Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Christmas

Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas

By Paul Earnhart

This is the time of year that the world has set apart for celebration of the birth of Jesus.  All Christians should rejoice that Jesus did come into the world as recorded in the Bible.

At this time of year, there are two things which are always amazing to observe.  The first is that individuals who claim to be honoring Jesus, do so in ways that are so contrary to His teaching.  Why would a person wishing to honor Jesus do so by getting drunk and losing complete control of his own conduct?  How is Jesus honored by lewdness and immorality?  Would Jesus approve of individuals going deep into debt to purchase useless trinkets that only feed the pride of those receiving them?  The fact is that much of the celebration is no more than an excuse for doing what we want to do, rather than what Jesus would want us to do.

The other thing that is amazing is the amount of misinformation that circulates concerning Jesus at this time of year.  The Bible is the only dependable source of information about Jesus.  The story as we read there is a marvelous story (Mt. 1:18-2:11; Lk. 2:1-20).  But many people are not satisfied with that.  They embellish the Bible story with all kinds of imaginary details which are not in the scriptures and actually contradict facts clearly revealed in the scriptures.  Much of what you see on TV or the movies or hear on radio is without any basis whatever in truth.  Even the idea that Jesus was born on December 25th is without any foundation in scripture whatsoever.

If you really wish to honor Jesus, the best possible way to do it is to study carefully what the Bible says about Him and become obedient to His will.  In our media messages and in our worship, we always strive to concentrate on facts about Jesus and teaching from His lips as revealed in His word.  We welcome all to join with us as we lift up our Savior in glory and honor and praise, not just at this time but for all time.

How to Tempt a Good Man

Friday, December 15, 2023

How to Tempt a Good Man

By Paul Earnhart

When Satan undertook the temptation of Jesus, he faced the greatest challenge of his whole career as a tempter.  All other men and women since Adam and Eve had been relatively easy victims.  But Jesus was different.

Jesus knew God’s will even better than the theologians.  And He was firmly committed to doing God’s will.  For these reasons, He could not be tempted as many mortals are tempted.  Such temptations as adultery, lying, stealing, drunkenness would have been useless.  Jesus had doubtless been exposed to those sins in His earlier life, but He knew that scripture plainly condemned such things, and He would not even consider them.

Satan had to tempt Jesus to do something which was not immoral in itself, something which would even seem to offer some spiritual benefit.  Now most people would suppose that if a thing seemed to offer some spiritual benefit and was not immoral, then it could not be sin.  But Satan knew better and, thankfully, Jesus knew better.

An act is not a sin because men consider it to be immoral.  An act is not a sin simply because it hurts someone.  Neither is an act a sin just because it violates civil law.  An act that violates civil law is a crime, but sin is a violation of Divine law.  Any violation of God’s law is sin whether anyone is hurt or not; whether it appears immoral or not; whether the results appear harmful or beneficial.

Many people look at Matthew’s account of the temptations of Jesus (Mt. 4:1-11), such as the temptation to turn stones into bread and to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, and say, “I don’t see anything wrong with doing those things.”  But if Jesus had done either one of them, He would have sinned.  He did not do them because He knew scripture well enough to know that they were not God’s will for Him.  That’s what made them sin, and that’s why Jesus did not do them.

After Baptism – Temptation

Friday, December 08, 2023

After Baptism – Temptation

By Paul Earnhart

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan marks the beginning of what is commonly called His personal ministry.  This ministry began with a significant testimony of divine approval; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and a voice from the Father in heaven acknowledged Him as His Son.  All of this was surely a strong encouragement to Jesus as He embarked on the work for which He had come.

But Satan was not willing to allow Him to begin that work unchallenged.  Just as Satan had tempted Adam and Eve soon after their creation, now he moved to tempt Jesus.  God was willing that this temptation should take place for the scriptures tell us that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  (Mt 4:1).

Why did the Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted?  Two reasons seem clear:

First, Jesus had come to be our priest; that is, our representative before God.  Isaiah had prophesied 700 years earlier that He would make intercession for the transgressors (Isa 53:12).  In order to understand the problems we face in trying to do what is right and to be our priest (or advocate) before God, He had to be tempted.  Hebrews 2:18 mentions this: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”  Hebrews 4:15 states this negatively: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

One other thing may account for His temptation.  Overcoming temptation strengthens us.  James 1:2 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” 

Jesus was human enough to need the strength that comes from successful encounters with temptation.  And so do we!  When we are tempted, we should view it as an opportunity for growth…IF WE RESIST!

“Son…It’s Not Story Time”

Friday, December 01, 2023

“Son…It’s Not Story Time”

By Victor Osorio

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who worships in the northeast. He mentioned that the elders at the church he attends did away with “exhortation/invitation” talks. When I asked why, he matter-of-factly said, “Because no one knows how to do them.”

That conversation reminded me of one of my first exhortation talks. It was in the summer of 1998. I was living in Temple Terrace, Florida and had just graduated after my sophomore year at Florida College. When asked if I would give an exhortation talk, I agreed but neglected to check the calendar. When the duty roster came out, a brother teased, “You’re brave! That will be the first week of school at Florida College. This place will be packed!” After overcoming the initial panic, I had an idea. I was going to challenge all of us college students.

My scripture was 2 Timothy 2:15. Yes, it was scripture, singular – there was only one verse. But at least I used the NIV version which said, “Do your best, rather than “study,” to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” After that, I was off to the races with a great story.

The story was fitting. It was about “Cory Matthews,” a fictional character from the sitcom Boy Meets World. The episode I referenced was when Cory was graduating from high school. Through the entire episode Cory was acting strange and melancholy, which was out of character.  His friends and family were worried about his well-being. The climax was at the end when he revealed what was bothering him. As he came to the end of his high school career and completed an assignment to reflect on his feelings about the moment, he realized he was barely a “C-student.” As he presented the assignment he stated, “I could’ve done better. I could’ve done better. I’m sorry; I could’ve done better. Congratulations to those who did.” In my talk, I then pivoted, not to our lives as academicians, but as Christians. I challenged us students not to look back at the end of the year wishing we could have done better in our service to Christ.

I stepped down from the dais feeling that I did my job. Many encouraging folks agreed. Then I saw dear brother and veteran soldier Harry Pickup, Jr coming up to me. He put his left hand on my right shoulder, and in his slow, low, southern draw said, “Son, you did a nice job. You were prepared. You were articulate. You had a good message. But let me give you some advice.” His voice changed from encouraging coach to admonishing, but loving, father. He added, “Son, remember, this is not story time. You have to start with scripture, end with scripture, and use scripture all in between.”

Oddly enough, as hard as I worked on that lesson, and as much as I thought it was just the right message for the time, I agreed with him. I took the admonishment to heart. And I have tried not to repeat that “mistake” since.

No doubt stories have their place in exhortation and Lord’s supper talks. But our cleverness is not “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16-17).

A brief caveat as hearers of these talks. Let’s not make assumptions on our brothers who perform these talks. When someone reads a story off the Internet, let’s not assume they didn’t prepare and print a story off last minute. Let’s take that as a sign of preparation. When someone has a unique presentation style, let’s not assume they are trying to be theatrical and make it about themselves. Let’s assume it is serious to them, and they wanted to make it memorable and meaningful to us.

The answer to better talks is coaching and demonstration by example. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water and do away with them all together. Our young men need opportunities like these to grow their abilities in public settings while being taught to understand the Holy Spirit left enough material in the Bible for a lifetime of sermons, let alone short talks. Let’s encourage our future laborers and leaders to do these talks well.

As for this article, I know I could’ve done better because it’s not story time.

Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts – Part 2

Friday, November 24, 2023

Seven Things to Remember When Dealing with Doubts – Part 2

By Mark McCrary

Text: Matthew 11:1-14

In our last article, we discussed three things we learned from the event of Mathew 11 where John expressed doubt about the identity of Jesus as the Messiah:

  1. Everyone doubts.  John was strong and faithful, but even he was weak at this moment.  We should not be surprised when we go through moments of doubt as well.
  2. Express your doubts. When John began to question, he took his questions right to the source: Jesus.  Sometimes when we doubt, we are tempted to bottle them up inside. That doesn’t help. We should go to God in prayer and find others whom we trust to talk with.
  3. Circumstances of life cause us to doubt. John’s doubt likely came from his difficult imprisonment.  Our struggles often come in challenging seasons—sicknesses, loss, etc.

There are four other helpful things to remember from this lesson, however.  Let’s dive into them.

Number four: Jesus is Understanding When We Doubt

This is comforting.  Jesus didn’t say, “What in the world is wrong with John?  He saw the Spirit and heard the voice of God!”

We feel that way when we doubt, right? Surely God is disappointed in me. He must be thinking, “What in the world is wrong with them? They go to church! They’ve read the Bible! They’ve prayed and taught others about Me!”  But, how did Jesus respond?  Jesus turns to the crowd and lifts him up.  Jesus understood the stresses John was in and sought to reassure him. And, if anyone was prone to judge John for this “momentary” lapse in faith, He defends John (Mt. 11:7-10).

Isn’t that wonderful? I need to hear that! Doubts from the circumstances of life don’t undo a life of faith expressed in service.  And though faith may be suppressed because of circumstances, that suppression doesn’t mean it is dead. God sees it still!

Number Five: Jesus Doesn’t Want Us to Remain in Doubt

As understanding as He was, though, He did not want John to continue to question.  He wanted to assure him to hold on to what he knew, not let go because of what he felt.

Jesus wants the same from us.  While understanding of our doubts, He wants us to move past those and regain confidence in Him.

Number Six: Listen to Witnesses

There’s great power in a personal testimony; when a person says, “I saw this. It happened to me.” Jesus didn’t just tell John to trust Him.  He performed miracles in front of John’s disciples and said, “Go tell him what you have seen Me do.”

Who are our witnesses? Who tells us when we doubt of what they have seen and experienced personally? Certainly, the apostles would be the first we should turn to.  They witnessed the teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-11; 1 Jn. 1:1-4). History tells us that except for John, all died for their faith. None renounced Jesus or claimed what they taught was a clever lie designed to bring them power and fame. No, they all died confessing Jesus is indeed Lord—even in the face of death. Listen to those witnesses!

But perhaps there are other witnesses we can turn to. People whom we know whose faith remained even through challenges in life.  Brothers and sisters who persevered through cancers, pain, disappointments, and even death.  Though they may not be witnesses exactly the way the apostles were, they are still witnesses to us that faith can be held on to even when difficult.

This brings us to our last lesson…

Number Seven: Hold on to What You Know

The message to John from the witnesses was enough to strengthen him.  John could know these things.  They were to be certain to him.  Jesus’ message: imprisonment isn’t going to end for John well.  Jesus knew he felt uncertain.  But he could face what lay before him with confidence that Jesus was indeed the promised One—Jesus was doing what Isaiah said the Messiah would do.  He would indeed accomplish the work of God’s Messiah and usher in God’s eternal kingdom.  John, hold on to what you know—not what you feel.”

That is our call today.  When you begin to feel doubt, go back to what you know. What are the proofs of God, His word, and His Son that are undeniable for you?

Here is an example to contemplate: The tomb of Jesus was empty, and none have been able to give a credible explanation other than the Bible.  If the leaders took the body to keep it from the disciples, they could have produced it easily when the church started in the book of Acts and ended Christianity very quickly. They could not. If the disciples took the body to begin a movement intended to bring them fame and wealth, they would have admitted so when faced with certain death. They did not.  The apostles knew whether they were telling the truth or lying, yet to a man they gave their lives as a testimony to what they saw and knew to be truth.

Whether it is the above or some other truth you cannot shake, hold on to it.  Don’t define your faith by your doubts, but your doubts by your faith.  That’s what Jesus was calling John to do. That’s what He is calling us to do as well.

Doubts sometimes occupy the minds of those who are not omniscient, thus are a part of our human journey.  Don’t feel ashamed of those moments.  Let’s learn from this story of our Savior and a faithful servant and press on.

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