The Golden Text of the Bible

Posted by Mark Lindley on 25 November 2014

Some refer to John 3:16 as the “Golden Text” of the Bible. Without question, this is one of the most heart-warming passages in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
    From this text we learn about the marvelous love of God. It is difficult for finite human beings to fully grasp the depth of the love of God. Consider the two-letter word “so.” The Scripture says that God “so” loved. The word “so” in this sentence is an adverb indicating the degree to which God loved us. Yet, how could we understand love so deep that it would cause God to send His only-begotten Son into the world to die for the sins of others?
    If you are a parent or grand-parent, can you imagine giving your precious child to die for folks who were ungodly? God has blessed me with three sons, and I cannot fathom giving even one of them to die for a good man, much less a person who is ungodly. But God did. He had only “one” Son, and He gave His only Son to die in agony on the cross that sinners might be saved.
    From this text we also learn that salvation is conditional. That is, God has given conditions which sinners must meet in order to be saved. In John 3:16, we learn that the ones who “believeth” are the ones who should not perish. The term “believeth” in this passage does not mean that one must merely accept the fact that Jesus is the Savior and that He died on the cross. Rather, the term “believeth” in this passage involves trust and obedience. Notice that this verse says nothing about repentance, but we all understand that repentance is included in “believeth” because one cannot be saved without repentance (Luke 13:3). Further, notice that this verse says nothing about confessing Christ. Does that mean that confession is excluded from the plan of salvation? Certainly not. We all understand that “believeth” involves confession because one cannot be saved without confessing Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Notice further, that this verse says nothing about being baptized. Does that mean that baptism is excluded from the plan of salvation? No, it does not. “Believeth” in John 3:16 must involve baptism since salvation is promised to those who believe and are baptized (Mark 16:16). Therefore, one can safely conclude that “believeth” in John 3:16 is a comprehensive term that includes all the things necessary for salvation.
    A proper understanding of John 3:16 enhances the luster and beauty of this powerful text. Those who receive it “should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    




    

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The Need for Bible Study

Posted by Mark Lindley on 17 June 2014

I heard about a new minister who was asked to teach a boys’ class. The regular teacher was absent and the minister was asked to fill-in. The minister was curious to see what the boys knew about the Bible, so he decided to ask them a Bible question. He asked, “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” Upon hearing the question, all the boys denied having done it. The preacher was astonished at their lack of knowledge and mentioned it in the next men’s business meeting. “They don’t even know who knocked down the walls of Jericho,” the concerned minister stated. Everyone was silent. After a period of silence, a man spoke up who apparently was a “master” at settling disputes. He said, “Now just wait a minute preacher and calm down. You seem to be bothered by this, but I have known those boys all their lives and they are good boys. If they said they didn’t knock down those walls then I believe them. I think we should take some money from the repair and maintenance fund, fix those walls, and let that be that.” I do not know if this story is true, but it would not be that abnormal since many people rarely, if ever, study the Bible.
The irony of this is that there is a copy (or copies) of the Bible in nearly every home in our country. In fact, the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book. More than 5 billion copies have been sold. Yet, this wildly popular Book often remains on the mantle or coffee table where it collects dust. It is obvious we have Bibles; we just do not study them.
    The Bible itself teaches us the need for Bible study. The psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). In the same psalm, it is written, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). The apostle Paul encouraged a study of Scripture: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus also gave this solemn warning: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
    All of these verses teach us to study the Bible because it will help us resist temptation, guide our lives in the way we should go, provide all the instruction we need in order to please God, and it will prepare us for the coming judgment.
    With these thoughts in mind, each one should consider whether he or she spends time studying the Bible. It must be a priority; otherwise, there will be no time for studying the Scriptures. Spending quality time studying God’s Word will help all of us have a better life here and hereafter.

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What Is the Church of Christ?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 4 June 2014

One of the most outstanding statements of the Bible is recorded in Matthew 16:18. On that occasion, Jesus promised, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Having promised to build his church, the Lord kept his promise and established his church in the city of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts chapter 2. The church began in that day when about 3,000 obeyed the Gospel and were added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:41, 47). As the apostles and early Christians continued preaching God’s Word, Jesus’ church grew rapidly and congregations were established in various places (Acts chapters 2-28). These congregations were all part of the same church, the church belonging to Christ.

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Cast the First Stone

Posted by Mark Lindley on 3 June 2014

There was an occasion when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman accused of adultery. The accusers said the woman had been caught in the very act of this immoral behavior. Those who accused the lady said that, according to the Law of Moses, the woman should be stoned to death. Then they asked Jesus what he taught about the punishment for adultery. When the accusers demanded an answer from Jesus, he said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). Not a single accuser stepped forward to throw the first stone. Why not? It was because not one of them was without sin. All who had accused the woman walked away one by one, defeated and condemned by their own consciences.
This text is sometimes abused in an attempt to justify sin. When sins such as homosexuality, drunkenness, adultery, and lying are condemned, someone will respond, "He that is without sin cast the first stone," as if that statement removes the guilt of sin. But it does not. To use Jesus’ statement in an attempt to remove the guilt of sin is an abuse of what the Lord said. Jesus did not overlook the woman’s sin; rather, He pointed out that she had been guilty of sin. After all the accusers had walked away, Jesus inquired of the lady, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). Notice that Jesus said go and “sin” no more. He labeled her adultery as “sin.” Jesus did not ignore the lady’s sin. In fact, Jesus never overlooked or made light of sin, and neither should we.
    However, we learn from this passage that we can recognize sin without harshly judging and condemning those who are ensnared in a life of sin. Jesus said to the sin-sick lady, “Neither do I condemn thee.” This reveals the compassion and mercy of Jesus. Although he recognized this lady had committed sin, he showed compassion toward her. Therefore, if we want to be like Jesus, rather than feeling that we are spiritually superior to others we should realize that all of us have sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; I John 1:8). Since we have all sinned, we are in no position to feel we are better than others who have committed those “awful” sins. As people who have fallen short of the glory of God, we should realize our unworthiness to “cast the first stone.”

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Persecuting Jesus

Posted by Mark Lindley on 20 May 2014

The Bible teaches that Saul of Tarsus was a fierce persecutor of the church. “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). On the occasion of Acts chapter 9, Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute and arrest Christians (verses 1-3). It was on this journey that events happened which would change Saul’s life forever. As he came near Damascus, a bright light shone from heaven and blinded Saul. Then the Lord spoke to Saul and asked a momentous question: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). After Saul responded to the Lord’s question, the blind man was led into the city of Damascus where Ananias instructed him to “arise and be baptized” that his sins might be washed away (Acts 22:16). Having received this instruction, Saul “arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). After his conversion he became an apostle, the apostle Paul, and he served the Lord the rest of his life.
    The question Jesus asked Saul—“why persecutest thou me?”—is one that deserves our careful attention. One interesting thing about the question is that, as far as we know, Saul never personally laid a hand on Jesus. Rather, he had been persecuting the church of Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus asked, “Why persecutest thou me?” (emphasis mine, ML). This shows that Saul’s persecution against the church was the same as assaulting Jesus. Each time Saul hurt the church, he was hurting Jesus.
    This is a lesson that we all need to consider today. We cannot separate Jesus from His church because the church “is his body” (Ephesians 1:23). As a result, what we do to the church today, good or bad, we do to Jesus. Every time a person says that church membership is not essential, that person is also saying that being a member of the body of Christ is not essential. To fail to love and honor the church is to fail to love and honor Jesus.
    On the other hand, when one becomes a member of the New Testament church, one becomes a member of the body of Christ because the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). When we love, honor, and support the church by faithful attendance, our prayers, our money, our time and active service, we show our love, honor, and support for Christ and His cause.
    It is vital to understand that we cannot separate Christ and His church. Therefore, if we want Christ in our lives, we must make room in our lives for His church.

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Do Human Beings Have a Soul?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 6 May 2014

The soul is defined as “that immortal part of us that lives on after physical death.” The soul is the real person, the spiritual component within us that thinks, feels, loves, designs, makes choices, etc. If the soul is the real person, then we are souls which are housed within bodies. If human beings have a soul, then the soul is an entity that is separate from the mortal body.
    However, if we do not have a soul, then there is no hope beyond this life. There is no heaven to gain neither is there a hell to avoid. There is no difference between us and animals. When we die, we will cease to exist because we are nothing but a higher form of animal. To deny the existence of the soul, therefore, is a gloomy and hopeless position.
    Nevertheless, there are those who teach that we are “matter in motion.” We are told that we are “material” and not “spiritual” beings. If this teaching is true, then we actually do not possess the ability to make choices. Rather, one’s choice to read this article, for example, is not a “conscious” choice but only the result of the workings of matter. Remember, according to the teaching, we are only “matter in motion.” If that were true, then any action we do—balancing a check book, solving an algebra problem, passing a football for a touchdown—is caused by nothing but a soul-less blob of matter. But this is contrary to all reason.
    Further, if we are nothing but matter in motion, then why should we believe those who deny the existence of the soul? After all, their conclusion that the soul does not exist does not come from a conscious, thinking being of intelligence. Rather, if their own position is true, their conclusion stems from nothing more than a blob of matter. So why believe their teaching?
    Those who believe the Bible have the assurance that we do have a soul. Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). According to Jesus, a man can kill the body. However, killing one’s body does not kill the soul. Therefore, the soul is an entity that is separate from the body. Killing the body does not kill the soul because the soul is immortal and lives on after physical death has occurred.
    In view of these thoughts, the salvation of our souls should be our highest priority. This world will pass away and all things in it, but our souls will live on in eternity. Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

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Leading Others Into Sin

Posted by Mark Lindley on 22 April 2014

The Bible teaches that judgment day is coming. On this future and final day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of the things we have done in our bodies (II Corinthians 5:10). The Scriptures reveal that we will be judged individually and personally: “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). We will not be judged as a church, a family, or any group. Rather, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ…alone.
    However, this does not mean that we are exempt from being judged for how we have impacted the lives of others. Every person has influence. We can influence our friends and families in a positive way by setting a Christ-like example for them to follow. We can also exert a negative influence on our friends and families by leading them into sin. If we, by a poor example influence others to sin, we will be held accountable. Yes, we will be judged according to our own personal deeds, but also by the way we have influenced others.
    Jesus warned, “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2). Imagine how terrible it would be to have a huge stone tied around your neck and then for you to be thrown into the depths of the sea. As tragic as that would be, it would still be better than facing the consequences of causing someone else to sin.
    The apostle Paul wrote, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way” (Romans 14:13). You would not want to place an obstruction in the path of a friend or family member because the obstruction could cause him to fall and be seriously injured; perhaps, breaking a bone or sustaining other painful injuries. By this same line of reasoning, we should never place a spiritual obstruction that would cause others to fall into sin. If we do, we will be held responsible on judgment day.
    In view of these thoughts, each one should ask: Am I living in such a way that others could safely imitate my example? Do I tempt others by dangling temptation before them? Do my words, clothing, actions, habits, priorities, and overall daily conduct serve as a stepping-stone to higher ground, or a stumbling block, causing others to slip and fall? These are things to consider in view of the coming judgment.

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Listen To Abel

Posted by Mark Lindley on 8 April 2014

The account of Cain and Abel is Genesis 4:1-8. Perhaps, you remember that Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve, both offered sacrifices to God. Cain was a farmer and he brought “of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord” (verse 3). Abel was a shepherd, and he “brought of the firstlings of his flock” an offering unto the Lord (verse 4).
    I am sure that Cain had worked hard to grow a crop. When he brought in the harvest, he did not offer his sacrifice to a false god, but to the one, true God of the Bible. Nevertheless, in spite of Cain’s desire to worship God, the sacrifice he offered was rejected. On the other hand, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. The acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice caused Cain to become so jealous of his brother that he killed him. Cain committed the first murder in killing Abel.
    Long after the events of Genesis chapter 4, the writer of Hebrews wrote the following about Abel: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). This text teaches that even though Abel has been dead for millenniums, he is still speaking! Of course, this does not mean that Abel is speaking to us audibly; rather, he speaks to us by his example. The question is, what is Abel saying to us?
    To answer that question, we should consider that Abel offered his sacrifice “by faith.” The Scriptures teach that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Therefore, when Abel offered his sacrifice “by faith,” he was following instruction from the source of faith—the Word of God. This was the difference between his sacrifice and Cain’s. Abel trusted and obeyed God’s Word, Cain did not.
    Now, go back to the question: what is Abel saying to us? He is saying that God will not accept all worship. God did not accept Cain’s worship, and there is no reason to believe that God accepts all worship today. Abel is also saying that worship is only acceptable when we trust and obey God’s Word. We have no right to alter God’s pattern for worship by adding unscriptural practices. Unless our worship is based upon the teaching of God’s Word, then our worship is not offered “by faith.” To worship “by faith,” we must do what God says in his Word. Any other approach to worship is to walk in “the way of Cain” (Jude 11).

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"Save The Tigers"

Posted by Mark Lindley on 25 March 2014

I recently saw a television commercial encouraging viewers to help “save the tigers.” The commercial portrayed these beautiful, powerful animals and said that tiger populations, in the wild, were at an all-time low. It was stated that there could be as few as 3,200 remaining in the wild. In light of the dwindling population of these remarkable creatures, the passionate plea was made to “help save the tigers.”
    I am very fond of my two dogs and am fascinated by exotic animals, such as tigers. The wonders of God’s creation never cease to amaze those who appreciate all animal and plant life. We stand in awe of the all-mighty God who created “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Surely, all who understand these matters will want to be good stewards of the environment and all things therein…including the tigers.
    Nevertheless, there seems to be a strange irony in the emphasis our culture places on saving the tigers, the whales, and the trees. The irony is that while we are busy saving animals and trees, innocent babies are killed daily, by means of abortion. Where are the commercials stressing the need to “save the babies”?
    Of course, we all know the arguments: “It’s not a baby; it’s a fetus.” “What about a case in which a woman’s life is in danger if she has the baby?” “What if a woman is raped, and in the perpetration of that evil act, conceives by the rapist?” We are told that there are times, such as the ones just mentioned, when it is better to terminate the life of the “fetus.” These questions bring out strong emotions in pro-choice and pro-life advocates.
    However, when all the arguing is over, there is still the haunting reality that innocent blood is shed every time a baby—not merely a “fetus” to be disposed of—is aborted. The Bible teaches that when Mary, the mother of Jesus, greeted Elisabeth, the “babe” Elisabeth was carrying moved within her womb (Luke 1:41). The Scripture says that Mary herself was “found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). Notice the terms “babe” and “child.” These terms reveal that what is within the womb is not merely a sub-human blob of tissue, but a baby! Suppose Elisabeth had ended the life of the “babe” that was within her womb. Would she not have killed John the Baptist? Suppose Mary, Jesus’ mother, had aborted the “child” she was carrying. Would she not have killed Jesus? One of the things God despises is “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17).
    Which is more important? Saving the tigers, or saving the babies? To me, the answer is obvious!

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Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

Posted by Mark Lindley on 11 March 2014

The conversion of the Philippian jailor is recorded in Acts chapter 16. The jailor inquired of Paul and Silas: “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” In response to the man’s question, Paul and Silas responded: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31).
    The statement—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”—is a very popular line of Scripture. It is quite common to see this reference on the sides of church vans, on bill-boards in the vicinity of church buildings, or in religious tracts. It is, indeed, a beautiful and powerful declaration of the Bible.
    Yet, I am persuaded that many good, religious folk misunderstand what this line of Scripture teaches. In order to understand the meaning of this statement, it will help to consider the context. The context of the scriptural reference is as follows: When Paul and Silas were in the city of Troas, Paul saw a vision, in which, there was a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (verse 9). Immediately Paul and Silas went into Macedonia, and after a couple of stops along the way they came to Philippi (verse 12).  As far as we know, this was the first time the gospel was preached on the continent of Europe. It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and thrown into prison (verse 23). At midnight, there was a frightening earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison, and it also opened the prison doors, providing the prisoners with an opportunity to escape. Believing the prisoners had escaped, the hapless jailor drew his sword and was about to end his life. “But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do thyself no harm: for we are all here’” (verse 28). It was then that the jailor asked what to do to be saved, and Paul and Silas told him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, Paul and Silas spoke “unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (verse 32). After hearing the gospel message, the jailor washed the wounds Paul and Silas had sustained during the brutal beating they endured just hours earlier. Having washed the bloody backs of God’s messengers, the jail-keeper was baptized…immediately (verse 33). It was then that the jailor “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (verse 34).
    Here are some lessons learned from this account: (1) The jailor had to hear God’s Word in order to believe. After Paul and Silas instructed the jailor to believe, they then taught the man the Word of God. It would not have been possible for the jailor to believe without hearing God’s Word (Roman 10:17). Remember, this is the first biblical account of the gospel being preached on the continent of Europe. Consequently, the jailor did not know what to believe about “the Lord Jesus Christ.” He had to be taught about Jesus. (2) The jailor regretted that he had persecuted Paul and Silas. This is indicated in that he “washed their stripes” (verse 33). He realized that he was wrong and wanted to make amends for his wrongdoing. In other words, he was penitent. (3) The jailor was baptized “immediately.” The jailor did not wait for a more convenient time. Rather, he was baptized during the hours just past midnight. This shows that baptism is not optional for the one desiring salvation. This is because baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 22:16). (4) The jailor did not rejoice until he heard God’s Word, believed on Christ, repented of his sins (indicated by washing the wounds of Paul and Silas), and was baptized (verse 34).
    After examining the details of this conversion account, we can safely conclude that, in order to be saved, one must be a penitent-believer who is baptized for the remission of sins. All of these things are involved in the statement: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Only by keeping passages in context, can we understand the truth of God’s Word.

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