By Mike Riley

As Christians, associating ourselves with a congregation of the Lord’s people is not a difficult task. Unfortunately, some Christians want to be considered a part of the congregation, but they do not desire to be involved in the Lord’s work.

The whole purpose of the church is to act in concert, fulfilling God’s will…Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter;

Luke 6:46-49 46 “Now why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when there was a flood, the river burst against that house and yet it could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; and the river burst against it and it immediately collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”;

Ephesians 4:11-16 11 And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as ]pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

However, in order to complete this requirement, members must know what to “do” (James 1:22). Unfortunately, there are members of the Lord’s church who know what to “do” but seemingly “do” their utmost to avoid contact with the church leadership, lest they be given a responsibility of completing a task or tasks associated with spiritual service (Romans 12:1 NASB).

While congregations should always work to incorporate the entire membership into a plan of work in the Lord’s kingdom, it is indeed necessary that every member be willing to step forward and demonstrate their eagerness to participate in that work.

If we are willing participants in the Lord’s work, we will soon understand that serving the Lord is one of the most enjoyable experiences of a Christian’s life. We learn to become a part of something larger than ourselves (Romans 14:7-8; cf. Gal. 2:20), plus we get to enjoy the company of folks who share our spiritual values (Hebrews 10:23-25), ultimately improving our focus on spiritual things rather than on worldly things (Colossians 3:1-2).

Therefore, let us heed Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian brethren in 1 Corinthians 15:58, to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

If we’re not already involved, let’s get involved doing the Lord’s work!

By Kevin Cauley

The word “doctrine” in the Bible simply means “teaching.” Today we generally use the word “doctrine” to refer to a precise teaching or set of teachings while the word “teaching” itself refers more loosely to overall general concepts. Too, doctrine seems to have a religious connotation while teaching may connote the religious or secular. So while in our modern day language “teaching” and “doctrine” have distinct nuances, there is only one word in the language in which the apostles wrote and both English words “doctrine” and “teaching” are translated from it. So when we speak about the doctrine of the Bible we are speaking about the teaching of the Bible. Why is teaching so important?

Bible doctrine is important because Jesus thought it was important. Jesus said in John 7:17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In this context Jesus is saying that the one who truly seeks after God will come to an understanding that Jesus’ teaching is from God and that it is important to understand this because that is the way to life. Notice also John 8:31, 32 “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The words that Jesus taught are often used to represent within the scriptures the whole of Jesus teaching. The words in which Jesus was instructing others to abide is His teaching–His doctrine.

Bible doctrine is important because faith is based upon hearing doctrine. Romans 10:17 states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our very faith, the things that we believe, are the result of hearing the word of God which is the source of all of our teaching. The teaching, the doctrine, is that in which we place our direct faith and our trust because it is through the words that are taught that we come to know about our relationship with God. No man can come to know God under the New Covenant without having been taught and without having learned. John 6:45 states, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” We come to the Father through the teaching, through the doctrine.

Bible doctrine is important because we must believe the right doctrine. The Bible teaches that to believe the wrong doctrine will lead one astray. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 we read, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” When we believe a doctrinal lie, it will lead to the condemnation of our soul if we don’t recognize that lie and correct it. Someone once said, “Jesus did not come to this earth to make people religious; He came to make people religiously right!” We must believe the right doctrine if we are going to have hope for salvation.

Bible doctrine is important because ultimately the decisions that we make and the actions that we perform will be based upon what we believe. When it all boils down to it, we act based upon how we believe. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man?.” Jesus said it is based upon what is in our heart that we act, whether for good or evil. There is not a single action that we do that was not first conceived within the mind. And it is within the mind–the heart–where faith resides. Based upon the things that we believe we make decisions in our life every day. And so it is with confidence that when others act inappropriately, we can confidently say that their beliefs are inappropriate as well. So we preach the doctrine of Christ in an effort to get all who are in sin to repent and to fashion their minds anew around the blessed freedom that results in believing the truth.

What do you believe, dear friend? Do you believe the words of the Bible or do you believe the opinions and traditions of men. Believing a lie will lead you astray. But believing the truth and acting thereon will bring one to eternity. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 

By Mike Riley

Personal or public sin is never easy to confess because of pride or ego — but it is necessary in order to get our lives right with God (Isaiah 59:1-15). The following are some aspects of confession that we may or may not have thought of:

Confessing sin necessarily constitutes personal action — It’s not difficult to say, “We all sin” or “he sinned” — the hard part is when we personally must say, “I have sinned” (1 Samuel 15:24; Psalm 51:4). When the known sin pertains to the individual, personal confession is demanded. Notice David’s confession in Psalm 51 when he says, “my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1 NKJV), “my iniquity” (Psalm 51:2), “my sin” (Psalm 51:2-3).

Confession of sin is specific — To say, “If I have done anything” is easy — but it simply is not confession of specific sin. An individual who is unsure whether he has sinned or not, should find out. Until he knows and admits his sin, he can make no real confession. Any “if” confessions are a farce. The one confessing must say, “I have sinned” — no doubt about it. David was definite — “my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3) — and he knew what specific sin it was that needed confessing.

Confession names sin — Often sin is renamed; and the crime reduced. This is a common practice in civil law. The criminal is allowed to admit a misdemeanor rather than the felony he actually committed. However, this tactic is not allowed in God’s court. We cannot confess to “hurting someone’s feelings” when we have actually slandered a man. The idea of “accidentally” misrepresenting the facts or “exaggerating” will not be adequate when in fact we lied. Confession names sin (1 Samuel 15:24-25).

Confession addresses the one who has been sinned against — Acceptable confession occurs when the individual who lies, goes to the man he injured and says, “I lied about you” — that is true confession. A dozen times down the church aisle would be easier, but it is not acceptable. Confessing to the church will not replace it.

David knew this principle when he stated to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned,    and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). If an individual has sinned against God; he must confess to God. He may need to confess his sin to the church, but not before he confesses it to God.

If an individual sins a public sin against the congregation where he is a member, and he moves to another congregation, he cannot properly confess his sin at the new congregation. He must return to his former congregation where the sin took place, and ask for the forgiveness of that sin.

Confession of sin anticipates a plea for forgiveness — A man may admit his meanness — in fact, he may even be proud of it. This is not the Bible brand of confession. A man who seeks no pardon is not confessing sin. Again, notice the confession of David — “Have mercy upon me, O God …. Blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).

Confession is good for the soul — Because eternity is in view (Matthew 16:24-27), but for many, true confession becomes extremely difficult because of pride and ego.

When we willingly confess our sins before the Lord, He is always eager and ready to forgive us of our sins (Psalm 32:5; Psalm 86:5; Proverbs 28:13; cf. Luke 15:11-24; 1 John 1:9).

By Kevin Cauley

This past Wednesday night in the high school class, one of our astute and observant high school students asked me why some are calling us a cult. After the death of Matthew Winkler, there were several in the media who were seeking to “analyze” the situation. One Nancy Grace on CNN invited a Baptist “pastor” to come and answer some questions. During this interview, the “pastor” said that the church of Christ was a cult like religion. While he didn’t come out and call us an outright cult, there are others who do. Why do some refer to the churches of Christ as a cult?

First, there has been some confusion between the churches of Christ and the International Churches of Christ which is the former Boston Movement, a.k.a. Crossroads Movement. While the ICOC had its origins among churches of Christ, their practices were not consistent with what we practice and they rapidly became identified as a separate religions group. Some of their practices included a one man leader type system in a hierarchical pyramid style organization. They also held to the practice of “prayer partners” where one would confess sins to a “higher” Christian. These confessions would then be used to manipulate the “lower” Christian into the “correct” behavior. With such mind manipulation techniques and a single charismatic leader many correctly identified them as a cult. Unfortunately, the distinction between the ICOC and the “mainline” churches of Christ was not so clear in the minds of observers. One government document in the 90s identified the “Church of Christ” as the most rapidly growing cult in the United States. In that same document there was a footnote that identified “churches of Christ” as the ICOC or Boston Movement, but this was not commonly understood. This failure to understand the difference between these two bodies has contributed largely to the confusion that many today have.

Second, many in the denominational world consider us a cult because of our teaching regarding the one nature of the church. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that that one body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). The denominational world identifies this body as all of the denominations. However, this is not how the Bible identifies Christ’s body. 

 

The Bible teaches that the one body of Christ isn’t divided into denominations (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), but united under a single doctrine (Ephesians 4:1-6) and that Christ expects his church to have unity based upon this doctrine (John 17:20-23). That’s not the picture of the church that we find in the denominational world today. Denominationalism teaches that one may believe any of various different doctrines so long as one doesn’t condemn any other denomination. Such a picture of the church is foreign to the teaching of scripture which demands like-mindedness in doctrinal matters (Philippians 2:2). Thus, because churches of Christ teach that denominationalism is sinful, divisive, and aberrant to the New Testament’s teaching regarding the nature of the church, denominationalists can only respond with the accusation that we must be a cult regardless of what our practices are. In essence, what they have done is defined the word “cult” to mean anything other than acceptance of the denominational world, a definition of convenience at best.

Finally, because the churches of Christ teach the necessity of baptism prior to salvation, denominationalists level the accusation of “cult” against us. It doesn’t matter to them that the Bible itself teaches the necessity of baptism prior to salvation in such passages as Mark 16:15, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:1-11, Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 2:11-13 and 1 Peter 3:21. So in essence, this is the classical logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (attack the man or in this case, the church). In essence the argument is, “Don’t believe that baptism is necessary for salvation because they are a cult and cults can’t be believed!” There is no effort to deal with the actual issue of what the Bible plainly teaches. In essence, they label us a cult because they can’t refute what is plainly taught in the scriptures and what we believe.

It is sad that denominational leaders and people outside of the church will blindly accept such accusations and criticisms without investigation, but that is exactly what occurs. The Lord’s church has experienced such criticism since its inception (Acts 24:5, 28:22). Even Jesus was accused unjustly (Matthew 9:34). We, however, as the church, ought not to let such unwarranted criticisms move us away from the truth of the scriptures; we have truth and it sets us free from the shackles of denominational teaching and practices, which practices are rapidly leading the denominations into the acceptance of immorality in our day and age. The church of Christ is not a cult regardless what others say. Let us continue to hold fast to the truths of scripture regarding the nature of the church, the plan of salvation, and religious practices that are pleasing to God and not man (Galatians 1:10).

By Mike Riley

Looking back upon the lives of God’s “heroes” in (Hebrews 11) will make a person think of his own life. “Have I accomplished anything worthwhile?” That question has been reflected in the literature of man for centuries. That death is the appointment all must anticipate at some time is an obvious truth (Hebrews 9:27). We cannot escape it. But how should we face that truth?

How Paul Faced Death

Paul faced death with expectation, neither fearful nor seeking it [see Philippians 1:20-24]. Some have taken their own life for various reasons, but that is not a real solution.

It was Moses himself who wrote the following words:

All our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:9-10).

Visiting the Local Cemetery

In our short lives, we have been to the cemetery too often, haven’t we? Loved ones are gone and they will sorely be missed. Many of you who read these words have more years behind you than ahead of you.

May I make a suggestion? Take an hour or two and go through your local cemetery. Do so without the association of a funeral. Look at the names, the dates, the families and the epitaphs. If that seems a bit morbid, think again. Some occasions on which we visit the local cemetery are sad, but they can be thought provoking.

Death Awaits Us All

It makes no difference how rich or powerful a person may be, death awaits us all unless the Lord returns first. Job said death is “the house appointed for all living” (Job 30:23). Look at all the famous statesmen, heroes, athletes and leaders of the past.

Just as we read in the Bible, “….and he died” are the words that describe the end of each and all of them. Even the “miracle” of modern medicine has its limits. Since that is true, rational people will prepare for that time. I’m not talking about prearranged funerals, but preparing our soul for eternity, for that’s where we are headed.

We Will Leave It All Behind

In a Massachusetts cemetery lies the body of a man who lived 103 years and was the patriarch of his county, ruling the most acreage and producing the most wealth. He died in 1912, leaving it all to his sons, who in turn lost it all due to bad business decisions. None of them were able to stash any of their wealth in their burial clothes. All their wealth was left behind. In the aftermath of the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic, reports noted that eleven millionaires had been among the hundreds on board who went to a watery grave in April 1912.  Their combined wealth totaled nearly two hundred million dollars. Yet if these millionaires could have sent a message to the living about the most important things in life, not one would have mentioned money.  

Solomon, wealthy as he was, said:

 “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15).

Our wealth, our fishing boat, our business, our bank account, our golf clubs — all will be left behind!

The World Will Keep Going

It’s easy to become obsessed with our own importance, thinking we are “necessary” to the survival of civilization. How can my family, my business, etc., survive without me? But they can, and they will.

I don’t wish to belittle the significance of anyone’s life, but the world has been able to get along without Elvis, Lincoln, Babe Ruth, Roosevelt, Henry VIII and Julius Caesar. And it will have to learn to get along without us, too.

Some Die “Before Their Time”

We need not go to a cemetery to learn that no one has been given a guarantee of any number of years. Several years ago I viewed the graves of more than fifty small children who died as a result of an influenza plague in 1895.

Their gravestones reflected the grief of family and friends. The inscriptions indicated the shock felt by their community. No one had wanted those precious children to die at such a young age, but those things happen.

Is that not reason enough for us think more personally about the fragile, temporary nature of life on this earth? An hour or two in our local cemetery might help us think about life and its brevity.

Many Die Daily Without Hope

While those children were safe, there were thousands in that lonely graveyard who were not safe, having died, as the Holy Spirit declared:  ….having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

Conclusion:

Isn’t it sobering to consider that thousands that go into eternity every day without obeying the gospel of Christ? (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). If that won’t sober our thoughts, our heart needs some work.

How about you, dear reader? Why not take a walk through your local cemetery some time. It will make you “think” — and it may change your life —forever (Romans 2:6-7 KJV).