Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 1 January 2018
Page 9

Forty Years a Christian

David R. Kenney

David R. KenneyJuly 29, 2017 marks 40 years ago that I was immersed into Christ by my dad at the church of Christ in New Philadelphia, Ohio. My dad was the first to congratulate me, then Ralph Miller and then other brothers and sisters in Christ who assembled that Friday afternoon. The church on Commercial Avenue remains dear to my heart even though we had lived in several places prior, and there would be several places to follow. Hopefully without sounding pretentious, I would like to share some thoughts I have been reflecting upon.

The Plan of Salvation
Is Easy to Understand

Some have made the plan of salvation a confusing matter to some by their misplaced emphasis on grace (alone) or faith (alone), but the plan of salvation is not difficult to understand if one reads the New Testament. Being a preacher’s son, I knew the plan of salvation from a very young age. I could draw the “steps,” give you “book-chapter-verse” for each one and quote each passage from the KJV. Before I became a Christian, I could name all the books of the Bible and more through the fortification of my mother’s instruction, too. It seems that some have trouble knowing what to do because they have had their minds cluttered with various teachings and concepts of men. Yet, an honest reading of the Book of Acts will remove that clutter! Never be ashamed of taking time to explain to others the steps they need to take to have eternal salvation, and never shame someone for taking the time to do so either.

Avoidance of Hell
Is Motivational

I have heard some say preaching about Hell is not only unpopular but also an improper form of motivation. There is an old country term for that theory—hogwash. Should we be motivated by God’s love? Absolutely. However, different things motivate people at different times. I have no problem admitting that a healthy dose of fear of the second death provided me with additional motivation to obey the Gospel. Perhaps some fail to realize that Jesus preached and warned about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews certainly believed in this warning. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NKJV). Will the desire to avoid Hell motivate someone during their complete Christian walk? Maybe not all the time, but it would be unwise to dismiss this motivational force on those who may need to come to their senses about the spiritual condition of their souls.

Deciding to Be Baptized
Is Not Exactly Easy

Now, I just said that learning the plan of salvation was easy; however, making the decision to be baptized was another matter. Some may say, “You’re a preacher’s kid. It had to be easy,” but they would be mistaken. Did my parents want me to become a Christian? Absolutely, but they did not want to make that decision for me. They respected that it was my decision. When I made the decision, I did not know how to tell my mother (not to mention my father). She knew something serious was on my mind, and eventually I was able to tell her. She was excited. I told her I did not know how to tell dad. She asked if I thought he would not be excited. I assured her I did, but I just did not know how to broach the subject. She told me to go to his office (which was across the breezeway to the church building), and she would call him and tell him I was on my way to talk with him about being baptized. It may sound rather silly, but remember several dynamics were in play here. I was ready to become a child of God, but I was also still a young person in the care of my parents. Be patient with your children and let it be their decision.

Staying Faithful Can Be Easy
If You Keep Your Decision

Do not underestimate the power of making a decision on one’s ability to remain faithful. We never had a discussion in our house whether we were going to attend evening worship services or midweek Bible study. Some may be tempted to say, “Your father was a preacher, so you had no choice but to come.” (Such comments may reveal an unhealthy view of preachers and their families.) When my wife and I were married, I worked in the business world. Even then, my wife and I did not have discussions about whether or not we would attend services. Why? Because we had both made that decision back when we became Christians. Making a decision and making it with commitment is a powerful force to remaining faithful when difficult days come, and difficult days will come.

Becoming Unfaithful Can Be
Easy If You Allow It to Happen

The writer of Hebrews stated, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). The word for “drift away” includes the idea of slipping away or getting away from us. Such is easy to do, if you allow it. How? Well, everyone has demands on his or her time, even teenagers. For me, I allowed school, work and the circle of friends from these two areas to crowd out service to the Lord and the circle of Christians. I allowed Christianity to be crowded out by things that were not bad, but which left little room for faith. The more faith was crowded out, the further I slipped away. When I graduated from Centralia High School, I just let work dominate my schedule. Soon, I had other commitments, other friends and other things to do. I had not exactly forgotten, but like a boat that is slowly moving away from shore and out of my reach, I was allowing the important matters, the eternal matters, to slip away.

The Church Is a Perfect Institution
Made Up of Imperfect People

This is a phrase my father taught us. My parents tried to shield us from what some call “church politics,” but some matters are impossible to protect against. Sometimes we are not as careful about our interactions with one another as we ought to have been. We may be unaware that, as my parents often said, “Little ears are listening.” We need to be more careful that we emphasize the perfection of the church by minimizing our view of the imperfections of one another (Proverbs 10:12). If you think children are not watching and listening, then you are gravely mistaken. It could be one of the reasons that children leave the church and want nothing more to do with it—we have overshadowed the perfect with our imperfections.

Christians Help Christians Grow

My parents so much wanted me to go to Freed-Hardeman College. They knew I was having difficulty, and I knew I was, too. Yet, I just did not know what to do about my future. I kept on pushing aside the question, “Why don’t you go to FHC and find what you want to do there?” Dad even came back from the Bible Lectureship and told me that President E. Claude Gardner, whom I had never met and did not know, said I could come to FHC and they would find a way to make it possible. Finally, my mother asked me after several weeks, “Do you have anything better in mind?” I did not, so I agreed to go. It was the place I needed. I was able to find a Christian wife and make lifelong Christian friends. I was able to develop skills I would need in the business world, but I was also able to see Christianity in a new light. I saw a depth to Christianity that I had underestimated. It was not that my parents did not teach me; it was just that I allowed peers to cloud my vision. When I had a new set of peers, Christians, my perspective changed. It is sad that parents say they are willing to do anything for their children except when the tuition bill comes due. Parents sometimes make the mistake of going with price over value when it comes to Christian education, and by the time they realize the mistake, it is too late. Thankfully, my parents did not make that mistake.

How Can I NOT Preach the
Gospel and Serve the Lord?

I have had a “career of careers.” One of the reasons I did not want to preach was all the relocations our family had experienced. So, I decided to major in management. Wanting to be a preacher, just like my father, my whole life was a difficult matter when I decided otherwise because of circumstances outside of my father’s control. What I found was I still was overworked, laid off, misrepresented, displaced due to corporate relocations, nearly fired for trying to do the right things and more. While this was going on, I noticed the church was struggling, and I just could not stand by and do nothing. Don’t take this wrong. I do not consider myself any kind of “Champion to the Cause.” I just know that I am somebody, and as somebody I can do something. My wife and I decided it was time to do what we could for the advancement of Christianity in our part of the world. Many may accomplish more than we have, but sadly there will be many who never try. We are trying, and it has made a difference to ourselves and to our children. Am I saying one has to become a fulltime minister to serve in the kingdom? No, but one has to serve where he is. Are you serving where you are? Service matters—not only for others but for you too!

Forty years being a Christian! Saying it sounds impossible! I can honestly say I have never regretted that decision. I may not have been consistent. I certainly had my share of mistakes. However, looking at the lives of others outside of Christ has shown me how important it is to have life with Christ.


Choices

Raymond Elliott

Raymond ElliottThe late country singer George Jones recorded the song, “Choices,” which sounds like a confession regarding the bad choices he made in his life, with which he was “living and dying.” The Lord God made man to be a free moral agent; that is, he possesses the ability to make choices in life, either good or bad. That has been true since the time Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.

Before his death, Moses, the great leader of the children of Israel, informed the people of the following. “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal” (Deuteronomy 11:29). God did lead them to the mountains: Mount Gerizim was the mountain of ‘blessing’ and Mount Ebal was the mountain of ‘curse.’ Moses commanded six leaders from six tribes to stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce the blessings that would come upon the people if they obeyed the commandments of God. He also commanded six leaders from six tribes to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses that would come upon the people if they disobeyed the commandments of God (Deuteronomy 27:11-28:68). In Deuteronomy 30:15, 19, Moses said, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants my live.” The Lord God allowed the Israelites to choose between “life” or “death.”

Jesus Christ gave the people of His day a choice that is applicable for all of mankind as long as time shall stand (Matthew 7:13-14). “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (ESV). How sad indeed it is, that “many” will choose the “easy” way “that leads to destruction”! Only a “few” will choose the way that is “hard that leads to life.” On the Judgment Day when Jesus Christ will sit on the “throne of His glory,” your eternal destination will not be your choice, but instead, it will be His! You will either hear, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” or “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:34, 41). The decision you make presently will determine the direction you will follow in this life, and eventually, your eternal destiny. Please remember, you are “living and dying” with the choices you make in this life. Prayerfully, you will choose life in Jesus Christ. If you do, you will “die in the Lord” and will be blessed in the eternal care of our Heavenly Father (Revelation 14:13).


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