This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on November 26, 2014.
This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on November 26, 2014.
The nation has been on edge for weeks as a grand jury in Ferguson, MO weighed the evidence in the case of a police shooting that took place in that community some months ago. The media coverage of the shooting and of the rioting that ensued has focused so much on the racial aspects of this story that the facts in the case have been difficult to discern. Agitators have done their best to frame this tragic event in terms of racial bigotry, and opportunists have taken advantage of the tension to loot and burn businesses. A small, but vocal segment made it clear that anything less than an indictment for murder against the police officer would be a miscarriage of justice. When the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer was announced, rioting once again broke out in protest. This incident, like so many others that have taken place in our country, demonstrates how far we have sunk as a people from the principles of scripture.
Justice is often portrayed as a blindfolded woman holding a set of scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The blindfold symbolizes fairness in weighing the evidence so that both sides in the case receive an equitable hearing. It also indicates that the decision is to be made without regard for the status of either of the sides in the case. This is a principle based upon the commands of scripture.
In Lev. 19:15 the scripture says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (NIV). This is an important principle established by God in the Law of Moses. This provision was included in the Law because God foresaw that people tend to let their biases affect their decision making. The Lord God knew that some people would bend in favor of the wealthy or powerful. He also knew that some would bend in favor of the poor and weak in matters of law. Neither of these is acceptable to God. He demands that all decisions be made on the basis of truth. Only in this way will justice be served.
Our Lord Jesus Christ reinforced this principle during His earthly ministry. In Jn. 7:24, as He was facing an increasingly hostile crowd at the Feast of Booths, the Lord had to defend Himself because He had healed a man on the Sabbath. The Lord pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jews who were criticizing Him, because they themselves violated the Sabbath by circumcising on the Sabbath. Then He said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (NASB).
With statements from God the Father, and from Jesus His Son, there can be no doubt that justice is to be rendered without regard to the status of the opposing sides. Justice, by divine decree, is achieved when a judgment is based upon righteousness that fairly assesses either guilt or innocence. While we understand and admit that people sometimes make mistakes, this is not an excuse to pervert justice in favor of one side or another for any reason.
God commands that we must not pervert justice in any way. Therefore our desire should always be for truth to prevail in every circumstance. The only way that we can consistently accomplish this is to always follow the principles of God’s word in everything we do. If more people were willing to obey God’s directions in such matters, there would be far less injustice in our world, and we would all be better off. May it always be our practice to judge with righteous judgment.
This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on November 10, 2014.
In Lk. 17:11-19 Luke recounts an incident in which ten leprous men encountered Jesus as He entered a village while traveling between Samaria and Galilee on His way to Jerusalem. The text says, “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”
This incident is interesting in several respects. First, the Lord performed an incredible miracle when He cleansed these men of their leprosy. What makes this so powerful is that He didn’t openly do anything to heal them. He simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they were healed as they went on their way. This certainly demonstrates His great power. The Lord didn’t have to do or say anything in order to heal the sick.
Second, the occasion of this miraculous healing became an object lesson in gratitude. We generally assume that those who were healed by the Lord were grateful for their healing, but the accounts rarely make mention of it like this one does. Ten men with a serious disease asked the Lord for mercy. He responded by healing them, but when only one of them returned to give thanks, the Lord took special note of it. His reaction tells us that He was disappointed in the nine who failed to give thanks. While it might be argued that the nine were doing exactly what the Lord told them to do by going to show themselves to the priests, it is obvious that the Lord would have been more pleased if they had delayed going to the priests long enough to return and say, “Thank You.”
The attitude of the Samaritan who returned to thank the Lord is a model for all of us. He did not take the Lord’s blessing for granted. He so appreciated the healing the Lord bestowed upon him that he could not do anything else until he had expressed his gratitude for it. When we consider the manner of his expression, it makes the ingratitude of the nine all the more disturbing. Luke says the Samaritan “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice.” There can be no question that the nine heard his cries, but they were unmoved to join him in giving thanks to God.
The Lord made no other statement about the nine, but His question, “Where are they?”, should jar us from any complacency about our gratitude for God’s blessings. The absence of any further comment about the nine suggests that they didn’t return to thank the Lord even after they had shown themselves to the priests. The nine should have been as grateful as the Samaritan was. The fact that they were not says a lot about their character. It says they did not have the faith that the Samaritan had. It says they did not have faith that was grateful for God’s goodness.
As we go about our business from day to day, we must take care that we do not become faithless like these nine men. We are abundantly blessed in many ways, and we should daily give thanks to our Father in heaven for all He does for us. May we never become so complacent about expressing our gratitude that our Father in heaven is prompted to ask, “Where are they?”
Belief is a fundamental requirement to be pleasing to God. In Heb. 11:6 the scripture says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” During His earthly ministry Jesus said essentially the same thing. In Jn. 8:24 He told the Jews, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Everyone who claims to be a Christian today espouses this important truth and requires it of anyone who wishes to be right with God.
As it is practiced by many today, however, the expression of belief in God and belief in Jesus Christ is only an expression. An individual states that he or she believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and on the basis of this statement alone is deemed to be saved. That person might have to repeat some version of the “Sinner’s Prayer,” or some other formulaic statement to claim salvation, but the point is that his or her acceptance as a believer is solely upon the strength of an oral statement.
When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, especially in the book of Acts, we find a very different presentation of the idea of a believer. The first thing we notice is that nowhere can we find any version of the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Neither do we find believers identified solely on the basis of an oral profession of faith. There is no question that people professed their faith in Jesus Christ, but according to the scriptures, true believers acted on their faith by obeying the gospel.
In Acts 8:12, 13 as Luke recorded the evangelistic work of Philip in the city of Samaria, he made this statement about what happened: “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.” Later, in Acts 11:21, Luke tells of the response of the Gentiles to the preaching of the gospel in Antioch. He says, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” The same language is used about the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, in Acts 13:12. All of these believers were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to have their sins forgiven, just as the 3,000 were on Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41).
What this demonstrates is that true believers did not simply profess their faith in the Lord, but also obeyed the gospel as the apostles had commanded since the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection. To the believing Jews on Pentecost, Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In every other instance of conversion in the book of Acts baptism was required for salvation. This requirement was emphatically stated by Paul as he recounted his own conversion in Acts 22:16. The preacher Ananias told the penitent, believing Saul of Tarsus, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
In the New Testament true believers did more than simply profess faith in Christ. They obeyed the command to be baptized in His name in order to have their sins washed away. The Lord Himself stipulated this requirement in Mk. 16:16, where He said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who disbelieves shall be condemned.” This statement illustrates the fact that in the scriptures belief and obedience go hand in hand. In Jn. 3:36 John the Baptist said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” One who truly believes will obey. The one who disobeys does not truly believe.
No one is called a believer in the New Testament who had not been baptized for the forgiveness of his sins. Those who wish to be true believers today must also obey this essential command.
The New Testament teaches us that even though we will each individually stand in judgment, the growth and development of the church depends on all of us working together. In Eph. 4:11-16 Paul spoke of the various works that the Lord placed within the church for the purpose of building it up. We recognize most of these as areas of leadership within the church, such as evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers. However, at the end of this passage we see that every member of the church is expected to contribute to this process. In vs. 15, 16 he said, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
It is easy to speak of the church in the third person, as in “they” are doing this or that. When one speaks of the church in this manner he has taken the position of an outsider. Whether he realizes it or not, he has effectively separated himself from the church and from its work. He is a spectator, rather than a participant. He may still want the church to grow and prosper, but his manner of expression shows that he expects others to make this happen.
Knowing that the scriptures call upon each of us to do our individual part to contribute to the good of the church, we need to ask ourselves a series of questions. What if everyone in the church were just like me? What if everyone in the church attended worship and Bible study like me? What if everyone sang and prayed and contributed of their means like me? What if everyone listened to and applied the sermons like me? What if everyone lived their faith like me, or shared their faith like me? What would happen to the church then?
For some of us this would mean that we could never depend on anyone showing up for worship on the Lord’s day. It would mean that when they did show up, they would sit silently during the singing, and doze during the preaching, and pass the collection plate without putting anything in. It would mean that no one would be able to tell that we belong to Christ, and the lost would never hear the gospel. It’s a frightening thought, or at least it should be.
The man who said the church grows because of what every joint supplies, and by the proper working of each individual part, demonstrated this truth in his own life. Paul the apostle truly put the kingdom of Christ first in his life. He devoted himself to doing everything within his power and ability to further the gospel and to cause the church to grow. Consequently he could honestly say to his readers, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
To whatever degree we may have been treating the church as “they” instead of “we,” we need to repent and ask the Lord’s forgiveness. The church’s growth will be helped or hindered by what each one of us does in the Lord’s service. The church as a whole will not cease to exist, even if everyone in it is just like its fringe members. But, the church will not be able to effectively fulfill its purpose until each one of us takes ownership of his or her place within it.
Let us resolve to follow Paul’s example so we too may encourage others to imitate our life of service in the glorious church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.