believe in His deity will die in their sins (John 8:24).

(4)The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (1:32). Jesus was a descendant of David (2 Timothy 2:8). Why is that so important? Because “God had sworn with an oath to him [David, rdc] that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30). The apostle Peter preached that message on the Day of Pentecost to a Jewish audience that knew well the promise that Jehovah made to King David (2 Samuel 7:12-14). After David’s death, his son Solomon, “sat on the throne of his father David” (1 Kings 2:12), or, as it is written in 1 Chronicles 29:23, Solomon “sat on the throne of the LORD.” Those dual ideas point to the truth that Solomon exercised authority over the people of God. In the same manner, the throne of David on which Jesus sits and rules is not a literal throne, but rather His rule is a spiritual reign over the spiritual people of God.

(5)And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (1:33). Jesus later told His apostles that they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” When would that take place? “. . . in the regeneration, when the Son of man sits on the throne of His glory” (Matthew 19:28). That is happening now – this is the time of regeneration, being born again into the Christ (Titus 3:5; John 3:3,5). Now, through their message that causes men and women to become believers in Jesus and serve Him (John 17:20), the apostles judge the true “Israel of God,” which is made up of all new creations in the Christ (Galatians 6:15,16). By providing instructions/commands via His apostles (1 Corinthians 14:37), the Christ rules over spiritual Israel, which is composed of both Jews and Gentiles.

(6) “. . . of His kingdom there will be no end” (1:33). Some quick observations about the kingdom:

       - The Kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18,19; 26:29).
       -  It is His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13). He paid for it with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
       -  It is a spiritual Kingdom, “not of this world” (John 18:36).
       -  It is an eternal Kingdom. That is exactly what Daniel had prophesied (Daniel 2:44).
             Earthly kingdoms and empires rise and fall, but not the Kingdom of King Jesus!
       -  In earthly kingdoms, power/leadership passes from one person or group of people
             to another. Not so in our Lord’s Kingdom! He maintains all authority
             (Matthew 28:18) and remains the Head over His body (Eph. 5:23).
             Those two truths will be changeless as long as the world exists.
             In the end, He will deliver the Kingdom to His Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).

Let us do more than acknowledge these truths about Jesus and His Kingdom. May they burn like a fire in our souls, causing us to live for Him and tell others about the salvation that He brings.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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