Thursday, December 30, 2010

Salvation- IN Water But Not BY Water!



Have you noticed that when God saves people throughout the Bible, water always seems to be in the plan?

In Genesis 6 - 8, Noah and his family were saved, not BY water, but through water. The waters of the flood literally separated the ark of safety from the wickedness of the drowning world. Salvation was from God but the agency was the water. Noah and his family were not saved BY water but were saved through water. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:18 - 22 that our baptism corresponds to Noah's and that "likewise baptism now saves us" as well.

In Exodus 14, Moses and the people of Israel were saved, not BY water, but through water. God rolled back the deep water of the Red Sea, the people passed through the water and reached salvation on the other side. The Egyptians, on the other hand, were all drowned in the sea as the waters collasped after Israel's crossing. Through water, Israel passed from slavery into freedom, from no possession towards possession of a land "flowing with milk and honey" and from sin towards righteousness. Moses and the people of Israel were not saved BY water but were saved through water. Paul tells us that Israel was "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" in I Corinthians 10:1 - 4.

In Joshua 3 and 4, Joshua and the people of Israel were saved, not BY water but through water. Once again, God rolled back the deep water of the Jordan allowing the people to cross in safety on dry land. They thus escaped the wilderness and entered into the Land of Promise. They then happily errected two Ebenezers - one of 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan where the priests had stood with the Ark of the Covenant and one of 12 stones where the people stopped for the night at Gilgal. Joshua and the people of Israel were saved, not BY water but through water.

The New Testament builds on this history of water "agency" for God's work of salvation. John baptizes at Aenon near Salim "for there was much water there." (John 3:23) Jesus Christ was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15) Jesus stipulates baptism as a requirement for salvation. (Mark 16:15 - 16) Jesus commands the apostles to "make disciples, baptize and teach all things whatsoever I have commanded." (Matthew 28:18 - 20) The same command passes to each Christian through out all time. The apostles commanded baptism for "everyone" in Acts 2:37 - 38 "in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

The fact that almost everyone in so-called "Christedom" misses the point regarding baptism is perhaps Satan's greatest victory in our time. Calvin, Luther et al falsely taught that baptism is a "work of man" and, therefore, not a requirement of salvation. Baptism is not a work of man BUT it IS a work of God! Colossians 2:11 -12 very clearly tells us that God does His "powerful work" of salvation in baptism. God does all the work! Man does no work in baptism.

God does not save us BY water, He saves us IN water! Baptism is the TIME AND THE PLACE where God does His powerful work of salvation. There are many way to "join" many denominations (divisions from the original and therefore false) but there is absolutely NO WAY to "join" the church of Christ. One can only be added to His church by the Lord. Who therefore, can be added? Only those who "gladly receive His Word" through the water of baptism "in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" after repentance. The same way they were added to the church of Christ then is the same way people are added to the church of Christ today! There is no other plan of salvation! God does NOT save us BY water but He most certianlly saves us IN water!

Have YOU been baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reasoning Together - An Introduction to the church of Christ


By: Russ McCullough

During these swiftly flowing times, it is painfully obvious that men and women of differing faiths have little time to discuss their beliefs, to examine the Scriptures and to converse about their diverse theology. Not only is there but precious little time to consider these matters, there seems to be more churches in America than major intersection corner drug stores!

How can one know which church is the church of the Bible?

The purpose of this brochure IS to introduce you to a church you may or may not have heard of before. The purpose is NOT to talk about yet another denomination. Unless you have just "found" this pamphlet, the person who gave it to you is likely a member of the church of Christ. Should the church of Christ not be known to you, please allow me to introduce you! What follows is one man's attempt to answer the question, "What does the Bible teach about Christ and His church?" The Bible has much to say, with dazzling clarity, regarding Christian Unity, Salvation, Worship, and Congregational Leadership.

In the long ago, in the midst of a disagreement between God and His people Israel, God said this; "Come now, let us reason together...." [Isa. 1:18] We too have that same opportunity nearly 30 centuries later, to reason together.

Somewhat of a disclaimer must go first. As a people, the church of Christ [Romans 16:16] has no organizational structure outside of the local congregation. There is no earthly authority higher than the local congregational leadership (called the eldership) recognized among us. For Christ is the "....head of the church....and....gave himself up for her." [Eph. 5:23-25] Each congregation is independent and responsible for its own spiritual direction as guided by the Scriptures. We (the word "We" is used in the most limited of senses) have no creed but the Bible and return to the Scriptures for truth in all things because the Bible contains the truth that sanctifies us (sets us apart) in God's sight. [John 17:17] As a result, no mortal person can speak for the church as a whole. I will, however, attempt to articulate, generally speaking, the commonly held beliefs among us as taught in His Word. It is my sincere prayer that I "...speak the truth in love" [Eph.4:15] regarding these most urgent of matters for Heaven and Hell are real places and each of us will soon reside in our choice of one or the other.

One other thought; I ask you to join me in "...examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things (are) so." [Acts 17:11]

What Does the Bible Teach Regarding Unity in Christ?

Spiritual unity is not only possible; it is God's will. Jesus Christ prayed for the unity of all believers. [John 17:20-21] The first century church enjoyed unity. [Acts 4:32] Unity, however, is possible ONLY when we agree on the essential cornerstone of belief as defined by God Himself. When all else is stripped away, we "....must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." [Heb. 11:6] Who God IS is clearly defined. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." [Gen. 1:1] Either God created EVERYTHING or He did not. Either we believe that He is Creator God or "he" is simply a legend in the collective memory of an evolved animal whose very existence, without God, is unexplainable! Central to who Creator God IS is His Word:

" Jesus said that God's ".....Word is Truth." [John 17:17] " Jesus Himself is the incarnation of God's Word in the world for John says that; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." [John 1:1] " God's Word "became flesh and dwelt among us." [John 1:14] " Jesus (The Word) said that His Words will outlast heaven & earth. [Matt. 24:35] " God's Word is alive and well even unto this very day, able to change our very hearts and souls! [Heb. 4:12]

We believe, therefore, that God IS, that God Created all things, that God gave us His Word who remains alive and well to this very day and that God is capable of changing our lives to the core through His Word! So, one may ask; "What portion of his Word is inspired and what is just mere superstition....and how would one know the difference?" Here is where we differ with many in the religious world, for
we believe that the Scriptures are 100% true and contain no error whatsoever.
We believe that the apostle Paul states the Truth of God when he asserts that; "....all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable....." [II Timothy 3:16-17]

Unity among us is possible when we collectively endeavor to leave our opinions, our cultural history and our theological conclusions all "at the door" and approach the Scripture seeking God's wisdom.

God's wisdom is promised to us. [James 1:5] That wisdom is found in the Scripture, the Word that can and will save us. [James 1:21]

We find ourselves in a world of intense religious division, even to the point of open warfare between "believers." Among many examples, Protestants and Catholics for instance, have been killing each other in Northern Ireland since the English sought to "pacify" Ireland with forced resettlement of the ruthlessly defeated Scotts in the mid 18th century.

Here in America, we have instead of encouraging the unity of believers; have celebrated and encouraged religious disunity in the name of pluralism, individualism and tolerance.

"Attend the church or synagogue of YOUR choice this week end," is the mantra prominently displayed on the backs of trucks and on billboards all over our country. BUT....what does GOD want?

We believe that God wants us all to be one in Christ and that there be; "....no divisions among (us)." [I Cor. 1:10] To the best of our knowledge,
denominationalism first arose in Corinth, Greece in the 1st century and Satan has been using it ever since. What Paul condemned in Corinth has been applauded in America.

Paul tells us that these Christians had "denominated" themselves into separate groups and were in active division one from another. [I Cor.1:11-12] "Denominationalism" is defined by the American College Dictionary (Random House, 1963 edition) as; "...(a) sectarian sect or spirit or policy; the tendency to divide into denominations or sects." There were at least four "Christian" denominations at that time in Corinth. One of these denominations espoused Paul himself as their champion but Paul strongly condemned this sentiment by asking three powerful rhetorical questions. "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" [I Cor. 1:13] The implied answer: "No, Christ is not divided, Paul was not crucified for anyone and you were not baptized into Paul's name!" In addition, there was serious moral failure, socio-economic divisions and a theological rupture over spiritual gifts. Paul took strong issue with all attempts to divide among the various congregations he wrote to. Never once did Paul tell anyone to "denominate" or to separate themselves when division arose. In fact he, for emphasis sake, redundantly stated to the church in Galatia that if even "...we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed." [Gal. 1:6-8] Paul often saved some of his strongest statements in defense of unity. [Romans 16:17-18] Christ founded but one church (singular). [Matt. 16:18] Christ died for but one church (singular). [Eph. 5:25] Only one church (singular) was established on the Day of Pentecost. [Acts 2:41] Denominationalism and division can easily be a thing of the past simply by returning to the church we read of in the New Testament. Only by turning to the Word as the standard by which Truth is defined can the unity for which our Lord prayed for in John 17 be achieved.

"Attending the church or synagogue of your choice" may be very American, but is not biblical. Christ died for, founded and sustains ONLY ONE church...HIS church, the church of Christ. The church of Christ is NOT a denomination.

What Does the Bible Teach Regarding Salvation?

The evangelical Christian community in America has in the last three decades achieved a semblance of unity regarding the question of salvation. To summarize [synopsis mine] this "unity" in the most general of terms:

"Salvation is by grace/faith/belief alone upon the request of the believing and repentant sinner for Jesus to enter into his/her heart. This takes place once the believer recites his/her preferred version of "the sinner's prayer." It is believed that this process results in a personal relationship with one's Savior thus rendering eternal salvation."

Again, however, we must ask the question; "Is this conclusion biblical?" And.....again...... "what does the Lord say?" There is no example of a "sinner's prayer" in the Scriptures! The concept is based upon a misinterpretation of Revelation 4:20 where Jesus is described as one who is knocking on the door of the heart asking for entry at the request of the one who is already present. Unfortunately for many people who have believed on the "sinner's prayer" teaching, Jesus was NOT speaking to NON-CHRISTIANS in this passage. He was speaking to unfaithful Christians who were "lukewarm" in their faith and were about to be "spewn out" since they were neither cold nor hot. If Jesus did not institute the "sinner's prayer," just HOW do we obtain the free gift of salvation made possible 100% by the Grace of God? [Ephesians 2:8 & 9] Let's examine what the Scriptures say regarding salvation: Jesus Christ came "....to seek and save the lost." [Luke 19:10] He has "....the words of eternal life..." [John 6:68] Just what are those words? Jesus says that; "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should (emphasis mine) not perish, but have eternal life." [John 3:16] By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul says that faith (belief) without love is worthless. [I Cor. 13: 2] Jesus says that those who fail to obey His commands do not, in effect, love Him. [John 14:15] Jesus says that we must believe that He is the Son of God [John 8:24] He goes on to state that we must repent (reform, take a new direction) of all our past sins. [Luke 13:5] As did Jesus before Pilate, we must confess before others that Jesus is indeed the Son of God [Romans 10: 9 & 10] Finally, Jesus stated that; "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." [Mark 16:16] (Note that baptism is not required of those choosing condemnation! Non-believers are by definition those who are "... condemned already." [John 3:18] ) He also commanded that the apostles were to; "....go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." [Matt. 28:19-20a] It is clear that Jesus commands baptism from the time of the apostles to our day and time since we are the "them" that Jesus says should learn and obey "ALL THAT" He commanded the apostles. Simply put, those who love Christ and long to please him will happily be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus prayed while on the cross that God would forgive his murderers. God did just that on the Day of Pentecost, not too many days hence, when those very same murderers cried out in response to the Gospel message; "...brothers, what shall we do?!" [Acts 2:37b] The answer for all time and eternity from the Day of Pentecost until the very day the Lord returns is this: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins...." [Acts 2:38a]

Nearly the entire American evangelical community is unified without question that one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God [John 8:24], that one must repent of all past sin [Luke 13:5] and confess said belief and repentance in some kind of public manner [Rom. 10:9-10].

Why then, does that same community reject the absolute necessity of baptism for the remission of sins as essential to eternal salvation?

Without going into the history of Protestant theology, it is assumed by many that baptism is a "work" and as such has no relationship to salvation. [Eph. 2: 8-9] And yes, we believe that baptism IS a work...... we believe it to be a work of GOD! [Col. 2:12 (Literal Greek per The R.S.V. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, Fourth Printing, 1972: "..co-buried with Him in the baptism in whom also you were co-raised through the faith of (in) the operation of God (emphasis mine) raising Him from (the) dead.")] We believe that God's saving work is done at the time and place of one's baptism.

Not only is baptism a work of God, baptism is the result of an responsive belief. Belief, like baptism, is a work of God!

The inspired apostle John writes in his gospel quoting Jesus Christ in his response to a question; "...What must we do, to be doing the works of God? Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom he has sent." [John 6:28b -- 29] A "belief" that does NOT include baptism is NOT a responsive or saving belief! We do the submission and God does the work! Speaking logically for arguments sake, "IF" baptism is a "work" in the Ephesians 2:8 - 9 model, would not any other form of salvation process be an equal or even greater "work?" We would suggest that "praying through" at the "altar" is much more "work" than closing one's eyes, falling limp into the hands of another and submitting to Christ's will in the "watery grave of baptism!" We believe that along with belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, repentance of past sins and public confession of the name of Jesus Christ, baptism is the only proper response to God's free gift of salvation, an "...appeal to God for a good conscience." [I Pet. 3:21] The inverse is just as true; the appeal of a "bad conscience towards God" would be a neglect of baptism. We believe that immersion (sprinkling for "baptism" was unknown for hundreds of years after the church was established {the Roman Catholic church did not officially endorse sprinkling until the Council of Ravenna in 1311} and one can still see massive immersion pools in many of the older cathedrals of Europe) for the remission of sins is no more a "work" than hearing and pondering over the Word of God, believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was killed-buried-and rose again the third day and confessing that most Holy of names among witnesses. Please know that we do not believe that baptism is "more" important than hearing, believing, repenting and confessing.......I just have dwelt upon baptism more since it is the prominent obstacle to unity between us concerning salvation. One final note on the subject; baptism by mode is ONLY immersion.

The word "baptism" [noun] comes from the Greek word "baptisma" meaning; "...baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence of...." The word "baptize" [verb] is ".....primarily a frequentative form of "bapto," to dip, was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc." Vine, W. E. Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, Seventeenth Impression, 1966.

The final change from "immerse" to "baptize" came in 1622 when the self-identified Church of England replaced immersion with sprinkling for “baptism.” Some have supposed that the word “baptize” was transliterated from the Greek into Elizabethan English in order to placate the sentiments of King James. However, the words “baptize / baptism” always meant “immerse” in the English language as far back as the Norman invasion in the 11th century. For more documentation on this matter, go to: http://traces-of-the-kingdom.org.

What Does The Bible Teach Regarding Worship?

We believe that additions and subtractions from God's Word, no matter how well meaning, are presumptuous at best. Unknown in 1st century church worship were clerical robes, mandated uniform liturgy, candles [except for lighting], incense, iconoclastic art veneration, mechanical instruments of music, special "holy days" celebrations for Christmas & Easter, extra congregational government and extra biblical creeds. We believe that worship should replicate, as closely as possible, the worship practices we read about in the New Testament.

Additions and changes to worship that have come down to us through the centuries via religious tradition take us down a slippery slope. Biblical worship is God centered, evokes proper emotion towards Him and is based upon revealed truth.

We read in John 4:23b, 24 that; "....true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth." God seeks us to worship and we joyfully do so. But, how do we obtain the knowledge of what to do and how to do it? As noted previously, Jesus states in John 17:17 that God's Word is truth. Peter, by inspiration, reveals that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us....." [II Peter 1:3] In short, everything we need to know concerning worship has been revealed in God's Word and awaits our discovery. The "acts" and the "words" of the apostles carried down to us through the centuries by the Word are our pattern and blueprint for worship today.

Far too often, modern day worship is ever changing, subjectively self-focused, and directed by clergy.

When we strip away centuries of religious tradition, we find that
worship in New Testament times was simple, God focused and "clergy" free.
We believe that there is a balance in worship between emotion and reason. While discussing the subject of speaking in tongues in the public worship, Paul illustrates this principle in I Corinthians 14:15, "......I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind."

Too much emotion in worship soon evolves into entertainment and too little soon sends the worshipper into legalism.

Upon opening the Word, we find that the first century church met on the first day of every week. [Acts 20:7] When gathered together as the Body of Christ, there was the observance of the Lord's Supper [I Corinthians 11:23-36], praise to God in song [Colossians 3:16], prayer [Colossians 3:16], public reading of the Scriptures [I Timothy 4:13], preaching [Acts 20:7] and a cheerful setting aside of one's God given wealth. [I Corinthians 16:2] We believe that if we do these things as did the apostles along with the 1st Century church, our worship will be pleasing to God. It is our belief that if we were to attempt an "improvement" of worship by pragmatism, experimentation and outright change, we run the risk of having our worship rejected by God as was Cain's in the long ago. [Gen. 4:5]

What Does The Bible Teach Regarding Congregational Leadership?

Consistent with how we believe on other matters already mentioned, how and by whom the church is guided is founded upon the Word as opposed to our feelings and opinions.

In the first century church, there was no such thing as a "clergy." There was no such thing as a "laity." These are extrabiblical concepts that came into play long after the church was established.

The Word teaches that ALL of us are a part of a "priesthood of all believers." [I Peter 2:9] Unlike the Mosaical covenant, the 1st century church had no "priest." In the Christian age each person is his or her own "priest" and can approach, pray to and worship God without a 3rd party go-between. In other words there is no need for a modern day "ordained person," "father" or "reverend" to "facilitate" our connection to God. We believe that the insertion of "clergy" between God and people is from man. Other than the apostles, the only guidance the infant church had was what we call the "eldership." The eldership consists of a plurality of men who "shepherd" and "pastor" the congregation as far as spiritual matters go. The apostle Peter tells us that elders, and he identifies himself as one, should "shepherd," "care" and "oversee" the congregation which he refers to as the "flock." [I Peter 5:1-4] The Word also refers to these men as "bishops" and "presbyters." Since the eldership is primarily focused on the spiritual well being of the congregation, the assistance of whom the Scriptures refer to as "deacons" is essential to serve the congregation in day-to-day matters such as benevolence and various housekeeping duties. The qualities these men who serve the congregation should have are given by inspiration in two places, I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. Not because we chose it this way, but because God did, all elders and all deacons must be men [men married to only one wife] and women are not to take a leading public role in teaching or worship. By so stating, does Paul say men are superior to women? No. Is Paul a sexist? No. The Word clearly states that the souls of both men and women are equally valuable, saying that "There is neither.....male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Galatians 3:28] The Scriptures reveal that God respects no person above another, for Peter says; "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism." [Acts 10:34].

Though each soul is equal in value in God's sight, He has given different roles to men and women.

My conclusion follows:

Thank you for prayerfully considering what has been said regarding Unity in Christ, Salvation, Worship, and Congregational Leadership. Please critically compare the above in the light of the Scriptures. Should you conclude, as did I, that Jesus is the Christ -- The Son of the living God, it is now YOUR opportunity to come to that same.....Conclusion:

"....here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13

My conclusion, as I pray yours will be, was to repent of my sins, confess the Name of Christ in the presence of others and was immersed for the forgiveness of my sins. I then arose, as will you, to a new life as God Himself added me to the church of Christ in which I now live and worship in accordance with His Word.

Won't you join us in study and worship next Lord's Day with the church of Christ? God will be glorified and we would be honored by your presence!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Did You Cast Your Vote in Early Voting?


Unlike in years past, millions of Americans are "voting early." Instead of waiting for election day, people can simply drop by their local library and cast their vote at their convenience for a couple of weeks prior to the general election. Pretty convenient AND a good way to avoid long lines in November.

There is, however, another election that Christians participate in several times every week. The process is simple, easy and quick. We all "vote" yea or nay on whether we assemble with the saints...or not. If you are reading this on Lord's Day morning, did you vote to attend Bible study earlier...or not? How will you cast your vote regarding attending this evening's worship? That election is going on as we speak, the jury is still out. Yea or nay? What about Wednesday Bible Study? What about our next fellowship opportunity? How did you vote in regards to your congregations last gospel meeting? How do you vote regarding various other Bible studies offered by others?

Do we use the same criteria to decide if we come home every night...or not, attend holiday functions with our extended families...or not and mark family birthdays and anniversaries...or not? Do you vote to not attend vacation time with your spouse or children? How about your job? Do you vote to come and go as you please?

Voting is all about our priorities. The priority of every Christian is to go to heaven and influence others to go with us. As a parent or a spouse, unlike political elections, when we vote to not attend the assembly of the saints, we not only vote for ourselves...we vote for our children as well. If the parents are absent, so are the children! What life lesson is then learned? How will this shape THIER priorities in years to come?

Noting the fact that there are times in our lives that we cannot be at the assembly, there are also many times when we are not hindered. People become ill, they have to go out of town and have to work. But there is most of the time when people are well, they are in town and they don't have to work. Do we still stay away? Do we vote to be absent for sports, naps, TV, golf, etc. or just plain indifference? Some, of course, can't drive when it's dark. If that's the case just ask the deacons at your congregation to find a volunteer to pick you up...there are many who would love to do so! Only God and you know why you vote the way you do. No one is your judge but Christ.

When we are absent from the assembly, not only do we miss out on all God's spiritual blessings, we deny others the encouragement they would otherwise receive by your presence. Let's consider the Scripture the next time "early voting" comes up!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:23 - 25 (ESV)

When we vote TO attend the assembly of the saints:

We hold fast the confession of our hope
We do not waver
We assert the faithfulness of God
We stir up others to love
We stir up others to good words
We do not neglect meeting together
We do not participate in others bad habits of neglect
We encourage one another

Remember that God is seeking us to worship Him in spirit and in truth! [John 4:24] When we neglect the assembly we deny God what He is seeking. Your hand is on the lever, which way will you pull it?

For a FREE Bible study - e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

OMG - The Careless Prayer

One of the most popular TV shows of the 1980's was "Magnum PI." Though entertaining and engaging, it was disturbing as well on one particular point. A principal character, Higgins, popularized the taking of the Lord's Name in vain by uttering several times a show; "Oh my G_______!" Since that time, Americans have adoopted this blasphemey as perhaps the most popular slang expression in our country.

So popular, in fact, even the abbreviation of blasphemey is gaining ever increasing popularity as well. Anytime the letters "OMG" appear blasphemey is taking place, though few realize it.

There are two issues here. First and foremost, the Name of God is holy and must be respected in the extreme. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10 the the things "written aforetime" were written for our "warning," for our "learning" and for our "instruction."

1. Leviticus 21:6a - "...they shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God..."
2. Ezekiel 39:25b - "...I will be jealous for My holy name..."

There was a time when we referred to this kind of talk as "taking the Name of the Lord in vain." We should do so again!

The second issue is equally sobering. When one expresses the OMG slur what follows is...get this...A PRAYER. When one calls upon the holy Name of God, in either holiness or profanity, what follows the holy Name of God is a prayer, a request to God, for salvation or damnation. People may be solidifying their own damnation by profaning what is most holy...the Name of God.

The next time you need to make a point - don't drag the holy Name of God into it! As Jesus said; "Let your yea be yea and your nay, nay. Anything more is of the evil one." [Matthew 5:37]

Think twice the next time you speak to God!

For a FREE bible study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Cost of Being Poured Out Upon the Altar!


The "dog days of summer" are upon us![1] When heat, humidity and outdoor activities combine...all we want is a long COLD drink of something WET! THAT requires ICE and lots of it! Up until the invention of refrigeration, ice was a rare commodity indeed during the summer months. In order to have any, one would have to carve large chunks of ice in the dead of winter and haul them deep into the earth in a cave. Later, "ice houses" were built for the same purpose. The bottom line: ice was the rare treat of the very rich until the 19th century. As a child I remember how delightful and rare it was to have ice in the summer! Our Mother had a freezer (it had to be defrosted several times a year!) and in it were several "ice trays." They were about an inch deep, about 4 inches wide and about a foot long. Inside the tray were 10-12 squares where water would go. Once frozen, there was a handle one would pull back, cracking the ice and allowing it to fall out for use. As a result, we would each have two glasses of ice for the evening meal which Mother filled with her mint flavored sweet tea. What a treat! When there was some kind of large gathering such as a picnic, Dad would take us down to the "ice factory" where he would buy a large and solid block of ice. Once home he would chip it away into an ice chest using an ice pick. Fortunately AND unfortunately, today ice is so common as to not even by noticeable! Just go to the frig door and press a button! Cold drinks in the summer are now so common we no longer appreciate them as we once did.

Why all this talk about cold drinks? In ancient Israel there was no ice. Drinks of any and all kinds were scarace. Wars would be fought over access to clean and abundant water. Even more hard to come by were flavored drinks made from fruit. Especially valuable was the "fruit of the vine." So focused was the nation on the vine, a large relief of a grape vine was displayed on the front gable of Solomons Temple in Jerusalem. The vine was a national symbol representing peace and prosperity in the land given by God. Americans long to rest in their two story colonial in the suburbs. The Israelites, however, longed to rest under the shade of their own vine and fig tree. At the height of their national glory during Solomon's reign it was described as such from the north to the south. [I Kings 4:25]

Growing a vine took years of hard work and cultivation to bring forth a crop. Finally one would begin to bring in the fruit of their labors. The fruit of the vine was almost like "liquid gold" to the Israelite for it represented, more than perhaps anything eles, the warm smile of God's Providential blessing. To the Israelite the vine represented the culmenation of a live well lived in service to God, country and family.

It is not surprising, therfore, that God chose the "drink offering" as a way for the people to give their very best, every day, to God in gratitude and thanksgiving. In both Exodus 29 and Numbers 28, God ordains a twice daily "drink offering" in front of the Tabernacle. Among other offerings, there would be a "quarter of a hin" of wine offered at both the morning and the twilight. A hin is equal to approx. 5 liters. Therefore the drink offering would be approx. 1.25 liters twice a day.

To understand this in today's terms, pouring out the "fruit of the vine upon the altar" would be akin to us "burning money!" By giving the drink offering twice a day it was as if Israel was saying to God; "We trust in You completely to provide our needs up to and including our giving to You that which is most valuable in all the land." When an Israelite gave a drink offering, he was "letting go and letting God!"

All this explains Paul's words to Timothy in II Timothy 4:6 in describing his imminent execution. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come" (ESV) There is no better metaphor to describe the sacrificial death than the drink offering, an offering of the very best that is poured out and consumed to nothingness. Paul is telling Timothy (and us) that he has literally poured out every talent, every effort, every breath, every word and every last ounce of energy of his life in service to his God. He enjoins Timothy, and us by default, to do the same.

In contrast, however, we live in totally different times than did Paul and Timothy. We live in liberty and freedom in comparison to them. They lived in what we would characterize as "terrorist state." What does it mean for you and me, living in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" to "pour out our lives as a drink offering?" We need not wonder for Paul tells us in Philippians chapter two. In this passage, written some years earlier, he speaks of his being "poured out as a drink offering" in terms of "if" instead of certainty. Paul gives the Philippian congregation a list of what "pouring out one's life as a drink offering" entails:
1. We must be of the same mind
2. We must all have the same love
3. We must all be in full accord and of one mind
4. We must do nothing out of rivalry or conceit
5. We must, in humility, count others more significant than ourselves
6. We must look to the interest of others, as well as our own
7. In other words, we must have the mind of Christ who:
a. Did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped
b. Made Himself nothing
c. Took the form of a servant
d. Was born in the likeness of men
e. Humbled Himself
f. Became obedient to the point of death,
g. Became obedient to the point of death on a cross.
Paul goes on to make the point that since Christ emptied Himself out for our sakes, we should "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." And how, Paul, do we do this? Easy to say, hard to do..."Do all things without grumbling or questioning." THAT is what it means to be "poured out as a drink offering upon the altar!" I don't know about you, dear friend, but I fall VERY short of the Spirit's expectation! I rarely leave my house in the morning without complaining, questioning and grumbling. By the time I see another person, I can't wait to pour out some "victim" nonsense on that unsuspecting person! Like the country song of several years ago, I need an "additude ajustment!" When I quit "grumbling and questioning," I am ready to be "poured out like a drink offering."

Someone has said, and rightly so, that the "only right a Christian has is to surrender his rights!" Such an additude would describe the life of someone who was being "poured out upon the altar as a drink offering." What, then, must we as God's people be willing to surrender in order to pour ourselves as drink offferings onto God's altar as it were? Among other things, we must be willing to SURRENDER:

1. All of our rights
2. Our American individualism
3. Our priorities
4. Our privacy
5. Our pleasures
6. Our ambitions
7. Our entertainment
8. Our business
9. Our time
10. Our sexual "freedom" - One man for one woman for life is still God's plan!
11. Anything and everything else that somehow got left out of the first 10 things!

No army ever won a war by surrendering. God's plan, however, is not of this world and neither is His reward for us! "All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give!"

[1]"Dog Days is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was reckoned as extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun. In the latitude of the Mediterranean region this period coincided with hot days that were plagued with disease and discomfort. The time of conjunction varies with difference in latitude, and because of the precession of the equinoxes it changes gradually over long periods in all latitudes." - This according to:
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition Copyright © 1993, Columbia University Press. As quoted on: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070715190944AAuobq4

For a FREE Bible study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Rock That Is Higher Than I!


In 1 Samuel 23, David is being very hotly pursued by a vastly superior force, the army of King Saul. David, with the blessing of God, has just saved the border city of Keilah from the Philistines. He not only saved the city, he enriched it with the livestock he took from the fleeing enemy! Grateful friends, these Keilahites? Sadly, no. They were not only not grateful to David, they were prepared to give him and his band of soldiers to King Saul. All Saul needed to do was to show up and ask. David, being the man of God that he was, inquired of the Lord as to what he should do. God told him to flee and flee he did! David took his band into the Wilderness of Ziph, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Desert heat by day, frigid cold at night. There is almost no water, scarce vegetation and little animal life. But by the Grace of God, a man will be soon dead in Ziph. Like their traitorous cousins in Keilah, the Ziphite nomads not only were willing to give up David to Saul, they went to Saul and pleaded for him to come and do it! Hearing this, David fled even deeper into the wilderness and wound up at Maon. Maon is approximately 30 miles SSW of Bethlehem and approximately 20 miles due west of the Dead Sea and the Engedi Oasis. In Maon, David found a rock on a mountain that he used for hiding. However, Saul soon discovered where he was and sent his army scurrying up the mountain while David and his men scurried to the other side of the mountain. The only thing that separated the two armies was this large rock. Just as the men of Saul were about to catch up to David and his band, King Saul hears that the Philistines have launched an incursion into Israel. He abandons his search for David and returns home to fight his real enemies.

Of course, this fortuitous event is totally Providential and the grateful men name this rock and this place in Hebrew - Selahammachlekoth (pronounced sela-ham-mack-lee-koth). The best English translation is “Rock of Divisions.” Though not inspired, the Targum [1] says that; “…the heart of the king was divided to go hither and thither.” The Scripture is clear, however, that much division did take place that day!

- The rock divided David from Saul.
- The rock protected David and opposed Saul.
- The rock divided the pursued and the pursuer.
- The rock divided wrong from right.
- The rock divided the righteous from the un-righteous.
- The rock divided the strong from the weak.
- The rock divided the past from the future.
- The rock divided those who would soon perish from those who would live on.
- The rock divided the minority remnant of God from the satanic majority.
- The rock divided the faithful from the faithless.
- The rock divided the hunted from the hunter.
- The rock divided the praying from the pragmatic.
- The rock divided the powerless from the powerful.
- The rock divided the Godly from the godless.
- The rock divided the single minded from the double minded.
- The rock divided the peaceful from the violent.
- The rock divided the pious from the profane.
As we read and study this passage we cannot help but realize that though we have no physical rock today to save us, we do have a spiritual rock – The Rock – Jesus Christ! Hear our brother Paul:

For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. – I Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV)

Christians know that salvation is found in Christ and Christ alone through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). However, the same ROCK that saves and hides Christians from sin and death opposes and judges those who are outside of Christ. Jesus Christ is the “Rock of Divisions!” He is our selahammachlekoth! Listen to His very words:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. - Matthew 10:34-36 (ESV)

Jesus Christ is the “Rock of Ages!” He is either our Savior or our Judge. He will divide the wheat from the chaff, the lambs from the goats and the righteous and the un-righteous at His coming! While still in this “veil of tears,” Christ is our Rock and our Salvation on whom we can call upon for comfort, salvation and protection – just as did David and his men! Observe the words of that familiar hymn, “The Rock that is Higher than I!”

Oh! sometimes the shadows are deep,
And rough seems the path to the goal,
And sorrows, sometimes how they sweep
Like tempests down over the soul.

Oh! sometimes how long seems the day,
And sometimes how weary my feet!
But toiling in life’s dusty way,
The Rock’s bless├Ęd shadow, how sweet!

Then near to the Rock let me keep
If blessings or sorrows prevail,
Or climbing the mountain way steep,
Or walking the shadowy vale.

Refrain

O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let me fly
To the Rock that is higher than I! [2]

Dear friend, on which side of the Rock are you? David’s or Saul’s? Division and judgment are coming!

Endnotes:
[1] The Targum is an Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures via e-sword.com
[2] via: http://lyrics.astraweb.com/displayp.cgi?f=hymns..unknown..rock_that_is_higher_than_i

For A FREE Bible Study - e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thirty Eight Thousand and Counting!



According to a recent survey there are at least 38,000 indentifiable denominations in the world. That does not count all the "home grown" versions in basements, street corner store fronts and living rooms.

Of all these churches, how is one to ever determine which is the one and true church of Christ? The answer is both difficult and easy.

It's difficult to determine which is the one true church of Christ because man wants to be in charge and determine his own destiny. Satan's appeal to Eve was that she "could be as God" herself "knowing both good and evil." This approach is the foundational rock on which denominationalism is built. Denominationalism embraces, personifies and defines division. Denominationalism teaches that there are multiple paths to the same God and that individuals can determine what is right and wrong for themselves. Drive down any interstate and you will soon see a "Attend the church or synagogue of your choice this weekend" sign on a semi. Very American but hardly biblical. Jesus said that there was only one way, one truth and one life...and HE is it!

On the other hand, it's easy to determine which is the one true church of Christ because God has clearly revealed it in Scripture! As long as one is willling to set aside preconceived ideas and the influence of others, one can open the New Testament and discover quite quickly the one true church of Christ. Here are but a few identifying features of Christ's church:

1. The one true church of Christ was founded by Jesus Christ Himself and no one else. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 - 20 that HE would build HIS church and that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. One church and one founder. If a church was founded by any other, it is of necessity, NOT the one true church of Christ.
2. The one true church of Christ bears the name of it's owner and founder and has but one head. Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 clearly state that Christ is the head of the body which is the church. A body can only have one head and a head can only have one body. "IF" denominationalism is part of God's will it would turn Christ into a monster, one head with many bodies. Division within the true Body of Christ is impossible according to Paul's argument in I Corinthians 1:10-13 where he asks the rhetorical question; "Is Christ divided?" No, Christ is not divided.
3. The one true church of Christ was founded in Jerusalem. Jesus Himself predicted this in Luke 24:27 when He stated that the message of repentance and remission of sins would be preached first in Jerusalem. This indeed took place. Any church founded in any other place cannot, by necessity, be the one true church of Christ.
4. The one true church of Christ was founded on the first Day of Pentecost following the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2) Any church founded on any other day cannot, by necessity, be the one true church of Christ.
5. The one true church of Christ has only one plan of salvation. When those convicted of sin "cried out" as what they must do, Peter and the eleven told them that they ALL were to be baptized into the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Upon doing so, in addition to having their sins forgiven, they received the Gift of the Holy Spirit and were added by the Lord to the one true church of Christ. (Acts 2:41, 47) Any church "offering" salvation any other way, by necessity, cannot be the one true church of Christ.

Dear reader, are you denominating, dividing and separating yourself from Christ in a church founded by someone other than Christ? Are you denominating, dividing and separating yourself from Christ in a church bearing the name of someone other than Christ? Are you denominating, dividing and separating yourself from Chrsit in a church founded in a location other than Jerusalem? Are you denominating, dividing and separating yourself from Christ in a church founded on a date other than the first Day of Pentecost after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Are you denominating, dividing and separating yourself from Christ in a church teaching salvation through any other means other than repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins? "IF" you are, you had better get out! Paul warned the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-9) that "if anywone, even Paul himself or an angel from heaven were to preach a DIFFERENT gospel other than the one that Paul preached from the beginning, that person would be accursed!"

You have a standing invitation of visit the church of Christ. The church of Christ is not a denomination. The church of Christ was founded by Christ and bears the name of Christ Himself. The church of Christ began in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost. The church of Christ preaches salvation through repentance and baptism. We hope to see you this coming Lord's Day at the Archdale church of Christ, 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC. Bible study is at 9 a.m., and worship follows at 10 a.m. We meet again for worship at 6 p.m. Sunday evening and again for Bible study at 7 p.m. Wednesday evenings. We have a "Community Bible Study" every Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. at the SouthPark Panera Bread located on the NE corner of Park South and Fairview. Individual Bible studies are provided anytime by appointment. God bless you! See you soon!

For a FREE Bible Study: e-mail - rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Short History of the Sinner's Prayer



Despite the fact that no such thing as the "Sinner's Prayer" appears anywhere in the Bible and despite that fact that no one was ever told to "pray through" for salvation in the New Testament, most of the evangelical world embraces the "Sinner's Prayer" as God's "plan of salvation." Upon searching the Scriptures, one can only find two prayers that even begin to resemble the "Sinner's Prayer" used by many in the 21st century. One example is the Publican's Prayer recorded in Luke 18 and the other is Peter's demand that Simon the Sorcerer "repent and pray for forgivness" in Acts 8.

When one examines the Publican's Prayer in Luke 18 in context, one quickly discovers that both the Pharisee and the Publican were already in covenant relationship with God via the Jewish blood flowing through their veins. The Publican was praying, not for salvation, but for forgivness of sins committed under the Law of Moses. As a result, the Publican's Prayer cannot be prototypical for non-Christians today seeking salvation.

When one examines in context the strict request of the Apostle Peter to Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 to "repent and pray for forgiveness" one quickly discovers that Simon was already a Christian! He had already been baptized for the remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ, had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and had been added to the church of Christ by God Himself. As a result, the Prayer of Simon cannot be prototypical for non-Christians today seeking salvation.

Despite the facts, many today still are trying to pound theologically "round pegs into square holes" in order to justify false assumptions made by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, et al regarding baptism. These men, despite their heroic definance of Catholic dogma, over reacted to the radical works-based Catholic system by creating an equal over reaction by embracing a so-called "Reformed" doctrine of faith only...minus obedience. These men assumed that baptism was a "work of man" and therefore could not possibly be included in God's plan of salvation. Unfortunately they failed to realize that baptism is a WORK OF GOD. (Colossians 2:11-12) Baptism is the place and time where God chooses to separate us from our sins much like when 8 day old Jewish boys were circumcised.

During the time of the "First Great Awakening," there was a reformed preacher by the name of Eleazar Wheelock that began using what has since become known as the "Mourner's Bench." Sinner's who "mourned for thier sins," as well as their friends and relatives would come to the "altar" and "pray through" for salvation. This was an emotional experience and was not accepted by most Protestant churches of the time.

Nearly a 100 years later, another reformed preacher from western N.Y. sought to discover a method by which more people could be "converted." His name was Charles Finney. He took the "mourner's bench" concept and renamed it the "anxious bench." Those who were not church members were seated up front where Finney could use psycological manipulation to convince the "sinner's" to convert through prayer and repentance. Finney readidly admitted that he had replaced New Testament baptism for the remission of sins with the "Anxious Bench."

The church has always felt it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered this purpose. The gospel was preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ, were called out to be baptized. It held the place that the anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their determination to be Christians.
(1)

The Finney "Anxious Bench" was still not accepted as a "mainstream" approach and was left on the theological sidelines until the time of Dwight L. Moody in the latter 1/3 of the 19th century. Liking Finney's approach but thinking it too extreme, Moody took aside respondents to what he called the "Inquiry Room." There trained persons led the respondents on a process of repentance and cofession of sin, ending with a prayer.

In 1899, R. A. Torrey took over from the late Dr. Moody and took the "Inquiry Room" concept onto the streets of Chicago where "on the spot" conversions were made. Torey's approach bridged the church building based work of Moody with the yet to come modern day "crusades" held in huge outdoor stadiums.

Soon after World War I, a former baseball player by the name of Billy Sunday took up where R. A. Torrey left off. He took the church "on the road." He was the first to combine entertainment with preaching and gained a huge following. Sunday was very pragmatic in his approach and wanted to make the "salvation experience" easier and simpler. As a result he told the folks at his rallies to just "come down the sawdust trail" and "take my hand." Despite the changes that evolved from Finney to Moody to Torrey and to Sunday, the "plan of salvation" was unclear and loosely defined.

After World War II, the most famous of all evangelicals, Billy Graham, stepped in to take Billy Sunday's place. Graham believed that Sunday was too heavy on the entertainment and too light on theology. He did, however, embrace the overall concept of big outdoor rallies that featured an altar call enhanced by mood music and dire predictions of an unprepared eternity. Graham wrote a pamphlet called The Four Things God Wants You to Know. Currently, the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has this version of the "Sinner's Prayer."

Pray a prayer like this: Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and savior. In your name, Amen.(2)


Finally, in the late 1950's a co-worker of Grahams, the late Dr. Bill Bright, further articulated the concept and wrote a defining work on the subject called The Four Spiritual Laws. The work of Graham and Bright solidified the "Sinner's Prayer" salvation experience among Evangelicals and most of the Protestant world. Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ and today the crusade has this version of the "Sinner's Prayer" posted on it's web site:

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. (3)


As anyone can clearly see, the two prayers are radically different. Which version is correct? How would one determine? Into what church would one be added by saying one or both of these prayers? Could one become a member of two or more denominations by articulating these two distinct prayers? There are as many versions of the "Sinner's Prayer" as there are preachers who preach it! Words vary between preachers amd denominations. Who has the right words? What happens if the words are incorrect?

Sadly, the "Sinner's Prayer" never saved anyone, nor will it. Jesus Christ died, was buried, rose from the dead, appeared to over 500 witnesses and assended back to His Father. (I Corinthians 15) After His return to Heaven His Will was read on the Day of Pentecost. That will was clearly articulated by the Holy Spirit through Peter and the rest of the apostles. That will has been in effect ever since and will never change! "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you will receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit." The work of God is accomplished in baptism and no where else. Any plan of salvation that leaves out baptism is not God's plan!

(1) (“Measures to Promote Revival” located at http://www.gospeltruth.net/1868Lect_on_Rev_of_Rel/68revlec14.htm).
(2) http://www.billygraham.org/assets/media/pdfs/stepstopeace/49501_STP.pdf
(3) http://www.campuscrusade.com/fourlawseng.htm

For A FREE Bible Study: e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Luther, Calvin, Graham and the Evolution of the Sinner's Prayer


It seems that nearly every evangelical in America embraces some form of the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” as God’s primary salvation portal. How did Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists et al come to the same theological conclusion despite past bitterness between them? The answer takes us back to the very dawn of the Reformation when, despite their best intentions, Martin Luther and John Calvin pragmatically reacted to Roman Catholic theology instead of “searching the Scriptures daily.” Those decisions made by the Reformers 500 years ago “wag to dog” today in regards to how most Protestants view matters of salvation.

Turn on any religious radio station today and you will hear nearly every preacher advocate some form of the “sinner’s prayer” for their listeners salvation. The prayer is as varied as every personality advocating it’s use. No two preachers use the same prayer. The content of the “sinner’s prayer” is never the same. The same “sinner’s prayer” will put you in the Methodist Church as will put you in the Baptist Church as will put you into the Lutheran Church as will put you in the Presbyterian Church, etc., etc.

Not only will one not find the “sinner’s prayer” anywhere in Scripture, the “sinner’s prayer” didn’t exist anywhere until rather recently. In fact, it did not become “mainstream” until the 1950’s when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association embraced Dr. Bill Bright’s pamphlet entitled The Four Spiritual Laws. Bright articulated fragmented bits and pieces of earlier teachings of Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and others. One theory galvanized Bright’s theories in regard to God’s plan of salvation.

That theory, articulated by both Luther and Calvin, says that since the Roman Catholic tradition relies on “works of man” and since baptism is a “work of man,” then baptism cannot possibly be included in God’s plan of salvation! The problem here is the fact that no one has ever proven that baptism is, in fact, a work of man. “IF” it was, the theory would hold water. (No pun intended!) However, the Scripture teaches that baptism is NOT a work of man, it IS a work of God! Paul states this clearly in Colossians 2:11-12 when baptism is noted as being a work or an operation of God. Man has absolutely nothing to do with it!

Proponents of the “sinner’s prayer” salvation experience use a number of “proof texts” to prop up the misplaced theological conclusions of Luther, Calvin, Moody, Sunday, Bright and Graham. We will examine the 5 most popular of these texts during our gospel meeting at the Archdale church of Christ this coming Lord’s Day through next Tuesday evening. Join us at 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC Sunday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

Most importantly, we will also examine God’s true plan of salvation that includes water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins resulting in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the addition of one’s name to the church of Christ.

For a FREE Bible study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Salvation and YOU!


We live in cataclysmic, changing and turbulent times. Changes in society are not only frightening, changes are coming at rocket-sled speed. While well over 90% of people claim a belief in a “higher being,” there is a dark cloud behind that silver lining. Unfortunately, that “higher being” is not the God of the Bible. Paul tells us in Romans 1 that sinful man worships the creature in lieu of the Creator. In fact, the “higher being” most people worship is one of their own creation. This “being” forgives without repentance, saves without sacrifice and rewards at the every whine of the “believer.”

The time for the proclamation of the one and true gospel is now! That proclamation takes place daily but ongoing twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, Archdale will have a gospel meeting. For those not familiar with the term, a gospel meeting is a series of gospel presentations put on for the benefit of the general public…friends, relatives and associates of Christians who are not members of the Lord’s body. Simply put, a gospel meeting is a collective endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord, to make disciples and to baptize so we can “teach all things whatsoever Christ commands in the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles and the Revelation.”

A timely and neglected topic surrounds the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer.” Nearly every denomination today embraces this kind of prayer as a vehicle of salvation. Sadly, faith in such a prayer is in vain. In fact, there is no such prayer even found in Scripture! In the early part of the 19th century, a man by the name of Charles Finley became upset that more people were not becoming “Christians.” He decided that he would round up all the people who were not believers and have them all sit in the front pews where he could “work” on their emotions. This soon evolved into what we now call the “mourners bench” where people would come forward and “pray through” for salvation. Later, Dwight L. Moody began taking the “mourners” off to a side room where the same process would take place. The 20th century saw the dawn of the modern day “evangelical movement” with the emotional and fiery Billy Sunday, a former baseball player. He was the first to use large outdoors mass rallies to “convert” the masses. In our day, Dr. Bill Bright wrote a pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws that became the basis of the Billy Graham Crusades and the adoption of the “sinner’s prayer” by most everyone in the denominational world.

All that said, our gospel meeting will take the major “proof texts” of the “sinner’s prayer” and see what the Scripture REALLY says about these things. SALVATION AND YOU is the subject we will cover. Make plans to help us door knock our buildings neighborhood on May 22 in preparation for the meeting that will begin the following day, May 23, at the Archdale church of Christ 2525 Archdale Drive in Charlotte. [http://archdale.org] Gospel presentations will take place on May 23 at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, May 24 and 25 will see presentations at 7 p.m. each evening. Pray for the meetings success and invite all you friends, neighbors and relatives.

For a FREE Bible Study: e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Exhortation of Motherhood


Have you noticed? There are fewer and fewer of our Mothers still in the “land of the living” as each year passes. Each passing Mother’s Day, fewer and fewer of us have the opportunity to say “I love you!” to the one most dear who raised us. We long and yearn for just one more chance to do so when our sweet Mother’s “cross over Jordan.”

Rare is the person who says all the words and renders all the kindnesses for their Mother while she remains present with us. But does she resent it? No. Does she hold bitterness? No. Does she criticize us for our neglect? No. Not only that, she continues to show us an over abundance of love and affection.

We all must one day “go the way of all the earth” and slip the bounds of this vanishing vapor. When Mother goes, our minds fill with regret and remorse. We yearn for just a few more minutes to “make things right.” We cry out; “What can I do to make things right with Mother?!” There IS a way! There is no reason any more to disappoint Mother!

To make things right with Mother, all we need to do is to remember what she told us to do and DO IT! If we did not obey our Mother when we were growing up, it is never too late to embrace that obedience. If we did not become Christians while our Mother lived, we can still make that decision to put on Christ in baptism and “walk in her ways.” If we have become neglectful and unfaithful, it is not too late to be restored to our “first love.” Should Mother be gone, NOW is the opportunity to heed her now faded calls to “do right,” “be right” and “act right.” You see, Mother was all about the Great Commandment; “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul AND love your neighbor as you love yourself.” That statement sums up who Mother was and what she wanted YOU and I to be!

We cry and mourn when Mother departs and yearn for reconciliation, peace and happiness. However, those things will always elude us UNLESS we decide to begin DOING all those things she told us to do through the tears and the prayers of days gone by. If you want and need to honor your Mother this Mothers Day, whether she still is here or has passed on, become the person of HER dreams and aspirations! It is never too late even if you are old and your Mother passed many years ago. Remember Mother and do what she told you to do. By so doing, we will honor Christ, we will honor Mother and we will possess the free gift of salvation, the ONE thing she MOST wanted for us!

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." – Ephesians 6:1 – 3 (ESV)

Many a preacher raises many a great exhortation, but none can compare with the exhortations of a loving, tender hearted and God fearing Mother! “Thank You, God, for our Mother’s both present and departed! May we heed their great, good and loving directions! Help us to honor them by heeding their many calls to “Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” - In Jesus Name - AMEN

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reality, Illusion, Temporary, Permanent, Truth and Error

My dear sweet sister passed away two weeks ago yesterday. I have continued wrestling with all those memories to this very moment in time. My conclusion so far is this: no man ever had more caring parents than did I, no man ever had a finer wife and children than do I and no man ever had a more wonderful sister than did I. I am, of all men, most blessed! Thank You God for Your grace, mercy and lovingkindness towards me all the days of my life! Thank you, God, for Carol Lynne. I will miss her until I see her again!

Another blessing I received was this: my dear friend and brother-in-law, Bob Lovell, found something wonderful and exciting in Carol's purse. Not many people get a glimpse into the mindset of a loved one as they pass from one life to the next, but we received such a glimpse from Carol at her passing. She possessed the following on the day of her death and I want to share it with you. I have since found this on the internet in numerous places but no one gives an author. It is of great comfort to Bob and I:

Handy Little Chart - God Has A Positive Answer:

(1) You say: "It's impossible." God says; "All things are possible!" Luke 18:27
(2) You say; "I'm too tired." God says; "I will give you rest!" Matthew 11:28-30 (3) You say; "Nobody really loves me." God says; "I love you!" John 3:16 (4) You say; "I can't go on." God says; "My grace is sufficent." II Corinthians 12:9 (5) You say; "I can't figure things out." God says; "I will direct your steps!" Proverbs 3:5-6 (6) You say; "I can't do it." God says; "You can do all things!" Philippians 4:13 (7) You say; "I am not able." God says; "I am able!" II Corinthians 9:8 (8) You say; "It's not worth it." God says; "I will be worth it! Romans 8:28 (9) You say; "I can't forgive myself." God says; "I forgive you!" I John 1:9; Romans 8:1 (10) You say; "I can't manage." God says; "I will supply all your needs!" Philippians 4:19 (11) You say; "I'm afraid." God says; "I have not given you a spirit of fear!" II Timothy 1:7 (12) You say; "I'm always worried and frustrated." God says; "Cast all your cares on ME!" I Peter 5:7 (13) You say; "I'm not smart enough." God says; "I give you wisdom!" I Corinthians 1:30 (14) You say; "I feel all alone." God says; "I will never leave you or forsake you!" Hebrews 13:5
As I have pondered these scriptures, I have come to the conclusion that Carol clearly understood the Great Commandment to "Love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself." She understood the words of our Lord that observed on these words that "all the law and the prophets hang on this!" For a whole host of reasons I thank God that Carol left this sheet of paper in her purse. It is of much comfort and the baton of truth has been passed on to every one who reads these words.

The fact that Carol left these wonderful thoughts for us confirms the following for Bob and I -- and I hope for you as well. That which we see and regard as reality is but a temporary illusion. Truth endures forever and error will soon pass away. Life is but a vapor and soon passes away. This world is not our home and we are but strangers and sojourners in the land. Those who remain must pick up Carol's staff and continue the work in God's vineyard for "He wills that all be saved and none be lost!" Love never fails...

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Will It Be Jude or John? (Calvin That Is!)



The question; “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” is at best semantically confusing and at worst begs the question. The question “implies” that Christians get into some kind of spiritual wrestling match with Satan and / or his minions and, despite the Christians best efforts, have their salvation wrested away from them, become disconnected to God and head screaming straight into hell itself, all very much against their will. The question should be; “Can a Christian SURRENDER their salvation after being in an absolute saved state?”

When theologians approach Scripture allegorically such tail-wagging-the-dog conclusions are not only possible, they are inevitable when begging the “lose their salvation” question. The historically great, yet biblically confused reformer, John Calvin, poured the theory that Christians could never become apostate into theological concrete where it remains until today. Many have been deceived by this doctrine during the last 500 years while the truth regarding the matter, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the book of Jude, has been rejected, overlooked and ignored.

In 180 degree opposite reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism, Calvin formed a theological system now named after him, known as Calvinism. Calvinism is summed up in an acronym, “T.U.L.I.P.”

T otal Depravity – all mankind is conceived and born as sinners doomed to hell unless God “elects” them to salvation arbitrarily
U nconditional Election – some of those “totally depraved” are arbitrarily “chosen” (elected) by God for salvation while the rest are arbitrarily “chosen” (elected) for damnation, humans have no free choice
L imited Atonement – The blood of Christ, shed on the cross, is not sufficient to save everyone, just the so-called elect.
I rresistable Grace – those who have been arbitrarily chosen for salvation cannot resist the grace of God, even though they attempt to do so
P erserverance of the Saints – once those who are arbitrarily elected to salvation have been saved, they cannot never become apostate and therefore “lose” their salvation
Time and space will not allow an examination of all these theories, our immediate concern is the last leaf in the flower, as it were, “perseverance of the saints.” Can a Christian become an apostate? Can one who once was saved reject that salvation at a future point in time and re-embrace damnation? Can one who once “walks in the light as He is in the light, re-enter into “everlasting darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?” Calvin says, “no.” To “prove” this assertion, Calvinists turn to two Scripture references. [“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” – D. A. Carson Sr.] These two “proof texts” are offered up:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. – John 10:28 -29

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
– I John 2:18 – 19

The Calvinist interpretation of these two verses goes like this:


1. Once a person becomes a Christian he / she is in the grasp of the Saviors hand and no one, not even Satan himself, can wrestle that person away from Christ.
2. Since said person enjoys this iron clad grasp in the Savior’s hand, he / she remains a Christian, in the hand of the Savior forever … no matter what sins that person commits, no matter what false doctrine that person embraces or teaches and no matter how much unbelief is spewed from the lips and heart of said person. Once a person is “saved,” that person can never be lost.
3. Thirdly, since it “appears” that one that was once a Christian is now spewing apostasy in word and deed it must mean that said person was never really a Christian anyway!

Now if the Scriptures had nothing else to say regarding this matter, the Calvinist would indeed have a leg to stand on. However, the Scripture has much more to say about it. First of all, salvation is conditional to on going faithfulness, repentance and confession of sins. John says the following:

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – I John 1:5 - 10
Continued salvation is conditional upon our dedication to walking in the light as He is in the light and confession of all our sins. “IF” we walk faithfully and confess our sins THEN we are firmly in the grasp of the Savior’s hand and no man “can pluck us out!” However, the inverse is true as well. “IF” we do not walk in the light as He is in the light and confess our sins, we surrender our salvation and can once again be lost. We can always return but should we die in the apostate state, we can still lose our souls!

Having said all the above, some might still cling to Calvin in the false hope that one can “live like hell and still go to heaven.” That is where Jude comes in. The inspired book of Jude gives us not one, not two, not three, not four but FIVE concrete examples of people once saved that consequently became lost when they embraced apostasy. These were not people who were “never really saved,” they were people who were saved by God totally, without question and without a doubt! Here are the five examples and we will rest our case!

1. Jude 1:5 – The Lord SAVED a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe. How many of the Israelites were saved out of Egypt and were “baptized unto Moses” as they crossed the Red Sea? ALL of them! They were ALL once saved but some of them became apostate and were consequently lost. Saved people lost their salvation.
2. Jude 1:6 – There were angels in heaven who did not keep their first estate but LEFT their habitation. Saved angels, living in Heaven, willingly abandoned their positions and deserted to the enemy! Saved angels lost their salvation!
3. Jude 1:7 – The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were once saved by God via Abraham who raised an army from his own house and saved them from destruction as we read about in Genesis 14. Unfortunately, after their salvation, Sodom and Gomorrah “gave themselves over to fornication and strange flesh.” As a result, they lost their salvation and were destroyed.
4. Jude 1:12 – Jude asserts that the apostates of whom he is writing are “twice dead.” What must be true about someone who is “twice dead?” These apostates were once “dead in their sins” but they obeyed the gospel, were buried with Christ in baptism and rose again to walk in “newness of life.” These “live souls” died again when they rejected Christ and embraced apostasy. They were truly “twice dead!” An unrepentant apostate is “twice dead” and will lose his soul, just like those who rebelled in the desert, just like the fallen angels and just like Sodom and Gomorrah.
5. Jude 1:12 – Finally, Jude asserts that the apostates of whom he is writing have been “uprooted.” One must understand that a plant that is “uprooted,” must of necessity, first of all must have been “rooted” previously! The uprooted, and now unsaved, apostate was once rooted and saved – just like those who rebelled in the desert, just like the fallen angels and just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

One last observation. “IF” Calvin is right and “IF” “once saved always saved” [The Perseverance of the Saints] is a true and wholesome doctrine, then the following also must be true regarding the assertions of Jude:

1. God did not really destroy those who did not believe in the desert, its just a fable.
2. God did not really allow His angels to leave Heaven, it too, is just a fairy tale.
3. God did not really destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, it is just a “Bible story” and did not really take place.
4. Jude wasted his time writing about and warning the church regarding the apostates. After all, God will still save them in the end!

There we have it. We have a choice to make. Will we choose Calvin over Jude or will we choose Jude over Calvin? Upon that choice our souls depend!

© 2010 by Russ McCullough – All Rights Reserved - MCN: C4U9Q-J5SEG-27PHB

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Are There Sinners That God Cannot Save?



There are people dying without Christ every day. Some are dying without Christ because they thought they were “good enough” to get to heaven without God. There are others who believed the lies of false doctrine. There are others because they convinced themselves that there was “no such thing as God.” Still others die without Christ because, though they once were Christians, they were enticed back into the world by its lusts, temptations and desires. Sadly, there is one more category of people dying without Christ every day… people who convinced themselves that their sins were too numerous, too grievous and too ugly for God to save. So sad. So very, very, very sad.

Today, right now, there are people about to pass from life into death. They are about to step into a boat, as it were, that will carry them into the darkness and terror of a devils hell. Why? All because they “think” their sins were too many and too deep for God to forgive. Is it so? Are there sins and sinners that God cannot forgive? Are there some sins and some sinners that are simply unforgivable? Thank God, the answer is NO!

My dear friend, set aside for just a moment all the hurt, pain and guilt you feel because of your many sins. Come with me to the Bible. Come and look at some HEROS of the faith! Come and gaze upon the Saints of God! Who are these people? What kind of lives did they lead? What kind of sins did THEY commit? You say; “God could never forgive me! I’ve _________________ (you fill in the blank). God knows you feel this way and that is why He gave us the letter of Hebrews, chapter 11. Let’s COMPARE your sins to THEIR sins:

• 11:7 – God saved Noah – He was a drunkard
• 11:8 – God saved Abraham – He was a liar
• 11:9 – God saved Isaac – He was a liar like his father
• 11:9 – God saved Jacob – He was the biggest liar and deceiver in his entire family
• 11:11 – God saved Sarah – She laughed at God Himself
• 11:23 – God saved Moses – He was a murderer
• 11:31 – God saved Rhahab – She was a prostitute
• 11:32 - God saved David – He was an adulterer and a murderer

Now, you may say; “I’m a worse sinner than any of these!” Really? Are you a worse sinner than the people who made up the angry mob that murdered our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Did you know that Jesus actually PRAYED for his murderers while he was dying? Did you realize that God heard that prayer and SAVED them? Yes, all that did, indeed, happen!

• “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” – Luke 23:34
• “When they heard this (that they had, indeed, murdered the Son of God) they cried out and said; “Men and brethren, what shall we do?!” Peter replied and said; “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:37 – 38

Jesus prayed for his murderer’s forgiveness while on the cross and God answered that prayer 50 days later at Pentecost!

My dear friend, if you are still very much alive or are about to slip into eternity within a few days, God CAN save you! He WILL save you! Whatever you have done, whatever you have said, whatever you have thought… God CAN and WILL save you! If He can save the murderers of His dear Son, SURELY He can save YOU and ME! When YOU are ready to repent (turn completely away from and go a different direction) of ALL your sins and will submit to water baptism, God will wash away ALL you sins while immersed in the water upon your confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Call me! Don’t go to hell voluntarily! I am ready to assist you BEFORE you go to the other side! I’m praying that you will make the right decision. The angels in heaven are waiting to rejoice on your behalf and Jesus Christ is anxious to greet you at the Door of Paradise when you slip into eternity.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Sometimes the Tail Just Wags the Dog


About 10 years ago there was a movie entitled “Wag The Dog.” It was a political movie with the premise that some wars are created by politicians instead of some unforeseen event. When we speak of “the tail wagging the dog” in terms of things spiritual we mean that someone has taken a preconceived conclusion and then “forced” it upon the biblical text. Theologians call this eisegesis. When this happens, mans will prevails and the Word of God becomes subservient. Of course, it is impossible for us to actually manipulate the Scripture, but many people try and THINK they have succeeded. Unfortunately, these poor souls will discover on the Day of Judgment that they were, in reality, among the tares and not among the wheat. God’s thrashing floor will separate all evil from all good on that great and terrible day. In regards to judgment day, some have attempted to get the “tail to wag the dog,” theologically speaking that is.

One of the most disastrous false doctrines of all time is the “dog wagging” doctrine known as “once-saved-always-saved.” The doctrine dates back to the time of John Calvin who asserted that once a person was saved, he could never lose that salvation…no matter what. This doctrine has led to much false confidence in one’s salvation. It has also led many to live quite the hellish existence while thinking they are on their way to heaven. A byproduct of this false doctrine is the false security that Judgment Day is for non-Christians only, making the so-called “elect” exempt from such a judgment. “IF” once-saved-always-saved is a true doctrine, such an exemption would have to, by default, be given by God to every soul ever claiming to be a Christian. On the other hand, “IF” one can lose their salvation, judgment then, indeed, is for all, Christian and non-Christian alike. God has indeed “given us all things pertaining to life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3) and so the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to write an entire book warning of apostasy. Apostasy is the willful renouncement of the truth of God once believed, practiced and embraced. Such a willful renouncement certainly will result in eternal damnation… unless repentance and confession of such sin takes place prior to one’s death. Those who embrace the false doctrine of once-saved-always-saved, must confront the fact that there are those in open rebellion to the Will of God, all the while “claiming” to be “Christian,” attending “worship services” and living any way they wish. When confronted with these facts, they simply say, “Well, they weren’t really saved in the first place!” Really? Can one fall from grace or is such a fall impossible? Jude has the answer.

Jude, while warning the congregation of the dangers of apostasy, gives three examples of SAVED souls who willingly gave up their salvation. (Jude 1:5-7) They did so when they rebelled by choice.

I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Here are Jude’s three examples just cited:

1. The Israelites in the Desert – SAVED out of Egypt – chose rebellion and destruction AFTER they were saved.
2. The Angels in Heaven – Left their own habitation and chose judgment AFTER they POSSESSED heaven.
3. The People of Sodom and Gomorrah – Sodom and Gomorrah (and the cities around them) chose destruction AFTER they gave themselves over to fornication. They refused to repent after the pleading of righteous (II Peter 2:7) Lot.

Jude’s examples have very certain and poignant ramifications. “IF” once-saved-always-saved is indeed a true doctrine then:

1. The Israelites in the Desert were NOT saved after all!
2. The Angels in Heaven were NEVER THERE to start with!
3. The account of the destruction of the cities of the plain is nothing more than a FABLE, A FAIRY TALE, AN ALLEGORY AND A STORY!

Jude wrote by inspiration, the examples of apostasy AFTER salvation are true and the doctrine of once-saved-always-saved is a false and dangerous doctrine. We ALL can fall from grace (Galatians 5:1-6) and we ALL must “give an account” on that great and dreadful day for “all the deeds of the flesh whether they be good or evil.” (II Corinthians 5:9-11)

Russ McCullough
Charlotte, NC

Copyright, 2010. All Rights Reserved. MCN: C41EE-4LXKB-BQRSY
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