Category Archives: 2019 – July/August

Those Who Insist There Is No God — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

Atheism has been one of the most unpopular points of view throughout Western history. For years, an atheist could not hold a seat in the English Parliament. Even today, there is a significant level of distrust when it comes to unbelievers. For instance, most people in the United States would not favor voting for an atheist in a presidential election.

Unbelief is not monolithic – many different types exist. Perhaps the most easily identifiable is its most militant form. This “muscular atheism” combines a variety of qualities often seen as unsavory: arrogance, condescension, and antagonism. All three appear in a story told about Madalyn Murray O’Hair. A chaplain came to visit her in the hospital and asked if he could do anything for her. She replied, “Drop dead.”

Most atheists do not spout venom and vitriol. They may disagree with their religious neighbors but are content to live in peace and harmony. Christians and atheists have many more points and agreement than not. But one important remains: how do we tell the difference between militant atheists and the garden-variety unbeliever, and how should Christians respond?

Characteristics of Militant Atheism. Exercising discernment is key to understanding any point of view, including unbelief. Atheists differ widely concerning their certainty about God’s supposed non-existence, how accepting they are toward religious viewpoints, what political views they advocate, and what actions they feel are necessary concerning the presence of religion in society. An atheist may even practice some form of religion without having any belief in the divine (such as Buddhism). Whether Christendom, Islam, Hinduism, or any other world religion, any sufficiently popular system of thought will have many different kinds of adherents. Atheism is no different.

Militant atheism features a level of aggression that goes far beyond the normal behavior of a garden-variety unbeliever. Militant atheists bristle at the mention of the term, decrying it as a pejorative used to insult, denigrate, and even dehumanize unbelievers. A 2011 Psychology Today article titled, “The Myth of Militant Atheism” called the phrase “slander” in spite of the fact that noteworthy public figures such as biologist Richard Dawkins and actor Daniel Radcliffe have applied the terms to themselves.

Perhaps the most obvious characteristic of militant atheism is a pronounced intolerance toward all things religious. While most atheists are good-hearted people—many of whom have no problem with Christianity as long as believers leave them alone and do not try to evangelize them—the most militant unbelievers want no compromise with Christianity. Anything spiritual is considered offensive and intolerable. They condemn belief in a higher power as dangerous, delusional, and a threat to the well-being of humanity.

Second, militant unbelievers usually demonstrate a lack of interest in understanding the religious viewpoints they oppose. Regardless of personal beliefs, most people rarely spend adequate time understanding the opposition, whether political, philosophical, ideological, or spiritual. This is undoubtedly true for atheist apologists, who very rarely have any background in either theology or philosophy and often openly admit to having no interest in learning anything about these subjects. They usually operate on the assumption that the field of religious studies is not one worthy of serious inquiry, and that it is harmful (something easily seen in the title of the NT Times bestselling book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything).

Third, militant atheists frequently distort history either to disparage Christianity or to redeem the activities of infamous nonbelievers. For example, militant atheists argue that Hitler was a devout Catholic because some of his early speeches contained religious language and he never officially left the Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, they claim Stalin was a devout Christian because he trained briefly in seminary to be an Eastern Orthodox priest. Never mind the fact that these two leaders led regimes that either confiscated the property of or destroyed thousands of churches, and murdered tens of thousands of clergymen. Hitler planned to replace Protestant and Catholic churches with a state-operated Nazi church stripped of any vestige of Christianity. Stalin followed his mentor Vladimir Lenin in forcing atheism onto the Russian people. For many militant atheists, details such as these seem irrelevant.

In the harshest material available, whether in recorded interviews or published books and articles, atheists like Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens offer criticism that is biting, sarcastic, and peppered with insults and offensive language. High-profile atheists such as Dawkins, P. Z. Meyers, and others argue that faith and religion are inherently nonsensical and should be mocked, scorned, and ridiculed. In the view of these thinkers, religion does not deserve any respect and should be stripped of whatever honor it has been accorded.

It is important to note that most atheists do not espouse these hostile views and believe it important to live in harmony with their religious neighbors. Further, the outrageous behavior of militant unbelievers has been denounced even by their fellow atheists. Moderates have often pointed out that some of the most severe denunciations of militant atheism have come from atheists themselves.

Problems with Militant Atheism. Militant atheism is rightly seen as reactionary and undignified. The unbelief of generations past had confidence without condescension, with writers who could engage their opponents with philosophical arguments. This is not the case with the aggressive atheism of the 21st century, which often relies on insults, caricature, and fearmongering.

Perhaps the most apparent problem of militant atheism is the hypocrisy in some of its most outspoken adherents. For instance, numerous writers will denounce the supposed horrors of religious violence, claiming that the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and Salem witch trials combined have a body count in the millions (which is demonstrably false). Yet they will neither recognize nor denounce violence from atheistic movements in the last two or three centuries. The French Revolution sparked a reign of terror that violently sought to de-Christianize France in the late eighteenth century. Along with the efforts of Lenin and Stalin, the League of the Militant Godless did something similar in Russia in the mid-1920s to the 1940s in their attempt to eradicate Christianity. Currently, Communist China places strict controls on religion, and its government has increased efforts to curtail Christianity in the 21st century. The government has confiscated Bibles, demolished churches, and replaced posters of Jesus with those of the Chinese president.

A common tactic is the attempt to whitewash history and disconnect atheism from violence and destruction. A popular objection offered is, “But 20th-century dictators didn’t kill in the name of atheism!” This is both true and false. Mass murderers in history did not stand up in front of their nations and credit their unbelief as the specific cause for the policies they implemented. But only a person either very biased or very foolish could believe that atheism was not a primary motivating factor in the horrors perpetrated upon believers.

The Christian Response. Perhaps the Christian response to militant atheism should be the same as our response to any fundamentalist point of view. Militant atheists would take offense at the notion that they have any similarities to radical religious fundamentalists, but even a cursory glance reveals distinct parallels between the two. Both seek to have everyone accept their point of view and work to undermine or eradicate opposing ideologies and see that their worldview becomes the only acceptable one.

Every human being needs the saving grace of God. The common ground between the godless and the religious (including Christians) is that all have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Rom. 3:23). No human being can stand before God on his or her merit. In this sense, both Christians and atheists stand on common ground.

Peter wrote that Christians should be ready to tell others about the hope in Christ that each of us has (1 Pet. 3:15-17). Not only should we be prepared enough to answer questions regarding the faith, but Peter also says that we must do so with gentleness (Prov. 15:1). Christians must be able to tell the difference between those genuinely looking for a real conversation about spiritual matters and others only looking for a fight. In a sense, encounters with militant unbelievers allow the faithful to exercise patience, understanding, and discernment.

Dewayne preaches at the New York Ave. congregation in Arlington, TX.

“Why Do Your Disciples Break The Tradition Of The Elders?” — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: July/August, 2019)

The Pharisees and scribes challenged Jesus with the above question, prompting Him to scathingly indict them for putting their man-made traditions and commandments on a higher precedence than God’s actual commands, resulting in hypocritical, vain worship (Matt. 15:1-9; cf. Mk. 7:1-13).

Traditions are a controversial topic in the church. The word literally means “that which is passed down.” There are divinely-inspired apostolic traditions, i.e., the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 3:6; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21). There are also man-made traditions, some fairly new while others bearing the weight of decades or longer. Some fail to distinguish between traditions of divine and human origin. Among these folks are some who erroneously consider rightly divided scriptural commands and principles to be nothing more than “our tradition” and thus want to embrace doctrinal error and practice, particularly in worship. Others mistakenly consider traditions about worship times and arrangements, ways to biblically educate children and adults, and church activities to be equivalent with biblical commands and principles, thus concluding that any change made along these lines is heresy. Some recognize the distinction between divine and human traditions and thus always seem to want to be on the lookout to form new human traditions simply for the sake of change, regardless of whether change in a particular area is actually needed. Others acknowledge the irrelevancy of some long-held human traditions but are so comfortable with them that they are uneasy or apathetic about anything new that may be productive to God’s cause.

Knowledge and wisdom are needed to accurately navigate the tempestuous waters of traditions. Knowledge of rightly divided Scripture in its totality (2 Tim. 2:15; Ps. 119:160) is needed in order to make the necessary and important distinction between divine and human traditions so that we may always stay within the boundaries of God’s will and grace. Wisdom is needed to accurately use that knowledge to guide a church and “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” so that maturity and church growth are reached (Eph. 4:11-16). The goal of obtaining this knowledge and wisdom must be so that we all can “make the best use of the time,” opportunities, and resources given to us to grow and strengthen the Lord’s church and basically “understand what the will of the Lord” actually consists of (Eph. 5:15-17) … rather than being bound to a matter of human judgment which is now irrelevant or changing a tradition that might not need to be changed.

Shepherds and preachers of Christ’s church must be men who know the Bible very well, godly servants of Christ who have Christ’s cause first in their hearts and work together to patiently instruct their brethren to rightly divide scripture. All Christians must humbly grow in their knowledge of Scripture with open and honest hearts so that they distinguish between divine and human traditions, always obeying the former while also submitting to the judgments of church leadership concerning the latter. Both leadership and members must consider what the church needs most, sacrificially and humbly working together towards meeting that end to God’s glory (Phil. 2:1-4).

— Jon

“What Is Your Life?” — Stephen Hughes

In my last Bible study before becoming a Christian, there was one verse that instilled within me the sense of urgency to obey the gospel that is lacking in many people today. We were using the Open Bible Study, and this is one of the last verses in the third study: “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14). In context, James reminds us that we do not know what the future holds for our lives. Realizing this humbles us by reminding us of our own mortality while helping us to understand who is really in control.

Whenever I hear of someone passing away, many things come to mind, not the least of which is my own mortality. That person’s life was here for a moment, and now it has vanished away.   Funerals and memorial services are designed primarily to reminisce concerning the departed, but they also serve to remind us that our time here is limited (Eccl. 7:2).

While it is easy to be reminded of these things in times of mourning, James urges us to have this in mind at all times. We will be much less likely to waste our short time here on earth if we do. We cannot forget Paul’s exhortation to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). It is easy to get lost in our jobs or in recreation and to overlook the things that truly matter: God and family.

Taking care of the poor (Mk. 14:7) and teaching people the saving message of the cross (Jn. 4:35) are worthwhile endeavors in which we can redeem the time. Let us put our focus on the Lord’s work in our daily lives while not neglecting our obligation to worship with the saints (Heb. 10:24-25). This must be the mission of every Christian.

For our children, we have such a limited amount of time with them to “train [them] up … in the way they should go” (Prov. 22:6a). As they get older, training them becomes all the more difficult. That is why Solomon also wrote of the need for discipline (Prov. 19:18a). One day you might wake up and realize there is nothing left that you can do but to pray. Please share with the young parents in your life how important it is to spend time with their kids. After all, saving souls must begin in the home.

What is your life? This question also carries with it a sense of how insignificant we are. If you have ever looked up into the sky on a dark, cloudless night as I have, knowing that our planet is smaller than any of those points of light you may see twinkling in the distance, it is difficult not to think of just how small and unimportant you are in the grand scheme (Ps. 8:3-4). This is not unlike the question we are considering in this article. Through all the vast wonders of God’s creation, what are we but one tiny part of it?

While we are small and insignificant compared to the universe and especially compared to God, He has still blessed us greatly (Ps. 8:4-5). He, the God of heaven and earth, has given us puny humans glory and honor. David goes on to say that He has given us dominion over His creation and expresses how worthy He is of our praise (Psa. 8:6-9). What a great and awesome God we serve!

There is one more thing to consider. Yes, God created us and gave us dominion over the rest of His creation, but there is something much more precious that He has done for us. What is your life? It was enough for God to send His only begotten Son into this world to die for you (Rom. 5:6-10). If just one soul, your soul, obeyed the gospel, it was worth it. This knowledge might make us haughty and proud that Christ came to die for us, but it should truly humble us. We are no better than anyone else since everyone has sinned and has the opportunity to obtain this salvation found only in Christ.

We should use whatever time we have here on this earth to number our days, to walk circumspectly, and to redeem the time while recognizing our small yet important place in this world. Each of our lives may appear to be insignificant in the grand scheme, but it is not in the eyes of God. While we may not know what tomorrow holds, we know who holds tomorrow.

Stephen is the associate minister at the Seven Hills congregation in Lynchburg, VA.

“Is Christ Divided?” — Victor M. Eskew

Is Christ divided? Those who know their Bibles would answer in the negative. They will boldly affirm: “No, Christ is not divided.” However, the actual practice of some proves they do not really believe this answer. Their practice affirms that they believe Christ is divided. Those who embrace the concept of denominationalism want us to believe that the Christ is divided. He is divided in many sectarian groups: Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Assemblies of God, Mormons, Mennonites, Nazarenes, Lutherans, Independent Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ, Church of God, and a host of other religious groups. All of these groups, we are told, belong to Christ. All of them are separate from one another in name, doctrine, worship and works. Thus, Christ is divided according to those who hold to denominationalism.

The question that entitles our article is found in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. The apostle Paul was addressing a group of Christians who were divided under one roof. He writes: “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Immediately after addressing this divided church, Paul asks: “Is Christ divided?” The question is rhetorical. It answers itself. Is Christ divided? The answer is a simple and bold: “No.” If Christ is not divided, then why were the Corinthians dividing themselves by the names of various men? It was a stern rebuke to the division that existed in this first century church. Paul would ask those in what is referred to as Christendom the same question. “Is Christ divided?” The answer is: “No.” Then why are all those who claim to be disciples of Christ so divided?

Some try to rationalize that we are not divided. “We all believe in the same Jesus Christ,” they say. “We are all going to the same place,” we are told. “We have unity in diversity,” they proclaim. Dear reader, our doctrines are different. The manner in which we worship is different. The practice of our Christianity is different. Our “interpretations” of God’s Word are radically different. This is not unity. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Five times Paul calls for unity in this one verse. Notice the words that he uses: “speak the same thing,” “no divisions among you,” “perfectly joined together,” “the same mind,” and “the same judgment.” God never intended for there to be different religious groups on every corner, calling themselves by different names, teaching different doctrines, and engaging in different religious practices. Christ is not divided!

Sadly, some within the precious church of Christ have not learned this lesson. We are divided in many different groups today: conservative vs liberal, young vs old, traditional vs contemporary, black vs white vs Spanish, one school vs another school, institutional vs non-institutional, and on the list could go. Again, this is not what our Lord intended among His people. In His high priestly prayer in John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed for oneness among believers. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me.” The word “one” is extremely powerful. Jesus likened it unto the oneness that exists between Him and the Father. Would you say that is a perfect oneness? That is what He desires for His disciples. “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…”

On a more personal level, divisions often happen within single congregations. Sometimes it is one family versus another family. Sometimes it is one portion of the eldership against another portion of the eldership. It may be that a segment of the church locks horns with the entire eldership creating a riff in the church. The division can be between the preacher and the elders. Churches have been divided between the young and the old. One church can be split between those who are conservative and those who are liberal. Various ethnic groups can be divided under one roof. The church can be divided over mission works, various preachers, different Christian publications, and various works in which the church is involved. This is not the way Paul taught the first century church of Philippi to be. To them he wrote: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

My friends, the religious world has a long way to go with regard to unity. Our brotherhood has a long way to go as well. In addition, some churches have a lot to work out in the area of oneness. As churches address this issue, they need to constantly ask themselves the question: “Is Christ divided?” The answer will ring clearly in their minds: “No, Christ is not divided!” Let us close with the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:1-6, emp. mine).

Victor preaches for the Oceanside congregation in Atlantic Beach, FL.

“Shall We Continue In Sin That Grace May Abound?” — Roy Knight

In Romans 6:1, Paul asked the question, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” The student of the Bible understands this as being a rhetorical question because the answer is found in the very next verse when Paul exclaims, “Certainly not!”

If not, why not? Isn’t Christ’s blood designed to wash away sins? Certainly! If it is, why can we not go on sinning? The answer has nothing to do with the power of God’s grace or of Christ’s blood but the poor spiritual understanding we have of sin. Some at that time as well as today figure that Christ’s blood gives us a license to sin. After all, His blood is powerful enough to take away any sin. If it can take murder off the soul of Paul and hypocrisy off the soul of Peter then it must be able to wash me. Why not go on sinning? After all, I am covered with the blood of Jesus Christ.

One must understand that the blood of Christ is not to be used as a “Get out of Jail Free” card. When one in his mind thinks, “I am going to commit this sin, whatever it may be, and then I will run back and ask God for forgiveness” this one is only diluting his mind and playing God as a fool. One is actually raising his fist in the air and saying, “God, I am going to sin because I like it. I want You to wink at what I am doing and dismiss it.” Such thinking is of the world. It is not from God.

The apostle Peter put this matter foremost in our thoughts when he wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire’” (2 Pet. 2:20-22). If we willingly rebel against God, we are no better than this dog and sow.

One may reply, “But I’m not really turning against God,. After all, I’m coming back to the blood. I really love God.” No, when one continues to willfully sin against Him they do not love God. They love sin.

In verse two, Paul answers the question with a question: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” To understand the question, we must understand the purpose of putting on Christ in baptism. Besides receiving the blessing of the forgiveness of sin, it should be our intent to put away those sins forevermore. Sadly, this is not the understanding of many as they are buried in Christ. They desire the cleansing blood of Christ but their heart was never fully committed on putting away the sin. Thus they come for a while and after a few months drift away.

When we stand before God and commit our lives to Him, one must also understand that they are also committing themselves to eliminating sin in their lives. Paul said, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Notice the words: “…you put to death the deeds of the body.” Who has the responsibility of putting to death the deeds of the body? You. It is the person’s individual responsibility to seek out sin in their lives and destroy it.

Paul would again say in Colossians 3:5-7: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. This language does not allow for “pet sins,” nor the thought that God because of His abounding grace and mercy will “wink” at them. We must hate sin as much as God hates sin.

Paul in reaching for the eternal prize said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Such thinking is certainly out of sorts with those who seek to dabble and even justify a “little” sin in their lives.

Those who seek the remission of sins in baptism yet seek to continue in their old lives of sin make a mockery of baptism as well as the blood of Christ. Such a one will stand shame-faced before the judgment bar of God. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!

Roy is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies in Knoxville, TN, and preaches for the Lord’s church in St. George, SC.

“What Shall A Man Give In Exchange For His Soul?” — Debbie Kea

In the 1950’s and 60’s when I was a child it seemed that sin was a man’s business. Men abused their wives (and sometimes their children), men committed adultery, and men abandoned their families. They had the freedom and the power—and they used it. At least that’s how it seemed—and it was true in many cases.

Women were faithful. They took care of their children, and they made ends meet with what little they were given. You rarely heard women curse, they usually dressed appropriately, and they were considered godly—at least in most cases. At least that’s how things appeared to me as a child.

To say times have changed in America is an understatement. Women now commonly leave their husbands and often abandon their children as well. Every sexual sin is shared by both genders today. Women have given in to the worldly ways of drinking, drugs, little clothing and less respect. Their freedom has led them to self-satisfaction, even to the point of aborting their own children.

Yes, we’ve come a long way. We have greater freedom and power—and look at what we’ve “profited!” Or rather, what we have given in exchange for our souls! Women have “profited” by gaining careers. I remember hearing women say they could have it all—a husband, family, and a career. And in the quest for it all, they gave up being “keepers at home” (Tit. 2:5). Many times their career even meant giving up their husband and/or children. Some women have had to work outside the home, I know that. My mother did when my dad left us. I became a teacher when my children went to school, but my home remained my number one focus and responsibility. My marriage and my family were not cast aside for the sake of my career.

Women have “profited” by gaining new roles. Women are running businesses, so why can’t they run the church? They can be president. Why can’t they be the head of their homes? The pendulum has swung, and unfortunately women have ignored God’s Word for the sake of so-called equality. “Modern thought” and “culture” are considered more important than the apostle Paul’s decree from the Holy Spirit: “..the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and he head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3; note especially Eph. 5:23-24 and 1 Tim. 2:12-15 as well).

Sadly, many women have been fooled into living the “Perfect American Mother” role. They are more concerned about their children winning the scholarship, or becoming captain of the soccer team or cheerleader squad, or being popular or getting into a certain school than they are about their soul—about their Bible class homework or their treatment of others or their lives of service or worshipping properly. The world has re-defined what being a good mother is—but God’s definition remains! That definition always begins with proper priorities—seeking God and His righteousness first (Matt 6:33). That should be our main concern with our kids.

Women have “profited” by gaining the freedom in many more areas to make bad choices. God has always given mankind the freedom to choose. Yet now our freewill has been challenged by Satan. If you really are free (like men), why don’t you (fill in the blank)? Women have made every bad choice out there. Yes, we are free to choose any bad man who comes along (foolishly not considering how a mate who’s not a Christian can lead us away from the Lord). We are free to wear anything we want (never considering how we can cause a man to sin through lust). We are free to do whatever we want in our families (never considering how our behavior can ruin our relationship with our husband, teach our children self-serving ways, and cause our homes to crumble). We are free to seek popularity instead of godliness and seek personal happiness instead of holiness and money instead of God Himself (Matt 6:24; 1 Pet 1:15; Matt 6:2).

Women have “profited” by gaining selfishness. Yes, we can now have our way in so many areas. Like a child, women are yelling, “You’re not the boss of me!” and therefore becoming enraptured with self. “Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow me daily” (Lk. 9:23; Matt 16:24). Selfishness cannot be a part of the Christian heart—man or woman.

Women have “profited” by gaining equal access to worldliness. Yes, many are gaining the whole world but losing their own souls! The whole world — status, worldly goods, applause, approval, employment, and pleasure in every form — everything that seems to satisfy. Women can enjoy it all, but the irony is the world does not bring true happiness or joy. Now that women have equal access, they also enjoy the cost of worldly living. Their health is ruined and their beauty fades. They spend their lives seeking approval and love, not realizing they are really seeking God. Any satisfaction they find is only temporary (Matt. 5:6). Acquiring things only makes them want more. Love is short-lived because it is actually lust. Family relationships and true friendships are destroyed because the worldly woman isn’t willing to give of themselves for long. Making self happy is the priority.

God’s woman today truly profits her soul when she is selfless, willing to deny SELF and enthroning Jesus instead (Matt. 4:10). She truly profits when she is sacrificial, willing to lose her life for Christ’s sake (Matt. 16:25). She truly profits when she is serving, willing to serve in love, knowing she will be rewarded (Gal. 5:13). She truly profits when she is submissive, willing to submit to God, her husband, and others out of humility (Jas. 4:7; Eph. 5:25; 1 Pet. 5:5). She truly profits when she is sincere, willing to obey out of a true heart with gratitude and sincerity (Matt. 5:8; Eph. 6:24; Josh. 24:14).

In spite of cultural changes, God’s words remain the same (Is. 40:8). They will judge us in the last day (Jn. 12:48). God does not change (Mal. 3:6). We as women must stand strong, “steadfast and immovable” (1 Cor. 15:58), not allowing those about us to mold us but endeavoring to be transformed into the image of God’s dear Son. What are you giving in exchange for your soul?

Debbie is the author of Forty Years on the Second Pew, Am I Brave Enough?, and Staying Close to the Shepherd (yeomenpress.com).

“Will A Man Rob God?” — Travis Main

The book of Malachi was written to the Israelites who have returned from captivity in Babylon. Israel had been taken into captivity around 586 BC by the Babylonians as punishment from God for their disobedience to His law given at Sinai. As prophesied, after 70 years the Medo-Persians allowed Israel to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. They completed this with God’s blessing and then rebuilt Jerusalem as well. The writing of Malachi occurs approximately 75-100 years after the initiation of the aforementioned rebuilding.

In chapter one, the prophet Malachi declared God had shown Israel His love by favoring them since the time of their forefather Jacob. Sadly, Israel did not honor God and could not acknowledge their ungrateful behaviors. Their sacrifices to God were blind, sick, and lame beasts unacceptable even to earthly officials. They were weary of properly reverencing the God of heaven who had returned them to the Promised Land. Perhaps they believed worship and service to God was simply a matter of convenience? They overlooked God’s loving commands and viewed their actions as right in their own eyes.

In chapter two, Malachi condemned the priests and people of Israel for failing to preserve the word of God, teach the Law, and keep His commandments (vs. 7-9). The prophet declared they were married to worldliness. A godly marriage seeks godly offspring and this is produced by two godly parents, not a union of one serving worldliness and the other devoted to holiness. Israel had been commanded to not take foreign wives. The spiritual understanding is to not associate with that in opposition to God. In the Christian Dispensation, God has sanctified the union of a believer and unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:12-14), but he does not authorize or accept worldliness in service to Him (Col. 3:17).

The third chapter, with the previous atrocities in view, called upon Israel to repent and stop robbing Him. Israel failed to recognize their sin and questioned a need to return to God. Of course, the robbing occurred through Israel not giving the Lord what He had commanded in the form of spiritual and physical service as required by the Law of Moses (Dt. 10:12). It the idea of “robbing God” that we want to now take a moment to consider and apply to our lives today.

Are churches robbing God today? As with physical Israel it is certain most Christians would respond in the negative. How could a person be condemned by declaring Christ, assembling, singing, giving, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, praying, and listening to His Word? The answer is broken up into two aspects: Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). God has always desired that worship and service to him be from the heart and according to His commands. Herein is where failure to adhere to God’s authority is found.

Perhaps the “truth” of our service to God is easiest to determine as to whether or not it is seen as robbery. Regarding assembled worship, is it occurring when and how God has directed (Acts 20:7)? Is there reverence or a visible lack of honor that would be frowned upon by even a man expecting something above what is common (1 Pet. 1:16)? Is there singing or playing (Eph. 5:19)? Is a component of assembly missing altogether (such as intermittent partaking of the Lord’s Supper rather than each first day of the week – 1 Cor. 11:26)? Is prayer focused upon God or upon man (Lk. 18:11)? Is it God’s Word being shared or the teachings and traditions of man (Gal. 1:6-10)? These behaviors can be keenly addressed and examined against the scriptures to determine if the offering will be considered acceptable or robbery in God’s eyes.

The state of our “spirit” in serving God is more difficult to ascertain. Man is not God who can read the heart (Jer. 17:10). However, it is true actions and words are a good indicator of what is in the heart (Lk. 6:45). If one finds worship “boring,” then we have a warning sign. If the individual embraces sinful activities or promotes sinful activity as acceptable, there is likely a heart problem (1 Cor. 15:33). If the commands of God are suggested to be too restrictive or legalistic, the spirit may likely not be engaged. If what is good and holy is belittled or mocked, then the soul of that individual is probably not tuned to following God, but instead is seeking out the desires of the flesh. When a person comes to God and is transformed, it is because there has been a mental change and he desires to follow Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). The old man has died. The new man is a possession of Christ. Not being a living sacrifice to Him is robbery.

Malachi 3-4 affirms that those who have “discerned between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not” will be cared for by God. However, those who do not turn to God will be tread down. Extended from physical Israel to the whole world, this is a promise that God, who is faithful, considers those who rob Him and fail to honor him as He is due shall be held accountable.

Travis attends and teaches at the Eastside congregation in Mt. Vernon, OH. He has been preaching for over 15 years.