Making sure our purpose is more about Jesus than self

Based on Paul’s closing comments in Galatians 6:11-18, a question on p. 154 of the Gospel Advocate’s Foundations Adult Bible study book for Galatians (Summer 2018, Lesson 13, Paul’s Farewell) asks, “What steps can we take to ensure our focus remains on Jesus rather than on our accomplishments?”

Here are three simple answers that can aid anyone who wants to make sure what we do is to the glory of God and his wisdom displayed through the cross and not our own self-serving purposes (1 Corinthians 1:18):

  1. Examine our self in the faith that we are called to live by, not our own opinions and feelings (2 Corinthians 13:5).
  2. Do much good (if possible) in secret (Matthew 6:3-4).
  3. Remember Jesus’ sobering words about humility and the relationship between Lord and servant (Luke 17:7-10).

Following the above principals can help us make sure that we are following and serving Jesus in the shadow of his cross instead making our own front and center.

Then he said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

#cross-of-christ, #gospel-advocate, #serving-god

Why were the Galatians turning away from the gospel?

A valid question worth considering is asked in the “Discussion Questions” section on p. 64 of the Gospel Advocate’s Foundations Adult Bible study book for Galatians (Summer 2018, Lesson 5, The Works of Law or of Faith).

The reason the question is valid is because the answers still apply to individuals today. It asks, “Why do you think the Galatians had turned (or were contemplating turning) from the gospel message Paul preached to them?”

The answers are bit subjective for obvious reasons but the question is rooted in reality. Why do people, who have obeyed the truth, turn from the trustworthy to the untrustworthy? Let me share a few answers.

  1. The Galatians were “somewhat new” to the religion of Christianity. Perhaps this different version of the gospel scratched their itching ears in some way (2 Timothy 4:3; Galatians 4:10). Familiarity can be good thing, but it can also become a stumbling block. Such has happened in the past, and continues to happen with the “installation” of “Christian holy days” meant to replace pagan holiday days. Being new to Christianity introduces great emotions into our lives, but these emotions can also become a weakness if we’re not careful.
  2. The presence of very persuasive false teachers could have also played a large factor in the Galatian’s situation. We know the false teachers had the desire (Galatians 4:17) and, according to the results they were getting, it seems as if they had the talent. Such is also the case today with charismatic and linguistically skilled people who present doctrines that blatantly reject the first principles of the gospel.
  3. The absence of sound teachers seems to be a possible contributing factor to the aforementioned work of false teachers. Dangers abound and wolves feast in the absence of a shepherd’s guidance. Consider the fact, unlike in other epistles, that Paul did not mention any laborers by name in the Galatian letter and that may be a clue concerning the leadership situation the churches of Galatia had on their hands. Sound teaching is not optional! (1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2; Titus 1:7-9, 2:1) Its absence will become a detriment that can and will lead to deception in any congregation.

#galatians, #gospel-advocate, #questions-and-answers

Great challenging discussion question

A great challenging question was asked in this week’s Gospel Advocate, adult class Foundations Bible study book (Galatians, Paul’s Credentials, Lesson 2, p. 29):Image result for paul damascus road

How can we show God’s call of Paul did not remove his freedom?

The context of the question is based on the larger scripture passage of Galatians 1:11-24 but it probably finds its more narrow scope from Galatians 1:15 which says, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,“.

As you’re probably aware of, the doctrine of God’s grace and humanity’s free-will is very much opposite from the doctrine of God’s grace and it being “irresistible” to the soul of mankind. So, how would you use the provided scripture context to answer such a question? If you would like to, you can provide additional scripture references that enhance the underlying point Paul was making. I’m looking forward to reading any suggestions.

I have some answers for your consideration as well. I’ll place them after the “read more” tag so they do not influence your thought process. Continue reading

#apostle-paul, #bible-questions, #free-will, #gospel-advocate

If trouble does not stop, why choose wisdom?

On page 96 of the Gospel Advocate’s Adult Foundations Bible Study course (Poetical Book Selections, The Value of Wisdom) a good question is asked.

If possession of wisdom does not keep trouble from arising in life, what benefit is it?

“Why bother?” is an attitude that can afflict the average man and woman. We try to do right when it seemingly has no effect on the wrong we deal with in our family, at work or with strangers. Is there any advantage to understanding, trusting and living out the wisdom that comes from the heavenly source (Proverbs 3:5-6)?

Here are three answers that help to explain what the benefit can be and is for those who seek to get knowledge and understanding with all his or her might:

  • Heavenly wisdom helps navigate us through trouble. It is not the light-house or the buoy-marker’s fault that the seas get rough, but it is to their credit that someone was wise enough to place them where they are! Understanding their value doesn’t stop the storms from happening, but it can keep the storm from sinking us. The same is true, spiritually speaking, of heavenly wisdom.
  • Heavenly wisdom keeps certain troubles away. Take the dangers of alcohol (and ultimately drugs) for example. Proverbs 23:29-35 speaks so plainly about alcohol, a person has to intentionally ignore what they are reading. Add to that the warnings about adultery, lying, improperly raising children, laziness, etc. and we get doses of wisdom beneficial toward avoiding the troubles that many people in the world deal with continually.
  • Heavenly wisdom gives us the ability to help others. Wisdom is meant to be shared. Ever noticed there is an entire book of Proverbs? Sharing wisdom is the whole purpose of Proverbs. From a father to a son, to a son from his mother – when we want the best for people, we share the best we have. Living life takes life skills and heavenly wisdom makes garnering these skills easier.

Hope these answers help to explain the benefit of possessing wisdom despite that it does not prevent all trouble out of our lives.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,” (Proverbs 1:1-5 NKJV)

#bible-questions, #gospel-advocate, #wisdom

Imitating the qualities of Elijah

Lesson 13 of the Gospel Advocate’s Foundations study (Elijah the Tishbite, p. 159) asks, “What qualities did Elijah exhibit that Christians should seek to imitate? How do we develop these qualities?”

While John was the ultimate embodiment of Elijah-like characteristics (Matthew 11:12-14, Luke 1:13-17) it is never a bad thing to display the good characteristics of godly people from the past. Such being true, here are a few qualities I believe are worth displaying:

  • Don’t bow to pop-culture (especially the religious variety). Elijah’s willingness to seek God via the avenue of God’s choice instead of the people’s choice took faithfulness. The truthfulness of Matthew 7:13-14 was revealed long before Jesus used it as a warning when it comes to choices made en masse.
  • Help others despite differences. Remember the widow who garnered God’s grace through Elijah? Different country, different culture and a different religious history, but still the same grace of God! Remember to look at the inward common soul and not outward barriers created by humanity (Luke 19:10).
  • Pass along the knowledge and faith gained from a life lived with God. People need to be taught in order that they may build upon the example that can save years of personal struggle. Elijah did such with the sons of the prophets … especially Elisha! The encouragement of personal example will keep many on the path toward God (Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 2:1-2).

Feel free to share other qualities of Elijah you believe to be of value.

#elijah, #gospel-advocate, #qualities

Feeling alone and what we can do about it

Read 1 Kings 18:41-19:10 and you’ll find Elijah wrestling with some unhealthy emotions.

Such is the reason the Gospel Advocate’s “Foundations” Study Book (Winter 2017, Elijah the Tishbite, Lesson 5, p. 65) asked, “Why do you think Elijah felt so alone? What can we do when we feel this way?”

Here are a few answers from my perspective to each question. Continue reading

#elijah, #gospel-advocate, #loneliness

3 things to learn from Elijah’s interaction with the widow of Zarephath

In relation to 1 Kings 17:8-24, Lesson 2 (December 10, 2017) of the of the Gospel Advocate’s “Foundations” adult study asked,

“What can we learn from this passage about submitting to God’s will even when it doesn’t make sense to us?”

I’d like to share three answers that came to my mind: Continue reading

#elijah, #gospel-advocate, #questions-and-answers

How is Jesus like the door of the sheepfold?

One question in this week’s lesson (Preaching and Ministry, Jesus the Good Shepherd, Lesson 7, p. 83) in the Gospel Advocate Foundations book asked, “How is Jesus like the door of the sheepfold?”

The verses under question say, “Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10 NKJV)

Looking at the verses under question a few answers stand-out:

  1. Jesus is the legal way. He fulfills the prophecy of the Law, psalms and prophets. People who reject Jesus become law-breakers who work against the will of the God and harm the sheep.
  2. Jesus is the passage way. Unless an individual enters through the door named Jesus, there will be no salvation, freedom or spiritual nourishment provided.
  3. Jesus is the rejected way. Abundant life offered, abundant life rejected was the choice of the false teachers (thieves and robbers). Jesus’ desire was the former.

In light of Ezekiel 34, Jesus’ lesson about the sheepfold, the door, the thieves and robbers, and the shepherd of the sheep was meant to grab attentions, interest and decisions. It did and it still does by causing people to see Jesus as the legal way, the passage way and the rejected way.

Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”” (John 10:19-21 NKJV)

#christians-are-like-sheep, #gospel-advocate, #jesus

What components must be present in a biblical sermon?

In last week’s Adult Gospel Advocate Foundations study, the topic of “The Commission to Preach” was discussed.

It’s a good lesson. It particularly does a fine job at distinguishing between preaching and teaching.

I’ve told people I enjoy teaching more than preaching only to have them look at me as if I have a third eye. To most people there is no distinction. I assure you there is.

Many of the questions at the end of this particular lesson were simplistic. I don’t believe it’s to the fault of the editors – it just comes with the territory of the topic. But one question generated a lot more thought in my mind than it did in the class. “What components must be present in a biblical sermon?”

I think it’s hard to be “technical” about answering such a question. Doesn’t mean I haven’t had people share their thoughts with me on how I should preach, what I should talk about or what I shouldn’t say! What I mean is there are many component examples from the scriptures, but very few examples are constantly repeated.

For example: Continue reading

#gospel-advocate, #gospel-preaching, #preaching, #preaching-tip

Hugh’s News & Views (Gospel Advocate)

THE GOSPEL ADVOCATE

The Gospel Advocate is a religious journal published in Nashville, Tennessee by members of the church of Christ and has as its mission exactly what its name suggests—to advocate by means of the printed page the pure gospel of Christ as set forth on the pages of the New Testament. Continue reading

#gospel-advocate, #hughfulford

Has Jesus Left Our Temple?

C.E.W. Dorris wrote these provocative words concerning Jesus’ departure from the temple in Mark 13:
“Sad the day for us when Jesus leaves our temple, and his voice is no longer heard pleading in our souls.”
His words evoke memory of Jesus standing at the door of the hearts of Laodicean Christians in Revelation 3. Do we sometimes ignore Jesus as we would an unwelcome guest? Do we mentally and spiritually pretend that we’re not home when our conscience senses his knocking?
Jesus calls us to follow him. That call requires attention in all areas of life, in making decisions and in forgiving as he forgives as well as in preaching sound doctrine.
Have we surrendered all? Is the voice of Jesus still pleading in our souls?

#ethics, #gospel-advocate, #jesus, #mark-13, #revelation, #sound-doctrine