The Christian And Self-Discipline

The Christian life is often compared to a race in the New Testament, and we all know that training to compete in a race or any athletic competition requires a degree of discipline and self-control by the one who competes. We compete daily to remain faithful to Jesus and to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). It takes discipline and self-control to follow the commands of God and live a holy life. The apostle Paul compared his own spiritual life to a race when he said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. 9:24). He then spoke of his own personal need for discipline by stating, “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26,27). We should see our own need for self discipline when we read of a godly man like Paul who stated his own need for such. The Christian life is a blessing, but no one ever said it would be easy. We would not grow into the people God needs us to be if it were. God needs strong followers with perseverance, character, and hope; and having faith in Jesus while enduring the challenges of life will help us (Rom. 5:1-4). Let’s examine some areas of our lives where we can all strive to better discipline ourselves.
1. Let’s learn to discipline our daily devotion to God. We know that we should all study our Bibles each day (2 Tim. 2:15). The apostle Paul wrote that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “continue earnestly in prayer” (Col. 4:2). We should follow the Old Testament example of speaking to our family daily about God and his word (Deut. 6:6-9). Like any other routine, it takes discipline and self control to stick to it. When we discipline ourselves to do these things on a daily basis, we will grow closer to God.
2. Let’s learn to discipline our doubtful thoughts and attitudes. Satan has made sure to fill our environment with doubt and negativity about God. We are bombarded with anti-God and anti-Christian propaganda everywhere we turn. We must be careful what we allow to enter into our minds. The Bible says, “For as he (man) thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Christians can be overtaken by negative thoughts. We must discipline our minds by thinking on positive things. The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil 4:8).
3. Let’s learn to discipline our worldly desires. The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15,16). If we do not practice self-control and discipline, we can easily be pulled back into the world. We fight these desires by focusing our attention and desire in the right direction. Paul said, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1,2).
4. Let’s learn to discipline ourselves to do our duties. We have all heard it said, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” If we learn to be about the Lord’s business on a daily basis, we will be less likely to be involved in things we shouldn’t be. Paul told the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Remember, our Lord said, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” -Ed

Christian Fellowship

One of the greatest blessings of Christianity is the fellowship we share with one another, but being a Christian also means we must limit our fellowship with certain people and works of the world. The fellowship of God’s people is important. It was one of the first activities mentioned in the newly established church of Christ. Luke wrote, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). God intends for His people to spend time together praying, worshipping, and working for Him. Fellowship is one of the ways we grow as Christians, and God providentially works through our fellowship to support and help us. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25). While Christian fellowship is important for our growth and faith; we must be careful to avoid fellowship that is condemned in God’s word. As God’s church (the ekklesia), we are called out of the world to be sanctified, or set apart from it. Let’s examine a few passages from the New Testament that explain what the limitations of our fellowship with the world should be.
1. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). Christians have to live in the world, but we must not be of the world. We will work among unbelievers, have family members who are unbelievers, and in some cases be married to men or women who are not Christians. To avoid all fellowship with the world, we would have to leave it. God does not want us to stop living in the world because He wants us to convert it (Mark 16:15), but He does want us to realize we cannot spiritually fellowship with those who are not equally “yoked” in the faith of His Son. Our faith and spirituality is what should cause us to abstain from fellowship with those who practice and advocate unrighteous behavior or religious error. Our worldly relationships and spiritual relationships must remain separated by the direction and guidance of God’s word.
2. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Paul stated above that we should not be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers and in this text he goes on to state that we should not have fellowship with the evil works they do. Paul told the Thessalonians to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). We show our approval of evil activities when we fellowship with those who practice them. For example, we would not worship with a church that taught religious error, because by doing so we would be approving of their activity and violating God’s law (Rom. 16:17,18; 2 John 9,10). Paul not only told us to abstain from and avoid fellowship with evil, but also to “expose” it. Remember, Jesus taught that people would glorify God when they saw the good works of Christians (Matt. 5:16). If we wear the name Christian and fellowship the works of evil, we will hurt and discredit the cause of Christ.
We must be careful how we associate with others as Christians. Engaging in improper fellowship can endanger our souls, and be a bad influence toward others. -Ed

How Are We Spending Our Time?

One of the things God has blessed us all with is time. Some of us are blessed with more of it than others, but it’s certain that it is a blessing the Christian should not take for granted. God created time for mankind (Gen. 1:14), and the way that we use that time is critical to our spiritual and eternal future. Some may choose to squander God’s precious gift on selfish, material, or worldly activities; but the Bible tells us that the time we have on this earth was given to us to prepare ourselves for eternity. King Solomon conducted a grand experiment to find what would bring him pure joy and peace. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to detail his experiences. He had fame, fortune, power, and plenty of time on his hands to find out what to do with it all. By the end of the book he said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13,14). He also made this memorable statement about time: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (Eccl. 3:1). Solomon understood our time on earth was limited, and that different times in our lives would serve different purposes (take time to read Eccl. 3:2-8). All of this should lead us to consider what we should be doing with the time God has blessed us with as Christians. Let’s consider some of the essentials.
1. Let’s use our time to LIVE for God. The Christian life should be an exciting adventure; not years of solemn waiting until it’s our turn to pass into eternity. Jesus was speaking of us when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). God wants us to LIVE an abundant life in His service. He wants us to shine as lights for Him in a dark and dying world (Matt. 5:13-16). He wants us to spend time living with, and for others. The apostle Paul said we should help others when the opportunity (time) appears. He wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). When we dedicate our lives to Christ, we should be dedicating our time to living for Him.
2. Let’s use our time to LEARN all we can about God. Time is precious, and we should dedicate as much of it as we can to learning more about God (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bible is another precious gift from God, but it’s one that takes a great deal of time and effort to study. Paul reminded Timothy of this when he wrote, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14,15).
3. Let’s use our time to LOOK to God for help. We do this by studying the Bible, but we also look to God in prayer. This is an area where most Christians fall short. We just don’t spend enough time with God in prayer. We tend to look inside ourselves or to the world around us for answers to the problems of life when God wants us to look to Him through the blessing of prayer. The apostle Paul stated that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “continue earnestly in prayer” (Col. 4:2). Remember, we can go “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
4. Let’s use our time LOVING God and one another. The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7,8). God loved us before time began, and we know that because He planned on sacrificing His Son for us from the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3-6; Rev. 13:8). If God loved us before time began, we should spend what time we have loving Him and all those whom He sent Jesus to die for.
How are you spending most of your time? Take some TIME to think about it! -Ed

The Christian Transformation

When a person becomes a Christian, many things take place. The apostle Paul often wrote of the transformation that occurs when someone is saved and added to the church. He reminded the Romans that they obeyed “that form of Doctrine” (Rom. 6:17) when they were baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). He told the Galatians they “put on Christ” when they were baptized into Him (Gal. 3:27). He spoke of how the Ephesians heard the word, believed, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). Paul also reminded the Corinthians what happened when they were saved and became a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). In First Corinthians he spoke of how they left their past life of sin, and explained how it was essential because the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. He described some of the sins they repented of and then explained their salvation with three different terms. Paul wrote, “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 Cor. 6:9-11). Let’s examine the three terms Paul used to further understand what exactly happens when we obey the gospel of Christ.
1. The Christians at Corinth were washed. This is an obvious description of their baptism, but the word implies what actually happened at that event. Their sins were washed away. Peter told the Jews on Pentecost, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the actual point when one’s sins are washed away by coming into contact with the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). The word “washed” in the text is a synecdoche representing obedience to the complete plan of salvation that culminates in the final act of baptism. They had heard the word, believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, and then had their sins “washed” away in the act of baptism. Ananias used the same word when he asked Paul. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
2. The Christians at Corinth were sanctified. The word sanctify means “separation to God” and the “separation of the believer from evil things and ways” (Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). It comes from the Greek root word hagios, which means holy. Paul was saying they had been made holy or purified. Paul had listed numerous sins that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of God. He stated that some of the Corinthians had been living in those sins, but when they were washed they became sanctified. The word sanctify also implies being “set apart,” and when one becomes a Christian they are called out and separated from the world.
3. The Christians at Corinth were justified. Justification, or to be justified, means to be declared not guilty. When the Corinthians obeyed the gospel and had their sins washed away, God was able to declare them not guilty of their sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul explained this to the Romans when he wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8-9).
We too should look back on our conversion and consider all the great things that happened on that day. It will remind us of the amazing grace of God, and our desperate need for salvation. -Ed

Should We Be Looking For The Antichrist?

There are many today that speculate about who the antichrist is and when he will begin to rule the world, but is all this talk about the antichrist based on Biblical truth or just the twisting of the Scriptures by those with vivid imaginations? Those who believe in the false doctrine of premillennialism claim that the antichrist will appear on earth just prior to the return of Jesus. They distort the Scriptures (especially the book of Revelation) to say he will take over the newly revived Roman empire and rule the world from Jerusalem after all the Christians have been raptured to heaven. They also believe that he will fight with Jesus Christ at the battle of Armageddon. Some of the self appointed prophets who believe this theory have speculated at different times that Hitler, Ronald Reagan, Saddam Hussein, and many others were the antichrist. The theory is widely accepted as truth among many professing “Christians”, but it is completely foreign to the Bible. The apostle Peter spoke of those who are “untaught and unstable” that would “twist” the scriptures to their own destruction (1 Pet. 3:15). The doctrine may seem harmless to some, but when intently studied it is found to severely contradict the teaching of Christ and God’s Word.
The word antichrist is only found in four verses of the Bible, and none of those verses have anything to do with the book of Revelation or the second coming of Christ. The word antichrist only appears in the books of First and Second John. In order to discover what the antichrist is, we must understand the context in which John spoke of it in his books. John was attacking the false teaching of Gnosticism. Many false teachers were already strong at work teaching the Christians that Jesus Christ was only a spirit and that he had never came in the flesh. If Jesus had never actually come in the flesh; then the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus could have never really happened. The writer of Hebrews stated that Christ was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). It would be impossible for him to have been tempted in all points as we are if He had never come in the flesh. John had to counter this false teaching, and that is why he wrote his epistles.
John was telling those first century Christians that anyone who had denied that Jesus had come in the flesh, was an antichrist. John wrote, “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:3). John made the point that any person could be an antichrist. He also made the point that the antichrists already existed in the world, so this would make it obvious that the antichrist is not going to be a single individual evil ruler that appears before Christ’s coming. John said, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:28). Many antichrists had already appeared in the days of John. John had also stated, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). John states that an antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ or denies that Jesus actually came to earth in the flesh. The antichrist is not an evil man who will rule the world, but instead anyone who at anytime speaks out in an effort to deny Jesus Christ. -Ed

Veiled Hearts, Blinded Minds

The apostle Paul referred to the Jews of his time as having a veil over their hearts preventing them from seeing the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He used the veil that Moses put over his face to hide the fading radiance of being with God as an illustration for how Jews could not see past the Law of Moses to accept its present fulfillment in Christ. Paul wrote, “Unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor. 3:13-15). By refusing to believe in Jesus, the Jews kept their hearts “veiled” from the truth.
Many today have veiled hearts as well. There are those who choose to put things between themselves and the Lord. The veil of the first century Jews could serve as a fitting illustration for the millions today who refuse to submit to Jesus. Let’s consider a few of the many “veils” that are used today to separate people from God.
1. The veil of unbelief. It is a barrier that could easily be removed if the unbeliever would consider the evidence of the existence of God all around them. Nature cries out for the existence of God. Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). The psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1), while also stating, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Ps. 14:1). The veil could be lifted if the unbeliever would weigh the evidence of nature and scientific law, and then receive the faith that comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17).
2. The veil of human wisdom. Many would consider believing in God only if they could justify His existence within the parameters of human wisdom and reasoning. These folks could be labeled as agnostics. Paul spoke of this type while writing to the church at Corinth. He said, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:20,21). The veil will be lifted when faith is placed in the wisdom of God and His revealed word instead of the fallible and finite wisdom of mankind.
3. The veil of emotionalism. There are those who choose to base their relationship with God on the sincerity of the emotions and feelings they have toward Him. Emotions are an important part of a person’s faith, but they cannot be a standard of absolute truth since they are subjective and relative. The Bible warns of the danger of trusting our feelings. It says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). This veil is lifted when we base our relationship with God on the absolute truth of His revealed word. We can absolutely know for a fact that we are pleasing to God (1 John 2:3-5). So, our emotions should be in response to our correct actions, not what drives our actions to begin with. -Ed

Religious Division Vs. Biblical Truth

Why are there so many different churches today? When you look at the religious division that exists among those who claim to be Christians, doesn’t it leave you wondering how any of us can know the truth at all? We know we can know the truth if we want to because Jesus told us we can. He said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). The question is not whether or not we can understand the truth, but whether or not we are willing to accept the truth for what it actually is? The many denominations and divisions of “Christianity” actually lead people to believe God’s word must be to confusing or difficult to understand. Imagine someone who decides to examine Christianity for the first time. They investigate the thousands of different churches who claim to follow Christ and they find that they all have varying names and teach different doctrines. That person would be led into confusion and believe it is impossible to know the real truth. We have one God and one Bible, yet many believe and teach doctrines that are not supported by the Scripture. This counters the very thing Jesus prayed about to His father. He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20,21). Jesus prayed for unity among those who would believe in Him, and stated that unity would lead others to believe in Him as well. Denominationalism actually turns people away from the truth of God’s word and builds doubt instead of faith in seekers of the truth. The Bible is crystal clear regarding the one true New Testament church and it condemns those who would set out to divide it. Let’s consider a few facts from the New Testament regarding division, and notice the consequences for those who would choose to participate in such.
1. Denominationalism and the division of the Body of Christ are strictly forbidden in the New Testament. The apostle Paul confronted the issue of division at the church in Corinth. Paul was notified that certain Christians there were dividing the congregation to follow after different preachers and apostles. Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). He went on to tell them that their divisive actions were “carnal” and that they were “behaving like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3). They were destroying the unity that Jesus had prayed for. Is the truth of Paul’s words too difficult for us to understand? The statements above seem straightforward and simple enough. If division were carnal and sinful in the first century, wouldn’t it also be considered so today as well?
2. Divisions, strife, and contentions are considered works of the flesh. Why did the many denominations originate? A study of history will show that the many denominational organizations of today have developed over the course of the last several hundreds years because of contentions, strife, and desires to follow after the teaching of certain men instead of the unified truth of the Bible. Paul wrote that such characteristics are considered works of the flesh and “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).
3. When a group of people alter God’s word and separate themselves from the “One Body”, they cease to abide in the doctrine of Christ. The apostle John warned against those who do so when he wrote, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). Those who do so are to be avoided. Paul exhorted the Romans to “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). The one church is Christ’s body (Eph. 4:4). When man divides the church into denominations, they break apart the very body of Christ. -Ed

Lessons Learned From Our Iowa Trip

Emily and I had a wonderful trip to Iowa, and we thought it would be nice to share with you some of the things we learned while we were gone. We are so thankful to the elders, and all of you, for allowing us to be away to work with the Heartland church of Christ and conduct the gospel meeting. We were amazed to be in an area like Dubuque where there was not a single well-established congregation of the Lord’s church anywhere to be found. All of us are used to finding a congregation of the church of Christ in just about every town you travel to in the south. Mike Demory told us that the nearest congregation was an hour and a half away. There is one small group that meets in a family’s home in neighboring Wisconsin, but that’s about it. Congregations of the Lord’s church send millions of dollars each year overseas to establish congregations, and it’s a real eye opener when you see such large areas of our own country that have no access to the truth of the gospel. Mike and Teresa Demory, and the members of the Dubuque congregation, work diligently to preach and teach the truth to that area of Iowa, and it was a true blessing to have the opportunity to work with them. The theme of the gospel meeting was “From Heaven or from Man”, and it went very well. We had one response where a lady stated she decided to work and worship with the congregation. We also had time to tape two episodes of Mike’s public cable television program “The Bible Says” and they will air in the upcoming month. Our trip to Iowa was an educational experience for us, and I would like to share a few things we learned while we were there.
1. We have a great deal of work to do to fulfill the great commission. Christians have been charged by Jesus to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We learned from our trip that there is much work to be done. We often work so hard to ensure the word is taken to places everywhere else around the world, but fail to realize that there are many places in our own nation that do not have full access to the truth. The people of Iowa have the Bible, but they also need a congregation of New Testament Christians with whom to work and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I couldn’t help but think while we were there how many other areas of our own nation are in the same dire spiritual situation.
2. We do not have to be part of a large congregation to do great work for the Lord. The Heartland church of Christ has only ten members, but they work as hard as any congregation I have ever seen. We live in a society obsessed with numbers. People these days tend to think the bigger the better, and that it’s only the large congregations with big numbers that work and worship effectively. Sometimes we forget that Christianity had its beginning with only the Lord and His twelve disciples. From that meager beginning, Christianity rapidly grew into the world’s largest religion. The Heartland church of Christ may not have a big building or large numbers, but they stand as a beacon of truth in an area that desperately needs it.
3. We should never let discouragement stop us from doing the Lord’s work. I kept thinking how discouraging it must be for them as they continue to struggle to grow. Those feelings were repeatedly put aside each time I saw their zeal and diligent spirit. They inspired me, and stood as an example of how we can overcome discouragement if we put our faith in the Lord. May God bless them and their work in the future. -Ed

When We Come Together To Worship

New Testament Christians are commanded to assemble together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 16:2), and God has given us specific things to do so we can praise Him and grow in the faith. We come together primarily to worship God, but in the process we learn more about Him and remember all the glorious things He has done for us. We increase our faith, we fellowship with one another, we encourage one another, and we show our love through obedience.
God has given us a pattern to follow so we may know our worship to Him is pleasing and accepted. Just as Noah followed the pattern to build the ark (Heb. 11:7), and Moses followed the pattern to build the tabernacle (Heb. 8:5); we must follow the New Testament pattern for worship. God has the right to be worshipped as He wishes, and He has given us a pattern of worship that He knows will be beneficial for us as well. We have no right or authority to altar God’s plans and commandments. The apostle John wrote, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Just like we can know “that we know God,” we can also know we are worshiping Him properly by obeying His commandments. The knowledge of pleasing God through proper worship is one of our greatest benefits. Being emotionally touched by worship is a blessing, but knowing we did it according to God’s will should make us feel the greatest of all.
As we study the New Testament, we find five acts of worship that were utilized by Christians when they assembled together on the first day of the week. Let’s consider God’s pattern for worship, and work diligently to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
1. We come together to pray. The first century church was a praying church. The church of Christ was established on Pentecost and Luke records that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). There are numerous commands and examples in the New Testament exhorting us to pray when we come together (1 Tim. 2:1-8; 1 Thess. 5:17).
2. We come together to sing. Christians are to sing together as a congregation in order to praise God and teach one another. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
3. We come together to preach, teach, and study God’s word. The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15); and we are to come together in order to learn more about God and the truth of His word. God’s word gives us everything we need to live in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:3), and we come together to hear that word preached (2 Tim. 4:2).
4. We come together to give back to the Lord. Paul commanded the church at Corinth to contribute weekly to a church treasury. He said, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). We have the opportunity each week to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has blessed us with.
5. We come together to partake of the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 26:26-30, Jesus established the Lord’s Supper. Paul spoke of the importance of the continual observance of the communion in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. We are to partake of the supper every first day of the week (Acts 2:42; 20:7) to remember the death of our Lord. Every week we partake, we are remembering the greatness of His death, and looking forward to when He returns in glory.
As we study the “sum” of the New Testament, we find that these five acts of corporate worship constitute God’s pattern for us to follow every Sunday when we assemble together. God has revealed his divine pattern for worshipping Him. Let us do so to His glory. -Ed

The Need For Humility

In our last article we studied the sin of pride, so let’s spend some time considering the need for humility in the life of the Christian and why it is so necessary for our relationships with God and one another. It’s vitally important that we strive to develop humility because God desires it of us and there is danger of losing access to His grace without it. James wrote, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The Christian must be humble to develop a submissive, obedient, and trusting faith in God. We must put our faith in Him, and not in ourselves to be saved (Eph. 2:8,9). But, we must also show humility in our relationships with one another. The apostle Paul said, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16). He also wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3).
Developing humility can be a difficult lifelong task, and the moment we state we have obtained it, is the moment we should realize that we really haven’t. Christians are exhorted to grow in faith, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). We should also desire to become more humble as well, so let’s consider a few things we can do to maintain and develop this important attribute.
1. We must remember our spiritual situation in light of what God has done for us. We realized our lost and helpless situation in order to become a Christian, and if we remember what we have been saved from, it will help us stay humble before God in our Christian walk now. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matt. 5:3,4). Why did Jesus say that? Jesus knew it would be those who were humble enough to see their lost and sinful condition that would seek Him for salvation. It took a degree of humility to realize we were sinners and needed the grace of God to be saved. If we can remember how lost we were without God, and that it is His saving grace that continues to save us, we can learn the need to grow in humility. We can see examples of David doing this in texts like Psalm 38 and Psalm 51. When David considered his sins, it humbled him before the Lord.
2. We should strive to follow the example of Jesus, and consider His death on the cross. Jesus’ life was the perfect example of humility in action. He was the most powerful man that ever lived; yet He was also the humblest. Paul wrote that Jesus “Made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil.2:7,8). We should study His life in order to follow His humble example, and then consider the power of what He did on the cross for us when we feel the urge to be prideful.
3. We should study the Bible everyday. By studying the Bible, we will see the great amount of emphasis placed on humility and the many dangers of being prideful. We can study great men and women of faith who lived humble lives, as well as examples of those who suffered the consequences of prideful behavior. Remember, God’s word was written for our learning and admonition (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).
4. We must acknowledge our weaknesses while remembering the greatness of God. We live in a “me first” society. Contrary to the belief of many, the world does not revolve around any one particular individual. God loves all mankind and desires they all be saved (John 3:16). We need to consider our existence in regards to the big picture. An all powerful, all knowing, ever present God desires our salvation; and we must remember how He deserves our faithful submission. When we study and consider the holy attributes of God, it should remind us of the need to humbly submit to Him. -Ed