Upon This Rock



One of the most reassuring symbols of strength is the image of a rock.  For many years a prominent insurance company has featured the image of a rock in its corporate logo.  A popular auto manufacturer has long touted its trucks as being “like a rock.”  We even use this imagery in our conversations, saying that something is “solid as a rock.”

This same imagery is found throughout the scriptures to depict the faithfulness of God.  He is extolled in the psalms as our rock, meaning that He is unshakable and will always be able to sustain His people.  In the same way, the Lord Jesus used the idea of a rock to illustrate the assurance His disciples have when they give themselves in obedience to God’s will.  At the end of the Sermon on the Mount He said that one who heard His word and obeyed it would be like a man who built his house on a rock, and it would survive all the storms of life (Mt. 7:24-27).

The Lord used a rock to illustrate another important teaching in Mt. 16:17, 18.  At that time the Lord asked the disciples who the people thought He was.  He then asked them who they thought He was.  When Peter confessed that they believed He was the Son of God, the Lord replied, “Blessed are you Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Some have taken these words to mean that the Lord was going to establish His church on Peter, whose name means “rock.”  However, this is not what the Lord meant.  We know this because the Lord used two different Greek words for “rock” in this statement.  The Greek word for Peter’s name is petros, which means a rock, or stone, or pebble.  The Greek word He used for the rock upon which His church would be built is petra, which means a bedrock or foundation stone.

The Lord’s church, then, is built upon an unshakable foundation.  In the context of these verses, that unshakable foundation is the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.  The church stands upon this truth.  Jesus is the Son of God, and the church is built upon Him, as Paul declared in 1 Cor. 3:11, where he said, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, the church will not be overcome by the power of Hades, which is the grave.

This point is essential to our faith.  A church built upon a mere man, even one as great as Peter, cannot long stand.  Neither can it survive the power of death.  We see this in countless instances in which a man builds an organization that ultimately fails upon his death.  Only one person was ever raised from the dead, never to die again, and that person is Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:7, 8).  Because He is never to die again, He is the master over death, and His church is unaffected by the curse of death.

Since the church is built upon this rock, we have full confidence as we go about preaching the gospel and serving the Lord as His people.  Whatever Satan may hurl at us, the church will survive because we are founded upon the rock, Jesus Christ.  He upholds us and sustains us in every circumstance of life, and as a result, we have an unshakable hope for eternity.

Like the man of whom Jesus spoke at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, let us hear and do all that the Lord commands so our spiritual house will be founded upon the rock.

Run to Win



In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth he used a variety of examples from life to illustrate his teachings.  Some of these related to agricultural pursuits, such as planting a vineyard or tending a flock.  In another example, he used a soldier to illustrate the Christian life.  In 1 Cor. 9:24-27 he used two examples from sporting events to illustrate the kind of attitude Christians should have as they serve the Lord.

In this passage Paul said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Paul’s point was that we should run the race that is the Christian life in such a way that we will win the prize at the end of time.  This is an interesting teaching since we would assume that everyone who enters a race intends to do his best to win.  If this were the case, however, there would be no need of coaches to exhort and encourage the competitors.  Every athlete would give his best in every competition, with the full expectation of winning, and with the burning desire to do so.

The fact is that some do not have the burning desire to win, and consequently they do not compete in a way that will enable them to win.  The Lord anticipated this aspect of human nature, and warned that one who put his hand to the plow and looked back was not fit for the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:62).  One who looks back on his previous life, instead of looking ahead to the goal, will not serve in such a way as to reach the goal.  In short, such a person is not running to win.

We see this attitude played out too many times in the body of Christ.  One obeys the gospel and begins his walk as a Christian.  He may be zealous for a while, but begins to slack off over time.  Eventually, he loses enough interest that he is no longer a runner, but a spectator in the Christian race.  This kind of attitude will not bring him to victory at the end of time.  This is the implication of the testimony of Paul, and of the admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In 2 Tim. 4:7, 8 Paul told Timothy that he fully expected to receive the crown of righteousness because he had fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.  He promised that this prize was also reserved for every other Christian who did the same.  In Rev. 2:10 the Lord encouraged the church in Smyrna to remain faithful “until death” in order to receive the crown of life. Running to win is an attitude that will not allow the runner to give up until he crosses the finish line.

This is where the Christian race is so superior to any earthly race.  As Paul said in 1 Cor. 9:24, in a human race everyone runs, but only one is the winner.  In the Christian race, however, everyone who finishes the course wins the prize of eternal life.  Our only competition in this race is a lack of desire to win it.  Only those who quit running lose this race.

Eternal life is for finishers, not quitters.  We do not have to be the fastest or best runners to receive the crown of life.  We just have to be runners who run until we finish the race.  Therefore, run to win!

Tickled Ears



Much has been made in recent years of the need for churches to tailor their worship and their message in order to appeal to the “unchurched.”  (The term “unchurched” refers to people who do not have a heritage of attending worship on a regular basis.)  The thesis is that these people are not interested in the forms and rituals that are commonly associated with traditional Christian worship.  Likewise, we are told that they are put off by doctrines and preaching that appears to be judgmental.  As a result, many churches now conduct worship assemblies that are more like rock concerts than divine worship.  The messages proclaimed in these churches have been watered down to such a point that virtually nothing is viewed as wrong, so long as the individual “loves Jesus.”

When we consult the scriptures, however, we find no justification for this approach.  In fact, we find a decidedly narrow perspective from the inspired writers of the New Testament.  One of them, Paul, spoke very plainly about this issue.  In 2 Tim. 4:1-4 he said, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Two things are evident in this statement from the inspired apostle.  First, preachers have a responsibility to proclaim God’s word, without reservation, and without alteration.  This has been true since the time of Moses, who commanded Israel not to add to or to take away from God’s commands (Deut. 4:2), and it is one of the last warnings in scripture (Rev. 22:18, 19).  To be ready “in season and out of season” means to proclaim God’s word whether the audience likes the message or not.  This was God’s command to Ezekiel in Ezk. 2:7, where He said, “But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.”  When preachers obey this charge, they will reprove, rebuke, and exhort, albeit with great patience and instruction.  In other words, preachers are to proclaim the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).  They must do it in a spirit of gentleness and patience, so that those who hear their preaching will have the best opportunity to obey the Lord’s commands and thereby escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Second, people are always going to want the message to be tailored to their own likes and desires.  It was already so in Paul’s time.  This is why he warned Timothy of this danger.  No one likes a message that convicts him of sin, or that corrects what is wanting in his service to the Lord.  However, the clear implication of scripture is that we cannot hope to please God in life, or to live with Him in eternity, if we do not listen to and obey the preaching of sound doctrine.

The term “sound doctrine” in 2 Tim. 4:3 actually refers to that which is healthy.  The point is that when preachers proclaim the whole purpose of God, as it is revealed in the scriptures, it is good for us.  It warns us of the danger of disobedience, and encourages us to strive for the goal of heaven.  Just as cotton candy is not physically healthy for us as a steady diet, the messages that tickle our ears and water down God’s commands are not spiritually healthy for us.  The sooner we learn this truth, the better off we will be.

Thousands go away from worship assemblies each Lord’s Day having had their ears tickled.  They feel good about themselves, but they have substituted spiritual cotton candy for the live-giving meat of God’s word.  They go away feeling good about themselves, but drifting ever farther away from God.  We will never get to heaven with tickled ears.  There is no alternative to preaching the whole purpose of God, for it alone is the power of God to save us (Rom. 1:16).

Mother’s Day



Today is the day that we give special honor to our mothers.  It is a day that is the source of some very interesting statistics.  For example, Mother’s Day is the busiest business day for Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It seems that giving Mom a break translates to fast food, and KFC is #1.  Another interesting statistic, that more accurately portrays our feelings on this day, is that Mother’s Day is the busiest holiday for phone calls.  (By the way, Dads, Father’s Day is the busiest day for COLLECT phone calls!)  In addition to these fun facts, we all know that Mother’s Day is one of our most special holidays each year.  There is something about the relationship between children and mothers that makes it so.

Why are we so devoted to our mothers?  It starts, certainly, from the fact that mothers give us life.  They are the ones who carried us in their own bodies for nine months, and then went through the pain of childbirth to bring us into this world.  Then, they are the ones who spent the most time with us through our formative years.  For many of us, “Mama,” or ‘Mom,” was the first word we ever spoke, and she was the one who gave us comfort through all the bumps and bruises of our youth.  This is not to say that fathers are not important, for they are, but rather to acknowledge that mothers are typically in the forefront of their children’s lives.

Why are mothers so important to us?  It is because their influence so deeply affects the way we grow and mature, and so greatly affects who we will become as adults.  In 1 & 2 Kings, the records of the various kings of Israel and Judah are marked by an interesting common feature.  As the account of each king’s reign begins, the scriptures tell us who his mother was.  In many cases, this is the only mention of that woman in scripture, but there is a sense that somehow the nature of the king and of his rule is closely associated with who his mother was.  For the good kings, this was a mark of esteem for the mothers mentioned.  For the evil kings, it was a mark of shame.

Perhaps this is why so much is made in the scriptures of women who were godly mothers.  One of the most often referenced is Solomon’s description of the worthy woman in Prov. 31:10-31.  Among her many virtues is the fact that she raised her children so that they later rose up and blessed her (v. 25).  This suggests that they were raised to be godly themselves.  Another godly mother of repute is Eunice, who instilled, with the help of her own mother, Lois, the sincere faith that sustained her son Timothy and prepared him to be a protege of Paul (2 Tim. 1:5).  Certainly these are mothers whom we would do well to emulate in the important business of raising our children.

Most of us will freely admit that it has been the influence of our mother that has had the greatest impact on who we have become.  This is especially true of those of us who are Christians.  A godly mother will do more to instill saving faith in her children than all the preachers and teachers they may ever meet.  This fact underscores how important it is for mothers to be godly, so their influence will lead their children to salvation.

It is important and appropriate that we honor our mothers today, and every day.  Their love, devotion, and godly example are some of the most significant influences in our lives.  There are not sufficient words to express our gratitude for our mothers, but may we simply say, “Thank You!”  Thank you, mothers, for all you do, and for all you have done.  God bless you and keep you, today and always!