Renewing Your Mind

Posted by Mark Lindley on 3 March 2014

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

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Whose Church Is It?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 5 February 2014

It is not uncommon in our day for a man to affirm that he rules over a church. This man may wear different titles, but he is referred to commonly as “the pastor.” The pastor is the one who is over the congregation.  He has authority over all the members and is “in charge” of things. I have actually heard some claim “ownership” of a church.
    It is interesting that when one reads the New Testament, one never reads about the one-man-rule system. Rather, the organization for the New Testament church involves elders who are the overseers of local congregations. On the occasion of Acts chapter 20, the apostle Paul had important matters to discuss with the church of Ephesus. The Scripture says that on that occasion Paul “called the elders of the church” (Acts 20:7). Please observe that the term “elders” is plural. There were men—not just one man—whom Paul called to discuss matters pertaining to the Ephesian congregation. The text reveals why Paul called for the elders. He charged them saying: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
    Please observe from this reading that elders are referred to as “overseers.” Obviously this does not refer to “a pastor.” Perhaps we should ask why Paul did not call for “the pastor” of the congregation in Ephesus. If the one-man-rule system is scriptural, then Paul should have called for the pastor (one man), instead of calling for “the elders.” The reason Paul did not call for the pastor is clear—there was no “pastor” over the Ephesian congregation. The pastor system was unknown in Ephesus, just as it is unknown in the pages of the Bible. There is no verse in the New Testament which teaches that one man is to rule over a congregation. Elders are the ones who have authority over local congregations, not preachers. A preacher has no authority over all the church, nor does he have authority over “any” member of the church.
    It is sad that there are those so desperate for power and authority that they create offices in the church for which there is no biblical authority. Since the one-man-rule system cannot be found in the scriptures, it must, therefore, be unscriptural.
    The Lord’s church found in the New Testament is governed locally by elders and universally by Christ. Jesus alone is the head of his church (Ephesians 5:23). No man has the right to claim ownership of a church.

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Eternal Security and John 10:27-29

Posted by Mark Lindley on 10 December 2013

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.”
    This beautiful passage is an affirmation of the deity of Christ. Jesus states that he gives eternal life and that He is the Son of God. Of course, most of the Jews denied these facts about Jesus (vv.19-24). It is unfortunate that such a powerful statement about Jesus’s divine nature is often used as a “proof-text” for the “Once Saved, Always Saved” doctrine.
    Preachers who take the position that one can never fall from grace often stress that Jesus “gives eternal life.” It is then asserted that if Jesus gives “eternal” life, then it can never be lost. What the preacher fails to mention is that Jesus also explained that eternal life is “in the world to come” (Mark 10:30). If eternal life is received in the “world to come,” then the “sheep” must not possess it in its fullness now. There must be more to “eternal life” than what we have right now.
    Further, preachers who teach that we can never fall from grace fail to preach that the “sheep” live “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). But if we live in “hope” of it, then we do not currently possess eternal life in all its fullness.
    In addition, preachers who teach that we can never fall from grace fail to stress that eternal life is a “promise.” “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (I John 2:25). But if we are waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, then we do not possess eternal life in the same way that eternal life will be enjoyed in heaven.
    The truth is that Christians do have eternal life in the form of a promise, a promise that God will keep. Eternal life is what we long for “in the world to come.” This is our “hope.”
    But sheep can go astray (Luke 15:1-7); sheep can cease listening to the shepherd (John 8:31); no man can “pluck” the sheep out of the Lord’s hand, but sheep have free will and can choose to leave the Lord (Galatians 1:6). This is why Christians are warned that children of God can fall from grace: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). If “sheep” (followers of Christ) can never fall from grace, then why did Paul warn that some had “fallen from grace”?
    The good news is that Christians do not have to fall from grace. Rather, God’s people can keep on listening to the voice of the shepherd and reap eternal life in heaven (Galatians 6:7-8).

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Did Alexander Camp Start the Church of Christ?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 3 December 2013

It is not uncommon for someone to affirm that Alexander Campbell started the church of Christ. Recently, a preacher on television taught this and, as a member of the church of Christ, I feel obligated to address this matter.
    Alexander Campbell was a prominent man who lived and worked during the days of the Restoration Movement. This was a movement that began in the early part of the 19th century. Campbell, along with Barton Stone and others began working to bring unity to a religious world that was divided. The plea of the movement was to “speak where the Bible speaks, and to be silent where the Bible is silent.” Those of the movement believed that religious unity would be possible only by rejecting man-made creeds and returning to the Bible. Because Campbell was a key figure of the movement some believe that he started a church called “the church of Christ.”
    The truth is that Campbell never intended to start a Church. Rather, it was his intention to return to the pattern of the original New Testament church. He understood that denominationalism is unscriptural and causes division in the religious world. Campbell promoted unity by returning to the Bible as the only proper standard of religious authority.
Members of the church of Christ who are aware of this history appreciate the efforts of men such as Campbell. However, neither Campbell nor any other man started the church of Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the founder of His church. He said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus shed His blood to purchase the church (Acts 20:28). Jesus is the Head of His church (Colossians 1:18). It is clear from all these passages that, in the first century, the Lord Jesus Christ started His church (Acts 2:1-47). His church was not and is not a denomination.
In view of these facts, the question we should ask is this: Is it possible to be a member of Jesus’ church, without joining a denomination? Some who desire membership in Jesus’ church are not aware that there is an alternative to denominationalism. The alternative is membership in the church of the New Testament. None of the Protestant denominations of our day are in the Bible, but the church started by Jesus is in the Bible. Early Christians were part of that one body (Ephesians 4:4), and it is still possible to be part of that body without denominationalism.
The term “church of Christ” is not a proper name; rather, it is a designation which shows ownership. It is the church “of” Christ (belonging to Christ). This is what we mean by “church of Christ.” It is not a denomination. Paul wrote: “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). This was written long before the birth of Alexander Campbell!

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Is Salvation Essential to Baptism?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 12 November 2013

Some contend that “salvation is essential to baptism.” What this means is that salvation precedes—comes “before”—one is baptized. Others maintain that baptism is essential to salvation. What this means is that baptism precedes—comes “before”—salvation. It is certain that both of these positions cannot be true. If one is saved first and baptized later, then one is not baptized in order to be saved. Which view is correct? What does the Bible teach?
    In every verse where baptism and salvation are mentioned, baptism always comes “before” salvation.  Consider the following: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). According to Jesus, salvation does not come before baptism; rather, baptism, before salvation. Now, observe what Peter preached: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). To receive the “remission of sins” is to be saved from sin. Did Peter proclaim that remission of sins occurs before one is baptized? No, he did not. He preached that one is to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (that is, to be saved). Consider what Paul taught: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). This passage shows that until one is baptized he is not in Christ, has not contacted the death of Christ (when his blood was shed), and does not walk in “newness of life.” All of these things come “after” baptism. Also consider what Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Did Ananias place baptism before or after the washing away of sins? Clearly, according to the God-sent preacher, Ananias, one is baptized in order to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ. Then, consider I Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). Please observe in this verse the God-given order: “baptism doth also now save us.” I am persuaded that baptism comes before salvation because that is what the Bible teaches.
    There are zero verses which teach that sinners are saved first and then baptized. There are numerous verses which teach that sinners are baptized to be saved. Which will you believe? Please do not blindly accept what any man (including me) says regarding this issue. Study these verses for yourself, with an open mind, and I am convinced you will see that salvation is not essential to baptism; but, rather, baptism is essential to salvation.

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There is a Time to be Born and a Time to Die

Posted by Mark Lindley on 29 October 2013

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). The sobering words of this passage emphasize that we did not choose the time when we were born, nor do we have the power to choose the time we will die. While it is true there are some who may choose to end their lives by suicide, generally speaking, we do not have the power to choose when we will die.
    There are, however, some things we can know about death. This passage emphasizes that death is a one-time experience. Many affairs of this world are set up on a cycle. 
For example, the process of sowing and reaping is seasonal. There is “a time to plant; and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:2b). On the other hand, death does not come in cycles, but one time only. We were born once. We will die once. This shows the great importance of living for the Lord while we have time and opportunity. If we were promised a second chance, there might be the temptation to procrastinate in living the Christian life. But there is no second chance. If one dies in a lost condition, he will be lost forever.
    A second thing we learn from this text is that “time” is the thing that will bring us to the door of death. Every day the clock is ticking, and with each tick of the clock we are getting closer to death. That is not pessimistic or morbid; that is the plain truth. Time rolls on, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. When it is time for us to die, there will be nothing we can do to prevent it. We were born when it was time, and we will die when it is time. The Bible says, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). This means that when our time on earth has expired, we will leave this world. Since you have been reading this article, time has passed that cannot be reclaimed. Every heartbeat leads us closer to eternity.
    The good news for the saved is that death is the beginning of a new life. When you notice another wrinkle or more gray hair; when your footsteps move slowly and you cannot hear as well as you once did, thank God. Thank Him for the promise that you will soon move out of this fleshly tabernacle we call the body, and will move into a mansion!
    If today were your last day, would you be ready? Live each day as if it were your last…it may be.

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There are Only Two Ways

Posted by Mark Lindley on 1 October 2013

One of the most thought-provoking statements of the Bible is recorded in Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be which find it.”
    Jesus makes it clear that everyone is travelling only “one” of two paths—the broad way or the narrow way. The broad way is the way the masses are travelling. The reason many travel the broad way is that it is the path of least resistance. It is the way that is easy; no sacrifice is required; there are plenty of fellow-travelers; no one ever gets lonely on the broad way.
    On the other hand, there is the narrow way. This way is “strait” (King James translation). This is the way that is rugged, difficult, and narrow. No one travels this way without determination and a willingness to sacrifice.  It may, at times, be a way that is lonely since only a “few” travel this path. One reason there are but “few” who travel the narrow way is that most are not looking for it. Jesus said there are few which “find” it. People do not accidentally end up on the narrow way, but those who are searching will find it (Matthew 7:7-11).
    Every accountable person is either on the broad way or the narrow way. One may imagine that he is neither on the broad way nor on the narrow way, but is simply travelling between the two—making no commitment to Christ but not intentionally rebelling against God’s will.  Nevertheless, there is no third alternative. To fail to choose the narrow way is to automatically place oneself on the broad way.
    Let’s face it: many people today do not want to be bothered with a religion that requires effort, sacrifice, or self-denial. Rather, the majority are looking for a religion that conforms to their lifestyle. While there are some who profess loyalty and dedication to Christ and His church, the moment they realize the Lord expects them to fight against temptation, turn from sexual sin, attend worship services, give of their money and time, and to put Him first in their lives, they deviate from the narrow way and begin drifting down the broad way…the way that leads to destruction.
    Jesus never promised that discipleship would be easy. To the contrary, He taught that the way is difficult. The good news is that at the end of life’s journey, those who choose the narrow way will enter into everlasting life! We should all consider which path we are travelling while we have time and opportunity to get it right.

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Will There be Recognition in Heaven?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 17 September 2013

This is a question which seems interesting to everyone. Those who have lost loved ones are especially concerned with this question. If the saved will recognize one another in heaven, then this is one reason we should desire to go there. What does the Bible teach concerning this question? Here is just a sample of what the scriptures teach about this topic:
    1. Jacob was “gathered to his people.” “And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (Genesis 49:33). What does the Bible mean that Jacob was “gathered to his people”? It does not mean that he was buried with his people, because his burial did not occur until Jacob’s body had been taken back to the land of Canaan (Genesis 50:13). However, while Jacob’s lifeless body was still in Egypt he was “gathered to his people.”
    This teaches us that when Jacob died, his soul went to be with his people. When his soul arrived “over there,” I wonder if he recognized that he had been “gathered to his people.” It seems to me that when he was gathered to his people, he recognized his people over there in the world to come.
    2. David would go to be with his baby. After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, Bathsheba gave birth. But the baby became sick. David prayed that the baby might live. Nevertheless, the baby died. After the death of the little child, David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Samuel 12:23). David knew the death of his baby was permanent, and that the baby would not come back to this world. But David said, “I shall go to him.” This must mean that David anticipated seeing the baby in the world to come. If David would not recognize the baby over on the other side, how would he know he was with him? This statement shows that David believed in recognition in the spirit world to come.
    3. Jesus and the penitent thief would go to paradise. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. However, one of the thieves repented. To him Jesus said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus knew that He and the thief would die that day. He also knew that they would be in paradise together. If there is no recognition beyond this life, then how would the thief know Jesus had kept His promise? The language implies strongly that Jesus and the thief would recognize one another in paradise.
    I am persuaded that the Biblical evidence set forth here is sufficient to establish that there will be recognition in heaven. One reason we should obey the Gospel and live for Jesus is that we might be with the saved throughout eternity in the glorious, celestial city of heaven.

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Can a Child of God Fall from Grace Part II

Posted by Mark Lindley on 3 September 2013

Is it possible for a child of God to fall from grace? Is it true that one is “once saved, always saved”? The only way to answer these questions with certainty is to turn to the pages of God’s Word, the Bible. Please consider the following:
    Peter wrote: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22). Notice that Peter wrote about those who had “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The “pollutions” of this passage are not the pollutions of the air or water. Rather, Peter is writing about a “pollution” that can be escaped through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This must be the spiritual pollution of sin. Therefore, this passage is describing those who had been saved from sin.
    However, Peter then warns that one can be “again entangled therein, and overcome.” If one becomes entangled in sin “again,” that must mean that Peter is writing about those who were once entangled in sin, became untangled, and then were entangled in sin “again.” In effect, Peter is saying that one can be saved from sin and then fall away and be “overcome” by sin “again.” So, there is no escaping the fact that Peter is writing about those who were once saved but then fell into sin and were overcome by sin, “again.”
    Then, Peter reveals the spiritual condition of those who fall away: “It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” This must mean that one who never hears the way of righteousness is lost and remains lost. However, some escape the pollutions of the world (are saved), but then turn from the way of righteousness back to the way of unrighteousness. Those who return to the way of unrighteousness are like hogs once washed that return to wallow in the mud. Those who turn back are “worse off” than before. This must be because they were lost, then saved, but returned to a lost condition “again.” Consequently, the “latter end is worse with them than the beginning”—they threw away their salvation to return to sin.
    Friend, the Bible does not teach that one who is saved can never lose his salvation. If you have been taught this, I encourage you to renounce that doctrine and believe what the Bible teaches on this vital subject!

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Can a Child of God Fall from Grace? Part 1

Posted by Mark Lindley on 20 August 2013

There are many people of the religious world who believe that once a person is saved, he can never do anything that would cause him to be lost. Sometimes, the doctrine is referred to as “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Religious questions should be answered by the Bible. Does the Bible teach that there is the possibility of a child of God being lost?
    The Bible teaches that falling from grace is a reality—it is an irrefutable fact. Judas was an apostle selected by the Lord, and was sent out to preach the Gospel. Judas, along with the other apostles, was given miraculous power by which he could heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out devils (Matthew 10:1-8). Peter affirmed that Judas was “numbered” with the apostles and took part in their ministry (Acts 1:17). However, “Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:25). Question: If God had wanted to tell us in the Bible that Judas, an apostle of Christ, fell from grace and “went to his own place,” how could He have communicated that more clearly than He did? Jesus said that it would have been better if Judas had never been born (Mark 14:21). The irresistible implication is that Judas died lost!
    Also, Paul affirmed the reality of falling from grace. He wrote, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Please consider that these words were written to those who were members of “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2); to those who had been called into the grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6); to those whom Christ had made free (Galatians 5:1). Yet, some of them had fallen from grace! Christ had “become of no effect” unto them. That means Christ had once been “effective” in their salvation, but now they had turned away from Christ and gone back into bondage (Galatians 5:1).
    The Bible warns about falling from grace. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Notice this was addressed to “brethren” who could “depart.” Therefore, these were Christians who could depart from God. Can one depart from our only source of salvation—God—and remain in a saved condition? Paul warned: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). But if one can never lose his salvation, such warnings about falling have no real significance. An abundance of other passages warn about falling from grace, but these are sufficient to prove the point beyond all doubt.
    If you have been taught the “Once Saved, Always Saved” doctrine, I plead with you to reject it. Nothing is taught more clearly in the Scriptures than that a child of God can fall from grace!

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