Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 12 December 2018
Page 2


Out of the Closet

Louis RushmoreWe live in a time when homosexuality and every other vile sin has come out of the proverbial closet. Not only so, but homosexuality, pornography, murder, abortion, fornication, adultery and such like adamantly demand that Christianity get into the closet—hide there and shut up!

Notably, history has a way of repeating itself, and not usually in a morally good way. The first-century, Bible world was steeped in all manner of sin and debauchery. Then, like today, Christians faced the daily challenge to eschew evil and to pursue righteousness. “Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11 NKJV).

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. …Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:17-21)

Despite the spiritual pitfalls of all sorts that had engulfed the world by the time Christianity dawned, men and women obeyed the Gospel of Christ and came out of every kind of despicable sin to become the children of God.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Even if readers of the Book of Revelation do not understand its figurative language, they can be assured that this inspired volume is about the ultimate victory of God and the children of God over Satan. God wins, and His faithful followers win the most important struggle of all. Even so, Jesus Christ warned Christians long ago about sinful dangers that would defeat them were they to engage them. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:7-8).

Like with the Greek mythological Pandora’s box, all the evils and sinfulness in the world are unlikely to be shoved back into the proverbial closet—in which unmentionable sins were secreted in former years. The spiritual warfare between righteousness and unrighteousness is being waged very openly in every family and in every community. What are Christians to do? We really only have two choices.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Our Lord would have us to shine on. However, the apostles Paul and Peter forewarned Christians in the first century that lamentable consequences would follow. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:14-15).

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:12-16)

Really, we only have two choices. We can either put our Christianity in the proverbial closet, keep it there and shut up, or we can let our Christian lights shine. What are you going to do?


Why Congregations Do Not Grow

Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor

Healthy things grow! When a tree is planted, growth is expected. When a small fawn is born, growth begins almost immediately. The same is true of God’s people. Healthy congregations grow! However, some congregations of the Lord’s church are not growing; in fact, some are “dying on the vine.” Why do some congregation grow while others do not? When an entity is supposed to grow and does not, it behooves us to ask, “Why?” By understanding the reason(s) for non-growth, we can more easily make the proper adjustments and prescribe the cure. Below are three possible “growth limiting obstacles.”

Firstly, blurred mission is an obstacle to growth. Sadly, some congregations have forgotten that God’s plan for His people is to tell the “old story” to those we meet! We often sing about “sending the light,” but far too often some congregations are busy with everything except sending the light. We make sure the youth group is pampered and entertained, the older folks are enjoying the activities with which they are afforded and the young married couples enjoy each other’s “Red Lobster” night. Yet, we forget the main objective for Christ’s church. While I am certainly not against wholesome fun and fellowship of fellow Christians, that is not the main objective for Christ’s kingdom. I once heard a brother in Christ say that we must adapt to “compete with denominations.” Dear friends, we have never been nor will we ever be in competition with denominations! Ours is a spiritually defined, divine mission (Matthew28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21). Getting back to that mission will certainly get us on the divine track for a growing, healthy congregation that pleases the Master.

Secondly, a blighted message is an obstacle to growth. Sometimes we believe we know better than God. For example, in some places the truth of the Gospel is not being preached. Soothing, motivational speeches plague many of our pulpits! I often hear people refer to preachers like this, “He is a great preacher” or “He wrote the book on preaching.” While those kind words make a preacher feel good, the real question should be, “What does God thinks of this man’s preaching?” Dear friends, God wrote the “Book” on preaching, and therefore, He is the standard of what makes a sermon good or bad. When compared with the Master, what kind of preacher is he? While I certainly appreciate the kind words folks sometimes say regarding my sermons, I am much more concerned that my sermons are pleasing to Almighty God! “Soft” preaching does not “reprove, rebuke and exhort.” Bible preaching does just that (2 Timothy 4:1-4)! Please understand, I am not referring to a mean spirit in the pulpit, but rather to a man dedicated and devoted to “Thus saith the Lord”! Getting back to a biblical message in our pulpits and lecterns will get us back on the divine track of a healthy, growing congregation that pleases God.

Thirdly, bickering members are an obstacle to growth. Let’s face it, Brethren. We are all “wired up differently,” and all of us have different ways and opinions. However, sometimes we are so petty about these differences that we allow them to affect our relationships in Christ. Sometimes, two congregations just minutes apart never speak, and yet, both claim to be going to Heaven. What will those same congregations do if they go to Heaven? Will God allow them to ignore each another in Heaven? What about two members who worship under the same roof each Sunday and cannot even stand to look at each other? Most every Christian has at one time or another had a difference or been hurt by a fellow member of the church. Sadly, those hurts are often held onto and remembered as the years pass. Sometimes, Brethren, we must simply let bygones be bygones! Paul wrote of the necessity of forgiveness among God’s children (Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 4:2). Oh, how we must get back on the divine track of loving each other and not allowing our differences to destroy and consume us (Galatians 5:15). True love and kindness among God’s people make for a healthy environment for growth.

There are many reasons why congregations do not grow, but Dear friends, there are no good reasons. Healthy churches grow; that is God’s desire. What about the congregation of which you are a part; is it growing? Is it healthy? Sometimes an honest evaluation and the removal of any prohibition to growth is necessary. As God’s people, we can and should grow. “…Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). Let’s go!

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