The Courage To Be Genuine

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In Acts 4:32-37 and 5:1-11, two groups of Christians emerge.  The first group is represented by Barnabas–a genuine Christian.  The second group is represented by Ananias and Sapphira–disingenuous Christians.
Genuine Christianity
“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.  And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostle’s feet” (Acts 4:34-37).  The beauty of Barnabas is manifested in this event.  He truly was a son of encouragement.  His actions were prompted by love.  His selflessness, along with others, became a means of blessing the lives of those who were in need.  These individuals became channels of grace and blessing!  This is true Christianity in action.  The result was unity of purpose and fellowship in grace.
Disingenuous Christianity
Disingenuous means insincere, fake or false appearance. Disingenuous Christians are hypocritical, pretentious individuals who claim to follow Jesus Christ, but their hearts are far from Him. Ananias and Sapphira were overlaid with Christian veneer.  Veneer is a thin piece of wood that looks nice, but covers many imperfections.  Used figuratively of this couple, we see that they appeared good on the outside, but inwardly they were corrupt.  They allowed selfish interests to control their hearts.  When that happens, Christianity is bound to be cheapened and ruined.  This couple lied.  They kept back a part of the money that they had while pretending to give it all to good works.  They wanted the privileges and blessings of Christianity without purity of heart.  They were not motivated by love and sacrificial giving.  Instead, they were motivated by greed (desire for more and more), pride (sought the praise of men more than the praise of God), and jealousy (wanted the acclaim that Barnabas received without the sacrifice that Barnabas made).
The Reward of Iniquity
Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead by God.  The reward of iniquity.  God cannot be mocked (deceived (Gal. 6:7; Heb. 4:13).  God acted to protect the purity of the church.  “A little leaven leveneth the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6).  God punishes the evil doer.  His justice is a testimony to His righteousness.
While Barnabas is a source of encouragement to the church, Ananias and Sapphira were sources of embarrassment to the church.  Ananias and Sapphira were selfish while Barnabas was selfless.  Ananias and Sapphira were fakes and Barnabas was a genuine Christian.  Ananias and Sapphira lost everything.  Barnabas received the reward of righteousness.
Every Christian must manifest the courage of authenticity.  Our actions must reflect our profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only Authentic Christianity will secure our standing as lights to the world (Matt. 5:14).

Popcultured

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Popcultured by Steve Turner is a book that examines the present culture in light of the Scriptures. Turner examines cinematic art, journalism, celebrity culture, fashion, thrills, comedy, advertising, technology, photography and TV and movies. He gives many outstanding examples in each of these areas to illustrate his point of view. He also brings biblical passages to bear upon cultural values and beliefs. He emphasizes the necessity for spiritual discernment in critquing our culture. We must separate good from evil. In order to accomplish this, we must put everything to the test of truth. Then, we hold to the good and reject the evil. I have written a review of this book and it is avaiable on my blog under “Book Reviews.”

One-Of-A-Kind

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     Would you pay 1.7 million dollars for a penny?  Well, you might if it was rare enough.  What if it was the only penny of its kind known to be in existence?  In September, 2010, Bob R. Simpson (founder of XTO Energy, based in Fort Worth, Texas leader in producing natural gas) purchased a 1943-D Lincoln cent mistakenly struck in bronze for 1.7 million dollars–a record.  It is graded: PCGS Secure Plus, MS-64 brown.  The purchase enabled Simpson to complete the 1943 set he had begun to assemble six years ago.  He now owns the only 1943 PDS set in bronze known to be in existence.  These coins are known as off-metal coins because they are made from bronze-planchets instead of copper. (Coin World, Jan. 3, 2011, p. 20).
     It is certainly no surprise to learn that these coins have been faked by many people throughout the years.  A fraudulent coin, however, is worthless. 
     A one-of-a-kind find such as this certainly affected the price or value of the coin.  It is special, unique and worth more because of it.  Consider the following Scriptural thoughts:  “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:3-6).  Paul gives us a collection of one-of-a-kind entities.  The one body is the church of Christ.  In Eph. 1:22-23, Paul uses the words “body” and “church” interchangeably.  In Matthew 13, Jesus relates two parables that emphasize the value of the kingdom of God.  The first is the Parable of the Hid Treasure.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matt. 13:44).  The second is the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).  The value of the kingdom  of God (the church of Christ) is so great that it is worth sacrificing all to obtain it. 
     There is one Spirit.  This is a reference to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the godhead.  His value is self-evident.  His worth to mankind is priceless.
     There is one hope.  This hope is everlasting life.  Everlasting life comes through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; I John 5:11-12).  “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”  Eternal life is the gift of God.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
    There is one Lord.  Paul is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our savior and redeemer.  He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).  He is the only way to the Father!  His value is unspeakable (II Cor. 9:15).  He is a gift from God.
     There is one faith.  The one faith is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul speaks of the objective faith which is the Word of God.  How valuable is the truth?  Priceless.  “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23).
     There is one baptism.  The baptism of which Paul speaks is the “new birth” (John 3:3-5).  “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  The force of the word “except” is “if and only if.”  Baptism into Christ for remission of sins is essential to salvation (Gal. 3:26-27, Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 2:38).  Baptism results in sonship and salvation–priceless!
     There is one God.  This is the absolute, supreme Being. 
     Any one of these seven entities would exceed the value of the entire world.  All of them together constitute an inestimable spiritual treasure which is freely accessed by men through love for God and faith in God.  Yet, many rob themselves by rejecting these treasures.
     Fakes of any of these spiritual entities prove worthless.  A fake God is a false god and pure vanity.  A pseudo religious book will not take anyone to heaven.  There are many “lords” and “saviors” claimed by men but only one that is genuine as affirmed by Paul.  Many deny that there is only one church.  All but the true church are fakes to be discarded as worthless. 
     There is one God who has revealed His truth that salvation is only through His Son-Jesus Christ.  Faith in His name and baptism into His name will bring salvation and hope of eternal life.

Striving For Excellence

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Christian living demands fullness of consecration to God (Rom. 12:1-2).  Striving for excellence is an important part of the Christian life.  We must never lower the standard of righteousness to fit our weaknesses and transgressions.  Instead, we must constantly endeavor to overcome these shortcomings and attain the quality of life that is worthy of our calling.  Christlikeness demands striving for excellence.  Can you think of a nobler life than that of Jesus Christ?  Peter declares, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. 2:21-23).  Peter wrote these words immediately after instructing his readers to follow the example of Jesus.  The word example (hupogrammos) means “an under-writing…hence a writing-copy, an example” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, II, 54).  The example Jesus left us is perfect in all aspects.  To dedicate one’s life to follow Christ, is a commitment to excellence!
Why is this so important?  I recently read why 99.9% isn’t good enough.  Consider the following facts which illustrate what it would be like if things were done right 99.9% of the time.
-1 hour of unsafe drinking water every month
-2 unsafe plane landings per day at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago
-16,000 pieces of mail lost by the U. S. Postal Service every hour
-20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions per year
-500 incorrect surgical operatons each week
-50 newborn babies dropped at birth by doctors every day
-22,000 checks deducted from the wrong bank accounts each hour
-32,000 missed heartbeats per person per year
-315 entries in Webster’s Dictionary would be misspelled
-103,260 income tax returns would be processed incorrectly during the year
-5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced would be flat

     A small amount of imperfection can produce a large amount of undesirable results!  Perhaps we should consider the consequences of one sin.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guiltyof all” (James 2:10).  He is condemned by all of the law when he violates any portion of it.  One sin condemns.  One sin necessitates forgiveness from God.
Our imperfection is only made perfect through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  The spiritual consequences of sin can only be remedied through the atonement secured through the death of Jesus on the cross. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).  Forgiveness for our sin perfects us in God’s sight.  We are spiritually healed and strive for the excellence of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Yes, we strive to imitate our perfect example–Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Struggles

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     According to a recent English Church Census, regular churchgoers (of all denominations) amount to 6.3% of the total population.  The proportion of churches per individuals is now one church to 1,340 people.  The size of the average Sunday congregation is 84.  Between 1998 and 2005, there was an overall decline in regular church attendance of 15% –and the trend continues.  Only 2.5 percent of the population is attending Bible-based churches (Already Gone, Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, pp. 10-12).
     Christianity is on the decline in England.  Could the same thing be happening in the United States?  Ham and Beemer warn: “We are one generation away from the evaporation of church as we know it.” (p. 25).  George Barna indicates that a majority of twenty-somethings–61% of today’s young adults–had been churched at one point during their teen years, but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e. not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying) (Already Gone, p. 19).  The top ten reasons for “dropouts” are as follows:
     -12% Boring Service
     -12% Legalism
     -11% Hypocrisy of leaders
     -10% Too political
     -9% Self-righteous people
     -7% Distance from home
     -6% Not relevant to personal growth
     -6% God would not condemn to hell
     -5% Bible not relevant/not practical
     -5% Couldn’t find my preferred denomination in area
     (Already Gone, p. 29)
     Most people assume that students are lost in college where they meet with ideas that challenge their faith.  But it turns out that only 11 percent of those who have left the church did so during the college years.  Almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school (Already Gone, p. 31).  About 40 percent of them were lost in middle school and elementary school. 
     The major challenge seems to be to the truthfulness and believability of the Bible.  Secular humanism (denial of the existence of God and affirmation of the theory of organic evolution) have taken their tole.
     -39.8% first had doubts about the accounts and stories of the Bible in middle school.
     -43.7% had their first doubts in high school.
     -10.6% had their first doubts during college. (Already Gone, p. 32).
     Young people are being influenced to accept the theory of evolution and reject the Bible account of creation.  When you add to this the disintegration of moral values and the destruction of the home, you have a combination that is challenging the basic values and principles of Christianity.  I might add that postmodernism, with its rejection of absolute truth and affirmation of acceptance of all religions as equal, has also destroyed faith in the objective truth of God’s Word and eroded faith in the Bible and New Testament Christianity.
     To counter this decline, we must reaffirm the basic principles of Christianity and do a better job of showing the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity.  Christianity is rooted in historical and verifiable evidences that cannot be overthrown.  I personally invite you to investigate the evidence for Christianity.  Many have done so in the past and have accepted the truth that salvation from sin is available to all people based upon the merits of the death of Jesus Christ and Him alone!