Tag Archives: Robert Bedenbaugh

Making The Church Stronger — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

Have you ever wondered, “What does the church…collectively, congregationally, from the elders, deacons, and preachers to each and every member…need to do in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day?”  It’s worth at least pondering but, in fact, it’s actually worth deep and extensive study and prayer.  The key to the question is the phrase “in the sight of God” (Ac. 4:19).  Relatively, what else really matters (Ec. 12:13)?

So how would you answer?  Here are some possibilities.  “We should all pray more, especially for wisdom (1 Th. 5:17; Ja. 1:5).”  “We must focus more on evangelism and then encourage the faithful to stay faithful (Mk. 16:15; 1 Th. 5:11).”  “We’ve got to start taking a firmer stand for what is right and against what is wrong (1 Pe. 3:14; Ps. 94:16; Mt. 12:30).”

These are great answers and a good start because any right answer must be rooted in scripture (Ps. 119:172).  If “in the sight of God” is the key to the question, then we must consider what He has said.  I’ve listened to a sermon tape of brother Mel Futrell (currently preaching at the Shades Mountain congregation just south of Birmingham) titled “Intelligent Christianity” where he lists several scriptures from both testaments where God’s people are encouraged, and encouraging others, to reason with God and His Word (Is. 1:18; Ac. 19:9).  Time after time, God’s people are asked (Is. 42:23), required (Dt. 28:1-2), and even warned (Ps. 50:7) by God and His speakers to pay attention to what has been communicated.

Therefore, my answer to this question is to study…more diligently (2 Ti. 2:15).  As a whole, the church needs to study more in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day.  If we can’t answer our question without going to God’s Word, then the answer must include going to God’s Word…more.  Additionally (and I may stand to be corrected on this), I believe God’s people are generally more ignorant of the Bible presently than in decades past.  I believe New Testament Christians of the last century, regardless of age, had more Bible knowledge than their current counterparts.  Perhaps that’s a generality and my opinion, but I do believe it’s accurate.

What if this question was asked with a hint of discouragement?  In so many words, “What can we do?  What can I do?  I’m just one person.”  What humanity has always needed to do in any day is to “hear the Word of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1-14, especially v. 4).

The New Testament refers to God’s people in this age as “Christians” and “the church,” but God, through inspiration in His New Testament, principally uses “disciples” to refer to His people.  Disciple means “learner, student, or pupil” and is not a title; it is a noun referring to the endeavor to accomplish the action of learning.  This can seem to suggest God cares more about what I’m doing than what I call myself.  He wants me to be a learner (Jn. 5:45), and I can’t learn from Him or about His Son without studying what He has said (Jn. 5:39-40).

Certainly there are caveats.  Knowledge is useless without understanding how to apply it and moving forward to its actual utilization in our lives (Mt. 15:16-20; Ja. 2:22-25).  All of this begins with a healthy respect and reverence for the power and majesty of God (Pr. 1:7; 9:10).  If we study more and learn anything about what God expects but don’t respect God enough to obey, we have nothing for which to hope (Pr. 24:13-14).

First, we should be studying more in private. Everywhere we go, in every situation, we should always have God’s Word in the forefront of our mind (Dt. 6:8-9).  How and when?  By trusting, leaning on, and acknowledging Him with all our heart and in all our ways (Pr. 3:5-6).  Exposing ourselves to scripture day and night brings blessings and prevents sin and error (Ps. 1:1-2; 119:11, 104; 1 Ti. 4:16).  Conversely, a lack of spiritual knowledge brings error and destruction, perhaps for generations (Mt. 22:29; Ho. 4:6).  David Langley, the pulpit minister here at Seneca, recently made this statement with reference to Hebrews 5:11-14 and private Bible study:  “If you plan to get all of your spiritual nourishment in one worship hour per week, you will be a spiritual infant your whole life.”

God has always expected His people to read and hear His teachings (Ex. 24:7; Re. 1:3).  On at least six distinct occasions, Jesus asked, “Have you not read…?”, implying that they personally should have read, understood, and remembered what God recorded for them.  Jesus also once asked, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?” (Lk. 10:26)  Even our little children and those considered to be “babes in Christ” (1 Co. 3:1) know Jesus defended Himself against Satan with “It is written…” (Mt. 4:1-11).  We all need to study more in private.

Second, we should be studying more in public. Even Jesus read and studied publicly (Lk 4:16; 2:46-47).  Today we are perhaps afforded more public opportunities to study God’s Word together as His people than ever before.  Simultaneously, others around the world are afforded no opportunity and may face death if discovered.  Unfortunately, knowledge of this very fact has seemingly little impact on many of our own siblings in Christ.  Why is Bible class attendance low compared to worship?  Why are many convicted enough to “warm the pew” during worship but not enough to arrive earlier or participate in (or at least listen to) public discussion or even read a verse aloud?  Publicly studying God’s Word goes back millennia (Ne. 8:1-8; 1 Ti. 4:13).

We learn from God’s Word but we also learn from each other, both men and women (2 Ti. 2:2; Ti. 2:3-5).  Not only do we have the responsibility to learn together (Pr. 27:17), but we also have the responsibility to teach (He. 5:12).  We can achieve this just by making wise comments in a class setting.  We all need to study more publicly.  Perhaps it’s even time for you to be a teacher.

Third, we should be studying more with prosterity. God’s people have been given commands (Dt. 6:6-7), examples (2 Ti. 1:5), and necessary inferences (1 Ti. 5:8) concerning our responsibility to train up the next generation.  Have you heard, “The church is only one generation away from apostasy?” (Ju. 2:7-14)  Did you know we’re just as responsible for teaching our children as we are for learning (Dt. 11:18-21)?  Fathers, are you read to teach your children on the day they ask, “What do these things mean to you?” (1 Pe. 3:15; Ep. 6:4; Jos. 4:1-7)  We have a blatant responsibility to teach the next generation (Ps. 78:1-4).  Read Deuteronomy 4:9-10.  Can human words make the example more clear?   Teach the coming generation.

Let’s return to the above topic of Bible class.  It’s safe to assume every parent wants what’s best for their children.  We want them to have good schooling, decent clothes, straight teeth and the like, and we’ll do whatever it takes in most cases to make those things a reality.  I submit that if any parent wants what’s best for their child, they will make it so that child WILL be in Bible class.  You’ve got the Best People (God’s people) studying the Best Book (God’s book) on the Best Day of the Week (the Lord’s Day) with the Best Aim (learning more about God and how to be pleasing to Him).  Folks, it really doesn’t get any better.  We all need to pass on what we’ve learned from God’s Word by studying with posterity.

In closing, consider this.  Remember the caveats?  Studying God’s Word for strictly academic purposes without making everyday application forfeits the only real benefit (Lk. 6:46-49).  Most of us may have memorized 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  God-breathed scripture will teach you what’s right, reprove you for what you’re doing which is not right, correct you on how to get right, and train you on how to stay right.  However, for scripture to fulfill its purpose (Is. 55:11), you and I must be willing to be taught, reproved, corrected and trained.  We must want it.

Personal freedom is a God-given right (Jos. 24:14-15).  Almost all of our circumstances are dictated to us, by us, through the choices we make.  By and large, each of us in this country and in our current day and time can be as healthy or unhealthy, educated or ignorant, successful or unsuccessful, spiritual or hedonistic, as we choose to be.  We weigh the options, make the choice, and deal with the consequences (Dt. 11:26-28).

Ask yourself this.  What choices do I make?  When I have some free time, do I read my Bible in private study or choose to do something else?  Do I attend Bible classes for public study or choose just the worship service?  When a teachable moment arises, do I study with posterity by rising to the occasion to fulfill my duty to train the next generation…or is there an awkward silence followed by a change of subject?

I refer you to the question asked at the beginning of this piece:  “What does the church…collectively, congregationally, from the elders, deacons, and preachers to each and every member…need to do in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day?”  The key is the phrase “in the sight of God” (Ac. 4:19).  Nothing else really matters (Ec. 12:13).  We must be prepared to answer to Him (Ec. 12:14).  We will give an account about how we’ve applied or not applied His commands and teachings to our lives.  Be diligent to present yourselves approved (2 Ti. 2:15).

robertbedenbaughjr@gmail.com

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.

 

Adding Steadfastness To Self-Control — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

It would be profitable to do a Google search of online images which have to do with patience.  You’ll find pictures, cartoons and memes, mostly including some encouragement (even some Bible verses) and referencing many aspects of life…financial, emotional, marital, even spiritual.  Why is there such an emphasis on the importance of steadfastness?  Everyone agrees that “patience is a virtue.”  Bible verses about being steadfast, patient, enduring, forbearing, and persevering occur repeatedly in scripture.  Our answers to these questions progress from lesser to greater importance.

Why Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials And Hardships? 

Ourselves.  We begin with the least important motivation, ourselves.  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Ja. 1:2-4).  Notice the results of the testing trials.  There’s joy, endurance, and the completion to come.  Endurance is ONLY brought about by testing the very faith we claim to hold so dear.  Having gained the ability to endure, we’re proverbially “complete, lacking nothing.”  How so?  Because we can face future trails and say, “Bring It On.”  How could Paul ask, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Co. 15:55)  He knew there’s a temporal, mortal, corruptible body but also an eternal, immortal, incorruptible body that will…endure.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:3-5)  The benefits of persevering through tribulations are character, hope, a lack of disappointment, and knowledge that God’s love and Holy Spirit permeate our lives plus this inspired permission to glory in those tribulations knowing these benefits are present.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”  (Ja. 1:12)  Our ability to endure what comes at us in life reveals both our love for Him and assurance of the crown of life.

Our Siblings.  Our Christian family is one of the best benefits for believers.  Yet, like our physical family, our spiritual family requires enduring others.  There are two reasons we endure centering around our Christian siblings.

Sometimes, we endure because they’re the source of our trials.  Consider when Jesus said on one occasion, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mt. 17:17,cf. Mk. 9:19; Lk. 9:41).  Contextually, Christ was having to endure His own disciples.  They were the source requiring His endurance.  Predictably, we’re also called and encouraged to endure one another.  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Co. 3:12-13).  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ep. 4:1-3).  Can it be any clearer?  As blessed as we are to have them, our own spiritual family is, at times, the source of our need to practice patience.

Other times, we endure mindful that our spiritual family are superior to our trials.  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph. 2:3-4).  Often, we go to chapter two of Philippians to discuss theological facts about Christ (vs. 5-11), but those verses appear within the greater context of how we are to treat one another.  The “mind” Paul speaks of beginning in verse 5 is the attitude he commands of us in verses 3-4.  When a given trial is linked to a fellow Christian, rest assured, they’re more important than your trial.  What is to be done “through selfish ambition or conceit”?  Nothing.  Instead, focus on what best for them.  Ask yourself, “What do THEY really need out of this situation?”  For the benefit of our siblings, our spiritual family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, we patiently endure.  Our Lord and Savior and example of suffering did the same.

How Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials and Hardships?

Our Savior.  Our Savior is our Head.  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (He. 12:1-4).

We endure by “looking unto Jesus” and considering.  He is the perfect, sinless, only-begotten, one-of-a-kind Son of God and even He had to suffer.  He is our leader, the Head of the Church.  If He was required to endure, who are we to ever think we deserve a better existence?  We sing “Follow Him” and “Footprints of Jesus” (among other songs) for the encouragement they provide in pointing us to and reminding us of our King Jesus and the love and endurance He showed toward us and exemplified for us.  “He the great example is, and pattern for me.”  Where He leads, we must follow.

Our Savior is our Healer.  “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (2 Pe. 2:20-24)  He, who knew no sin, endured the punishment for our sins and we garner to ourselves the benefit of spiritual healing.  How?  “…by whose stripes you were healed.”  How could any of our trials or hardships compare to His?

Our Savior is our Helper.  “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Th. 3:5)  Succinctly put, “We need help.”  We’re divinely directed by the scriptures into the patience of Christ.  No one should pretend to fully understand Divine direction.  We know it’s there “because the Bible tells me so” and that’s enough.  Take heart, fellow Christians.  We are not alone.  We have a Helper.

In conclusion, we offer personal encouragement.  Is there some specific trial you’re struggling to endure?  First, re-read the thoughts above about Christ and study His suffering in scripture.  Second, recall Acts 5:41:  “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  The disciples were joyful that they were counted worthy to suffer, especially for the cause of Christ.  Third, reflect on Peter’s words in John 6:68-69:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Where else can we go?  Jesus gives life (Jn. 6:33, 63), has the words of life (6:68), and is the life (11:25; 14:6).  Where else would we want to go?  Focus on Christ.  Fourth, reassure a friend. If you’re on social media, do a Google search of those images of patience and post one.  Your friends and connections, Christians and non-Christians, could use the encouragement, too.  Why?  Because patience, perseverance, steadfastness, endurance…really IS a virtue.

robertbedenbaughjr@gmail.com

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.