Tag Archives: Keith B. Cozort

Balanced Christianity — Keith B. Cozort

What is meant when we talk about “balanced Christianity?” A dictionary definition of “balanced” would include: “an instrument for weighing, esp. one that opposes equal weights, as in two matched shallow pans hanging from either end of a lever supported exactly in the middle; scales…a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equality in amount, weight, value, or importance, as between two things or the parts of a thing” (Webster’s New World Dictionary; Second College Edition; 1970; p. 105-106). The dictionary definition of Christianity includes: “…the state of being a Christian” (ibid.).

When I think of a balance or being balanced, I automatically think of the scales used to represent justice. They are intended to demonstrate equilibrium or things being equal on both sides of the lever in the middle. The questions arise, “What are we trying to balance? What is the standard in being balanced?”

Unfortunately, there are many different ideas as to what is meant by “balanced” when Christianity is the subject of discussion. Some hold to the idea that for a Christian to be balanced he/she must have equal parts of good and evil. Are we really trying to imply that if we have just as much good in our lives as we do evil, then we are balanced? I certainly hope not, but the way some Christians are living it appears that is exactly what they mean. The apostle Paul stated, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Paul says Christians are not to continue living sinful lives. A change for the better is expected to come as a result of putting on Christ in baptism.

Another view could mean we are to have just as much love as we have hatred in our lives and thereby we are balanced. Again, I hope not, but look at some Christians and you will see that seems to be their thinking concerning balanced Christianity. Jesus states, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (Matt. 6:43-45a). Jesus doesn’t indicate we are to have equal amounts of love and hate in our lives. Instead, love is to be descriptive of our lives, not hate.

Finally, what do you get when you have equal amounts of light and darkness? You end up with twilight. This results in problems of trying to distinguish things clearly. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). Therefore, Christians are to be light, not darkness to those around us. Thus, equal parts of love and hate, good and evil, light and dark are not what we are meaning by balanced Christianity.

We must use the right standard in order to determine if we as Christians are living balanced lives. The standard must be God’s word, the truth of the gospel. Those scales must have the Bible on one side and our lives on the other. If we are living balanced Christian lives, then we are living according to the word of God, living like our Lord lived. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). It is the word of God which is to direct every facet our lives. Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

God’s inspired word shows us several different groups or individuals who were unbalanced in living their lives. In Genesis 3 we read of God’s first test for mankind in the garden of Eden. This test proved Adam and Eve were unbalanced. Eve decided it was better to follow the direction of the serpent and eat the forbidden fruit, rather than faithfully adhere to God’s instructions (Gen. 3:1-5). Paul informs Timothy that Eve was deceived, thoroughly beguiled by the serpent (1 Tim. 2:14). He also states Adam was not deceived, which means Adam deliberately disobeyed God’s law. As a result of Adam and Eve’s unbalanced lives they were put out of the garden and never allowed to enter it’s premises again lest they also eat of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24).

Cain lived an unbalanced life believing he could worship God by substituting his harvest of the ground for the sacrifices God specified (Gen. 4:3-5). We know this to be true because the Hebrews writer states, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). The apostle Paul informs us and defines for us what faith is when he states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God even explained to Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). To be balanced Cain would have obeyed God’s instructions concerning offering acceptable sacrifices to God.

Think about the Pharisees. They were Jews who believed it was acceptable to add to God’s word and still be balanced. Our Lord said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). Even though they proclaimed the need for strict adherence to the law of God, they insisted on adding and binding the commandments of men. Such is not balanced.

We might also consider the Sadducees as those who were unbalanced because of their attitude toward God’s word. They believed it was acceptable to subtract portions of the Bible without any negative consequences. Luke wrote, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit…” (Acts 23:8). Jesus instructed the disciples to be leery of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).

The previous examples are not of unbalanced Christians, but there are many examples of such in the New Testament. Paul admonished the Corinthian brethren to learn from the mistakes of the children of Israel while wandering in the wilderness to keep themselves from making the same mistakes (1 Cor. 10). He warned the Galatian brethren of following a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), which thereby would certainly make them unbalanced. Also, our Lord through the apostle John demonstrated that the Laodicean brethren were unbalanced Christians by being neither cold nor hot (Rev. 3:14-22).

We are expected to compare every aspect our lives as Christians to God’s word in order to determine if we are living a balanced life. As husbands, wives, sons, daughters, preachers, elders, deacons, male and female members of the church, we must put ourselves on one side of the scales and God’s word on the other side. The likelihood is that we will need to make adjustments to our lives if we are to be balanced with God’s holy word.

I remember hearing a story when I was younger concerning a woman who lived during the Depression. She contracted with the local grocer to bring him butter in blocks weighing one pound each in exchange for other food products she needed for her household. One day she lost her one pound weight for measuring the butter. So, she decided to use the one pound of laundry detergent the grocer weighed out for her earlier in the day. She brought the butter to the store, as she always did, and the grocer weighed each of the blocks of butter as was his custom. However, this time he accused her of trying to cheat him because the blocks of butter didn’t weigh a pound. She exclaimed, “I don’t understand! I lost my one pound weight, so I decided to use the one pound of laundry detergent I bought from you this morning as my standard.” If the scales are out of balance or the weight is not exact, someone is going to be cheated.

Are we cheating God or are we living balanced Christian lives?

Keith is a graduate of the Florida School of Preaching in Lakeland, FL. He preaches for the Lord’s church in Mountain Grove, MO. He has been an instructor for the Online Academy of Biblical Studies (OABS) for the last five years. He and his wife, Cheryl, have 3 sons and 12 grandchildren.

The Conversions Of Lydia And The Jailer — Keith B. Cozort

In Acts 16 we read concerning the gospel being preached for the very first time in Europe and it will be accomplished by the Apostle Paul and his co-workers. Luke, the penman of the book of Acts, also informs us in the opening verses of the chapter that Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), joined Paul and Silas as they traveled on Paul’s second preaching journey.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy will eventually come to the city of Troas (v. 8), on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, where they will be joined by Luke. We know Luke joins the group because he changes his terminology from “they” to “we” at this point in his narrative. They spend at least one night in the city of Troas and a vision will be given to Paul in the night. He sees in this vision a man from Macedonia and hears him say, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (v. 9). Paul and his entourage determine the Lord is sending them to the region of Macedonia and they immediately make preparations to sail by way of the Island of Samothracia and then to Neapolis, a port city of Macedonia. From Neapolis they will go to Philippi, “the chief city of that part of Macedonia” (v. 12). It is here they will come in contact with the households of Lydia and the jailer.

Paul and his brethren, having been in the city for several days, now go outside the city to the river on the Sabbath Day (v. 13) where women were gathered to pray. One of these women is named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, which is located in Asia (Rev. 1:11). She is a “seller of purple” (v. 14), which probably means she sold purple cloth. Many commentators conclude she was probably well off financially because generally purple cloth was considered affordable only by royalty and the very wealthy. Also, the fact that there is no husband mentioned to which she belonged, she has a household, and a house, “my house” (v. 15), it is assumed she was financially secure.

Paul will begin to teach these women the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lydia having heard and understood the teaching will, along with her household, be baptized (v. 15). To be baptized is to be immersed in water (Jn. 1:25-26; 3:23), in order to receive the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Many people attempt to justify infant baptism by reasoning that if Lydia had a household, she must have had infants in it. But the mention of her household does not demand the conclusion that there are any infants. We are aware of many households today overseen or headed up by women where there are no infants in them. Plus, what is stated concerning Lydia, as far as hearing and understanding the preaching of Paul, would also be required of her household because they were all baptized for the remission of their sins, to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Infants would not be able to hear, understand, and obey Paul’s teachings which includes being baptized. In addition, there is no need for infants to be baptized because they are not guilty of any sin.

After the conversion of Lydia and her household Luke will record concerning the damsel who was “possessed with a spirit of divination” (v. 16). It is not my intention to deal with the record of Paul demanding the evil spirit to come out of the damsel and the problems resulting from this action. But, needless to say, Paul’s deed will cause him and Silas to be beaten with many stripes and cast into prison. The magistrates who were responsible for this miscarriage of justice ordered the jailer to keep Paul and Silas safely (v. 23). The jailer will thrust them into the inner part of the prison and make “their feet fast in the stocks” (v. 24). It appears his intention is to make sure there would be no way that Paul and Silas could escape from the prison.

Luke says at midnight Paul and Silas are singing praises unto God (v. 25). They are singing loud enough to allow the other prisoners to be able to hear them. We should ask ourselves a question, “What would I have been doing at midnight after having been beaten unjustly with many stripes and thrust into the inner part of a prison?” It is certainly a soul searching question, is it not? How many of us complain, and sometimes strenuously, about our situation or circumstances in life even though we are not treated in nearly as cruel of a manner as Paul and Silas were at this time?

While singing these praises to God an earthquake shakes the very foundations of the prison (v. 26). The jailer is awakened from his slumber and seeing all the prison doors open he draws out his sword in order to kill himself. The reason for his action seems to be because under Roman law he would be killed or imprisoned for life if even one prisoner escaped while under his watch. The apostle Paul calls out to him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (v. 28). The jailer calls for a light and finds that Paul has spoken the truth. He will then ask, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). To which Paul and Silas reply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (v. 31). They will then teach them, the jailer and his household, the word of the Lord. Having heard and understood the teaching of Paul and Silas they will be baptized, immersed in water, in order to be saved from their sins (v. 33).

Such accounts of conversion like that of Lydia, the jailer, and their households which are recorded in Acts truly lift our hearts with thanksgiving for our Lord, His gospel, and salvation made possible through obedience of it.

Keith preaches for the Lord’s church in Mountain Grove, MO.

One Faith — Keith B. Cozort

The title of this article has only two relatively small words in it, but there are major disagreements as to the meaning of those two words. Some believe the apostle Paul, the writer of the book of Ephesians, was speaking of an individual’s personal faith. Thus, there would be many faiths because every individual has his, or her, own faith. Others believe Paul was speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Word, as found in the New Testament. Which is it?

One’s personal faith is absolutely essential if that person wants to have heaven as his or her eternal reward. Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). He would also state, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Therefore, personal faith or belief is important. The Hebrews writer also states, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). So, an individual cannot be saved without having a personal faith in Jesus, in God, as well as in the word of God.

A person’s individual faith must be based upon the truth revealed in the New Testament. Jesus taught, “…If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Many people like to quote verse 32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” but they forget or refuse to acknowledge where that truth is located. It is located in the words of our Lord. Plus, one cannot be a disciple of Christ and refuse to abide by the words or revelation of Christ. Our Lord made this perfectly clear when He said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The word which was spoken by our Lord will be the standard by which all those on this side of the cross will be judged. Paul affirms the same thing in Romans 10:17 when he says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This “faith” is one’s own personal faith which is founded upon God’s word. But this is not the “one faith” to which the apostle Paul speaks.

Paul in Ephesians 4:5 is referring to the system of faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ of which we read in the New Testament. It is the same “faith” to which Jude, the half-brother of our Lord, spoke when he said, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write upon you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). “The faith” in this passage is not an individual’s personal faith but rather the system of faith which Jude says was “once delivered,” meaning it was once for all time delivered unto the saints. There never has been and never will be a need for another “faith,” an updated version of the faith, to be delivered to the saints.

Unfortunately, there are those who believe the “one faith” needs to be updated. As one person proclaimed, “After all, it’s not the first century any longer!” What he and many others don’t realize is there were those who lived at the same time as the apostle Paul who thought the “one faith” needed to be updated. Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). Paul is saying there were those who were promoting “another gospel,” an updated gospel, but he says it was actually a perversion of the gospel of Christ. He makes the point that their misguided reasoning stated that this new, updated, gospel was another of the same kind of good news when compared to that which originated with Jesus Christ. This new gospel, instead of being another of the same kind, was instead actually another of a different kind. It was a perversion of Christ’s gospel. We still have those who are promoting “another gospel of Jesus Christ” but it too is just a perversion of the “one faith.”

The “one faith,” the system of faith, is comprised of: facts which must be believed; commandments which must be obeyed; instructions which must be followed; promises which will be given by our heavenly Father; and warnings which must be heeded, if we intend to have Heaven as our everlasting home! None of these ingredients which make up the “one faith” can be ignored, rejected, or excluded by anyone who desires to hear our Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” (Matt. 25:21).

In his commentary on the books of Ephesians and Colossians, brother Robert R. Taylor, Jr. quotes brother Winfred Clark as saying, “The ONE God sent the ONE Lord who sent the ONE Spirit who gave us the ONE faith (the gospel) which teaches the ONE baptism which puts us into the ONE church (body – K.B.C.) wherein we enjoy the ONE hope” (Studies In Ephesians & Colossians, Taylor Publications, 2010, pg. 80).

While there are many individuals who have biblical faith, notice there is only ONE faith — system of faith, gospel of Jesus Christ — acceptable to God. ONE means one, not two or any number greater or lesser than one.

Keith is a graduate of the Florida School of Preaching in Lakeland, FL, and preaches for the Lord’s church in Mountain Grove, MO. He and his wife, Cheryl, have 3 sons and 12 grandchildren.