Freedom as an excuse

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2.16

The concept of freedom can be a selfish one. The world’s concept of freedom is that one can do as one wants no matter the consequences to others. Freedom is often used as an excuse for wrong behavior.

Peter wrote to live as free people. But, this freedom is one that allows us a choice to fear God and respect him. If we have respect for God, we will obey him.

In obeying God, he wants us to live in submission to government authorities as long as they do not go against God’s will. There is a reason for this. God wants his people to live correctly, doing good so that foolish people, who speak ignorantly, will be silenced, 2.15.

Choice. Christians choose to be God’s slaves. We choose to obey rather than to rebel. We choose to do good to others rather than to cheat them or tear them down. We choose to share the gospel with others rather than to hoard it for ourselves. Our freedom comes in the choice.

#risingjoy #1-Peter #freedom

The best thing we can do for others

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5.13

In Christ, we have been freed from serving the Law of Moses. But, Paul warned the Galatians that the freedom they had in Christ was not a license to do whatever they wanted to do.

We live by the Spirit. The Spirit wars against the desires that we have that lead us to sin. So, if we are living by the Spirit, we will not commit the acts that our flesh may desire. Paul listed the desires of the flesh in Galatians 5.19-21. He warned that those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God! Therefore, our freedom in Christ is not a license to do whatever we desire.

Paul wrote in 5.14, that in essence the law under Jesus can be summed up as “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus taught this in Mark 12.30-31. The important things are to love God first and your neighbor.

If we are obeying these commandments, we will only want what is best for others and would not want to harm them in any way. The best thing that we can do for others is to help them understand the Bible and live it out in their daily lives.

#risingjoy #Galatians #freedom

Hugh’s News & Views (A Famine Of The Word)

A FAMINE OF THE WORD

I am indebted to brother James E. Farley of Louisa, Kentucky for the following poem which he has given me permission to use. It is an appropriate sequel to last week’s edition of “Hugh’s News & Views” titled “A Christian, But Not A Member Of The Church Of Christ?”

A FAMINE OF THE WORD!

By James E. Farley

I love to read the Word of God,

To learn of Truth and Right,

To meditate upon His law,

By day and then by night.

(Psalm 1:2) Continue reading

#hughfulford, #poetry

Alienated from Christ

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. Galatians 5.1

The Galatians were in danger of being alienated from Christ. There were some who had slipped into their ranks and began teaching that to be a good Christian, you also had to obey the law of Moses.

Paul made it very clear that if you obeyed one aspect of the law, then you were obligated to obey all of it. This had been impossible to do. With the coming of Christ, people were free from the law since Christ had fulfilled it. He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice given once for all of mankind. However, only those who accept his sacrifice and obey his commandments will receive the benefits of it. Paul wanted the Galatians to understand that they were freed from the law of Moses.

In Christ, we have freedom that was not seen under the law of Moses. The Israelites had to make sacrifices constantly. There were feasts and days that had to be celebrated. If they were not celebrated, the Israelites would be forced out of the camp.

The freedom that we have in Christ is seen in the one act of baptism where we have contact with the blood of Jesus. There is only one feast that is celebrated, the Lord’s Supper. During the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of all that Jesus has done on our behalf and it is to help us to remember that on a regular basis.

Paul’s instructions to the Galatians were to stand firm against those who were teaching error and not to fall prey to them. The same instructions apply to us today regarding any teaching that is not in agreement with God’s word. We are to stand firmly against it.

#risingjoy #Galatians #freedom

Who are false brethren?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. Galatians 2.4-5

Sometimes you have to take a stand. You have to defend the truth against people who come into the meeting either twisting the truth or with false intentions. Their desire is not to build up a congregation. It is to distort and divide.

Paul called such people false brethren. These do not enter a place speaking their falsehoods clearly. Most often they slip in without anyone knowing the damage that is about to be done. Their teachings come out a little at a time, many times in the form of doubts and questions. Paul said their aim was to make slaves. In the Galatian churches, it was the teaching that to be a good Christian, you have to also follow the law of Moses.

Truth is important. There is only one source of that truth, God’s word. We need to be diligent to know what it says and to understand what it means. Paul stood firm in his defense of the gospel. We need to do the same.

Do you know the word well enough to know when someone is teaching something that is contrary to truth? If not, why not? Peter said that we need to be prepared to give answers to questions about our hope, 1 Peter 3.15. That also applies to defending the truth.

#risingjoy #Galatians #truth

Where the Spirit is present

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3.17

The Jews did not accept Jesus. They still adhered to the Old Testament. There were men teaching that to be a Christian, you had to obey the old law as well.

Paul wrote comparing the two covenants. The old covenant was glorious. Moses covered his face, which shone, with a veil after coming from God’s presence. The old law, even though glorious, produced death, 3.7.

The new covenant under Christ is even more glorious because it produces righteousness, 3.9. God, Jesus and the Spirit are one. Where one is present, they are all present. When a person obeys Jesus, they receive the gift of the Spirit, Acts 2.38. That person also receives the presence of God and Jesus in their life, John 14.23.

At the same time that someone receives the Spirit, the Bible teaches that they are set free from the old law, Romans 8.1-2. You are set free from fear, 2 Timothy 1.7. You are set free from sin, Romans 6.18. You can proclaim with boldness the salvation that God has given to man.

Have you obeyed the Lord? Have you been set free?

#risingjoy #2-Corinthians #freedom

Nothing new

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2.11-13

The sin of prejudice is nothing new. Perhaps the basis of it changes, but the end result is sin, James 2.9. God does not show favoritism. He welcomes all who will respect and obey him, Acts 10.34-35.

Jesus taught about our attitudes in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. He taught that both adultery and murder are sins that we are not to commit. If we commit one, but not the other, we are still guilty of breaking the law.

In comparison to the law of Moses, the law of Christ gives freedom and sets us free from the rituals that were a part of the Mosaical law. We have one sacrifice which is Christ Jesus. We have one observance that was given by Christ to be done in his memory, the Lord’s Supper. In Christ, we are all the same and we are all one. We are priests and a holy nation, 1 Peter 2.9, independent of race or economic status.

God showed his mercy to us by sending Jesus to die in our place, something that we did not deserve. Instead of judging others we need to show mercy.

#risingjoy #James #mercy

What gets your attention?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1.25

What gets your attention? What do you focus on? We all have things that we consider important, things that we want to focus on in our lives. However, so often, that is not where we spend most of our time. We let the urgent things take over for they are the things screaming in our ear for attention. They may not be important at all, but the fact that they will not be silenced bumps them to the front of the line.

James wrote a very practical letter. He was writing to Jewish Christians who were living outside of Israel. He told them what they needed to do to be blessed in their actions.

James told his readers where to put their attention. First, one must peer into the perfect law of liberty. It is more than glancing at it. Time needs to be spent learning it. It is perfect in that it is complete and it will set us free from the urgent things and help us to value what is important. To fix your attention is not glancing at it occasionally, but to spend time reading and studying what is inside.

Secondly, listening is not enough. You need to practice what you have learned, live it out. Just as with other things, spiritual muscles need to be exercised. If you listen and then do nothing, it is of no benefit to you. Even worse many times you forget what you have learned. Practice is necessary!

Where is your attention focused? How well do you listen?

#risingjoy #James #attention

Is Jesus the Messiah?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners, … Isaiah 61.1

This is a passage that speaks of the Messiah, God’s chosen one. Since we know that Jesus is the Messiah, we understand that this passage is referring to Jesus.

In Luke 4.16-21, Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown. It was the Sabbath Day and he went to the synagogue as he usually did. He stood up to read and he was given a scroll of the book of Isaiah. He read Isaiah 61.1-2a. He began to tell them, in verse 21, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.” Jesus was proclaiming to be God’s Messiah.

In Matthew 11.2-6, John the Baptist was in prison. He sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah? In response to their question, Jesus made reference to Isaiah 61.1. He told them to tell John of all they had seen and heard.

Jesus is the only one who has the power and ability to set men free from their spiritual bondage to sin. It is through his sacrifice and death that we have forgiveness of our sins. Jesus said in John 8.31-32 that if we follow his teaching, we will know the truth. And the truth will set us free!

#risingjoy #Isaiah #Messiah

Hugh’s News & Views (A Christian, But . . .)

A CHRISTIAN, BUT NOT A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST?

Is it possible for one to be a Christian (what some often speak of as a Christ follower), and not be a member of His spiritual body, the church? Most people would say no, if one is a Christian that person is also a part of the universal spiritual body of Christ. At the same time, many people would say that one can be a Christian without being a member of the church of Christ, or, as they would likely write it, the Church of Christ, or the Church of Christ church or the Church of Christ denomination. This indicates that in the minds of many people two different things are under consideration when one speaks of “the one universal spiritual body of Christ” and when one speaks of “the church of Christ.” In the case of the latter, they are thinking of and viewing the church of Christ as a denomination, only a part of the much larger universal spiritual body of Christ. But is this in fact the biblical concept of the church of Christ? Is this the view of biblically informed members of the church of Christ? Let us study and think together on this vital question. Please note that the title of our essay is not an affirmation, but a question. Continue reading

#hughfulford

No greater joy

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth. 3 John 4

When you teach someone the gospel, you invest time and energy into that person. Many times you hear their struggles and their weaknesses as well as good things about them. As the person begins to read and study the Bible, you can almost see the challenges to their thinking. You watch as the person goes from knowing little of the Bible, to reading regularly. As the seed is planted, you can see it sprouting into faith and often blooming into something beautiful.

We moved to another city after living years where we had been. We had taught the gospel to many people. We had many spiritual children. The joy of returning some years later and seeing those who were still there faithfully continuing their walk in Christ brought such joy. Our work did not feel as if it had been in vain. Our efforts had been rewarded.

I have also had the opportunity to talk with unfortunately too many parents who have seen their own children leave the faith. The sadness is great and often brings tears of frustration and hopelessness.

We must do our best to see our children, grandchildren, and others we have taught stay faithful. That is best accomplished by instilling a strong love of God’s word and respect for its authority. There is no greater joy!

#risingjoy #3-John #joy

More valuable than gold

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1.7-9

Our faith is more valuable than gold that has been purified by fire. Yet, it is not something that will last. For faith when Jesus is revealed will pass away for it will become something that is concrete.

How can you love someone that you have never seen? Or believe in a place that you have never been? We actually do that all the time. I believe that George Washington existed because of all the historical documents that have been written that point to his existence. I have never been to Europe or Africa, but I have seen pictures that others have taken. I know that these places exist even though I have never been personally.

How do I know that Jesus exists? I know that he exists by faith. How do I get faith? It comes from what is heard, Romans 10.17. The Bible is God’s word, his revelation to man. It tells of Jesus, of his life and of his mission. His mission was to give salvation to man through his sacrifice on the cross. His life was one of obedience to God in all things. I believe based upon the testimony of others.

Do you have faith? How valuable is it?

#risingjoy #1-Peter #faith

Consider it all joy

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1.2-3

Most people do not like to go through difficult times. We would all like to see life be a bed of roses that feels soft and smells sweet. However, life is not like that for most of us, at least not all of the time.

We should be glad. James wrote to consider it joy when we face a trial or hardship. Not that most of us would pray for difficult times so that we have a chance to grow, but that needs to be our attitude when the hard times come. Lord, help me to see what I need to learn from this situation.

Many times we bring the trials on ourselves when we fall into temptation, not because of someone else’s desires, but our own. James wrote to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, 1.19. So often we act the exact opposite and much damage can be done.

James wrote that the man who endures testing is happy. For when he has passed the test, he will receive the reward that God has promised to those who persevere, 1.12.

What is your attitude during difficult times? Do you blame every one but yourself for anything wrong that you have done? Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a genuine person who is trying to have the right attitudes and actions in their lives? May we consider it all joy!

#risingjoy #James #attitude

Do not settle for less

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. Hebrews 10.33-35

The writer of Hebrews is unknown. It is a letter written to Jewish Christians that are considering abandoning the faith. One of the main themes in the letter is the superiority of Christ. Christ is superior to angels and to Moses. He is also a superior high priest!

With everything being superior regarding Christ, do not settle for less. It is so important not to give up in the midst of troubled times and persecution, at times suffering abuse yourself or helping others who have been treated badly. Hold on to the hope that you have been given through faith in Jesus, thinking of others and how you can encourage them to continue strong in the faith. We are in this together. You are not alone. That is why it is so important to meet with other Christians to participate in the Lord’s Supper. It brings to mind: who you were, who you are, and where you are headed.

You are just passing through this world. Where you are headed is far superior to the here and now. So dig in and stand your ground. Do not let the difficulties of this life erode your confidence. You need endurance to do God’s will. But, the reward will make it worth it all!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #endurance

Better expectations

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. Philemon 7

Philemon had a slave whose name was Onesimus, who had run away. Though we do not know how it happened, Onesimus had found Paul. It is possible that Paul had taught him the truth since he refers to himself as Onesimus’s spiritual father.

Philemon was a dear friend of Paul. The church met in his house. Paul had heard from others of his love for the saints and how he had been an encouragement to them.

Even though Paul had wanted to keep him there, he sent Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul appealed to Philemon’s love to accept Onesimus back and even to consider anything that he might have defrauded to be paid by Paul. He expected Philemon to do the right thing regarding Onesimus and felt assured that he would do just that.

Paul had great confidence that Philemon would do the right thing. So often, we lack the confidence in our brethren to do the right thing. Perhaps we should have better expectations of others.

#risingjoy #Philemon #confidence