Jesus is eternal, yet He clothed Himself with human nature for a while and walked among us. In so doing, He experienced the frailties and limitations of mankind. He thirsted, was hungry, grew tired, experienced pain, and was limited by time and space. It is amazing that, though Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe (John 1:1-4) and enjoyed a glorious relationship with the other two members of the Godhead, He left heaven and came to earth and lived as a human being for 33 years. His story remains the most intriguing and compelling story in history.
We are introduced to Him at a very critical moment in history. Adam and Eve had sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that was in the midst of the Garden of Eden. At that moment the blight of sin was introduced to the human race and God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden. Their sin carried the penalty of death, both physically and spiritually. However, in His mercy and compassion for man, God promised a Deliverer who would inflict a fatal blow to Satan, man’s adversary (Genesis 3:15). This Deliverer was Jesus Christ.
Every event recorded in the Old Testament proved that man needed a deliverer. He found it impossible to live above sin. At one point, man’s wickedness became so great that God was grieved that He had made him (Genesis 6:5-6). He sent a flood upon the earth and destroyed all human life except that of righteous Noah and his family. The animal sacrifices that man was instructed to offer as atonement for his sins were totally inadequate. It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Not even the Law God gave Israel on Mt. Sinai could deliver man from sin (Acts 13:39), for law that demanded perfect obedience and man is incapable of living such a life.
This situation produced a real dilemma. The cry of man’s soul became, “How can I, a sinful creature, escape suffering the consequences of my sins?” The blood of animals offered upon a thousand altars could not accomplish that need. Neither could he escape the condemnation of sin by observing the Law of Moses because he could not keep it perfectly. If we listen carefully, we can hear that same cry of the human soul today.
The answer to the cry is found in Jesus Christ alone. “In none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven given among men wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus willingly left the place of glory and honor in heaven with His Father and came to this earth as a bond-servant and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7). He was born to poor parents in a stable. Yet, He has made many spiritually rich. He never owned a piece of real estate where He might lay His head. Yet, He has comforted many and provided them rest for their soul. He was not a world traveler. Yet, He has affected the world as no other person has ever done. He allowed Himself to be ill-treated by man and become the object of scorn. He was shamefully treated and ultimately crucified on a cross. Why? Because, being a sinner, man could not save himself. Jesus died in our place. What a Savior!
My good friend, Ken Joines of Memphis, TN, reminded me of a statement Jesus made, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Ken observed that we have not fully bought into that truth yet. We have problems! Big ones!! There are economic problems; social, educational, domestic, and moral problems. Yet, there is one main problem that underlies all the others.
Today poor people in American enjoy things that were far beyond the reach of even kings only a few generations ago. We have radios, TVs, cell phones, and computers. We produce far more grain than we eat or sell. We’re able to produce more of nearly everything than we can use. Everything, that is, except human servants. We need more doctors, nurses, and teachers than the schools can turn out. Is there something amiss in a nation that can produce more “things” than we can use or sell and yet fail to produce even the minimum requirements in human servants? Most of us drive nicer cars, live in better houses, and wear nicer clothes than our grandparents did. But the nagging question is: Am I a better person than my grandparents were? The fact of the matter is that you cannot measure spiritual and moral progress by the fine houses in which we live or the number of possessions we have obtained.
A disturbing contradiction is taking place. At a time when we are producing more of everything than we need, crime is higher, divorce is more prevalent, out-of-wedlock births are higher, and pornography and juvenile crimes are off the charts. One out of every thirty-one people is an alcoholic. Strangely, we shoot mad dogs but license the liquor dealer! We claim to be the most civilized nation on earth and yet more than 50 million children receive no kind of religious training. They are tossed on a stormy sea of moral relativism, unable to make simple choices between right and wrong.
What keeps a nation strong and secure? Well, if Congress could do it, ancient Tyre would be with us today. If political machinery could do it, Rome would not have fallen. If military power could do it, Germany would not have failed. Solomon said, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Goodness has been and will continue to be our strength. America is on the verge of ceasing to be good and the responsibility to do something about it is ours, whether we like it or not. Each of us is a commanding officer in the war on crime and sin.
We’ve spent astronomical sums of money on science and technology. Yet, not one social or moral problem has ever been solved by them. We have assumed that if we just raise the standard of living we will improve the quality of people. Wrong! Our job is not just to teach a child how to walk, but where to walk. Merely making environmental improvements will not change us. When we teach our children to believe that we are just highly evolved animals, they will behave like animals. They will have no purpose or foundation in life. On the other hand, when we teach them that man was created by God and was made in His image, we provide them a sense of dignity and a moral foundation upon which to build a good life, not just make a good living.
A friend recently said to me, “You don’t know whom to trust anymore.” He was not only referring to the economic woes on Wall St. among some of our major financial institutions, but to the small businesses and financial establishments on the local scene, as well. Among the things which have contributed to these woes are the unethical practices of some. False advertising is used to promote a product. Inaccurate weights and measures are used in selling goods. Businesses cut corners in order to compete for customers. Some seem to be intent on fleecing the public for their personal gain. Such conduct makes everyone suspicious of the other.
The health of our entire economic community, as well as our personal relationships, is built upon high ethical standards. When you take your car to a repairman, you want to have confidence in the mechanic and know he will do the work you have requested. You don’t want to be told about work that in reality doesn’t need to be done. In like manner, employers have a right to expect an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Who would want to be operated on by a surgeon who cheated his way through medical school? Neither do we want officers who cheated their way through a military academy to command our fighting men.
I’m convinced that business ethics should be taught in our colleges and universities throughout the country. Future business leaders need to be taught a value system that increases profits by producing a quality product and by building greater customer satisfaction and confidence. Primarily, however, the establishment of a good value system begins in the home. Children learn their values from their parents. Honesty and integrity is not instilled in children when they see their parents turn in false income tax forms or refuse to pay their debts. A mother who misrepresents the age of her children in order to get a discount is not teaching them honesty. A father who turns back the speedometer on his car before selling it sets an example of dishonesty.
The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:17, “Provide for things honest in the sight of all men.” This statement is not only good advice for business dealings, but its practice is essential to spiritual vitality. Solomon said in Proverbs 11, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” The greatest statement on ethical conduct was related by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He simply said, “However you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Matthew 7:12). The practice of this principle would eliminate dishonesty and promote respect for one another. Unethical practices do not need to be employed in order to make a living. Neither do they need to be used to transact business profitably. In fact, when people see that they are being dealt with in a fair and honest way, they will not only come back but tell others, which will greatly improve business.
Undoubtedly, if world leaders treated each other as they would like to be treated, international relations would improve dramatically. If CEOs and other leaders of some of our major corporations had practiced this principle, we might not be facing the financial difficulties we are facing today in America. Treating others as you would like them to treat you is not only good business sense, it’s just good common sense.
On a recent CBS Early Show, Jane Clayson asked Anne Graham, “How could God let something like this happen?” She was referring to the tragic results of Hurricane Katrina as it came ashore on the Gulf coast. Miss Graham gave a classic response, “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.” Miss Graham correctly observed that, at least a small but vocal segment, of American society has been seeking to remove the influence of God from our community.
On another CBS program, Ben Stein concluded that this trend started when the atheist, Madeleine Murray O’Hare, complained that she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said okay. Later, someone else said that we should not read the Bible in school. And we said okay. Then, Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. And we said okay. Stein commented, “Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t seem to bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.”
The character of our children of tomorrow is greatly shaped by what they learn from us today. When people deny the existence of God and, thus, seek to remove any reference of Him from society, it isn’t that they no longer believe in something, but they believe in almost anything. Stein observed that it is strange how people believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Messages sent over the internet spread like wildfire, but people hesitate to send messages regarding the Lord. Lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Dysfunctional relationships are often glamorized on television while normal family relations are portrayed as abnormal.
Is it any wonder that the very moral foundation of our nation is crumbling? The psalmist wrote, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalms 11:3). God’s word, the Bible, is the only viable moral compass for mankind; yet, it is being attacked as being outdated, impractical and unreliable. Frankly, it’s wearisome to listen to the vocal minority who loudly protest the Bible’s influence in our society. It’s also frustrating to see spineless politicians who willingly give them a listening ear.
Jesus taught us by precept and example how to live the greatest and most productive life we could ever experience. He came to earth that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). He taught us how to get along with one another, how to build strong families, and how to enrich our character. He went about doing good and healing those oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus willingly died on the cross, not in order to obtain glory from men as a martyr, but that He might provide the hope of eternal life. It is the tragedy of all tragedies for any society to seek to remove His influence from their midst.
In the absence of God men will believe almost anything.
Allen Webster in the excellent publication, House to House/Heart to Heart, provides the following information about the word “love.” According to Amazon.com, there are at least 32,507 books currently in print with the word love in the title (over 145,000 that deal with the subject of love). There are more than 11,000 popular albums/CDs with love in the title. A Google search of the Internet reveals that there are at least 121,000,000 Websites that use the word love as one of their key words.
Love, it seems, is on the mind of everyone. And, why not? Love cements a relationship between a man and a woman when they decide to get married. Their love for one another deepens through the years and, truly, they become as one. Love motivates parents to provide for their children and educate them. When they are physically or emotionally injured, loving parents suffer with them. When children succeed in life or accomplish a significant task, parents rejoice with them. Behind every kind and benevolent deed is love; or, at least, it should be.
Have you considered the fact that there are different kinds of love? For instance, there is the kind of love that is based on mere physical attraction. Unfortunately, some marriages are entered into with no deeper love than this and the results are disastrous. Physical attraction alone is no foundation for a lasting and meaningful relationship. Genuine love is far greater than physical attraction or emotional attachment. It involves more than just a feeling; it includes action as well.
There is no greater illustration of that kind of love than God’s affection for man. Consider these statements from the Bible. “But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This passage reminds us that even when we are rebellious against God, He loves us. He demonstrated that love by sending His Son to die for us. The “golden text” of the Bible describes it this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Through the gift of His Son, God has provided an opportunity for us to be in a saved relationship with Him. In Matthew 7:13-14, we learn that not everyone will be saved. The lost condition of man, however, is not due to God’s failure to love him and provide an opportunity for him to be saved. The apostle John declared, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Of the fact that God loves us, we can be certain. The important question is, “Do we love God?” It is not enough to declare with our lips that we love God. The proof of that love must be demonstrated by action. Jesus said, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). John stated in the inspired text, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). One’s love for God will change the nature of his language from vulgarity and profanity to purity and praise. His conduct will change from immorality to virtue. His attitude will change from selfishness, vengefulness, and bitterness to servant hood, forgiveness, and kindness. His emphasis will change from “getting ahead in life” to making a life. I’m Roger Johnson and this Insight to Life is brought to you by the Edgewood church of Christ.
One of the favorite vacation spots for my wife and me is Gatlinburg, TN. We try to spend a few days each year in this vacation mecca. We enjoy the beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere. We spend much of our time walking the main street of Gatlinburg and visiting the various shops. We enjoy meeting people from various sections of our country who choose this as one of their vacation areas. In fact, there are people from foreign countries who visit, as well. It is always a time of refreshing relaxation for us.
On one of our trips, when we were eating at a local restaurant, there was a disturbance at a nearby table. A mother and two of her children were at this table. The oldest appeared to be about eight or ten years old. Evidently, he was being instructed by his mother to do something to which he objected. The child became rather vocal in his resistance and finally hit his mother in the face with a closed fist. We were shocked that a child would treat his mother with such disrespect, especially at such a tender age. We were shocked even further when the mother did absolutely nothing to correct the child for his gross misbehavior.
I’m afraid that what we witnessed is more commonly practiced in homes across America than we like to imagine. Children are growing into adulthood with little or no guidance. They are frequently left to fend for themselves in the development of their character and, more often than not, with tragic results. They grow up having little respect for authority; consequently, they are constantly in trouble at school, have difficulty socializing with their peers, and end up in trouble with the law. More than likely the lifestyle they have developed is perpetuated when they try to establish their own home and rear children. As a result, society’s ills continue to increase in an ever-widening circle.
The administration of proper discipline is one of the fundamental responsibilities God has placed in the hands of parents. He intends that our children be given proper guidelines in life so that they can discern between right and wrong conduct. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). God has said, “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Prov. 22:6). Part of the training necessarily involves proper discipline.
Here are some ground rules for disciplining your children. Keep your word. Make no idle threats or promises. Do not harangue. It is hard to find the off-switch on some mothers and fathers once they get started scolding. Be just. Children have an acute sense of fair play. If punishment is involved, make it fit the situation. Teach your child that forgiveness is real; that you have been the recipient of forgiveness yourself. Whenever you can, as the child grows older, discuss situations which reflect on life’s values so that he can construct his own value system. The exercise of proper discipline is not the same as abuse, but is a God-ordained way of teaching children acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Discipline yields a harvest of righteousness in our lives and in the lives of our children. It is the password to freedom; it gives delight to the heart. I’m Roger Johnson and this insight to life is brought to you by the Edgewood church of Christ.
The prophet Elijah was undoubtedly a man of deep devotion, unquestioning obedience, daring faith, and true humility. In spite of these noble qualities, there was one instance of complete breakdown, humiliating failure and defeat. That incident is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 19. It is recorded that he cowardly fled 100 miles from the presence of the wicked queen Jezebel who sought to kill him and sat down under a juniper tree. He was overwhelmed in self-pity, discouragement and depression. Fear and alarm gripped him. He just wanted to get away from everyone else and be alone. His was a self-imposed isolation. He was at “wit’s end” and he even wanted to die. He felt he was the only faithful servant of God remaining in Israel. However, God told him there were 7,000 in Israel who had not yet given over to idolatry.
What contributed to Elijah’s condition? For one thing, he was overstrained mentally. He had experienced 3 ½ years of terrific tension in his efforts to encourage Israel to be faithful to God. He was exhausted physically. He traveled a 100-mile cross-country trek from the presence of wicked Jezebel. More significantly, he was out of touch spiritually. He took his eyes off the Lord and looked at his circumstances, especially the threats of Jezebel. He had an unbalanced view of things.
Do you ever get discouraged, become depressed and despondent? Do you ever find yourself in the grip of despair? Does fear ever possess you? Does doubt sometimes assail you? Do you ever experience the feeling that nobody understands? At some point in life, all of us have likely experienced these feelings. That was Elijah’s experience also. Perhaps the perspectives God shared with Elijah to overcome his despair will be helpful to us as well.
The cure that the Divine Physician prescribed Elijah involved giving attention to the needs of his body. The Lord’s angel provided food and water. God knows our frame and that we are but dust (Psa. 103:14). He knows we need proper rest, food and plenty of fresh air for our emotional and physical health.
Since Elijah’s mental outlook was distorted and unbalanced God challenged him to face up to his fears and problems. Despondency has a knack for picking its facts. Even little problems become greatly exaggerated in our minds. But, emotional strength is not gained by constantly feeding the distortions. Expand your vision to see the big picture rather than the small view that only contributes to your discouragement.
God then gave Elijah a wonderful vision of His power, glory and tenderness (1 Kgs. 19:11-13). When we take our eyes of faith off the Lord and focus on our problems it will contribute to depression, fearfulness and self-pity. “Hope in God” is the antidote for despair (Psa. 42:11). Through the psalmist God tells us, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10). No matter how deep and serious the problems may be in our lives, God cares and is able to help us do something about them. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psa. 27:14). Don’t ever give up. Place your trust in the Almighty who is able to see you through any trial.
Have you ever been embarrassed by the discovery that the buttons on your coat or shirt were in the wrong holes because you missed the first button? I’ve had that experience more than once in my life. It is especially embarrassing when you are attending an important meeting or are being introduced to someone for the first time.
Have you ever had a similar experience in some of the important relationships in your life? Perhaps some of the great challenges in your life did not turn out right because you started out wrong. Maybe you got off on the wrong foot with your employer on your first day at work. Perhaps you don’t command the influence you would like or you don’t produce the results you should because you missed the first button. Perhaps you started out on the wrong foot with a neighbor and now you rarely speak to one another. It may be that your marriage is not satisfactory because you started out wrong. Your home relationships are not what they should be because earlier you made some serious mistakes and it is now difficult to overcome them.
It’s so easy to blame circumstances, or education, or society, even our in-laws, or just about anything else, isn’t it, for the mess we find ourselves in right now? One of the best ways to handle the messes we get ourselves into is to openly and honestly admit our mistakes. Come clean with our own conscience and with other people and seek to do right.
Jesus Christ made this promise, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Now, that is the real answer to the problem; that’s starting out in the right button hole.
Long ago, king Solomon was invited by God to, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon could have requested wealth, power, prestige, and honor among men. But, he asked for none of these. Instead, he asked that he might have an understanding heart that he might properly govern the people of Israel and discern between good and evil. It pleased God that Solomon had asked for this and he said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold I now do according to your word…I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.” Solomon started out right. He put God and others before himself.
That’s the answer for you and me as well. In order for us to start out right so that we can end up right, we must put God first. Doing so will make us better employees, better neighbors and friends, better husbands and wives, and better children.
The wonderful thing about serving God is that we may mess up and get “our buttons” out of order, but we can start all over and he will help us get it right. We can never exhaust his grace or diminish his love for us. He is willing to forgive and help us start anew.
It’s amazing what can happen when we make God the priority of our lives! Seek his way, his wisdom, and his strength – FIRST! No matter how tangled or twisted or complicated our lives become, things have a way of turning out much better when we put God in the first button-hole.
The rhetoric used by the retiring preacher of a church where one of our presidential candidates has his membership has been in the news lately. The Chicago church where he preaches is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Some have wondered if we in the churches of Christ are associated with that particular religious organization. Since the expression “Church of Christ” is used in the title of their religious group, I can understand the confusion. However, plainly and simply stated, we do not have any ties to them. The leaders of that church are fully capable of articulating who they are and I will leave that to them. However, in brief fashion, I would like to share with you some things about the churches of Christ.
We are a people who believe explicitly in the deity of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches that prior to one’s baptism, he must confess his faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 8:37). Every person in the churches of Christ has made that confession publicly. That affirmation of faith is the foundation upon which the Lord’s church is built. When the apostle Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responded, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16, 18).
We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God and our only authoritative guide in religious matters. The apostle Paul said, “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). This passage points to the source of the Bible as being from God and to the sufficiency of the Bible as our guide in life. Manuals of faith, creedal statements, and synod and council decisions are mere human documents that do not possess the same authority or inerrancy as God’s inspired revelation, the Bible. The Bible alone should be man’s religious guide. We must “learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:6).
In the churches of Christ we believe in the non-denominational nature of the Lord’s spiritual body, the church. We are not part of a denominational organization with a central office or headquarters. Each local congregation is self-governing under the headship of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18). Protestant denominations began in the 16th century, but the Lord’s church began in the 1st century (Acts 2:47). We have no political agenda that we are trying to promote; rather, prayers are made “for kings and all that are in high places” regardless of the system of government under which we live (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We advocate a moral standard that honors and respects our Creator and recognizes the dignity of our fellow man.
We recognize the God-given right of man to make his own choices in life, but we seek to fulfill the divine command to “preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). When this life is over and man faces God in the judgment, he will be assigned one of two destinies: either heaven or hell. Jesus is the Savior only of those who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). With the concern and urgency of dying men speaking to dying men and eternity hanging in the balance we serve God.
The home is the foundation of our society. As the home goes, so goes the nation. If moral, ethical, and spiritual values are well entrenched in the home, the nation exists on a sure foundation. A nation’s strength is not in its military might, its economic vitality, or its system of government, but in its practice of righteousness. Solomon declared by the inspiration of God, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). Instruction, in right and wrong conduct, should clearly be taught in the home. The right should be upheld and the wrong should be opposed. Honesty, morality, proper treatment of others, justice, and integrity needs to be ingrained in children. Cruelty, lying, immorality, disrespect, and injustice should be opposed.
Is there reason for concern about the direction in which our homes are going in this nation? Though not trying to sound overly pessimistic, I believe there is. Consider some disturbing facts regarding American society. The crime rate continues to rise. Disrespect for the law is commonplace. Child abuse is increasing. The divorce rate has climbed to almost 50% of all marriages. The increasing occurrence of spousal abuse is an indication that we have strayed far from the home as God designed it. Other danger signals indicate that our nation is crumbling at the very foundation with the demise of the home.
Is it too late to turn things around? Has the “snowball” effect gone so far that it is now impossible to stop it? I don’t think so, but it will require our returning to the Biblical principles that made the home strong in the first place. Some misguided scholars are saying that the home has outlived its usefulness and that we must look for better ways to relate to each other. That is nothing more than intellectual snobbery that will lead to much unhappiness and will eventually destroy our nation. In the Genesis account of creation, it is stated that when God created something it was good. The only exception to that was the creation of man without woman (Gen. 2:18). From man’s rib God created woman and brought her to the man and, thus, the first home was established. The home, then, is God’s ideal for man.
What are some things we need to do to strengthen our homes and make them a productive and happy environment? I know it may sound trite and “politically incorrect” to some people, but family devotions in which spouses, parents, and children read the Bible and pray together would go a long way toward stabilizing the home. A nation upon its knees in prayer and Bible study is the most awe-inspiring and powerful force in the world. The devil trembles when he sees this happening. A greater emphasis on the Bible in the home will improve husband-wife relationships and parent-child relationships, as well. It would develop a healthy respect for the law and enable us to have the wisdom to pass laws that would be just.
A four-fold platform for the health of any nation is related in 2 Chron. 7:14: humility, prayer, seeking God, and turning from its wicked ways. No mention is made of armament, financial power, intellectual prowess, or material prosperity. In the words of a Frenchman, “America is great because America is good; when she ceases to be good she will cease to be great.”