A new year brings brand new possibilities and opportunities.
12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. 31,536,000 seconds. What will you do with all that time?
A great opportunity…
The Bible’s concept of God: One (Ephesians 4:6). Our Creator (Genesis 1:27). Omnipresent (1 Kings 8:27). Omniscience (1 John 3:20). Omnipotent (Job 42:4; Jeremiah 32:17). Eternal (Psalm 90:2). God of love (John 3:16). Judge of mankind (John 8:50). These only begin to describe the attributes of the God of Heaven. God has expressed His truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and He expects us to honor it by obeying it.
Christianity is not a shopping mall or an online marketplace where we can shop and purchase whatever suits us or satisfies our desires religiously! Tragically, Satan has been successful in sowing the seeds of false teaching and division and the harvest is man-made denominational churches.
Denominational idolatry patterns itself after the idols of old where each idol had divergent attributes. Denominations have differing doctrines, creeds and disciplines and therefore have their own god. The God of the Bible has one body of truth / doctrine (2 John 9-11) and cannot be the God of the thousands of diverse denominations and world religions! The destructive advice that promotes the “Church of your choice” is essentially saying “the god of your choice.”
Moses and the children of Israel found many idol gods in Egypt. This serves as an example of man creating his own god through his own ideas and beliefs. John J. Davis observes:
The Egyptians were just about the most polytheistic people known from the ancient world. Even to this day we are not completely sure of the total number of gods which they worshipped. Most lists include somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty gods. As William Ward observes, "The many gods of Egypt acquired a variety of attributes and the many statements about them in the literature often make it impossible to describe a specific deity in logical terms." This confusing situation is a product of a system known as syncretism in which one god may assume the name and attributes of two or three other gods. As time went on the associations became more complex and intertwined (Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 94).
The tendency to follow after other ways instead of God’s has always been a source of trouble for man. “Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so” (Judges 2:17). While many denominations claim to be acknowledging and following the God of the Bible, they deny that practice through their varied and conflicting doctrines. God’s Word reminds us: “If it is not the Lord who builds a house, the builders are wasting their time” (Psalm 127:1). “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Christ is the builder of only one church (Matthew 16:18. 18). He purchased only one church with his blood (Acts 20:28). He is the head of only one church (Colossians 1:18). He is the final savior of only one church (Ephesians 5:23).
(If you have been reading Trending Topics for very long, you have probably noticed references from denominational sources that use the term “pastor” to refer to the minister or preacher in the local congregation. As a discerning reader, you know that the general meaning behind such use in articles from sources outside the brotherhood are referring to the preacher and not an elder. A preacher can serve as an elder if qualified and if the congregation supports that arrangement, but in general, the preacher is not a “pastor” in the biblical sense).
It would be considered an unusual week for the church office not to receive a call from someone asking to speak to a “pastor.” The titles of “reverend” and “pastor” are liberally applied when someone speaks to a preacher. What's the problem? Most people seem to believe that they are showing respect to those who minister on a full-time basis. Is it being too critical to call attention to the fact that the terms “reverend” and “pastor” are misused and misapplied (Matthew 23:8-10)? Where is the New Testament passage authorizing use of the term “pastor” or “reverend” being applied to preachers of the gospel? We should be interested in calling Bible things by Bible names and that includes using the appropriate, Scriptural designations.
Three passages contribute to a clarification on the use of the term “pastor.” “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28, NASB). “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11, NKJV). “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:1-2, ESV).
J. W. McGarvey addressed this misunderstanding back in 1870.
1. Vine, W.E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.
2. McGarvey, John William. A Treatise on the Eldership: A Series of Editorial Articles Originally Published in the Apostolic Times. Cincinnati: Bosworth, 1870. Repr., Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff, 1956, 14-15
A worldview is “The Christian’s ability to think Christianly about every topic, every question, every decision requires that he or she develop a generally correct knowledge of reality” (Edward M. Curtis, Transformed Thinking, 5).
Included would be anything about which it is possible to have a belief; for instance: God, human life, gender, freedom, the meaning of suffering, marriage, family relationships, morality, and even politics, etc.. So, a worldview is the basic perspective we use to understand the world around us and our experience of it.
It is important to have a worldview that is consistent and aligned with the Creator of this world and of mankind. The reason is found in Psalm 100:3: “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (ESV).
A biblical worldview is the only avenue to understand our true beginning, purpose, and future.
"A worldview has been compared to a pair of glasses through which we see the world. Without these glasses, the world would appear as an unfocused, meaningless blob. The glasses not only allow us to see, but to make sense out of what we see. Everything we perceive must come through these glasses. If such glasses have “Christian” lenses, then everything we observe will be “tinted” Christian. We will explain the universe and life’s events from a Christian perspective. The same is true for those who wear Atheist glasses or Buddhist glasses. They will “see” the same world, but it will be understood differently. Their “glasses” (worldview) do not shape reality nor do they ensure a correct perception, but they do determine a person’s explanation and interpretation of life and the world.a perspective that sees everything through the “glasses” of Scripture. Rather than allowing culture or experience to determine a worldview, it allows the Bible to make that determination" (Phillips, W. G., Brown, W. E., & Stonestreet, J. (2008). Making sense of your world: A biblical worldview (2nd ed.). Salem, WI: Sheffield, 4, 16).
We are in a spiritual and cultural warfare where life, marriage, and America’s biblical foundations are under attack. Daniel Webster, in 1820, commented: “Lastly; our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits” (America’s God and Country, 669).
The role of Government is cited in the Bible (Romans 13:1‐7; 1 Peter 2:13‐14; 1 Timothy 2:1‐4). Civil governments are established by God to bring many benefits to human societies. The civil government should not govern “the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
The tide has been turning for a long time. Albert Mohler warned back in 2012 of the seriousness and far-reaching implications of rejecting biblical principles and foundations in the moral fabric of our society:
"We are not looking at minor matters of political difference. We are staring into the abyss of comprehensive moral conflict. Christian voters can escape neither the consequences of their vote, nor the fact that our most basic convictions will be revealed in the voting booth come November. Christians cannot face these questions without the knowledge that God is the Giver of life, who made every human life in his image. We cannot consider this election without the knowledge that our Creator has given us the covenant of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as the demonstration of his glory and the promise of human flourishing" (https://albertmohler.com/2012/09/06/the-great-american-worldview-exercise-the-2012-election).
As we enter the voting booth in elections, our commitment should be to God first, not party, social status, race, economic standing, or gender.
There is wisdom in the following regarding our individual role in being a responsible citizen as well as living our lives in faithful Christianity:
"Do nations turn around, once they have started a slide toward moral chaos? Tragically, they almost never do. Not even the great nation of Israel could be salvaged by the persuasion of the prophets. It took an Assyrian conquest and a Babylonian captivity (of seventy years) to bring the Hebrews to their knees. Even then a terminal judgment finally came in the form of the Roman destruction of Judaism in A.D. 70 (cf. Mt. 22:7). I am certainly no prophet. I do not know what lies in America’s future. I can, however, follow the flow of human history as such is revealed in the Scriptures. And what I see in that does not make me comfortable about our nation’s prospects. I know this: Each Christian, consistent with his/her abilities, has a three‐fold responsibility. 1. We must commit to lives of personal goodness as a savoring influence among our peers. 2. We must teach forcefully the positive truths of moral conduct. 3. We must oppose the teachings of the immoral vermin who would destroy this nation" (Jackson, Wayne. "America--A Nation Out of Control." ChristianCourier.com. Access date: October 20, 2020. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/90-america-a-nation-out-of-control).
Our focus should major on policies and the implications of their plans and platforms. Some become blinded and fail to grasp that it is the issues that are of utmost importance in voting. We must remember that our vote for an individual on the ballot does not mean we think they are faithful in all things or the greatest human being. It may mean that they are better than the opposing candidate. Our goal should be to vote for the best stance on the policies that we deem important to us and the welfare of our great country. We would do well to consider questions like, “what does the team stand for?” and “are they equipped to lead in the best interest of the people?” Several issues come to the forefront in this election: Abortion vs murdering the innocent in the womb; law and order vs defunding the police; freedom of religion vs repressing freedom of religion; second amendment rights defending my life and family vs gun control and the outlawing and confiscating of firearms of citizens; appointment of conservative judges (who respect and uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) vs liberal judges, etc., al.
Let each of us prayerfully consider the various issues, policies and platforms and vote in a way that we believe will best reflect His will. Remember, elections have consequences.
Our attitudes profoundly influence those who observe us. Do we want those we influence to develop our attitudes? Of course, if our attitude is right and proper, positive and godly, we will do well. We should answer “no” if our attitude and disposition is bitter, prideful, difficult to get along with, quick tempered, opinionated, or just generally unpleasant? If we are unhelpful, uncaring, stingy, lazy, too busy for others, unfriendly, pessimistic, and negative, what kind of a community might we be guilty of promoting? What an unfair burden it would be for a child, our neighbor, our spouse, our parents, our friends, our co-workers, our fellow-Americans, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to inherit those kinds of attitudes.
May the following Scriptures remind us of our responsibility to change and conform to Jesus and His Gospel in every area of our lives, including our attitude.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10::5).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14).
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).
“Accuracy Matters, Your order should be correct every time. If it’s not, we’ll fix it right away, and give you a free treat for our trouble. Just let any associate know.” The place of business that issued this on the receipt has a high goal and standard. To get your order correct every time. It would be nice if all businesses adopted this type of customer service. In Samuel’s restating of what God required of Saul, he asked:
A hallmark of the body of Christ is being one as the people of God. This oneness permeates all that we believe and all that we are in identity. Harmony among the children of God in Christ should be our desire and goal as we live in this broken world with its many disappointments and challenges. The church is our family, we are related through the blood of Jesus and remember that we are on equal footing when it comes to our salvation in Him (Galatians 3:27-28).
The church is precious to Jesus because He shed His blood for it (Acts 20:28). We must careful not to disrupt the unity that exists in this blood-purchased body among brothers and sisters in Christ. To be guilty of causing division is a most serious charge (Proverbs 6:19; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
"Division is clearly branded a sin in Galatians 5:19-21. Of the fifteen items listed "works of the flesh," eight have to do with those things that create disharmony or describe division among people: enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy. People are following the flesh and not the Spirit if they allow nationality, color, social status, cultural mores, economic and political doctrines; educational attainments, or personality differences to keep them apart. Brotherhood is based on having the same divine Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13) (Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ (400-401).
What does this mean?
God did not design the world as a place of pain and misery, though He can use suffering for good. Suffering divulges that the world is broken and is sinful (Genesis 3). The Christian desires the future time when God will wipe away all tears (Revelation 21:4). While we sojourn here upon the earth; tears are an inescapable portion of our lives. Setting up the argument to trust God when going through pain and suffering, in his brilliant volume, titled, Our Loving God, Our Sun and Shield, Thomas B. Warren observed the depth of loss Job experienced and how he still maintained his trust in God:
When one loses his possessions, he can usually gain strength and assurance from his children, his wife, his friends. If he still has his good health and his sense of his place and worth as an individual, he can gain strength and comfort from them and launch out anew. If one also loses (in addition to his wealth), his health, and his children, he can still grasp the hand of his wife, and the two may give strength to one another. But when Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health, his wife also failed him. If, after his wife had failed him, he had retained his good health, he might have gone on alone. A healthy body gives one a vitality of outlook which is difficult to attain when one is in ill health. But even after Job had lost everything upon which many human beings depend, he retained his faith in the one true living God (National Christian Press, Inc., Colleyville, 2003), 96.
Job lost his family, wealth, health, and his social status. “And he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22). “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2:9-10). Through all of this, Job never received the knowledge of why all this had happened to him; causing him to conclude: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15 NKJV). Job's faith withstood, even though unsupported by: any reason from God, man, from within himself, or by any hope of reward for enduring the terrible pain and suffering. Job’s demonstration of his response concludes that when confronting the vast burden of actual loss, God should be praised rather than criticized for the suffering that is present in our lives. God never reveals the purposes behind Job’s sufferings and the Bible records that, “the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). Job’s endurance was rewarded by God.
Trusting God in times of suffering is the only avenue that will support our peace of mind and patient perseverance (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Philippians 4:6-7).
2020 - MAR/APR Carolina Messenger
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Lk. 23:33). Luke records the beginning of the end in the life of Jesus upon the earth and documents the first two sayings of Christ from the cross.
The first three sayings focus on others, while the last four relate to Jesus himself and the Father. The depth and meaning of the last words of Jesus warrant our whole attention.
Rick Bauer wrote:
Last words are powerful words. Perhaps you’ve watched a loved one die, and heard his last words. Words of love, words of farewell, too often words of regret and remorse, all these describe the last words of parting before death. Jesus’ dying words are the most powerful words of parting ever spoken, and reveal his life, his concerns, and the true nature of his character in a way they are shown nowhere else in the scriptures. In these words, we truly find the meaning of the cross. Let us study with reverence the parting words of our Master … the message of the cross, the message of Jesus from Golgotha. We see Jesus for all that he is when we come to the cross, when we stand around it, when we listen to The Sermon on the Hill (Rick Bauer, The Anatomy of Calvary (Joplin: College Press, 1989), 121.
James Stalker likewise opined:
These are like windows through which we can see what was passing in His mind. They are mere fragments, of course; yet they are charged with eternal significance. Words are always photographs, more or less true, of the mind which utters them; these were the truest words ever uttered, and He who uttered them stamped on them the image of Him-self (James Stalker, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ (New York: A.C. Armstrong, 1894), 187.
Forgiveness. “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments” (Lk. 23:34; Isa. 53:12). Jesus desires and prays for the forgiveness of his enemies, but this would only be possible by men being willing to repent and obey Christ to receive remission of sins.
Jesus calls upon us, His disciples, to extend love and kindness to those against us (Lk. 6:35).
Salvation. “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Lk. 23:43). The two thieves represent two distinct attitudes toward Christ. The context before the verse reads: “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong’” (Lk. 23:39-41).
The key to remember is that Jesus gives salvation: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Lk. 5:24).
Responsibility. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (Jn. 19:26). John is understood to be the disciple being referred to here (Jn. 2:4; 13:23; 21:7, 20) and he is the only one who records it.
In this saying, we witness the love and care that Jesus exhibited toward his loved ones. He was providing for His mother, even at the time of His death (1 Tim. 5:8).
Loneliness. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:46). The quotation is from Psalm 22:1. There is much here on which to study, meditate, and pray in order to begin to understand anything about it. It is a statement of loneliness based upon separation.
G. Campbell Morgan wrote:
Alone in the supreme hour in the history of the race, Christ uttered these words, and in them light breaks out, and yet merges, not into darkness, into light so blinding that no eye can bear to gaze. The words are recorded, not to finally reveal, but to reveal so much as it is possible for men to know, and to set a limit at the point where men may never know. The words were uttered that men may know, and that men may know how much there is that may not be known. In that strange cry that broke from the lips of the Master there are at least three things perfectly clear. Let them be named and considered. It is the cry of One Who has reached the final issue of sin. It is the cry of One Who has fathomed the deepest depth of sorrow. It is the cry of One Himself o’erwhelmed in the mystery of silence. Sin, sorrow, silence (G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.), 297.
The Hebrew writer wrote, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Heb. 5:7). Our Lord was paying the ransom price for the sins of the whole world (Ac. 20:28; Heb. 9:22).
Humanity. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (Jn. 19:28). This is mentioned in Psalm 69:21.
The humanity of Jesus is shown here. Jesus relates to our physical nature. This is the only recorded statement of a physical need while on the cross.
Victory. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30). The goal of Jesus was to finish the task given by the Father (Jn. 4:34). The victory over sin was being accomplished. The fact that “Jesus Saves” comes ringing loud and clear because He came to “seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).
Guy N. Woods wrote:
The words “It is finished,” sum up all that he came to do; the redemption of mankind was now being achieved and the course which had been laid out for him from the beginning, had been completed. His life and work, his suffering and death, the shame and agony of the cross, are all viewed as behind him and in triumph he shouts, It is finished! (Guy N. Woods, The Gospel According to John (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1981), 408.
Commendation. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Lk. 23:46). The final recorded statement of Jesus fulfilled Psalm 31:5.
R.C. Foster wrote:
He died a thousand million deaths on the cross as He died for all of us. We cannot comprehend how great was His suffering for us. If we could multiply the agony of death by as many millions of people as have lived in this world, we might approach the sum-total of His suffering: He bore the sins of all mankind as He died. As His life was absolutely unique, so was His death. His death was actual and real, but His suffering was so much greater than any of us can ever know that we can scarcely comprehend it. Jesus did not say: “I am finished.” This saying (or words to the same effect) is so often heard from mortal man in the hour of death. He has done all he can to fend off the fatal hour, but he cannot fight on any longer and so he cries: “I am finished.” Not so with the Son of God. The voluntary character of Jesus’ death is everywhere seen in the record of these hours on the cross. He says: “It is finished.” His thought is of the supreme work of God which He left heaven to accomplish (R.C. Foster, Studies in the Life of Christ (Joplin: College Press, 1995), 1284-85.
What Jesus said on the cross gives us a window to peer through to see into the greatest sacrifice ever given in the history of mankind.
Steve Miller serves on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger and is one of the ministers at the Gold Hill Road congregation in Fort Mill, SC.