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The Second Coming

People in every country are interested in the second coming of Christ. Every few years someone sets the date for the Lord’s return, but he comes not. Many are intrigued at the possibility of Jesus coming back to the earth to set up His kingdom and rule on earth for one thousand years. This doctrine is called “premillennialism.”  Can it be proved from the Bible, or, is it the doctrine of men?

What is premillennialism? This doctrine says that when Jesus came to the earth the first time, He intended to set up His kingdom. Since the Jews rejected Him, Jesus set up a temporary institution, the church, instead. The New Testament refutes this claim of premillennialism. The church is not a temporary institution but is a part of the eternal purpose of God (Eph 3:10, 11).

Premillennialism claims that the church and the kingdom are not the same. Jesus promised to build His church, which is His kingdom (Matt 16:18,19). He fulfilled His promise in the first century (Acts 2:47 ff; Col 1:13; Rev 1:9).

Premillennialism also teaches that Jesus is coming soon! It teaches that there will be many signs before Christ’s coming. It implies that God failed in His first attempt to establish the kingdom as prophesied in the Old Testament.

Premillennialism is pure false doctrine! It is not supported by the Word of God. Let us examine the Bible to see what it says about the second coming of Christ.

Is Christ coming again? Yes, He is! Note the following passages from the Bible: “You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb 9:27,28).

When will Christ come again? No one on earth knows the answer to this question! No signs will be given to tell us when the second coming will be. Jesus said: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mk 13:32). “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

What will Christ do when He returns? First, He will raise the dead. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Jn 5:28,29).

Second, Christ will judge the whole world when He comes again (Matt 25:31-46). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).

Third, when Jesus comes again, it will not be to establish a kingdom, but He will return the kingdom, which is His church, to the Father: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. The cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor 15:23,24).

Fourth, when Jesus comes again, eternity will begin when the dead are raised to life, never to die again. Premillennialists teach that there will be two or more resurrections of the dead, but the Bible teaches that there will only be one when Jesus comes again. Please note that the resurrection is singular, not plural in the following passage: “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).

Fifth, when Christ comes again the earth will be destroyed! Therefore, there will not be a place for the rule of Christ on the earth which the premillennialists teach. Please read 2 Peter 3:7,10,12.

Christ came to this earth almost 2,000 years ago. He is going to come again. Because Christ is coming again, faithful Christians are busy preaching the gospel to a lost and dying world. What about you? Are you ready for the Lord to come again? Are you prepared to meet Him in Judgment? If not, begin your preparation now by obeying the gospel of Christ (Mk 16:16). When you do this, you will be added to the Lord’s church by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47). Then you must continue in the doctrine of God, Christ, and His apostles (all of which are the exact same) (Jn 7:16,17 ff; 2 Jn 9; Acts 2:42). If you remain faithful unto death, you shall receive a crown of life (Jam 1:12 ff; 2 Tim 4:8; Rev 2:10). As Jesus warned, “Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord will come” (Matt 24:22). “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man will come” (Matt 25:13). And again he said, “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mk 13:37).

 

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Satan’s Devices

Satan is working overtime to destroy the faith of Christians.  Paul says, “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor 2:11).  Satan’s main weapon is deceit.  He is described as the “serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9).  Satan uses many techniques to deceive us to sin.  “For Satan transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:14-15).

One of the ways Satan deceives people is by using false teachers who pretend to be servants of Christ but are actually servants of Satan.  Satan does not appear in a red suit carrying a pitchfork, but many times he is a well-dressed smooth talking false teacher carrying a Bible.  There is much false teaching in religion today.  Paul says, “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph 4:14).  Satan uses all kinds of trickery and deceptions by perverting God’s word to make others believe that man-made doctrines are the divine truth.

Satan’s main resource is a lie.  Jesus says concerning Satan, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn 8:44).  The children of the Devil refuse to accept the truth.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus says, “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the Devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Lk 8:12).

That old Serpent has deceived the millions that they should be happy in this present world. He has told them to eat, drink, and be merry because they only go around life once in life. He has convinced them that adultery does not mean what God said it meant (Matt 19:9). He has led them to believe that adultery won’t send their soul to hell (1 Cor 6:9 f; Gal 5:19). Literally, adultery has destroyed many in the Lord’s church. He has deceived many to believe that certain people were born to be homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, and the suchlike. He has led many to believe that fornication and cohabitation is a normal step to a good marriage. He has deceived the world to accept gay marriage as normal. He has convinced many to believe that alcoholism, stealing, and lying are diseases and not a sin. He has nurtured the entire world to believe that greed (described as blind ambition) is a good virtue to possess. This is to say nothing how Satan has deceived the denominational world into believing a perverted gospel (Gal 1:6-9). Sadly, many in the Lord’s church are being lead astray by the additions of man-made doctrines and the commandments of men, which have turned many from the truth (Matt 15:7-9; Tit 1:14).

How do we protect ourselves from the devices of Satan?  We must “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet 5:8-9).  The Devil never rests.  He is always looking for ways to entice people to sin.  Satan is dangerous to our spiritual welfare.  He wants us to be lost.  He wants our company in Hell where he will be.  “The Devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…and will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10).

Satan can be defeated if we stand fast in the faith.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jam 4:7-8).  When we repent of sin and do God’s will, then the Devil will flee from us.  We must be on guard “so that Satan does not tempt you” (1 Cor 7:5), “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13).  To protect ourselves we must “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the trickery of the Devil” (Eph 6:11).  In our fight with Satan, we must use “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).  “So that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the Devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:25-26).

When one departs from God, he becomes a captive of the Devil.  Satan cannot make people sin.  Satan deceives people and they sin of their own free will.  People can be forgiven of their sins by repenting and obeying God’s will, thereby escaping the snare of Satan.

Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

Good intentions are the intentions of the good. Yet, we know the old saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions”.

Within the pages of the Bible, there are many examples of good intentions that brought the wrath of God upon the one intending good. This is true in many cases because the good intentions come from personal desires.

In Acts 5:1 we read of the good intentions of a husband and wife, “But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,.. .” Their intentions were good. They, like the other disciples who sold the property and gave the proceeds to the church, were intent on selling their property and doing likewise.

However, once the money was in hand, their good intention became a temptation; “and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 5:2)

Their good intentions turned deadly. Peter rebuked Ananias for lying to God, and in the same moment, Ananias’ good intention cost him his life. “And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it” (Acts 5:5)

Was it the evil of good intentions that cost Nadab and Abihu their lives? What caused these priests of God to disobey God? Was it the same “good intentions” that many are falling prey to today, “As long as I do it with good intentions God will accept what I do for Him.”

Good intentions cannot replace simple obedience from faith. Let’s stop and consider certain passages before we take comfort in our “good intentions.” One of the more famous men of “good intentions” was Uzzah. The result of Uzzah’s good intentions is seen in 2nd Samuel 6:6. Though it was not his idea to transport the ark of God in an inappropriate manner, the wrong still cost him dearly. Often times the innocent pay for someone else’s disobedience. This is not a matter of fairness, just reality!

Uzzah’s good intention was in reality disobedience. This is the outcome when error is perpetuated, even in the name of good intentions. In 2nd Samuel 6:6 we are told, “When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.”

In Numbers 1:51 the people were told that the Levites were to take the tabernacle down and to set it up. They were told that a layman who came near would be put to death. In Numbers 4:1 the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron concerning the responsibility for the tabernacle and its furnishings.

Aaron and his sons were to cover the furnishings and the house of Kohath was to transport the furnishings. In Numbers 4:15 the Lord stated that Aaron and his sons must cover the holy objects and furnishings of the sanctuary so the sons of Kohath would not touch the holy objects and furnishings and die.

When God gave the instructions concerning the holy objects of the tabernacle, these instructions were not mere suggestions, they were the unalterable commands of God. Any violation of these instructions was viewed by God disobedience. Thus, when Uzzah, with his good intention of protecting the ark, touched the ark; God maintained His righteousness and kept His word concerning the ramifications for the one who violated His commands concerning the holy objects.

One need only to listen to the words of King David to understand that good intention does not justify error. David condemned the priests and Levites for their lack of knowledge concerning their responsibilities in moving the holy objects. In 1st Chronicles 15:13 King David said to them, “Because you did not carry it at first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance.”

Once the priests and Levites studied the Word of God the sons of Levite carried the ark of God on their shoulders, with poles thereon as Moses had commanded (1st Chron. 15:15).

Hosea said of God’s people, “My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge…” (Hos 4:6). Such a lack of knowledge caused the destruction of Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu, even the nation of Israel. Good intentions can never replace knowledge and obedience. God did not tolerate ignorance among His people because He gave them His commandments with the understanding they were to live by and obey His commandments (Ex. 19:5).

During the Mosaic dispensation, God tolerated much ignorance from the Gentiles because they did not have His laws, but no longer. With the coming of the New Covenant and the command to make disciples of all people, ignorance is no longer an excuse. Paul said of God, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent,…” (Acts 17:30).

So often ignorance of God’s Word promotes error. Yet the ramifications are not considered because many justify various beliefs and practices with the security of sincerity and “good intentions.”

Satan has propagated one of the greatest lies in the religious world today, “Doctrine is not that important, all you need to do is believe in God and love Him.” Thus, religious (manmade) doctrines have divided the body of believers and “good intentions” have eased the conscience concerning the division.

Even the word “denomination” no longer carries the connotation of what it means to be “denominated”—to divide and name. Denominationalism stands diametrically opposed to Jesus’ prayer (Jn 17) and Paul’s description of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-6). John wrote His first epistle (1st John) in response to erroneous teachings (doctrines).

Today various doctrines are taught under the umbrella of “good intentions” and many are none the wiser that error is still error and Hosea 4:6 is still true. Listen to the Shepherd’s voice–Truth, knowledge, and obedience—It’s His Way or no way.

Does God Overlook Sin?

Why do so many try to minimize sin and its effect? Looking at the Bible we see that the rationalizing of sinners has not changed over the years. There were Adam and Eve who tried to justify themselves by “passing the buck” (Gen. 3:12-13). Eve might be credited with coining the popular expression (or at least its sentiment) “The Devil made me do it,” but that did not excuse her from being punished and her husband who followed her.

Then there is the age-old notion that “The end justifies the means.” One rarely admits that this is what he holds to, but rather points to the “good” that has been done. They attempt to divert attention from the sinful means by which it was accomplished. A classic example of such “justification” of sin is seen in the case of King Saul. In 1 Sam. 15 we read that Saul had been told, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Verse nine says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the failings, and the lambs, and all that was good . . . .” in blatant rebellion against God’s command, Saul offered the defense that this was done that they might sacrifice unto the Lord (vv. 15, 21). Samuel’s reply was simple and direct, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

In “defense” of their unscriptural projects and schemes, our apostate brethren have trumpeted the phrase, “I would rather do it wrong than to do nothing at all.” They should not be so proud to have such an attitude for three weaknesses are therein revealed:

1. The apparent admission that what they are doing is wrong (or, if it is wrong they do not care).
2. The fundamental fallacy that the end justifies the means.
3. The idea that we have no choice but to do wrong or to do nothing.

After having been exposed to such teaching for a generation, is it any wonder that some would develop a philosophy that God will simply turn his eyes and overlook certain sins? If would seem the general thought among such people is that being human, it is simply expected that we will sin. We all understand that God understands it, therefore sin, or at least “little sins,” or perhaps “sins of ignorance” are not really so bad. When we are tempted to adopt such an attitude regarding sin, we should remember that we are faced squarely with two Bible facts about transgression of God’s law whether it be out of blatant rebellion or ignorance:

One’s Commission of Sin Affects Others

When we have a tendency to think lightly of sin, we should always remember the effect of sin is felt by those who may not even be guilty of it. If I commit a sin, I very likely will bring hurt upon others in some way, or worse, lead them into sin.

The results of the sin of Adam and Eve are too painful to be forgotten. Each time a friend or loved one passes from this life we should be reminded that because of “one little sin” death entered the world and passed upon all men (Rom. 5:12-21).

In the case of Achan in Josh. 7, Israel was defeated by a handful of men from Ai. A family was not only disgraced but slain and their bones burned because there was “sin in the camp”, the sin of Achan, a man momentarily overcome by a weakness of the flesh.

All right thinking people immediately see the folly of those who try to justify their immoral behavior on the premise that “It harms no one but me.” Drinkers slaughter thousands on the highways each year. Drug addicts not only remove themselves as productive citizens in society, but also get on welfare, steal, and kill in order to maintain their habit. Those who argue that “free love” involves only those who participate are naively inconsiderate of family and friends who must live down the shame. Parents and taxpayers who bear the burden of treating venereal disease or seeing that illegitimate children are taken care of, and of course the child itself with the problems inherent in being born into such a situation.

For some reason, people do not see the matter so clearly in spiritual matters. Perhaps this is because we do not see immediate effects of spiritual sins as we often do with sins of immorality. The bad influence of such sin in nevertheless causing others to stumble. Jesus said of false teachers (not necessarily immoral people) “. . . Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:13-14).

No matter what your wrongdoing, whether in the realm of immorality or in deviation from the spiritual laws of God, your action has an adverse effect on others. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it thus needs to be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matt. 18:7). The offense of evil people brings woe to the world.

Even in doing things which may not be sinful in themselves, we must be careful lest we wound the conscience of a brother and thus sin against him (1 Cor. 8).

Sin Without Repentance Meets Just Punishment

A second principle we must remember is that without repentance, sin must be recompensed. Again, this is clearly illustrated in the case of Adam and Eve. Had they been tried in our courts today they may have gotten off with a reprimand or light sentence. After all, it was their “first offense” so we might feel that we should make allowances for them. But just as surely as God had told them that they could eat of all the other trees of the garden including the tree of life, He had told them that they could not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and that the day they ate thereof they would surely die (Gen. 2:16-17).

We see Uzzah in 2 Sam. 6, whose only desire was to steady the precious ark of the covenant and keep it from crashing to the ground. Yet he was met with severe punishment. Why? Because God had forbidden anyone but the high priest to touch the ark. Uzzah, despite good motives, violated God’s law and had to be punished.

It may be argued that these cases and others which might be cited are found in another age and under another covenant, but today we are under grace, therefore, punishment will not be as stringent. What does the Bible say? Heb. 2:1-3: “Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation . . . ?”

The Hebrew writer is simply saying that if those in other ages were punished for every sin, certainly we shall be. Notice again, Hebrews 10:28-29: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose you shall be thought worthy, who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

Where Does Grace Come In?

If we are faced with a stricter judgment and punishment for our sins than were those in other ages, how can we talk about living under grace? In Rom. 5:6-8 we are told that God commended his love toward us in sending Christ to die for us though we were or are yet sinners. By God’s grace, we are given certain conditions we can meet and have our sins washed away. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . . . ” (Heb 5:9). The effect of God’s grace in our lives is initially accomplished when we, having faith, repent of our sins, and are immersed in water to have our sins remitted (Mk 16:16 ff; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).

But if some of our sins, especially sins of ignorance, are not just overlooked, are we not in a hopeless condition? John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). This problem is answered in the previous verse, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (v. 7).” How does the blood of Christ cleanse us (Christians) from sin? Verse nine: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But would that not mean that we must be repenting, confessing, and asking forgiveness continually? Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying I repent; you shall forgive him” (Lk 17:3-4). If the Lord expects his disciples to be this merciful, surely we can have confidence that God will not be displeased with us if we turn to him, even “seventy times seven”, asking for forgiveness as we truly repent.

When reflecting upon our human weakness and sinfulness, rather than taking comfort rationalizing that surely God will let us off the hook since “we are only human,” let us turn to God and ask for strength and wisdom, not being ashamed to confess our sins and ask forgiveness of our heavenly Father.

The Meaning of a Christian’s Life

Without the truth of God, it is impossible to be a Christian (Jn 8:32). It means more than simply believing. To be sure one must be a believer (Heb. 11:6 f; Mk 16:16), but he must have a faith that works by love (Gal. 5:6). It means submission, obedience, conformity to the will of God and Christ in every relationship in life, in all manner of living (1 Pet. 1:13-16 f; Jam. 1:22-27). It certainly includes being a member of the body of Christ the church, but it includes more than just church members. One cannot be a Christian, a saved individual, without being a member of the church. God adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47 f; Eph. 5:23).

What was the most outstanding trait found in the life of the Savior? It was serving others. Christianity is obeying Jesus and serving others. “Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another” (1 Pet. 5:5); “. . . but through love be servants one to another” (Gal. 5:13). These teachings are sufficient to enable us to see what God requires of Christians. If we are to be pleasing to God and great in his sight, we must subdue self and render service to others, both friend and foe.

Men think greatness is obtained in some other ways, but it is not so. It doesn’t make any difference what man thinks because, in the final analysis, it will be between God and you. God is the one we’ll answer to and no other. Therefore, we should desire God’s approval in all things. We get that approval through His Word.

Happiness comes through giving. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). A person who does not believe this does not believe the Lord. Giving means more than money. There are more people in need of other things than money. Counsel, encouragement, good cheer, sharing of burdens, and guidance are needed by those around you (Gal. 5:1-2 f; Jn 16:33). “Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), is the best guarantee for happiness in this world.

The life of a Christian in the home brings unity. The secret of unity is “thinking alike.” Paul said, “Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same things” (Phil. 3:16). The life of a Christian in the home brings happiness. To be happy one must be content. “Godliness with contentment is great gain . . . be content with such things as you have” (1 Tim. 6:6 f; Heb. 13:5-6).

The life of a Christian brings love. Every Christian will imitate God. “Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children”(Eph. 5:1). And, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16).

The life of a Christian gains respect in the business world. It has always been so. Those who are dishonest, respect those who are honest; those who are deceitful, respect those who deceive not. “There is no respect among thieves, but thieves do respect the righteous.”

The life of a Christian gains admiration. All admire one who will stand for that which is accepted by God. Those who yield to the pleasures of sin, admire those who fight against these pleasures.

The life of a Christian gains confidence. Honesty is the one great characteristic that will gain the confidence of others. The believer’s life is a constant training in “honesty.”

The life of a Christian in society gains honest and sincere friends. A Christian will always take heed to Paul’s teachings found in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”

The life of a Christian gives hope to others. A faithful Christian in society is a light in darkness. Christianity gives to society a “hope of a better life” here and in the hereafter.

The life of a Christian shows the purpose of this life: to serve the Creator; to love one another; to help those who are in need, and to cast a light of hope into the darkness of this present generation.

Conclusion: This lesson could be all summed up as this: If you and I would put God first (Matt. 6:33), there would be less need for debating who is the “church of God,” when we shall have become more loving, more unselfish, more humble, more faithful, and purer; when we shall have become enough like Christ to cause men to say (even our enemies), “These people have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

It is not that the truth of Christ is difficult to teach. It is not that the truths which make one a Christian are difficult to learn. However, the world’s indifference to God is so compounded when men and women cannot see Jesus in us who are Christians. To know me better ought to remind people more of Jesus, and will do so if he is in me. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Practice Yields Progress

We can not make progress in the habits of godliness by doing nothing more than listening and learning. While these are essentials to our spiritual growth, they are not enough. It takes practice to make progress, and we should not expect that to be any less true in spiritual matters than in those of a worldly nature.

When we meet individuals who have become adept at the disciplines of the godly life, we often suppose that they’re just more devout than we are. Perhaps we think that they’re more intelligent or insightful, or we wish that we could have read the books and heard the sermons that they’ve read and heard. However, when we think this way, we betray an ignorance of the real thing that produces spiritual progress: practice. The trait that distinguishes the adept from the inept is that the adept has done certain things over and over, every day, for many years.

Prayer

Not all of our prayers are of equal quality. Keeping in mind a scriptural definition of “good” praying, it must be said that we do not pray as well at some times as at others. Paul mentioned that “we do not know what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:21), and the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1).

How do you make progress in your prayer life? Well, we certainly need to learn all that we can about the principle of prayer, but the time comes when we have to start practicing the art of prayer. It can’t be learned any other way than by praying over and over and over, every day, for many years.

Understanding

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of Bible study, but frankly, some people do a better job than others of correctly understanding what the Bible teaches. The Ethiopian eunuch, for example, was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, but he was having trouble understanding what the passage meant (Acts 8:30-34). So we need to work not only on the quantity but also the quality of our Bible study. (2 Tim. 2:15).

How do you make progress in your understanding of the Scriptures? It requires patient repetition of the act of Bible study. You’re not likely to find a mature, responsible student of God’s Word who arrived at that point any other way than by doing Bible study over and over and over, every day, for many years.

Discretion

Isn’t it refreshing when we encounter some older Christian who has grown very wise in matters of discretion and discernment? In a good sense, don’t we “envy” those who have learned how to size up a difficult situation and see which course of action is best to take? Surely we do, and of all the abilities we need in this life, none is more vital than the ability to take God’s general principles, apply them to a specific situation, and discern what God would want to be done. Paul wrote, “Do not be unwise, but understand what the Will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

How do you learn to be a better decision maker? There is only one way, and the Hebrew writer put his finger on it when he spoke of those “who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5: 14).

In matters of godliness, then, there aren’t many effective shortcuts. Being a beginner is just hard, that’s all there is to it. Some time will have to pass before we can be more skilled. The passage of time will not, by itself, guarantee improvement (Heb. 5:12). We have to actually do the things that need improving — and do them repeatedly. So let’s look for every opportunity to practice the things we want to improve. God deserves nothing less than our very best, and the best that we can do won’t be done unless we pray and study our Bibles and use our discretion — over and over and over, every day, for many years.

There Are Only Two Sources Of Authority

“The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25).

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus concerning the authority for His work, saying, “By what authority are You doing these things? and who gave You this authority?” Jesus did not dispute the need for authority. In fact, he asked them a question about authority concerning the baptism of John, promising to answer their question if they answered His question.

Jesus’ question tackled the foremost issue in any study of authority – its source. Jesus identified two, and only two, sources of authority – heaven and men. “Heaven” has reference to divine authority, that which is provided by God. Such authority is found in God’s revelation to man. God’s word to man today is the word of Christ in the New Testament (Eph 3:3-5 ff; Col 1:5; 2 Tim 1;13; Heb 1:1-2; Jude 3). When we do what God has revealed in the divine pattern of His word, we are acting by heaven’s authority!

On the other hand, man’s authority is just that, human authority – that which stands in contrast to divine authority. This human authority can be manifested in several ways:

  1. Preachers and scholars – following what men say.
  2. Creeds of men – religious doctrines of men.
  3. Majority opinion – what most people believe.
  4. Personal opinion – what I think is right.
  5. Emotions – what I feel is right.
  6. Sincerity – what I really believe is true.
  7. Results – the end justifies the means.

Each person must decide which authority he will ultimately and completely follow or submit to – man or God. As Joshua declared, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15). God’s word is truth (Jn 17:17). If most people choose to follow man, division and confusion will continue in our world. Choose to follow Jesus and His divine authority. He is the only true way to eternal life (Jn 14:6).

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