29 March 2008

Buying and Selling

My neighbors across the street and two houses removed from our house have a very familiar sign in their front yard that reads ‘FOR SALE’. The house has been bought and sold several times over the years, so I am told. You see, we are a mobile society. Each year in the spring our community is affected by several military families moving to different locations throughout the world. Nation wide it seems that this is a bad time to have a house on the market. Buying and selling products and services is an integrated and important way of life in our country. However, there is a commodity of which I presently speak that should only be purchased and never to be sold at any cost.

In Proverbs 23:23 an important exhortation is given by the writer: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Notice first of all this commodity is called “TRUTH”. It was Pilate who asked Jesus, “What is truth” (John 18:38)? Jesus in His prayer to God had already answered this question when He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus himself is the “truth” (John 14:6). The “truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). In this last passage, the Law of Moses was used in contrast to “the truth”. In this sense, the truth revealed through Jesus Christ is the gospel with its facts to be believed, its commands to be obeyed and the promises to be enjoyed (I Corinthians 15:1-3; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15, 16). Why should we purchase (obtain) the truth (gospel)? The apostle Paul declared that the gospel “… is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Second, we should buy ONLY the truth. Not everything is as good as it is said to be. There are some products that we may purchase that may be inferior to the standard that it claims. Even in religious matter not every teaching presented is the truth. We must examine such in the light of the Word of God. Paul taught in I Thessalonians 5:21 to “test all things; hold fast what is good.” The apostle John later wrote: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). We must discriminate between truth and error. The counterfeit is very difficult to detect because it so like the real thing.

Third, we are to buy ALL the truth. It is a critical mistake to fail to buy all the truth. When we purchase a product we desire and expect to receive all of that which pertains to the product. However there are those who will not buy all the truth. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus and inquired, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life” (Matthew 19:16-22) was not willing to buy all the teachings of the Lord. Because when he was instructed to sell his riches and give to the poor, he was unwilling to buy into all that Jesus told him to do. There are many religionists who will accept only partial truth. They refuse, however, to follow all the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding the plan of salvation and how to worship God acceptably. May we all possess a deep desire to learn all the truth that we can and have the faith and fortitude to obey the same.

Fourth, the sincere seeker of truth will purchase this precious commodity regardless of the price. In parables presented by Jesus He emphasized this very thing. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it’ (Matthew 13:44, 45, 46). Whether we speak in regards to the truth or the kingdom of Christ, the principle is the same; one must make every effort and exert every ounce of energy to obtain the truth.

Fifth, it is not enough to merely hear and know the Word of God, we must accept and obey the truth. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The person who only hears the words of the Lord and does not do them is like the man who built his house on the sand. However, the disciple who hears the words of Jesus Christ and obeys them is like the man who built his house upon the rock which stood the ravages of nature (Matthew 7:24-27).

Sixth, we should buy the truth while we have the time and opportunity. Procrastination is a work of Satan. Many are the souls who planned to obey the gospel but delayed such a decision and died without Christ. We should never assume that additional opportunities will be afforded us to give our lives to Jesus. The wise man wrote in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Also James gives this advice in James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

Seventh, the passage in Proverbs 23:23 which exhorts us to “Buy the truth” also informs us to “sell it not.” The purchase of the truth is a permanent investment and we should never depart from it. We should never exchange the truth for fame, popularity, wealth, position, power or pleasure. These are solemn words of our Savior as found in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Each person should study the Holy Scriptures in order to learn the truth. It said of the inhabitants of Berea that “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts17:11). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave this promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Again our Lord assured seekers of truth that they would be able to find it as explained in this passage in Matthew 7:7, 8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

18 March 2008

The Resurrection of Life

As I look out the window and across the street I see a beautiful Bradford pear tree in full bloom and a Redbud tree also in full bloom. God, the Creator of the universe, is causing the vegetative kingdom which has been dormant to come alive! The display of such beauty that we presently see and will be seeing for weeks to come as the trees bloom and the flowers and shrubbery break forth their radiant colors should cause the believer’s heart to praise and glorify the name of the Almighty God.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 19:1-4: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork, day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Someone has said that there are two books, nature and the Bible that declare there is a Supreme Being.

The heavens and the earth in their splendor and magnificence should cause every person to have faith in God but that is not the case. The apostle Paul in writing about the depravity of the Gentile world in his day mentions this very thing in Romans 1:18-21: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Some people have eyes that will not see and hearts that will not accept the truth that Jehovah God, by the power of His word, brought the universe into existence. And with the renewal of life in the vegetative kingdom at this time of the year our hearts are made to think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb. This is one of the cardinal doctrines of the New Testament. A part of the good news of Christ is the teaching regarding His resurrection from the dead. Had Jesus not risen from the dead early that first day of the week, His death on Calvary would be meaningless. We would still be in our sins, our faith would be in vain and we certainly would be miserable (See I Corinthians 15).

The apostle taught in this chapter that because our Lord arose from the grave we have the promise that we shall also rise from the dead at His second coming. Jesus Himself said as recorded in John 5:28: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” When I witness the beauties of spring with its shows of new life I cannot help but think of the words of my Lord Jesus Christ,

“Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life,
He who believes in Me,
though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me
shall never die.
Do you believe this?”
~John 11:25, 26

13 March 2008

Scenes From My Office Window

There is this nice gentleman who often walks his beautiful dog right by my house where I can see him from my window. Also there are two ladies who live in our small subdivision who walk together regularly where I can see them from my office. And from time to time there are others who either walk or jog through our community. This is good exercise for one’s body and mind. After all, God formed our bodies in the beginning of time and He expects us to care for it. The problem area lies not in the exercise itself but in the amount of time consumed, when it takes place and how much we spend on it.

For example we often see individuals jogging on Sunday morning while on our way to the worship assembly. But that would also be true of people who go to some place of recreation like the lakes and coastal area on the weekends where they can ride in their boats and/or go in swimming. Great emphasis is being placed in our modern society as to what we should eat and the amount of exercise that we should engage in on a regular basis. Untold millions of dollars are spent on exercise equipment, vitamins and other products that would make us feel and look better. No problem unless we speak of extremes and exclusions.

I can walk in my garage on a treadmill for thirty minutes and not move but a short distance. I can ride on a used exercise bike for thirty minutes and remain in the same spot where I began. However we must understand that that which is perfectly harmless and even useful and healthful can be wrong if that which is more important is excluded. I mean by that, the man or woman who is riding a bicycle or jogging on the Lord’s Day and not attending the worship assembly of the Lord’s church is doing wrong. A person who is careful and zealous for eating the healthiest foods may in fact be neglecting eating the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. There is the matter of priority. What is more important, the care only for the body or the care for one’s spiritual needs?

Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). The Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13 to “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” And the wise man wrote in Proverbs 3:7, 8, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

In his speech to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul said, “So, brethren I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32;Emphasis mine, RE). That which will strengthen the inner man is found in the words of Paul concerning brethren who had been “nourished in the word of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed (Emphasis mine, RE; I Timothy 4:6). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (Emphasis mine, RE; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

But we must also exercise ourselves in order to have a proper balance in spiritual matters. The apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 4:7, 8, “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” We are to “walk humbly with your God”; “run with endurance the race that is set before us”; “finish the race” “and a crown of righteousness” will be given to us (Emphasis mine, RE; Micah 6:8; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8).