Kissing Judases

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The last week of Jesus’ life leading up to the crucifixion was trying. The hatred of His enemies was at a near peak.  The hatred had turned into a plot or conspiracy to kill Him. One of His own twelve apostles was involved in the conspiracy. The evil in Judas’ heart did not need anything to provoke it.  Judas was a thief (John 12:6).  As iniquity abounds, the love of  many waxes cold (Matt. 26:12).  Eventually, love dies and hatred takes over.  Judas conspires to kill Jesus who is the Personification of love.
In The Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus seeks solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane so He can pray to God.  When moments are dark and bleak, where can we go but to the Lord?  Jesus’ disciples are not able to stay awake and watch. Human flesh fails while, at the same time, only God supplies what is needful. Jesus prays for “this cup” to pass from Him (the cup of suffering).  However, the future was left up to God as Jesus committed Himself to Him that judges righteously.  Jesus prays three times.  After the third time, the soldiers, chief priests, and Judas arrive in the Garden to arrest Him.
The Betrayal
Judas recognizes and acknowledges Jesus. Then, he identifies Jesus with a kiss.  Normally, a kiss is a sign of friendship and affection. On this occasion, it becomes a sign of treachery and betrayal. Jesus is betrayed by one who He considered to be a friend and fellow laborer in the great work of God.  The kiss is an act of hypocrisy.  Judas honored Jesus with his lips, but his heart was far from Him.
The Application
Os Guinness in Impossible People, p. 72 states, “Just so today, Christian advocates of homosexual and lesbian revisionism believe in themselves and in the sexual revolution rather than the gospel.  They therefore twist the Scriptures to make reality fit their desires rather than making their desires fit the truths of Scripture. In Soren Kierkegaard’s stinging term, they are “kissing Judases” who betray Jesus with an interpretation.”  Peter warned against twisting or wresting the Scriptures (II Pet. 3:16).  “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” The word wrest means to distort and so pervert what God has said. The idea is that of stretching something beyond its proportions.  This is not innocent.  This is a salvation issue, i.e. “unto their own destruction.”  Guinness applies the act of betrayal of Jesus by Judas to those who betray the Lord through twisting the Scriptures to make them mean that homosexuality is not a sin.  Another example of twisting Scripture is given by Nobie Stone in Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space where Stone advocates an old earth view by changing the meaning of Scripture permitting the Gap Theory or Day-Age Theory or Progressive Creation Theory.  (see Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space, p. 69 –Published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center).  Stone states, “First, concerning the wording in Genesis Chapter One, it says nothing about a 24-hr day.”  While the exact words “24-hr day” do not occur in the context of Genesis 1, the obvious meaning of the Hebrew word yom which is translated “day” when describing the “days” of creation refers to a 24-hr day for two reasons.  First, the use of an ordinal number before day (first day, second day, third day, etc.) limits the meaning of the Hebrew word yom to a 24-hr day.  Second, the phrase, “evening and morning” indicates a 24-hr period.  There are strong contextual elements that show that the “day” is a 24-hr period and not an indefinite period of time that could cover billions of years. Another consideration is that this understanding of the “days” of creation harmonizes with the plain statement given by Moses in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  Stone betrays Jesus with an interpretation.

The Danger of Altering God’s Word

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Aubrey Johnson states, “It is no small matter, therefore, to modify a divinely established institution or practice” (Music Matters in the Lord’s Church, p. 58).  Johnson was addressing the attitude that some have towards the Word of God that they can modify it in order to suit them.  Consequently, they add to it or take away from it in order to support their views.
However, we cannot change what God has said and still be pleasing to God.  Mankind does not have the authority to alter God’s Word, yet, this is attempted almost daily.  There are false claims made by individuals who say that God spoke to them and gave them additional information different from God’s Word.  There are false teachers who alter the meaning of the words of the Bible and the grammatical context in order to make the Scriptures say what they want them to say rather than understanding what God meant by what God said.  Then, there are false Bibles that alter the very words of God in order to convey the doctrines that support a particular religious viewpoint.
God Has Protected His Word
God protects His word by expressing the severest penalties for altering it in any way.  The severest penalty is to be eternally damned.  Consider the following passages:
1.  Deut. 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
2.  Deut. 12:32, “What things soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
3.  Prov. 30:6, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
4.  Rev. 22:18-19, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.”
God Empowers His Word
If we alter God’s Word, we render it powerless.  Unbelief results in condemnation, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  The unbeliever is lost.  If we do not believe the truth, then we believe a lie and will be damned (II Thess. 2:10-12).  Altering God’s Word produces “lies” that cannot save.  God’s Word imparts life (John 6:63; James 1:18; I Pet. 1:21-23).  God’s Word saves (James 1:21).  If we alter God’s Word we change it and negate its spiritual power.
God Will Vindicate His Word
Paul states, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).  God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18).  His Word is infallible.  To alter God’s Word is to call God a liar.  Satan did this in Gen. 3:4 when he contradicted what God had plainly stated in Gen. 2:17.  Satan added one word–the word “not.”  The statement Satan made was a lie.  Eve believed the lie, while rejecting the truth, and sinned against God.  When we call God a liar, we blaspheme.
God vindicates His Word in life.  Paul writes, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  When we choose to disobey God in this life, we will suffer the consequences of our sin.  When we obey God, we shall receive a just reward.
God vindicates His Word in judgment.  Jesus taught in John 12:48, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”  This means that we must know the truth and not alter it in any way lest we be found to contradict God and fall under His condemnation.

What Is Ecumenism?

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In the Spiritual Sword, July, 1988, Thomas Warren was concerned about the Ecumenical Movement’s influences on the churches of Christ.  What is the Ecumenical Movement?  Why should we be concerned?
A Definition of Ecumenism
The word “ecumenical” is derived from the Greek word oikoumene which means “the whole inhabited world.”  The word was historically used of the Roman Empire.  The ecumenical vision comprises both the search for the visible unity of the Church (Eph. 4:3) and the “whole inhabited earth” (Matthew 24:14) as the concern of all Christians.  The word “Christian” is used in a very broad sense of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  This is different from the Scriptural use of the word.  The name Christian is always used as a noun in the New Testament.  The word describes a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26).  It denotes a person who is redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:28) and a person who will suffer persecution for righteousness sake (I Peter 4:16).  A Christian is a person who has obeyed the Gospel (Rom. 10:16-17).  Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, obeys the Lord (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).
Ecumenism refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation.  The word is used primarily by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian churches who may be separated by doctrine, history and practice, but who seek to work together despite these differences.  These churches consider themselves to be in fellowship with each other as long as faith in Jesus Christ is expressed.  This distinguishes Ecumenism from interfaith pluralism that embraces all religions and approves of all religions as different pathways to God.
The Ecumenical Movement was initiated among Protestant denominations with the attempt to unify diverse religious bodies.  The World Council of Churches met for the first time in 1948.  The Council took place in Amsterdam.  The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures and seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations, and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians (broad sense of the term Christian).  These churches include most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.
Fundamental Errors of Ecumenism
First, Ecumenists practice “unity in diversity.”  They claim to be united in Christ even though they do not believe the same doctrines, have the same history, or practice the same things (practice is driven by doctrine).  One of the main problems is the basic understanding of what is required in obeying the Gospel.  Many Ecumenists believe that one is saved by grace alone through faith alone.  Consequently, they do not teach that baptism into Christ is essential for salvation.  Jesus taught, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:18-20).  Jesus taught that baptism is essential for salvation because of the design of baptism.  In baptism, a person dies to sin, is buried in water, and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  When one is immersed into Christ, his/her sins are washed away (forgiven) (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).  Most individuals in the Ecumenical Movement do not believe this truth.  The reality emerges that two different “gospels” are proclaimed which of course is an impossibility because there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9).
Second, Ecumenists affirm that one church is just as good as another, but this doctrine contradicts the teaching of the apostle Paul that there is one body (Eph. 4:4).  The one body is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).  Jesus built only one church (Matt. 16:18).  He is the head of the body (Eph. 5:23).  He is the savior of the body (Eph. 5:23).  Jesus saves those individuals who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9).  He adds these individuals to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).  Modern denominations exist without biblical authority.  They arose as a result of the Reformation Movement and are now 500 years old or less.  The church of the New Testament was begun in the city of Jerusalem in the year 30 A.D.  just ten days after the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1 and 2).  Anyone can become a part of the New Testament church by obeying the one, true, Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).
The Ecumenical Movement obscures two important truths concerning the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true church of Jesus Christ.  On these two grounds, it must be rejected.

Music Matters in the Lord’s Church

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I have recently reviewed the book by Aubrey Johnson titled, Music Matters in the Lord’s Church.  The review is listed under the Book Reviews page on my blog.  Just click on the page and then click on the title of the book.
Aubrey Johnson writes for members of the church of Christ primarily to instruct them concerning the various aspects of a cappella music.  Members of the church of Christ, for the most part, do not use instruments of music in worship to God.  The book consists of thirteen chapters, designed for one quarter of study, that addresses various issues with regard to the type of music the New Testament authorizes for use in worship to God.  This book provides a good explanation regarding why members of the church of Christ do not use instrumental music, solos, choirs, quartets, vocal bands, humming, and hand clapping in worship to God.  It also shows that singing fulfills the command to worship God in spirit and  in truth.

Parental Integrity

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How do you, as a parent, pass on your faith to the next generation? One of the reasons that the Lord’s church is not growing as fast as it once did, is the loss of our own children either to the world or to false religion.  Is there anything that can be done to change this?  Where would we begin?
Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, on the basis of their groundbreaking National Study of Youth and Religion data, say, “Contrary to misguided cultural stereotypes and frequent parental misconceptions, we believe that the evidence clearly shows that the single most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents” (Vern Bengtson, Familes and Faith, p. 7).
Parents have the responsibility to nurture the souls of their children for eternity with God in heavenly places.  Abraham is a good example.  God trusted Abraham in the parenting task. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19).  God knew that Abraham would command (lead, teach, train) his children to love, fear and follow God.  God knew Abraham would lead his family to do justice and judgment (what is right in the sight of God).
Parents must examine themselves.  Below are three questions to get started:
First, What do you know about God and His truth?  Your knowledge of God is the content of what you will teach your children about God.  If your knowledge is insufficient, what will you tell your children about God?
Second, What do you believe about God and the truth?  Knowledge and belief are not the same thing.  However, faith is based upon knowledge of God’s Word (Rom. 10:17).  My faith is my own acceptance of what God Himself has revealed in His Word.
Third, What is your character?  Does your character match God’s truth?  This is the beginning of integrity.  Integrity involves the integration of my faith (which comes from God’s Word) into every aspect of my life.
The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy.  If I, as a parent, do not practice what I know to be right, I will fail as a parent in guiding my children in the pathway of righteousness.
When we ask, “how do we pass our faith on to the next generation?”, we must also ask, “what type of faith do I have now?”
Is my faith weak or strong?  Is it authentic or fake?  Is it little or great?
Parental integrity demands that I embrace all of God’s will for my life and not just pick and choose what I think is appropriate.
Parental integrity demands that parents who know the truth apply it in the discipline of their children.  Parents who know the truth and then permit their own children to disobey it will fail.
Parental integrity demands that when we teach our children that God comes first, then, when conflicts arise with worldly activities, we say no to those activities and demonstrate that love for God is supreme.
Hypocrisy will defeat the very goal of parenting:  to nurture the souls of our children in the paths of righteousness so that they will come to know God and love Him and desire to be with Him forever.
The parenting task is a soul-winning task.  Parents must be converted to Christ and committed and consecrated to Him before they can be successful in leading their children to God.

Are You Smarter Than Eve?

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In Genesis 3:1-7, we are given the biblical narrative concerning the fall of man.  The characters are:  Eve, Adam and the serpent (Satan).  The transition that takes place involves the relationship between Eve, Adam and God.  It is a transition from a spiritual state of innocence to a state of guilt before God due to sin.  Satan is the tempter.  By a series of seductive appeals and direct contradiction of God’s Word, he appeals to the mind and flesh of Eve (Eph. 2:3).  The Bible indicates that Satan is subtle, i.e. crafty, deceitful.  Eve is drawn away by her own lusts and enticed.  Satan uses the avenues of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life.  Satan’s nature and methods have not changed for over 6,000 years!  Eve was the first to sin and then Adam followed Eve, who became a temptress, in disobedience to God (Gen. 2:17).
Eve sinned against her own soul.  She sinned against God.  She sinned against her husband (by tempting him).  She failed to be morally responsible.  She believed a lie.  She rejected God’s Word and by doing so, she rejected God.  She permitted her own thoughts and desires to guide her instead of God’s Word.  She made a choice to act while disregarding the consequences of her actions.
Eve shows us that there is a fundamental difference between human beings and animals.  Human beings are created by God.  They are created in the image of God.  Human beings have free will (the power of volition and so free moral agency); intellect (rational thought and a conscience); emotion (feelings such as guilt); and a soul (a spiritual aspect to their nature).  Human beings are dualistic.  Each person has an “outward man” (physical aspect of his/her being) and an “inward man” (spiritual aspect of his/her being).  The fact of sin in human beings means that there is a fundamental difference between humans and animals.  Animals are never charged by God with sin.  There is no moral law that restricts the conduct of animals.  However, human beings are responsible to God’s laws and God holds them accountable for disobedience to those laws.
There were consequences to Eve and Adam’s sin against God.  They both felt shame and guilt.  They both came to know sin by experiencing it.  They both feared God and hid themselves from God.  Both were separated from the tree of life in the midst of the Garden of Eden and were banished from the Garden of Eden.  Both began to die physically.  Both dies spiritually at the time of their sin.  Both lost the intimacy of fellowship with God.
The consequences the serpent suffered involved: (1) a curse by God involving a change of form; and (2) enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan whereby the seed of the woman would destroy the power of Satan (Heb. 2:16).
Eve suffered the following consequences:  (1) she was placed in subjection to her husband; (2) she was told that she would have pain in child birth; and (3) condemnation due to sin and death entered the world, Rom. 5:12).
Adam suffered the following consequences:  (1) God cursed the ground so that it brought forth thorns and thistles; (2) Adam’s work would be more demanding and (3) he would die physically (from dust thou art, unto dust thou shalt return.
Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know the enemy?   In John 8:44, we are told, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  Satan lied to Eve, but Eve did not discern the lie and reject it.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know yourself?  Every temptation is a lie.  Temptation is the enticement to sin either by the external presentation of evil allurement or the internal desire to participate in that which is forbidden by God or both.  James states that we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lusts and enticed (James 1:14). Temptation to sin involves appeals to the mind and the body.  Eve did not practice self-control in the face of temptation.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
Do you know God?  God knows all and sees all.  We cannot sin without God knowing about it.  We are accountable to God.  God will punish the evil doer.  God means exactly what He says.  We sin when we disobey God.  Eve disregarded God and God’s Word when she sinned.  How about you?  Are you smarter than Eve?
It is possible to be smarter than Eve.  James states, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

The Importance of Love in Parenting

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Researchers have discovered that one of the most important elements involved in transmitting one’s faith to children is emotional bonding or love.  Within tight-knit religious traditions, the chances of passing on faith are highly dependent on the quality of parent-child relationships.  This may run counter to advice about effective religious socialization in these communities that emphasize parental piety as the crucial factor–setting a good example, teaching the right beliefs and practices, and keeping strictly to the law.  Without emotional bonding, this is not sufficient for transmission.  A distant or non-affirming parent-child relationship–particularly with the father–is a catalyst for conversion to another faith or dropping out of religion altogether (Families and Faith, pp. 78-79).
Emotional bonding involves feelings of love and warmth.  A child must feel connected to his/her parents in a meaningful way.  Cold, distant, authoritarian parenting or ambivalent or mixed-messaging parenting (sometimes cold sometimes warm) is not sufficient.  Strained or preoccupied parenting won’t work either.  This occurs when parents are distracted by marital, financial, health or substance abuse problems.  The bond of love must be real and must be felt strongly in both the parent and the child.  Parents should read I Cor. 13:1-13 to learn how to love in a dynamic and effective way.  Authentic love must be shown in a personal and impactful way in the home.
The gender of the parent also plays a significant role in religious transmission.  Having close emotional bonds with the father is strongly associated with transmission of one’s faith to the next generation.  Fathers must lead spiritually in the home.  “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  Fathers must take the lead in demonstrating love for mom and for children in the home.  Love must be more than lip-service.  Love must be communicated both verbally and through concrete actions that leave no doubt about the strength of the emotional connection.  Through authentic love and fidelity to God parents have the greatest opportunity to transmit their faith to the next generation.

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