Christians Only

In 1962 James DeForest Murch published a single-volume history of the Restoration Movement. He entitled it, Christians Only, in recognition of the basic message of the early restoration preachers in America. His work chronicled the beginnings of this movement in Europe and briefly covered its arrival and spread in the United States up until the early 20th century. For many years Murch’s book was a primary text for students of restoration history.

It has been more than 200 years since the principle of restoring New Testament Christianity first began to be proclaimed in the United States. Sadly, the idea met with opposition from the religious hierarchies of the time, most notably when certain subjects, such as baptism and the worship and organization of the church, came under discussion. This oppositio n forced many preachers to leave the denominations in which they had been ordained as ministers and to seek a different path.

In time these early restoration preachers began to throw off the labels and practices that characterized the denominations from which they came. As they struggled to understand scripture minus their denominational dogmas, they began to see the simple message proclaimed first by the apostles. Not only did this affect the content of their preaching, but it also led them to call themselves “Disciples” or simply “Christians”.

The decision to discard all denominational names and practices was, and remains, a pivotal point in the history of Christianity in America. These men hoped that doing this might bring together all believers in a single body that would honor Christ in accordance with His revealed word. Their experiences within their various denominations had shown them that too often people were more loyal to their denomination than they were to God’s word. This was simply unacceptable.

Unfortunately, this fact is still an issue today. Too many good and sincere believers in God are more loyal to their denominations than they are to the scriptures. How else can we explain the many and varied views on how one is saved, or how we should worship, or how the church should be organized? In the face of clear statements of scripture which contradict these various beliefs and practices, many fall back to their denominational dogma as though that trumps what the scriptures say. Until and unless one commits to being a Christian only, he will continue to be shackled to man-made doctrines. Until and unless one commits to obeying the dictates of scripture, he will remain outside of Christ.

Jesus said that His word will judge at the last day (Jn. 12:48). His word is clear with regard to salvation. The Lord told Nicodemus that unless one is born of the water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). He told the Jews that unless they believed in Him, they would die in their sins (Jn. 8:24). He told believing Jews to continue in His word in order to be true disciples, so they would know the truth that makes them free (Jn. 8:31-32). He said that unless one repents, He will perish (Lk. 13:3, 5). He said that if we confess Him before men He will confess us before His Father in heaven (Mt. 10:32-33). He also said that the one who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:16). His final admonition to the church in Smyrna was to be faithful until death so they would receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).

This is what Jesus said. This is what the apostles preached. This is what every believer in the first century obeyed in order to be saved. This is how they became Christians — Christians only. If we wish to be saved we must become Christians just as they did. Christians only.

Have You Not Read?

During the course of the Lord’s ministry, He had many confrontations with the leaders of the Jews. Some of these were so intense that some today are uncomfortable even thinking about them. In Jn. 8:31-59, for example, the Lord spoke very plainly and strongly against these leaders. He openly challenged their conduct, saying that they were “of your father the devil” (v. 44).

In other instances, however, the Lord was more subtle in His criticism of these men. On five occasions in which these leaders criticized the Lord or His disciples, or in which they asked an insincere question, the Lord prefaced His response with a question that hit them like a sledge hammer. He asked, “Have you not read . . . ?”

The first instance was when the Pharisees criticized the disciples for picking heads of grain as they walked through a field on the Sabbath day (Mt. 12:1-2). The second was when some Pharisees asked a question about divorce (Mt. 19:3ff). When children were praising the Lord after He drove the sellers out of the temple grounds, the chief priests and scribes confronted Him about it. He began His response on that occasion with this same question (Mt. 21:16). At the end of the parable of the landowner, the Lord again asked this question of these men (Mt. 21:42). The final incident in which the Lord asked this question was when the Sadducees asked their silly question about seven brothers who had been married to the same woman (Mt. 22:31).

Many times as we read of these incidents we just skip over the manner of the Lord’s response. We rightly focus on the answer He gave on each occasion, and on the lesson from it that we can apply to our lives. However, we may be overlooking an important and timeless principle that is couched in the Lord’s subtle criticism of the Jewish leaders.

When the Lord asked, “Have you not read?”, He was telling them that they didn’t know the Law as well as they thought. He was telling them that they had become ignorant of God’s word. He was indicating that this ignorance was the reason why they had strayed so far from God’s will. This was an insult of a magnitude that we can hardly imagine. These were doctors of the law and the Lord’s question placed them in the category of novices. It is likely that they got the message, and this put-down no doubt increased their hatred of the Lord.

The timeless principle that may drawn from the Lord’s question is simple. We must not neglect reading God’s word. From cover to cover the scriptures call on us to know God’s will and obey it in order to please Him. In Deut. 6: 1-9 Moses commanded Israel to teach God’s will to their children in every circumstance of life so their lives would be prolonged on the land that God was giving them. In Jn. 8:31-32 the Lord told some Jews who believed on Him to continue in His word so they would be true disciples and would know the truth that sets them free. In 2 Tim. 2:15 Paul urged Timothy to be diligent and to accurately handle the word of truth. In Jas. 1:21 James called on his readers to receive “the word implanted, which is able to save your souls”. Peter reminded his readers that God had granted to them “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3).

The bottom line is this: The scriptures are everything we need to know in order to please God so we may live with Him for eternity. However, we cannot obey what we do not know and we cannot know that which we do not read/study. Therefore, we must take up God’s word daily and make it a living part of our hearts and minds. If we do so, at judgment the Lord will not ask us, “Have you not read?”

A Near-Life Experience

The phrase “near-death experience” is a well known part of our language. Despite its frequent use, it is never viewed as trite. This is because we nearly universally recognize that this kind of incident is not to be taken lightly. A man who suffers a heart attack and flat-lines in the ambulance or on the operating table is well aware of how close he came to death. He typically takes his health far more seriously thereafter. A person who narrowly avoids a life-threatening accident is rarely dismissive of what happened. The reason is that we all understand that there is no coming back from death. One does not recover from death. Even unbelievers recognize this truth.

Most of us understand the significance of a “near-death experience.” It is an object lesson in mortality. Reminding ourselves of our mortality and the fragile nature of human life is an important exercise. It helps us keep our priorities straight as we move inexorably toward eternity. Preachers are particularly fond of drawing our attention to this reality as they try to move us to obey God’s will, and rightfully so. As James wrote, our life is “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

The scriptures do not explicitly speak of “near-death experiences” as we refer to them. They do, however, refer to what might be called the polar opposite of a “near-death experience”. This is what may be called a “near-life experience”, and the records of such incidents are sad and troubling.

In Mk. 12:28-34 the text tells of a scribe who asked the Lord what the foremost commandment in the Law was. When the Lord responded to him, the scribe answered the Lord with such obvious knowledge and wisdom that the Lord exclaimed, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12:34). The text does not tell us if this scribe became a disciple of the Lord. If he did not become a disciple, this encounter with Jesus was a “near-life experience” for him. He was “not far from the kingdom of God”, but he was not in it. Until he entered the kingdom in obedience to the Lord, he would never have eternal life. Until he became a disciple of Jesus, he remained dead in his sins.

Another “near-life experience” recorded in Mark’s gospel is the story of the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:17-22). This young man came to the Lord, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Lord’s answer distressed him, because he loved his wealth and possessions more than he loved Jesus. He went away grieving and did not become a disciple. He could have had eternal life, and came very near it, but he went away as he had come, dead in his sins.

The classic “near-life experience” in scripture is the story of Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:1-26). God sent His angels to rescue Lot and his family from Sodom before He destroyed it with brimstone and fire. As the angels brought the family out of the city, they instructed them to flee to safety in the mountains. They also specifically warned them not to look back (v. 17). At this point Lot and his family were nearly saved. Their lives would not be spared, however, until they did all that the angels commanded them to do. The proof is in v. 26, where the scripture says, “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt”.

Lot’s wife had a “near-life experience” and like the rich young ruler, she failed to take advantage of it. Abraham’s bargaining with God for the city, and God’s gracious provision to bring Lot’s family out of the city went for naught. Lot’s wife had life in her grasp and by her disobedience she let it slip away from her.

The lesson for us to consider is a simple one. The opportunity for eternal life is before us in the message of the gospel as it is declared in the scriptures and proclaimed by God’s people. It is offered to us freely if we are willing to see it and to obey what God requires for us to receive it. There is usually some joy in a “near-death” story, but there is no joy in a “near-life” event. Don’t ignore the eternal life for which the Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood. Say, “Yes” to eternal life by obeying the gospel today, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

Where Were You?

After Job and his friends had argued at length about the reason for the calamities that befallen Job, God spoke to finally set the record straight.  As God began speaking He directed His attention to Job and asked him a pointed question.  In Job 38:4 God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.”

This simple question drew Job and his friends back to the basics.  While they had argued long and hard about Job’s condition and God’s attitudes toward mankind, they had lost sight of the most important aspect of all.  They were not God.  They had done nothing to create or to sustain the world about which they had so forcefully spoken.  Neither did they no much about God Himself.  

God’s discourse over the next few chapters put them all in mind of who He was and is, and what He had done to create and sustain the world in which they lived.  When the Lord finished speaking, Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of course can be thwarted.  Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge  Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2-3).

Job’s confession demonstrated the personal character about which God bragged to Satan at the beginning of this book (Job 1:8).  Job, in this simple fashion, acknowledged the awesome power and majesty of Almighty God.  He declared that God, alone, is great and that the musings of himself and his friends were weak and pitiful in comparison.

This incident calls to mind the proud declarations of unbelievers today who seem to go out of their way to discount or call into question the power of God.  In places of natural beauty, such as the Grand Canyon or the lonely buttes of Monument Valley, AZ, they speak glibly about the lengthy processes of wind and rain erosion which created these marvels.  If one raises the prospect of God’s hand in making such things, the response is regrettably negative.  

So also for the stars in the heavens and the wonders of human life.  The unbelievers argue forcefully and arrogantly about “Mother Nature” and the “fact” of human evolution.  They browbeat those who attribute these things to the hand of Almighty God.  And one wonders if God the Father, looking down on us, isn’t saying, “Where were you?”, when He did them all.

King David wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psa. 14:1).  The leaders of the Jews attributed the signs of our Lord Jesus to the power of Beelzebul (Mt. 12:24).  Sadly, there are still such people around us today.  One cannot deny the power and work of God and be pleasing to Him.  One may not believe in the hereafter, but God’s word declares its reality.  


Will Your Anchor hold?


We all have certain things that anchor our lives.  They are the familiar things, the people or places that keep our feet on the ground.  They are the things that help us feel comfortable or reassured when we face challenges or trials.

As a youngster growing up in Southern California I had several things that were anchors for me.  One anchor was the San Gabriel mountains that ring the Los Angeles basin.  These mountains helped me keep my geographical bearings.  I could look at the mountains and know which direction to travel in order to reach some location.  In my young boy’s mind these mountains were literally the rock that anchored my physical world.  I could depend on them being there and I took comfort from their towering presence.

I also had anchors of a different sort.  Growing up in the Los Angeles area in the 50s and 60s meant being a Dodgers and Lakers fan.  Not only were the teams in their heyday at that time, they also had two of the most iconic voices broadcasting their games.  When I listened to Dodgers games I was captivated by the voice of Vin Scully, who broadcast their games for 67 years.  When I listened to Lakers games, it was the staccato style of Chick Hearn who gave me a “word’s eye view” of each contest.  Their voices, and later their images on television, was a sports anchor in my life.

The mountains were on the horizon, Vin and Chick were on the radio, and all was well in my world. . . . until things happened that “unanchored” these anchors.  The smog became so bad that there were many days when the mountains were not visible.  They were still there, but I couldn’t see them.  Then I moved from Los Angeles and my radio anchors were no longer there for me.  From time to time I might see or hear them on television in my new home, but for everyday purposes I had lost them.  If I had hopes of re-anchoring with them at some point, that hope no longer exists.  Chick Hearn passed away, and Vin Scully finally retired.  These are the natural events of life, but when one loses his youthful anchors the uncertainty of life becomes much more vivid.

This peek into my boyhood anchors illustrates just how carefully we must choose the anchors for our lives.  We sing a great hymn that asks, “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?”  If one’s anchors are like my childhood ones the answer is definitely, “No.”  The simple truth is that these kinds of things were never intended to hold in the crises of life.  Any anchor that is based upon things of this world, or those who are in this world, will eventually fail us.

In Heb. 6:17-20 the scripture says, “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His promise, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The anchors that give order and stability to our daily lives play an important role for us.  Our families and friends, familiar people and places, keep us from the fears and the uncertainties of the world in which we live.  However, the anchor that truly holds us is our hope in the promises of God the Father.  He has never failed to keep His promises.  He has never failed to provide for and care for His people.  He has always been, and will always be, faithful to the covenant he has made with mankind through Jesus Christ.  We can find assurance, comfort, respite from the cares of this life, and ultimately, eternal life only by holding fast to the anchor of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow Is Another Day


The climax of the classic movie, Gone With the Wind, shows Rhett Butler leaving Scarlett O’Hara, presumably for good.  After momentarily breaking down at this development, Scarlett then resolves to return to her home, Tara, and to start again.  She also exclaims that she will find a way to win Rhett back.  Her final words, which imbue her with hope, are, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

This phrase apparently did not originate with Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, but her use of it certainly cemented it into American culture.  Part of the inherent optimism of Americans is that whatever may have happened today, tomorrow is another day.  We presume that the new day will bring with it new opportunities to succeed in whatever we may have failed today.  In this application it is a worthy attitude.  We need not accept momentary defeat.  We can try again tomorrow.

Christians often appropriate secular ideas or attitudes and apply them to their walk of faith.  “Tomorrow is another day” is certainly among them.  A major tenet of our faith is that what happens today need not be the final word on one’s life.  Part of the grace of God is that forgiveness and renewal are always at hand, if we seek them from Him.  Great men such as King David, and Paul the apostle aptly illustrate this truth.  When David sinned with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, he sank to the depths of sin.  Psa. 51 is his admission of guilt and his plea with God for restoration.  This restoration is attested by the fact that David is still called “a man after God’s own heart” when Paul used this phrase to describe him in Acts 13:22.  David absolutely took advantage of his new day.

Paul also demonstrates the validity of the “tomorrow is another day” principle.  When he was Saul of Tarsus, he was zealous for God to the point of persecuting the church more than any others of his contemporaries.  If this were the end of his story, it would be a tragedy, but God had other plans for Saul.  After meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus, Saul went into the city and the preacher Ananias told him that God had chosen him to be His instrument in preaching the gospel.  He then told Saul, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).  The rest of Saul’s life was spent in God’s service as Paul the apostle.  We today owe much of our New Testament content to the pen of this great apostle.  Tomorrow was another day for Saul of Tarsus, as Paul the apostle’s life would readily attest.

There is another aspect to this concept, however, that bears consideration.  My dear wife likes to express it this way: “After all, tomorrow is another day.  But if it isn’t, then I won’t have to worry about it!”  The power of that statement captures both the grace and redemption offered by God’s love, as well as the confidence of a true child of God.  It alludes both to the opportunity to try again when we’ve come up short, and to the fact that our lives are, as James said, “A vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

The truth is that we are not guaranteed “another day”.  We have this day.  We may have another one tomorrow, or we may have hundreds more for many years.  But, we also may not have another tomorrow.  James’ words remind us that life is fragile and it may pass away at any moment.  As much as we might wish for it, we may not have an opportunity to do better tomorrow than we did today.  In addition to this, the Lord warned that one day He will return for judgment, but no one knows when that will be (Mt. 24:36).  Because of this, He warned that we must be ready at all times (Mt. 24:44).

So what should we take from these truths?  First, we must not put off our obedience to the Lord’s commands.  Ananias told Saul to get up and be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16).  Saul immediately did so.  He did not wait for “another day”.  Had he waited, he might not have had another opportunity to be saved.  We must not put off getting right with God by obedience to the gospel.  We must not put off doing the best we can do in His service.  After all, tomorrow death or the Lord may come, and in either case, we will have no more “tomorrows”.

Those who have obeyed the gospel and who are walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7-9) have the confidence of my wife’s expression.  Those who belong to the Lord by the blood of His Son can face today and tomorrow without fear.  If tomorrow is another day, they will use it fully in the Lord’s service and to His glory.  If it is not, then they will rejoice either in Paradise or at the return of their Savior.  If we live with this perspective, we’ve already won.

An Asterisk Life


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “asterisk” in this way:  “The character (*) thought of as being appended to something (such as an athletic accomplishment included in a record book) typically in order to indicate that there is a limiting fact or consideration which makes that thing less important or impressive than it would otherwise be.”

The most famous example of this definition occurred at the end of the 1961 baseball season.  During that eventful year New York Yankees slugger Roger Maris chased the elusive single season home run record which was set in 1927 by the great Babe Ruth.  Ruth’s record was 60 home runs and on the final day of the 1961 season Roger Maris hit home run number 61 to break this record.  Ford Frick, the commissioner of baseball at the time, decided that Maris’ record should be noted with an asterisk because Ruth had hit 60 home runs in 154 games (the length of the season in 1927) and Maris hit 61 in 162 games (the length of the season in 1961).  The asterisk was later removed but for many years Maris’ record was not as highly regarded as it should have been.

During the infamous steroid era in Major League Baseball Maris’ record was obliterated by Mark McGwire, who hit 70 home runs in 1998.   McGwire’s record was then broken by Barry Bonds in 2001, when he hit 73 home runs in a season.  Many baseball purists believe that McGwire’s and Bonds’ records should be “asterisked” because of the PEDs we now know they were taking at the time.  The bottom line is that this record is forever tainted because of the “limiting fact or consideration which makes that thing less important or impressive than it would otherwise be.”

When we consider the definition of an asterisk in a spiritual context one biblical character immediately comes to mind.  Surprisingly, he was not one of God’s people, but a leader of one of Israel’s mortal enemies.  In 2 Kgs. 5 the scripture records the story of Naaman, who was living an asterisk life.  In 2 Kgs. 5:1 the scripture says, “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.  The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.”

Naaman was a great man in every human method of measurement.  He held a high position in the army of Aram (Syria), and was a trusted lieutenant to his king.  He was a victorious commander and personally valiant in battle.  He was greatly esteemed in his nation because of his prowess as a warrior.  Naaman had everything going his way.  He was head and shoulders above everyone else in the service of the king of Syria.  But all of these accomplishments came with an asterisk.  Naaman was a leper.

Leprosy was a highly communicable and dread disease.  In the Law of Moses a leper was quarantined from the rest of society.  He or she had to live apart from the community and do everything possible to never come into physical contact with any other person.  The Syrians were not subject to the Law of Moses, but reason suggests that they also imposed restrictions upon lepers in their nation.  Thus, as great a man as Naaman was, he was severely limited in Syrian culture.  In addition to this, leprosy was a potentially fatal disease.  Under these conditions, Naaman’s accomplishments as a soldier were less important than they might otherwise have been.

Fortunately for Naaman, he discovered a way to remove the asterisk from his life.  In 2 Kgs. 5:3-14 the scripture relates how a slave girl from Israel who served in Naaman’s household told her master about the prophet in Israel who could cleanse him of his disease.  To his credit, Naaman believed the girl and with his king’s approval came to the prophet Elisha for cleansing.  After initially balking at the prophet’s command to “go and wash in the Jordan seven times” (v. 10), Naaman was persuaded by his servants to obey the prophet’s command.  When Naaman dipped seven times in the Jordan as the prophet commanded, he was immediately cleansed of this terrible disease.

After his cleansing, Naaman returned to the prophet of God and vowed to only serve the God of Israel from that time forward (2 Kgs. 5:17-19).  With his health restored, Naaman returned to Syria to serve his king.  Although the scriptures tell us no more about his life, we may safely conclude that Naaman lived the rest of his days without any limiting fact or consideration that made his accomplishments less important in the view of his nation.  In other words, Naaman no longer lived an asterisk life.

The lesson for each of us today is that we, like Naaman, are living asterisk lives so long as we are outside of Christ.  No matter what our accomplishments may be, no matter how good we may be, or the good we may have done, our sins are the “limiting fact or consideration which makes that thing less important or impressive than it would otherwise be”.  So long as we are still in our sins, nothing else about our life matters.  However, if we turn to the Lord in obedience to the gospel, then we can permanently remove the asterisk from our lives.  Like Naaman, if we wash, we will be clean.  In Acts 22:16, as Paul related the facts concerning his conversion to Christ, he told the Jews what the preacher Ananias commanded him to do after he had encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Ananias said, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

Don’t continue to live an asterisk life.  Obey the gospel, wash and be clean.

Bearing Fruit


On the night of His betrayal, the Lord spoke at length with the eleven apostles after Judas had been dismissed to complete his treachery.  John’s gospel is the only one that records what the Lord spoke on that occasion.  One of the most important parts of His instruction that night was His comments on the vine and the branches.  In Jn. 15:1-6 the Lord said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

As we consider these words, most of our attention focuses on the question of what it means to “bear fruit”.  For generations of Christians in the last one hundred years this question has been answered with a single statement:  “The fruit of a Christian is another Christian.”  This is a simple, easy to understand, and quantifiable answer to the question.  Whoever first made this statement undoubtedly believed he had captured the heart of the matter.  However, as this answer was repeated from person to person and congregation to congregation, an unintended consequence arose.  Many Christians became burdened with the idea that the only way one may bear fruit in Christ is to convert lost souls.

There is no question that saving the lost is indeed bearing fruit.  This is the expected result of preaching the gospel, as the Lord enjoined upon us in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16).  But, is this all the Lord meant by this statement?  Is our bearing fruit only to be measured by the number of souls we have converted?  If we are honest with ourselves, many Christians have never had the joy of seeing one obey the gospel primarily because of our personal teaching and influence.  Some faithful Christians, in spite of their best efforts, have never been able to persuade a lost soul to obey the gospel.  Are we then to judge them as unfruitful and thus in danger of being cast into the fire?

In the larger context of the New Testament the answer to this question is an unqualified “No!”  The most similar imagery of bearing fruit is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In Gal. 5:22-23 he said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  When we study this statement we typically speak of bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  In other words, one whose life is filled with the Holy Spirit will exhibit these qualities as evidence of His presence with him.  We correctly observe that one whose life is not characterized by these qualities is not bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Bearing the fruit of the Spirit shows that one is growing and maturing in the faith.  It shows that one is serious about his commitment to the Lord, and is striving to be all he is capable of being in the Lord’s service.  One who is thus growing in the faith may indeed persuade others to become Christians as well, but he might also never bear that kind of fruit.  The parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-9) certainly suggests this. The sower sowed the seed, but three of the four soils were unproductive, through no fault of his own.  The lesson from this parable must be that not everyone will obey the gospel.

Our job is to sow the seed (God’s word, Lk. 8:11).  If we do this, we have fulfilled our responsibility.  What happens thereafter is outside our power and control.  Indeed, Paul made this very point in 1 Cor. 3:6.  He said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  In other words, the outcome of our sowing does not determine if we have borne fruit or not.

Is it not likely, then, that bearing fruit in Christ must not be judged solely by the number of converts one has made?  Indeed, even in the context of Jn. 15 the emphasis seems to be more on personal growth and maturity than on the multiplication of numbers.  This is not to suggest that we need not be concerned about converting the lost.  Rather, it is to suggest that if we are growing and maturing in the faith in accordance with our gifts and abilities, then we are indeed bearing fruit in Christ.  If we are faithful to the Lord and are dedicated to serving Him to the best of our abilities, we are bearing fruit and the Father will prune us so we may become even more fruitful in His service.  If we bear fruit on this level, we will faithfully sow the seed of God’s word, and He will cause that seed to grow in good soil.

If We Never Meet Again


This is the pulpit of the 4th & Bois d’Arc Church of Christ in Pecos, TX, where I preached for sixteen years.

I presented my final sermon there on August 26, 2018.

The following is my final bulletin article as the preacher for the 4th & Bois d’Arc Church of Christ in Pecos, TX.


One of the most moving songs in our hymn books is entitled, If We Never Meet Again.  The words and music were written by Albert E. Brumley in 1945.  Brother Brumley was one of the most prolific songwriters in churches of Christ, with over 800 songs to his credit, including, I’ll Fly Away, which is one of the most-recorded hymns in history.  Since its publication, If We Never Meet Again has been a staple in hymn books and a particular favorite among older Christians.

In this song Bro. Brumley captured the sentiment we all experience when we are about to separate from loved ones for the last time.  Our hearts ache because of the impending separation, and our love for those we are leaving makes us yearn for the time when we will be with them once again.  These feelings are especially deep when we have lost a loved one to death.  Bro. Brumley’s song is particularly comforting on such an occasion.

The stanzas say:

“Soon we’ll come to the end of life’s journey, And perhaps we’ll never meet anymore, Till we gather in heaven’s bright city, Far away on that beautiful shore.  O so often we’re parted with sorrow, Benedictions often quicken our pain, But we never shall sorrow in heaven, God be with you till we meet again.  O they say we shall meet by the river, Where no storm-clouds ever darken the sky, And they say we’ll be happy in heaven, In the wonderful sweet by and by.”

The chorus says:

“If we never meet again this side of heaven, As we struggle through this world and its strife, There’s another meeting place somewhere in heaven, By the side of the river of life; Where the charming roses bloom forever, And where separations come no more, If we never meet again this side of heaven, I will meet you on that beautiful shore.”

For some, the words of this song bring back memories of loved ones, long-departed from life, whom we will never meet again this side of heaven.  The faithfulness of these loved ones while they lived tells us that we can only see them again if we, too, are faithful to the Lord.  Therefore, when we sing the words of this song, this truth should move us to greater diligence in our Christian walk.

There is no more comforting thought than the promise of scripture that the redeemed will have a sweet reunion in heaven at the end of time.  In 1 Th. 4:16-18 Paul said, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up other with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  We may never see one another again before that time, but the joy of that meeting will far outweigh the loss we feel in the meantime.  This truth should compel us to take the words of this song more seriously than we may have before.

As we consider the words of this song, we are compelled to take stock of our lives.  Are we living in such a way that we may truthfully sing, “If we never meet again this side of heaven, I will meet you on that beautiful shore”?  If so, then we may sing with all the fervor within us, and in full confidence that it will happen.  If not, then we must repent and turn back to the Lord before it’s too late.  Life is too short, and eternity too long, to risk missing the great reunion by the side of the river of life.

Until we meet again, may the Lord keep you in His watchful care.  God bless you!!