|Volume 19 Number 5 May 2017||
At some time, we’ve all witnessed a baby taking his or her first steps. Is there anything more dismaying than to see the face of that “toddler-to-be” trying to take that first step? I say “tries to” because most often the first attempt at that first step is not successful. Oftentimes, it ends with a verbal reaction which lets everyone know that it didn’t work out. Yet, the victory comes when with repeated trials the infant is able to take that first step and stay upright, though sometimes only for a moment. However, that’s usually enough to encourage the infant to try again. Likewise, just as there is often a verbal response of crying to the failure of the first attempt to walk, when the very first step is successful, the infant giggles or has a happy smile.
It’s a confidence builder! How like Christianity that is. When a person accepts Christ as Lord of his or her life, he or she might soon stumble and fall. Just as other successful ventures in our lives, Christianity has to be accepted and learned, and with the learning comes better obedience, comparable to the walking infant’s better success. Neither the infant who wants to walk nor the person who desires to practice Christianity will succeed instantly.
In both cases, the one involved must be active in acquiring the desired result. Just because the infant falls doesn’t mean that he will stay down. He’ll get up and try again and again until he is successful. Just so with the one who is an infant in Christ. Obeying the steps to salvation is not enough to keep a Christian faithful. A Christian must know what God expects of him or her and be willing to do what God says. Becoming a Christian does not keep one from sinning. So, as the one young in the faith stumbles and falls, he or she must obey God’s laws regarding forgiveness and faithfulness.
Jesus taught a lesson on falling in the Parable of the Sower. He said, “They [that is the seed] on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; these have no root, who for awhile believe and, in time of temptation, fall away.” How many times we see this happen. By virtue of the fact that he offers more enticing “things” that make folks feel good, Satan’s power over them is usually much greater than the rules that God has set. God’s laws are strict and sometimes demanding of our time and effort.
There is no earthly happiness to compare with that of one who has put his trust in the Lord and lives by His rules. The Psalmist said, “Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord, his God” (Psalm 146:5). Jesus taught, “I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you; if you know these things, you will be happy if you do them” (John 13:15ff).
One young in the faith is not going to know everything about God’s rules, and nor is he or she going to be free of the burden of sin, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Just as the infant cannot learn to walk without taking steps and falling, a Christian must know God’s will for his life and then obey it in order to stay upright and not fall into Satan’s “sin trap.”
Even mature Christians will never be perfect. After all, we’re human, and there is no perfect human. Yet, Christians have the reassurance that if they get up, shake themselves off, ask for forgiveness and continue faithfully on the Christian journey by walking in God’s ways, there is awaiting a reward that is worth giving up all earthly things to obtain. May you be faithful in learning to walk in God’s way and receive His eternal blessing.
T. Pierce Brown
During the Gulf war we heard of several occasions where several men from our armed forces were killed by “friendly fire.” This to many of us seems even worse than being killed by enemy fire, but of course the ultimate end is the same—they are dead. As I thought about that, the realization came to me that it has a tragic application in the Lord’s church. We are all supposed to be on the same side, fighting the enemy, but many times it seems that we are killed or wounded by what might be termed “friendly fire” inasmuch as it comes from those who are supposed to be in the same army. As in the case of the armed forces, it does not seem too friendly, and the consequences may be the same as, or in some cases worse than, if it had been the enemy fire.
For example, a person speaks or writes something about the teaching of the Bible with which I disagree, or think I disagree. Instead of first finding out if I understood his meaning properly, or if it was merely a matter of misusing the English language, I write him up as a false teacher and advocate withdrawal of fellowship from him. I do it under the guise of “contending for the faith once delivered to the saints,” and slashing around with the sword of the Spirit, I bring division, heartache and confusion to the Lord’s family. A specific example of this in a minor way happened last week. The preacher said, “I hope that those who have failed to obey the Gospel will be saved.” As I discussed his statement with him, I discovered that he did not mean that. He meant, “I wish they could be saved, just as God wants all to be saved.” He had not properly considered that “hope” is a combination of expectation and desire. Although he desired that they be saved, and wished there were some way it could be done, he found no hope for it in God’s Word. I could have either lashed out at him publicly at the time, written a scathing rebuke about him or done all sorts of other ungodly and unbrotherly things, but I did not. He corrected what amounted to a grammatical error in a public way, but he did not perish under “friendly fire.”
Another preacher said, “Kingdom and church do not mean the same thing.” Instead of blasting him from the saddle for false teaching, I asked him what he meant. If he meant that all those who are in the church today are not in the kingdom, then he is wrong and needed to be corrected. If he meant that the word “kingdom” does not mean the same thing as the word “church,” he is correct. A better way of saying it might be, “There are several terms that are used to apply to the group of saved persons today, such as house of God, body of Christ, family, sheepfold, vineyard, church, kingdom, etc. The words are not synonymous, but they all refer to the same group of persons today in the context of speaking of saved persons.”
It would do a great deal to help in dealing with false doctrines and to stop adding to the hatred, division and strife in the brotherhood if we would have love and take the time to find out who the real enemy is before we cut his head off with the sword of the Spirit. It would be helpful even if we realized that the Bible definition of unsound doctrine is not simply a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually teaches at some point, but a doctrine that does at least one of three things: (1) If it perverts the Gospel plan of salvation and would cause one to be lost if he believed and obeyed it. Paul said that even an angel would be accursed if he did that (Galatians 1:9). (2) If it perverts the worship so as to make it vain, for if a person worships God in vain, he loses vital contact with God. When a person adds elements to the worship of God that are not authorized (a commandment of men), it is vain. (3) If it leads a person who believes and practices it to live an immoral life, it is dangerous and deadly. We should be able to distinguish between a person who happens to break step when he is marching in the ranks, and one who is either AWOL or a traitor to the government. Let us not be guilty of killing our soldiers with “friendly fire.”
[Editor’s Note: If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it certainly would be our brethren in Christ. If the child of God ought to exercise tolerance toward anyone, it certainly should be toward our Christian brothers and sisters. We dare not divide over personalities (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), mere methodologies, alma maters or such like (Luke 9:49). Reserve spiritual retribution for divisive false teachers (Romans 16:17-18) who will not be turned from their divisiveness and doctrinal error despite being approached repeatedly about it (Titus 3:10). Furthermore, discipline impenitent immoral brothers and sisters (1 Corinthians 5) and wayward Christians who refuse to conform to the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15). Be certain that we actually “contend… for the faith [biblical teaching rather than our personal preferences] which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 NKJV). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]