|Vol. 13 No. 1 January 2011||
Robert D. Rawson
God’s instruction regarding faith can hardly be overly emphasized (Hebrews 11:1ff). Faith is not a step into the darkness. Rather, faith is built upon substance of hope and evidence of the unseen. Wonderful is the design of God in creation (Hebrews 3:4). Whereas every house is built by mankind, God is the builder of the man as well as the materials used in the building of a house. Does not design call upon us to be more trusting in God?
The guidance of God by his Word (John 17:17) is into a set apart (sanctified) life. The lifestyle is different than the world. Old friends will think ‘strange’ of us when they see us living the sanctified way (1 Peter 4:4). It’s the ‘strait gate and narrow way’ (Matthew 7:13-14) that Jesus taught which will help us into life eternal. The way of the Lord is different in outcome than the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Does not telling the truth, being merciful, helping others in need and extending the Gospel which saves (Romans 1:16) seem to bring the outcomes that cause us to be even more trusting in God and His way of life?
Why not trust in God for our pardon from sin? The initial pardon of an obedient faith (John 8:24, 31-32) is brought about by continuing in His Word. As we see more and more responsibilities, we repent, confess Christ and are baptized into Him (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:10; Galatians 3:26-27). While living within this fellowship of the Father and the Son (1 John 1:2-4), we confess rather than deny sin (v. 9), and God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us. Are we as trusting in this part of God’s pardon? We certainly should be. Thank God for His continued fellowship with us. Let’s do our part (v. 9) and enjoy the benefits of trust.
Perhaps the first thought that comes to your mind will be the beautiful hymn, “Blest Be the Tie,” but the title of this article is not taken from the song. It might seem odd but the ‘tie’ that I have reference to is the one that I wear around my neck on occasions. You see, the person who taught me how to tie a ‘half-Windsor knot’ was an older brother in Christ who influenced me greatly when I was but a lad and a member of my home congregation in Summerville, Georgia. Brother Julius Sprayberry was our song leader, and he often taught a Bible class on Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night. It was Christian men like him and brother Charles Cochran, along with several other Christian men and women, who influenced my life for good. The widows of brethren Sprayberry and Cochran (Thelma & Frances, respectively) still attend the South Commerce congregation in my hometown.
When I was a boy growing up in this small church, there was no ‘youth minister’ as such, but the love and influence exerted upon the young people by the adult members guided us in the way of the Lord and gave us a real sense of belonging and security. We did not have a ‘full-time’ preacher for many years, but the men of the congregation would lead us in our worship assemblies. In fact, one of the members, brother Roland Hemphill, baptized me when I was a lad of thirteen. These brothers and sisters in Christ were ‘just regular’ members. It is a beautiful thing to witness members of a congregation fulfilling the thoughts found in Ephesians 4:15-16: “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Professionalism was generally unknown among our congregations sixty years ago. We now live in a mobile society, and families seemingly are always on the move from one location to another one, and often there is not a real sense of having a ‘home congregation’ by many families today.
Over fifty years have passed since I left my home congregation when I left for college. However, I retain precious memories of the time we met in the American Legion Hall in downtown Summerville, and later in the brick building that was constructed on South Commerce Street. I have a warm feeling in my heart, and often tears will feel my eyes when I think of so many of those members who have gone to be with the Lord. I possess a deep sense of gratitude and debt to those godly men and women who loved me and encouraged me to live for Jesus and to preach the Gospel. There was a time when Virginia and I lived in a small trailer on the campus of Alabama Christian College when the church back home learned of our lack of money, and they sent us a check in the amount of fifty dollars. It might as well have been a thousand dollars, for it provided food for us to eat. It was the love and compassion that motivated the gift that has always endeared the members in my heart. I have a real feeling of loyalty to my home congregation. I have returned for Gospel meetings, and it was always a joy to see ‘old friends’ and to reminisce of years past. I would love for all of our children and young people to have such fond memories of a ‘home congregation’ and to know of their roots in spiritual matters. We owe a great deal to the ‘ordinary’ members of the church who live faithfully and carry on the work in a local congregation.
I seldom tie my tie without thinking of brother Sprayberry who taught me how to tie the knot and who influenced me to live for Jesus Christ. When I think of him, I also remember fondly my home congregation. I firmly believe that God, by His infinite grace, will supply unto us the entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11) where there will never be a separation from those of His children we have known and loved in this life. Here are some lines from the beloved hymn that we often sing and that expresses my inward feelings.
Bless Be the Tie
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
When we asunder part, It give us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.